Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

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The following is my interaction with the article Top 10 Ways Churches Retain First-Time Guests by Brad Bridges. While I’ll mention most of it below, I recommend going to the original source on your own rather than simply experiencing it through my filters.

Have a plan

You need to not only plan for guests, but also determine how you will retain those guests.

I could not agree more. Many churches do a great job of connecting with guests during their service times (or worship events, or whatever nomenclature they chose to employ) only to allow them to slip through their fingers through lack of follow-up and an intentional retention plan.

A new Christian or a non-Christian really shouldn’t be expected to “have their act together” and take lots of initiative to get involved. They may not have a relationship with God or potentially are a Christian and haven’t been connected to a church for a while.

When my grandfather planted a church in San Leandro, California after WWII all he had to do was walk around this brand new neighborhood and say, “We’re starting a church, would you like to join us?” Most people in that time and place had come from churched backgrounds. In the exploding population growth of post WWII California many didn’t go to church simply because there were no churches for them to attend in their neighborhoods. Often (as in my grandfather’s case) all one had to do was open the doors and invite them to come and they came pouring in. Alas, such is not the case today.

As Bridges points out, God sent Jesus to us. Jesus came into our context, calling and intentionally drawing people to him to be discipled. We also need to be intentional about drawing people to Him.

Bridges conveniently provides ten ways to facilitate this.  (more…)

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A morning with Persian Christians

Posted: December 13, 2015 in Church, Faith

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11-13

This morning I had the great privilege of worshipping with a body of Persian Christians. These followers of Christ are former muslims, mostly from Iran (I met one young man from Tajikistan).

The opening scripture was Psalm 119:65-72 and the sermon was on Matthew 1:18-25. It was very interesting to hear the story of the angel appearing to Mary, and then Joseph to announce the pregnancy of Mary and the birth of Christ from a middle-eastern, and former Muslim, perspective.

In each service they have a time of open prayer. They prayed for me. I didn’t ask them to. I didn’t share any concerns or requests. Yet these brothers and sisters in Christ prayed for me, a stranger in their midst.

Following the service was a time of fellowship. I drank tea (a requirement at Persian gatherings), ate pastries, and spoke with followers of Christ from all ages. I was challenged and encouraged. Each person’s story of faith was unique. Some had sudden conversions where they surrendered all to Christ (and placed their very lives in his hands) and others had a more gradual conversion. For all of them, Christmas is a very special time. The story of the birth of Christ is full of symbolism which screams to their hearts and minds of the divinity of Christ, the need for salvation, and the amazing love of a God who did the unthinkable in drawing close to man and upending the scales forever so that we could be with Him.

An amazing morning.

Inside Out

Posted: October 1, 2015 in Church

As a minister I regularly consort with drunkards, the violent, gossips, the sexually immoral, the rebellious … and then there’s my work outside the church body…

Dear church who adds first time guests to your mailing list,

Please stop.

My family and I visited you several weeks ago. While I applaud your child protection policy and had no problem filling out the information card to place my children in your Sunday morning children’s program, I did not anticipate being added to a mailing list. I don’t recall seeing any box or other indicator stating I would be added to a mailing or providing a way to opt out. In fact I purposely did not fill out the information card in the worship service. By the time of the offering where one is intended to deposit one’s information card I had already decided that you weren’t the one for me or my family.

Even though I didn’t intend to end up on a mailing list, I wasn’t upset when I received an email the next day from the pastor who preached that Sunday. I did wonder how you got my email, then remembered the children’s registration paperwork. Hey I’m glad the departments talk to each other and it sounds like you guys do a decent job of tracking guests etc. You’re follow-up needs work.

Later that day I received two more emails on different topics from the church automated mailing system. Two days after that another informational email came in. The tone of the emails (which I actually did read) assumed that as a recipient I was already either a member or sold on the church and planned to make it my spiritual home. Since neither was the case (quite the opposite) they rather torqued me off. After the fourth such unsolicited email (again, I wasn’t advised that by signing my children into the kids program I would be placed on a mailing list, nor was I provided a way to opt out) I reported you for spam abuse. (Spam isn’t too bad if it’s roasted over an open flame and placed between two pieces of camp fire toast with a slice of sharp cheddar…but I digress.) Thankfully I haven’t received any more email since then.

Yesterday, however, I received a hand written note telling me of the upcoming new member class and encouraging me to attend. Quite frankly, the card went into the burn pile…so thanks for the kindling. At least that serves a practical purpose.

So, to sum up: Thanks for reaching out. Now please stop. Don’t call us, we’ll call you (but probably not).

Most Sincerely,

Jason P. Franklin

Reflecting on the Recent Journey

Posted: March 3, 2015 in Church

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What a turmoil of emotions. Relief and anxiety. Encouragement and frustrations. Hope and despair. Excitement and dread. Those words describe my experience of leading a struggling church through a merger. I have to admit it’s not the end I had in mind when accepted the call to pastor this small church a year and a half ago. It must also be said that I am convinced this was/is the will of God.

Initially, after my arrival here we grew. We grew numerically and spiritually. The church felt new life flow through its veins. But over summer we lost that momentum and by summer’s end I was thoroughly discouraged. Yet in my times of prayer and study I kept hearing God give me the same overall vision and instruct me to keep doing what I was doing. Facing the reality that this local congregation could only survive another year financially I heard God instruct that we should keep pressing on. Shortly thereafter we were approached by a young, growing church without a permanent home. And thus the merger process began.

It was a difficult road. The hard truth we had to face was that we simply did not have the energy and manpower to turn this ship around. What was needed as a re-birth. Going through a season such as this causes one to do some serious self examination. It prompted a new song titled “Deconstructing Me” as I felt God tear me down, and reassemble me. Over the last eight months really I have struggled with calling and caring. I questioned the role and purpose of Church and my place in it. Through this journey God did something interesting. He rekindled in me a passion for His Church. I am convinced that my investment in the Church and its mission is the most significant thing I can do in my life.

Not as Bad as All That

Posted: February 6, 2015 in Church, Faith

Church leadership is a pain in the backside. Whether one is full time, bi-vocational, volunteer, a lay leader, etc. matters not. It is a difficult calling. Years ago while church planting my mentor and I worked through the book of Nehemiah. For as much and as often as I have been frustrated in ministry I must admit that I’ve never faced as daunting a task as that prophet.

Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah, 5prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. 6While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king 7and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 8And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. 9Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense. 10I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field. 11So I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations. 12Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.
Nehemiah 13: 4-12 (ESV)

I read these words and am encouraged. Much like reading Job, no matter how bad things might get, I’ve never had it as bad as he did. No matter my struggles in ministry, my hurdles have never been quite as extreme or intense as Nehemiah’s. So I feel better reading about men who persevered against constant frustration and I hear a still small voice whispering to me, “keep pressing on.”

It would be nice to end the post on that high note, but I can’t. I feel the need to add that just because I feel comforted and hear the voice that doesn’t mean I don’t slump in my chair with fatigue and something just shy of despair on occasion (sometimes on frequent occasion). Nor does it mean I don’t raise my fist to the heavens and literally shout at God in my anger and frustration. But I will also admit that as I am engaged in these less than productive activities that I feel the draw to return to Scripture, to the Word of the Living God. I know there I will find my solace and the encouragement I need…and God in his grace let’s me have my pity party and patiently waits for me to return to my senses and draws me back to him.

A Hard Good Day

Posted: November 2, 2014 in Church, Faith

This morning I was feeling … off. I can’t describe it better than that. There was simply the feeling of not being all there. Perhaps it could be described as a lack of focus. For a pastor going into Sunday services feeling off is not a pleasant experience. That sense of offness (did I just make up a word?) began to dissipate during the opening prayer. Today was a joint service with Harvey Park Baptist Church and the Evangelical Formosan Church of Colorado. One of their leaders gave the opening prayer in English, then in Mandarin. Worship through music followed with songs being sung in multiple languages. Our children were belting out the words at the tops of their lungs. The building was filled with music. It was a joyful noise. It was, to me, a snapshot of Revelation 7:9-10 with several different skin colors, languages and cultures represented, all praising God’s name together as a family.

I stopped singing and just listened. I looked around. “This is Church,” I thought. “This is worship.”

After the service I was drained, as I usually am following Sunday services, but was called aside to speak with a family which had visited us and which was in need of aid. Several of our regulars and members also connected with this family and again, I marveled at the languages flowing back and forth. Listening to their need I felt a gut check, a sense that we should do everything we could to help this family. Promising to see what we could do and contact them later I moved on to my next meeting. Almost an hour later I arrived home to realize I’d left the communion supplies for my visitation to our home-bound members back at the church building. Scarfing down a quick lunch I dashed back to the church building and grabbed the element returning home just as the church members visiting with me today pulled up in front of my house.

By this time I was thoroughly worn out, but I still had much to do. By God’s grace I had a great time visiting with our home-bound members and only suffered from fatigue between visits. Fortunately for all concerned another church member was driving as my fatigue level made me unsafe to operate heavy machinery.

When I arrived home, all I wanted to do was go to bed. But I’d promised to look into aiding the family from earlier that day. Two hours later (I stopped to eat dinner with my family) we had the full amount available (and an amazing group of leaders I serve with at Harvey Park Baptist Church) and arrangements made for its delivery. Benevolence arranged I signed off and breathed a sigh of relief.

During the times of ministry my energy soared. I was doing what God created me to do. I was fulfilling my mission here on earth. What an amazing thrill to help people, breath grace into their lives, share the gospel in a relational way, plant some seeds, and pull some rocks and weeds from their soil.

That has been my day. A day of exhaustion and grace. Oh, did I mention that I’ve been up since 03:30 with my infant son? Yea, a long day. But a rewarding day. A hard day. But a good day.