Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Keys to a Great Church of Christ

Last week at HIP I outlined five things that make a great Church of Christ. If things are not going well, or if your church is not growing, or if you want to be a famous preacher, or have your congregation recognized in the brotherhood as one of the "with it" congregations, there are five sure-fire ways to make it happen. I have been in and around Churches of Christ all my life and I have seen these happen over and over.


Build. Add classrooms, a fellowship hall, a youth center, a coffee house, or remodel the auditorium. A building church must be a growing church. And, when completed, you have something tangible to point to that you have done "for the Lord".

Programs. Find the hottest, newest program going and bring it to your church. We are always looking for the next great evangelism program. I am so disappointed that Jesus did not see fit to explain more fully the programs involved with making disciples in Matthew 28. Baptize and teach seems a little too unfocused. Everyone can get excited about a new program. And training and implementation can easily take a year in which we can know that we are just on the verge of doing the next great thing.

Process. This is the hot thing now, but it has been around forever. Elders function too much like a board so develope a model where they shepherd. The ministry leader model was one of the great process changes. Then we had the Senior Pastor model. Pretty soon the trendy thing will be to have deacons. Change the structure and problems will magically dissapear.

Staff. I remember when the answer to losing our young people was to hire a youth minister. And how did that work out? Not enough members involved, hire a Connecting Minister. Things not going well, get a new preacher. Change staff, or add staff, and the problems are solved. And if not, it is because we hired the wrong staff.

Worship. If all else fails, change up worship. Add a praise team, stop using a praise team. Go instrumental. Make worship a concert. Be more reverent during communion, or be more interactive during communion. Sing more great old hymns. Sing more meaningful contemporary songs. Sing higher, sing lower. Sing faster, sing slower. Use more interactive media. Go back to simple church.

Or maybe we ought to realize that change is not accomplished from the outside, but from within. Maybe Satan just uses all of these things to distract us from doing real ministry.

Just my thoughts.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Who Preaches Follow-up

I've had several interesting questions and observations about the multi-voice model for preaching. So let me share some more ideas.

I think there still needs to be a lead speaker. Someone who sets the direction, does the initial work out of the text, and who organizes the structure for this model.

Yes it is harder on the Minister of the Word to lead in a model like this. It is always easier to do it all yourself.

No I don't think every one of the "preachers" has to be paid. Some might be, most might not be.

This model is dependent on being able to subjugate egos. It is critical for the leader, and for those who are frequently utilized.

I don't think you "lower" the standards for the pulpit. Care would still need to be used in terms of who the multiple voices are.

I don't think the lead speaker determines who are the other voices. I would think a ministry team, or the elders, would need to have strong input in this.

No I don't think this model will catch on anytime soon. It is scary for elders, different for church members, and threatening for many pulpit ministers.

Yes, if I were preaching somewhere I would want this model. And I believe in it if I am not the lead speaker, just one of the other voices. Or not one of the other voices.

Yes there are churches using differnt versions of this model, but usually on Sunday nights, or in venues like HIP.

So share more of your ideas. Comment on the blog or on Facebook, or engage me in conversation.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It started with a phone call Friday night. A man I baptized a couple of years ago had gone thru a difficult divorce and was calling to let me know he was trying to get his life together spiritually. He had not been truthful about some things with his family and with those of us trying to give spiritual counsel. He wanted to confess to me and to let me know he had confessed to his parents and to his ex. He is back in church and wants to become the man God wants him to be.

Found out one our neighbors has a Mom with lung cancer and a Dad undergoing heart procedure this week. Put them on church prayer list and Marsha's taking food to them.

An elder at a church in the Metroplex where I have preached a number of times had come to Abilene with his family to celebrate his in-law's anniversary. The in-laws are long-time members at Southern Hills and there are lots of conncections. On the way home, they were in a terrible car wreck. He and his daughter were careflighted back to Abilene. Lots of us at the hospital praying for them.

They both died shortly after arriving at the hospital. Lots of tears, lots of counsel, lots of affirmation that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Lots of affirmation that God is God and our hearts will choose to say "blessed be the name of the Lord". And that is what he would have said had he been in the waiting room.

One spiritual journey back to God. One opportunity to serve and open doors to share Jesus. One tearful tragedy. God's children home forever. Chances to be God's heart, hands, and voice in this world.

Maybe this is what we are all here for... till we go home.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Who preaches HIP?

HIP is our Wednesday night praise service at Southern Hills, and I thought I would share some of the thought process about how we handle the preaching portion of that assembly. Gary and Francis Green, our campus ministers, and their team decide on the general theme for each semester. I have input into this, but I don't decide it. That is the same way we decide on the format for each week.

We usually divide the preaching up into segments that actually total about 20 minutes. Sometimes we will have a 2 minute call to worship. The message will sometimes be 12-15 minutes, but it may be done in one, two, or three segments. There will usually be a Garden of Prayer intro that will be around three minutes. So we have a wide variety of ways we present the message (and that does not count singing to each other). Sometimes we will have a video, or someone will share their testimony.

In a given night, we might use only one person to do all the sharing of the message. Other times, we may use 3 or 4 different men. Typically, either Gary or I will do most of the "preaching" part of the message, tho we occasionally use others there. There are another 2 or 3 who might intro the Garden of Prayer during the semester, and probably another 5 or 6 who might do the Call to Worship. Still others might share their testimony.

Most people think I preach Hip, but I probably do only about 60% of the presenting. Gary will usually do about 25%, tho he has not been able to this semester. Others will do the remaining time. The Campus Ministry leadership team, under the authority of the elders, selects the various speakers, including me. I am on a semester by semester invite.

The advantages of this model is that it allows for different styles and insights. There is still one main voice, but not one voice only. Those who do not care for my preaching --boy that hurts to write :) -- do not have to hear me all the time. This model lets our people hear a variety of good speakers, including those who are not professional preachers. It lets us identify and begin to train those who might have a gift for preaching.

Just thought some of you might like to know this. I like the model. In fact, I think it may the future model for Sunday assemblies.

And, except for the worship and campus interns, HIP is done by volunteers. Once in a while one of our paid staff will do some part of HIP, but probably 90% of the speaking is done by non-paid members. Some will argue that "you get what you pay for", and that may be right. And some day we might use staff, or pay the HIP speakers. But it does serve to remind us that money and ministry are not mutually inclusive.

Feel free to share your thoughts.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


A church for screw-ups...

It came up again last night after HIP. We had blunt preaching, powerful testimony, and lots of openness. Several people talked about the fact that Southern Hills has a reputation as the church for people who have screwed up their life. Some outside of SH say it in a derogatory way, but I like it. And yes, it may be because I have been one of those screw-ups. I heard a lot of people last night thrilled at the kind of church we are, and excited that we can be honest, and humbled that we are a place wounded Christians can come home to and be healed.

I do need to point out that if you have messed your life up, and don't care, and want to stay that way... we are not your church.

But if you have messed your life up, we are for you. All you have to do is...

Admit it. Want to change it. Ask for help. Accept guidance from Godly men and women. Let the grace of God, the love of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit heal you. Then help others.

We have lots of faithful members that have never crashed and burned -- at least that anyone but them know about. And I love the fact that they are willing to get their hands dirty helping those in trouble. And we have lots of faithful members whose lives did crash and burn at one time. And God restored them. And they are helping heal others.

At Southern Hills we do believe the our God can set the captives free, that He is mighty to save, and that He can move mountains, that He can make the blind to see and the lame to walk.

And I love it.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Marsha's Birthday...

Today is my wife's birthday. For the next six months I am only one year older than her. I know I look twenty years older, but that's because I look much older than I really am and she looks so much younger than she really is.

She is a remarkable lady. She is a great friend, role model, and mentor to lots of young wives, moms, and teachers.

She is a great elder's wife. Always keeps our home open, great prayer, and generous with tears and hugs. She never gives up on people -- including me.

One of the true servant hearts I have ever known. Always doing something for someone.

She is a great Mom and Mimi. Loves her kids and grandkids.

Great wife. Great ministry partner. I talk a lot about Jesus and grace. People come to me to learn about those things. She lives Jesus and grace. People come to her to see those things.

So happy birthday Mimi. May God give you many more years to bless others. I love you.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


Ministers and Attending Services...

I was part of an interesting discussion the other day that started with this question: are our ministers required to attend every service? At Southern Hills that involves 2 Sunday AM services, Bible class, Sunday evening assembly, Home gatherings, and Wed. nights. The average member feels like it is expected they will attend one Sunday service, Bible class, Wed. if possible, and be part of a small group.

Minsiters need family time just like the rest of us, so the question was whether we should expect ministers to attend 2 Sunday services, class, and Wed. night plus be in a small group. In essence, the question was why should ministers have to be at 2 Sunday AM services since that was not fair to their families.

So let me share some of my thoughts and I would love to hear some of yours.

In our situation, the two morning assemblies have about the same attendance and most people regularly attend "their" service. So if a minister attends only one, they will clearly only know one half of our congregation. If a minister regularly attends only one of these, it is difficult to know and "minister" to the whole congregation.

We give our ministers Fridays off to compensate for working on Sundays. If you only attend the same as our members, what is the "comp" day for?

If working Sundays is a problem, find another line of work. That is true in many professions. If you want Friday nights off, don't be a high school football coach. If you want Saturdays off, don't go into retail sales. If you want Sundays off, don't go into ministry.

So I was a little surprised to realize that I do think our ministers should be "working" at both assemblies, class, Wed., and when their small group meets.

And before you ask, I have no idea if all of our staff attends all of these. I know some do, I suspect some don't, but I haven't "taken role".

On a related note, what should the elders do about this? Personally, I am a regular Daybreak (early service) attender. I really like the way we do Refresh, but all our family go to Daybreak and I really like worshipping together. So I try to go by the first part of Refresh and "meet and greet". And periodically, I stay for Refresh (second service).

Well, just my thoughts. I would love to hear yours.

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