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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tagging onto my point on Day One

I just read this on the ChurchRelevance.com blog and it's very similar to what I heard today except that the interviewers link the Reveal study done by Willow Creek Church. dg



Rick Warren on Effective Discipleship

At this year’s Exponential Conference, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, CA) agreed to be interviewed by Todd Rhoades, Scott Hodge, and Chris Elrod. Rick Warren begins with eight minutes of valuable insight into creating effective discipleship. Below are highlights from the interview, which began with the following question:

Have you read the Reveal Study, and what is your take on the whole thing? (4:05)

The first year of the church I focused on growing the church. But then after I crashed and burned at the end of the first year, I said, “Okay, Lord. What do you want me to do?” And He said, “I want you to grow people.”

(5:10) The Purpose Driven strategy is not a church growth strategy. It is a spiritual maturity strategy. It’s bringing people closer and closer to Christ. First, you get them to know Christ, then to love Christ, then to love Christ’s family, then to grow in Christ, then to serve Christ, and then to share Christ. We’ve been doing this process for 28 years.

(6:00) The biggest mistake that churches make is we think that sermons will produce spiritual maturity. If people don’t take notes, they forget 95% of what they hear within 72 hours. That is not going to produce spiritual maturity.

(6:25) There are simple tools that Saddleback developed early on that have produced spiritual maturity. One of them was the outline. In our church for 28 years, people take notes every week, which means they go home with far more than they would if they didn’t take notes.

(7:10) The second thing is Saddleback is built on a series of five covenants. Jesus had a process by which He took people from no faith in Christ to deep disciple. The very first words of Jesus that He says to His disciples are “Come and see.” Now that’s the entry point for faith. What is the commitment level of “Come and see?” Nothing. Just show up. Sit in the back. Don’t sing anything, say anything, sacrifice anything. Just show up. But Jesus never left them there.

(8:10) And from “Come and see,” He took them through consistent steps. And all through the three and a half years of ministry, he is turning up the heat. And as they begin to follow Him, He starts saying, “You’re my disciple if…” And He redefines commitment. “You’re my disciple if you love one another.” “You’re my disciple if you bear fruit.” “You’re my disciple if you take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Me.” And on and on, He’s turning up the heat.

(9:10) In those days, nobody took up a cross unless the Romans were going to nail him to it. So He’s saying, “Come and die.” There’s a huge difference in commitment between “Come and see” and “Come and die.” He doesn’t say “Come and die” at the very first. He takes three years into a relationship with them. And He’s moving them.

(9:50) Churches have not understood that commitment is sequential, systematic, and processed. And to move them from “Come and see” to “Come and die” is what Purpose Driven is all about.

(10:10) What happens is churches tend to be one or the other. You’re either a “Come and see” church or a “Come and die” church. And the “Come and see” churches bring them in the front door and win a lot of people to Christ, but they don’t deepen them to deeper levels of maturity. The “Come and die” church doesn’t reach anybody for Christ, and they’ve got their frozen chosen that they keep taking deeper and deeper and deeper. But those people have koinitis. They’re so close no one else can break into it.

(10:40) What a church has to do is see that “Come and see” and “Come and die” is the whole spectrum. And how do you get people from “Come and see” to “Come and die?” There are classes. There are covenants. There are commitments. There are cells. There’s coaching.

(11:05) It’s not just one-on-one. It’s not just one to small group. It’s not just one to big crowd. There is a combination. And you have to take into account that people learn in different ways. Most churches have not built the levels of learning into discipleship.

For more insights, watch the interview video. It also includes Rick Warren’s thoughts on the Southern Baptist Convention’s membership decline and more.

Wired: Day One

Today was packed with info. After hearing from Rick Warren (taped though since he's battling an infection after his Rwanda trip) was inspiring and visionary. He reminded me of all the reasons my ministry has his fingerprints all over it.

What surprised me was how central small groups has become to his church-wide strategy for creating fully devoted followers of Christ. He's serious about making disciples that reproduce. He emphasized that he teaches church health--not church growth. But that growth is a result of healthy organisms.

Bottom line application: healthy organisms grow and eventually reproduce. It's true in biology. It's true in nature. It's true spiritually. Which begs the question: Am I healthy spiritually? Is my church? Is the American church? The answer is no, not if we're not reproducing.

Steve Gladen, small groups guru at Saddleback, did a great job of laying out the basic strategy today. It's basically funneling the unchurched, dechurched and lost through dynamic worship services that encourage them to begin to take more steps towards Christ. Eventually they connect with other believers in a small group where life-change has the best opportunity to occur.

Bill Hybels at Willow Creek is saying that they have missed the mark on long-term life-change. They're doing the hard things to change that. I hope to learn from them. But after hearing the stories and the numbers it looks to me like what Saddleback has been doing the last 30+ years has been changing lives so profoundly that their impacting California, Rwanda and beyond. They have small groups in 96 cities in California. They are currently leading the entire country of Rwanda through 40 Days of Purpose. They have baptized 20,000 people and 75% of their growth has come through new believers. They are leading the way on leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We can learn a lot from them. I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wired Conference tomorrow

I'm in Atlanta tonight preparing to attend Saddleback's Wired Conference on small groups. I'm looking forward to hearing the general sessions all day tomorrow followed by workshops the rest of the week. I'll add here some of what I learn.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Free ticket to China Olympics

I really want to go to the Olympics in China this summer. But seeing as I don't have the money, I'll be watching it on NBC. But if you should hear of anyone with some frequent flyer miles...

Ryan Hall & Josh Cox: These two runners are amazing not only for their athleticism but their faith. They have a perspective that rocks! dg

Cox and Hall last paired up for the production of a workout and introspective video in October 2007 when they created “The Ryan Hall Story”. That video was filmed as Hall was preparing to head to New York for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Marathon Trials, a race that he would go on to win in record-setting fashion.

After watching the video, you can learn more about both the athletic and personal sides of Hall and Cox through their bi-weekly Elite Athlete Blogs on TheFinalSprint.com:


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

TEAM

"'Team' is just today's term for what the Bible describes as giftedness exercised in community." --Nancy Ortberg

You've heard it said there is no "I" in team. But "I" have to get on board if I want to be a part of what God is doing through His teams within the Body of Christ.

Our Servant Groups are teams of gifted people coming together in Christ to accomplish part of the mission. (Love God. Love People)

Are you on a team or are you still in the stands? It's fun to watch your team win. But the victory is truly yours when you were directly contributing to the team's effort that led to that victory.

NEXT STEPS

* Fill out & turn in your SHAPE profile.
* Check out the ministry survey mark the areas you'd like to serve in or learn more about.
* Eliminate time-wasters in your current schedule to free up time to serve. It's not wise to just add things. Ask yourself, "What will I stop doing?"
* Find a way to serve in or through your Home Group.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

7 Questions to ask your friends

A good conversationalist masters asking good questions. I have a way to go. But a good friend also asks good questions. Questions that make you think and hold you accountable to be all God created you to be. Here are some suggestions:

1. What is God teaching this week?

2. Where have you seen God this week?

3. Have you been consistently putting in an honest day's work for your employer and for God?

4. Have you been staying above reproach in all your financial dealings?

5. Have you found yourself with a woman (or man) in the past weeks in such a way that would be inappropriate or could be viewed by others as a demonstration of poor judgment on your part?

6. Have you exposed yourself to any illicit material over the past weeks?

7. Have you been spending sufficient time with your family each week?

Bonus: If it were illegal to be a Christ-follower, would there be any evidence in your life to convict you?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Under Our Skin

I recommend you watch this revealing movie trailer. If you know anyone who has Lyme's Disease, consider sharing this with them as well. It's eye-opening. Darien


From:
Kris Newby

Sent: Friday, April 18, 2008 3:24 PM

Subject: Lyme Film Tickets Available

If you live near New York City, we'd love to see you at the premiere of our Lyme documentary. Tickets are now available for purchase.

Help us pack the house at the Tribeca screenings, so that broadcasters and distributors know how important this film is, and how large of an audience it can generate! And please forward this message to patients, friends and family who might want to attend.

Three years in the making, this documentary reveals the shocking human, medical and political dimensions of one of the most misunderstood diseases of our time -- Lyme disease. Following the lives of courageous patients and physicians as they battle the epidemic, the film brings into focus a haunting picture of our healthcare system and its inability to cope with a growing terror under our skin.

And many thanks from Andy, Kris, and the rest of the Open Eye crew for all of your help in getting this film to the big screen.

Kris Newby

Producer, UNDER OUR SKIN

New Movie Trailer:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

yi = yang/wo Huh?!

yi = yang/wo

The Chinese character (word) for righteousness (yi) is formed by putting two other characters on top of each other. The top character (yang) means lamb. The bottom character (wo) means me, self or I. When they are put together, the word righteousness (yi) is formed. True righteousness is gained therefore by putting self under the lamb Christ Jesus.

Have you put yourself under the Lamb of God (Jesus) yet?

Revelation 21:22
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

No pain, no gain

"No Pain, No Gain": There is a cost running a race well.

Lesson #2

Costs include time from your family and friends, energy and self-discipline. Then there's running shoes and other gear. It's not convenience. It's not easy. If it was, everyone would do it and it wouldn't mean as much.

There's a cost to training to run the race of faith well too.

Costs include time , sleep (or late night TV), energy and self-discipline. There's some gear to get too (Bible, notebook or journal, highlighter and pen).

I found that the more I train, the better I run--whether it's a race or my walk of faith. When I quit training, I lose strength in both cases. And there are usually painful consequences that result as well.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Train to Remain: Lessons learned...

Train to remain: Lessons learned from training to run the 10K Cooper River Bridge Run.

This week, I shared with our church about how God wants to use our life experiences to teach us and to help others. A key step in that process is to extract lessons from our life experiences. I told them a great way to do that is to keep a journal and to write down whenever you learn a lesson y0u want to remember. Well, I'm going to do that here.

So over the next several days I'm going to share with you lessons I've learned (or been reminded of) through running and/or running in a 10K (6.2 mile) race.

Lesson #1

I can't just go out and run a marathon well. I need to train for it first. It doesn't matter how passionate or motivated I am--unless I train to win, I won't win. (Thanks John Ortberg for those great insights in your books and messages)

To run a race well, you must train religiously (sorry) for months in advance. Each time is an act of faith that your muscles and lungs will get stronger through strenuous running and training. We can't actually see it happen and we can't just make it happen.

In our desire to live a consistent, Christ-like lifestyle, we cannot just assume that because we really want to that we will. We must train to remain connected to Christ so that we'll bear the spiritual fruit God wants us to bear. When we do, we glorify God and prove to the world that we're His disciples. (See John 15:1-11)

How do you train to remain in Christ?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Believable Miracle story

I may have found a new favorite blogger. Josh Cox. And he believes in miracles.

Who's Josh Cox, you say? Well, I'm still learning. He's a runner, to be sure. But I actually thought this was the blog of Ryan Hall, another Olympic runner (or soon to be). But that's a more boring story so I'll spare you.

He's also a Christian.

And not the In-name-only kind. (yes, an oxymoron to be sure) He's the real deal. And he can write. Clearly well-read.

Here's the beginning of a lengthy entry that sold me. He tells about a miracle he personally experienced. The story is amazing. Not because of the drama of the miracle but of the credibility of it. It's a killer story--one I'll tell to be sure. But I offer to you to build your faith. It sure built mine.

By Josh Cox:

I wasn’t planning on writing this. Honest. I pondered the idea during my long run with Dan [Browne] last week, again during my 15 miler over the weekend and a final time as I responded to nearly half of the 17 emails asking what I believed and why I believed it – but not even those served as this blog’s impetus. Nope. The tipping point came when I stumbled across the poem I wrote for my dad’s funeral nearly two years ago. I didn’t read it all; I couldn’t read it all – didn’t want to. Tears, therapeutic as they may be, don’t lend themselves to productivity; and because I am busier than a one legged man in a butt kicking contest I figured I would spare my wife the Dick Vermeil impression.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Q&A with Darien

In an effort to help out my buddy Micah and his class at Liberty U, I answered the following questions for him. I share it with you to give you some insight into what I believe about our church and community. Darien

Re: Interview For Class

Darien, here are the basic questions. If you could maybe look over them and answer some or all and send them back I could then call you later to probe into some more discussion based on your answers. Let me know if this works for you. Here are the questions:

Location/Affiliation/Size/Demographic: Summerville, SC/Nondenominational & Willow Creek Association/90 members with 80 in attendance a week/mostly white

Church culture: southern, mixed with about 50% southern baptist and 50% other; mostly churched; more adventuresome than the average congregation as we are a portable church

Mission Statement/Purpose Statement: Love God. Love people.

Uniqueness from other churches in area/region: Portable church; nondenominational (only 6 in the paper); led by a plurality of elders; a church of small groups not just with small groups

Primary calling of the church: make life-changing disciples

Social Justice as related to worship and ministry? Not much at the moment. Just beginning to see our neglect in this area.

Style and philosophy of ministry: influenced by purpose-driven, missional movements; we like to empower people to serve God as he shaped them to; driven by mission to love God and people in all that we do

Style and philosophy of worship: freedom in Christ; desire to use creativity along with God's word to facilitating meeting with God every week; should result in life-changing lifestyles

How do you plan on using your church and church ministry to fulfill the Great Commission?
By living the life Jesus called us to live. That is by making disciples that make disciples. It's loving God so much that you can't help but reach out and love people around the corner and around the world.

What are you doing to impact the community? When a single mother (and pregnant) called and asked us to buy her a refrigerator we didn't stop there. We took 18 people to her trailer (a dump, more like) and painted, re-carpeted, gave her a bed, cleaned off her porch, cleaned her yard, planted grass, and replaced her sink and cabinetry. We bought her food and supplies, gave her a crib and changing table and lots of encouragement. She is now attending our church and a home group regularly. We have since met one sister who visited our church and had lunch with another sister.

We helped another mother and her family get through a couple of months rent. We have given her rides to church and encouraged her to connect.

We have a small group geared toward mothers of preschoolers that's really met a need.

We are starting to work through Habitat for Humanity.

We are planning a local mission trip for our youth for a week this summer.

How are you using technology? We have a good website, we email out our .pdf newsletter weekly, we are using facebook to communicate with our youth and our praise band, we have a pastors blog (here) and Curacao blog, we podcast our messages, we now have online giving, and we rely heavily on email. We also use an online calendar.

What is your plan to make disciples? Our plan is to leverage relationships to disciple people to disciple people. We believe Disciples are made when you take God's word + God's spirit + relationships with God's people in close proximity and high frequency. Home Groups are a #1 strategy to do that.

How do you measure success? We get some idea from numbers but that only tells you so much. We also look at their lifestyle and habits. This is evaluated by the group leader. We also are implementing tools that allow the individual to self-assess their progress. This is ultimately the best way. It puts the responsibility of spiritual growth back on the individual where it belongs. See www.revealnow.com.

What is the role of the children's ministry within the church vision?
1. To equip, empower and encourage parents to take the lead in their children's spiritual development and 2. To lead our children into life-change in an age appropriate venues that supports our parents efforts.

What do you see as the future of your youth culture? Youth are looking for authentic relationships that flesh out what we preach and teach. We seek to build a weekly event that incorporates relationships and God's word. That means large group teaching time, music that teaches them about God and how to worship him, and small groups where they can ask questions and wrestle with the implications of the message they just heard. Finally, we must give them outlets to be today's church--not just tomorrows.

Do you have house churches or home groups? Yes, see above under disciple making

What are the strongholds in the community? Religion; legalism; lukewarm 'Christians'

What kind of value does worship have in the mission of the church? Genuine corporate worship can have an huge impact on the guest who finds themselves in your service. However, in Piper's words, missions exists because worship doesn't. So I see worship in the 24/7 sense as being the most effective or having the most opportunity. (See Heb 13:15-16 where it talks about worship with your mouth and your life.) This is Rom 12:1 worship.

What role do the arts play in your church? Not nearly enough due to time and expertise. Music is about all we use currently. We'd like to use more drama, video, art, crafts and dance.

What are your greatest challenges? Empowering leaders to use their talents and gifts, moving people to a deeper commitment to Christ, and overcoming the churched, older generational paradigms.

What things are keeping you from being successful? My personal walk-not being totally sold-out all the time. Not praying, fasting and trusting like I could. Settling for the gifts and missing out on the Giver of the gifts. I could use a gifted worship/youth leader too!

What specific things are you doing to create in your people a biblical understanding? Teaching and preaching God's word in service and home groups. Regularly encouraging time alone with God in our people. Challenging our people to being doers of the word and not hearers only.

Darien Gabriel
Pastor

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Buy a van for Curacao

Family of Grace,

Since we discussed and prayed about this giving opportunity at our Congregational Gathering/Meeting Sun. night, 2 things have happened.

First, Cesar (from Curacao) emailed that he found a used van that meets their needs for $6,000. They have a 2-week hold on it right now.

Second, a member of our church put up a dollar for dollar matching challenge for up to $3,000. That means that for every dollar we give, they will match it up to $3,000.

With this information in hand, the Pastor/Elders want to give the rest of our people the opportunity to give. They hope we give above and beyond our normal giving and that we do so by this Sun. to help get it down to Cesar and Emma as soon as possible.

Checks can be mailed to:

Attn: Curacao Van

Grace Christian Fellowship
PO Box 904
Summerville, SC 29484

Better is to place your gift in the offering Sun. or to drop it off at Jimmy Reeves' office at 400 N. Cedar St., downtown Summerville.

For more info, call Darien at 843-832-3775.

Crazy thoughts on money and the church

Sunday night I shared some things God's been challenging me on recently related to how we as a church handle the money God has given us. I shared 5 areas that were on my heart. Here they are in no particular order:

* Give half of all we get away. That is use half for our church ministry and costs and give away half to other ministries or missionaries.

* Build our new campus debt-free.

* Hire a second staff member.

* Give a van to our partners in Curacao who are down to 1 vehicle.

* Invest in more efficient and useful equipment designed for a portable church like us.

I acknowledged that any one of these would be a challenge for our church. Yet they are all so interrelated that we can't discuss them in isolation. I also emphasized that no decisions have been made. This was my way of getting on the table what God has been putting on my heart.

I encourage your feedback. Please share that with us at info@gracetoday.net or by posting a comment on his blog.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fool?

Speaking of his own daughters, Presidential hopeful Senator Barak Obama said recently in Pennsylvania, “I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby. I don’t want them punished with an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease)…”

This reads like he's equating an unplanned pregnancy (a baby) with venereal disease. While I hate this mindset I will not let it drive me to hate him. I will pray for Obama (and Clinton too).

There may be such a thing as unplanned pregnancy but there is no such thing as an unplanned life. God isn't caught off guard when someone gets pregnant. He is the Giver of life. Everyone born is born on purpose-for a purpose. And they are a "masterpiece" of God.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
--Apostle Paul, Letter to the Ephesians 2:10

Google has done it again!

Once again, Google has beaten everyone else to clever and useful applications online. Check out their latest feature: New! Gmail Custom Time