I have been consulting with congregations and pastors for 20 years around their “worship wars”.  Very few weeks go by where I do not get questions about how to negotiate the introduction, financing, purpose, or function of an alternative service.  In mainline denominations the “traditional” service is usually the strongest service where the people who serve on all of the administrative committees have the power to open the doors or shut the doors to a new service prospering.

It is amazing how many church councils have a clear conscience in voting on a budget that provides the traditional service with a $25,000 budget and then they give the alternative service $5,000 to start up and sustain themselves.  The cycle has become quite predictable.  When the church leaders evaluate the new service for vitality they claim that there are not enough people, the level of ministry is not equal to the excellence that they currently experience in traditional worship is not reflected in the new service and “it is taking the pastor’s time away from concentrating on our service”. 

New services tend to reach new people who are not indoctrinated in our church centered world. They may not be instantly committed and often do not give significantly at the beginning.  New services are excellent opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who are far from God or have been hurt by the church in a casual, conversational and caring worship environment.  By eliminating the alternative service you are removing God’s children from the fountain of grace that should be flowing throughout the entire congregation.  

“The responsibility of the older, more mature members in starting a new worship service is to pray for it and pay for it”  Bill Easum  

He said this many years ago and now in my role as Guide, coach and consultant I understand the wisdom clearly.  It takes money to get a worship leader who can build, develop and disciple band members.  It takes finances to get the appropriate multimedia equipment and sound reinforcement.  It takes pray to strengthen the prodigals that are searching for God. The leaders, who are pursuing the vision of reaching the lost, left out and marginalized in your community need prayer for wisdom and guidance.  It takes finances to do community outreach and connect the church to the needs of people in the community.  If you expect the same excellence that is present in the established service, you have to budget appropriately.  This may mean cutting the traditional service budget so that the kingdom of God can flourish.  True community is where the people live with all things in common including finances.

As mainline churches seek to be relevant to this generation, I suspect that the worship wars will continue.  One guiding principle is you can’t cheap thrill excellence.  And the second is the responsibility of the mature body of disciples is to “pray for it and pay for it”.

This is a short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

If students are experiencing this type of disconnect in educational settings it should be a message to those who are in ministry attempting to reach young adults.  Our approach will not be successful if we continue to use 20th century approaches.  The way that we communicate the essentials of our message must be relevant and in a media or presentation form that fits the lifestyle of 21st Century young adults.

Making Disciples requires  adaptability to the culture without compromising the message.

How to build relationships and connect with people using the most popular social network on the Internet. This 31 page e-book will help Pastors and other ministry leaders make the most of this great networking tool.

  • How to make the most of your profile information
  • Tips for Networking with People in Facebook
  • All about groups, messages, poking, etc
  • Brand Your Ministry
  • Meet prospects for your church
  • Learn more about the members in your church
  • Fine tune your communication skills
  • Testimonies from Pastors who use FaceBook
  • and much more!

Get the e-book here free using this link: Facebook for Pastors
(PC users, right click and select “Save As” for best results)

This E-Book by Chris Forbes is a great resource for pastors to utilize this social networking site as a ministry tool

Top Five Reasons Dropouts Identify as Major Factors For Leaving School

  Classes were not interesting                                                47%

 Missed too many days and could not catch up                    43%

 Spent time with people who were not interested in school               42%

 Had too much freedom and not enough rules in my life                    38%

 Was failing in school                         35%

The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts

 

Urban Ministry comes with some unique challenges.  Many of the systemic urban challenges include multiple areas of disparities that cripple and debilitate the community.  Drug addiction, lack of access to healthcare, economic, job, income and education disparities all impact most urban areas.  I believe education disparities are the biggest challenge that urban ministries can tackle and win with collaboration between the school systems and other churches.

The number of suburban churches who have retired professionals, entrepreneurs with flexible schedules and families who can embrace and model the value of education is simply incredible.  If these churches with their vast resources actually saw the benefit of strengthening the educational infrastructure for society as a whole, we could see a reversal in the drop out trends within a decade.

Urban churches have the facilities and the networks inside the community to develop effective programs.  The question has been asked why should churches and ministries get involved?  Because we not only teach character and moral values but we also live the values that we want our young people to have.  This is the best opportunity to disciple youth where there are that I know of in an urban context.

To be a 21st Century missional, emergent, disciple focused ministry  challenges us to see opportunities to reach people for Christ outside of our own cultural context.  It also demands partnering with other ministries who have spiritual, cultural, financial and community engagement strengths that will compliment our ministry.

Definition of Spiritual Formation

Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ by the gracious working of God’s spirit, for the transformation of the world.

1. a process:

  • gradual, life-long movement, not single, momentous conversion
  • goes against grain of “quick-fix, instant results, Five Easy Steps” culture
  • draws us by God’s magnetic attraction, awakening our desire for God

2. of being conformed to the image of Christ:

  • Christ is the image of God made visible to us (Col.1:15)
  • image of Christ is pattern of human wholeness — we share God’s image (Gen.1:26)
  • God’s likeness feels strange since we are misshapen by images of worldly culture
  • the Christ image heals, renews, restores us
  • moves us from being centered in self to being centered in God

3. by the gracious working of God’s spirit:

  • we want to make things happen in our self-reliant culture
  • but cannot conform ourselves to Christ by own will power
  • we can open ourselves to gracious working of God’s spirit
  • the Spirit enables us to choose way of Christ over self-interest
  • grace helps us give reins of control to God and to cooperate with Spirit
  • we resist Spirit’s work because change in ideas/habits/ behaviors is scary
  • spiritual disciplines (practices) are ways of opening ourselves to grace

4. for the transformation of the world:

  • being like Christ means living in self-giving love
  • spiritual life not about “me” but about the world God loves
  • as we are conformed to Christ we embody more of God’s love for others
  • fruits of spiritual formation are compassion, patience, truthfulness, reconciliation
  • transformed persons are leaven for transforming the world

This definition adapts and expands Robert Mulholland’s work Invitation to a Journey (InterVarsity Press, 1993). Companions in Christ Training © 2004. All rights reserved.

This is the best definition of spiritual formation that I have found. I like it because it emphasizes the process. We can not take a class to learn to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We can not go on a weekend retreat and expect to be a fully mature follower of Jesus Christ. It is a reforming,re-engineering, realignment and repositioning of our core values that shapes our lives as disciples and allows us to live into the call to be completely devoted follows of Jesus Christ.

As a disciple of Christ my commitment to the community of faith will have priority over many of the culturally popular social trends. Soccer, football, baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, and other sports practice schedules will not take priority over the gathering of the saints. Our family obligations will be aligned with the priority of small groups and worship. We can not make disciples in anyway shape or form but we can create an environment for men and women to grow.

Our faith communities must strive to be the most empowering, engaging, enlightening and the most significant high impact event of our members lives. This is the total life engagement precess that Jesus engaged with the disciples. They followed him around, observed his disciplines, participated in his life encounter groups with other “sinners” and eventually became the men who would carry the message to the world about our resurrected Savior.

Making disciples is about asking the question “How do we engage people’s lives?” rather than “How can we attract them to an event?”

Can the modern mainline church re-engineer its ecclesiastical culture from events and committees to life style engagement and the beloved community of God? Can the administration of the church be driven by technology and the life of the church center around meals, coffee, pray and studying the scripture? I believe the answer is yes but the resistance will be significant because the old way must be evaluated and then sentenced to death. Holding on to mediocrity in ministry is the enemy of excellence. Holding on to the past is the enemy of God’s vision and call to the future.