I love a happy ending and this story has one, but it's a tough journey to get there.
Posts from July 2010
I remember the day when "Contemporary Christian Music" was the big debate in local churches. This thing called "Christian Rock" was going to be the death knell for the American church. Of course, as a teenager, I liked it and then as a youth pastor, I was hitting concerts and listening to such bands as Petra, Whiteheart and others.
Funny now that this "cutting edge" Christian music is now "classic" for old guys like me. Still, I like it. It brings back good memories.
Here are a few good ones. . .
That Heaven Bound song cracks me up. Early 90s Christian hip hop. You know they're embarrassed about this video.
Notice how Michael W. does the same sweeping arm motion over and over throughout this video. He's gotten better, too.
Tonight we covered Ephesians 4:1-16. This is one of my all time favorite passages in the Bible.
As I am working on the material for this year's men's weekend, I want to let you know that we'll be focusing on the life of Joshua this year. Last year we took a hard look at Caleb and recently, I have preached on this great Old Testament character.
This year we will look at his spying partner. Joshua was a warrior leader who had the daunting task of replacing Moses as head of the Israelites.
The weekend is going to be great with teaching sessions, time alone with God for personal reflection and of course the extra activities such as paintball, white water rafting, canoeing, fishing, the water park and huge water slide, the Blob, hiking and grilling steaks for dinner.
Get the word out - there's still space, but come the first week of August I have to begin making specific reservations for rafting, rooms and activities, so don't delay.
The continuing saga of Joe.
The Church Council discussed it this week. The Deacons did as well. Next Sunday at 4pm when our adult small group leaders come together, we'll discuss it again. What is it?
It's about our church being friendly.
What? You say "We have a friendly church." We do, for the most part. However, we must understand that being cordial and being friendly are not the same thing.
Every so often I encounter folks who have been visiting our church and I'll ask "Did you have a good experience?" Most of the time I hear "Yes, thank you." Sometimes, there's a look on their face and I say "Go ahead, tell me the truth." Then, I get it. The discussion goes something like "The services are great, but I felt alone in the crowd," or "I didn't feel very welcome."
Now, there are a lot of reasons why someone would say that. Immediately, I want to go on the defensive and throw out the list of reasons (i.e. excuses) people feel this way. Things like
"Well, did they go to a small group?"
"Did they try to connect with anyone?"
"Maybe they didn't want anyone to talk with them?"
"Did they show up late and leave early?"
Those all happen, for sure, but does that make it better?
Recently I talked with a family who had been visiting regularly for about six months. They are very outgoing, military, friendly and even went to small group and out to lunch with some folks once. However, there was just something not clicking. I noticed they hadn't been in a while so I contacted them and asked how things were. It was a friendly conversation, but there it was again. . ."We just didn't feel welcome." Wow. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My list of excuses didn't fit this family.
This quote really stuck out. . ."It's one thing to welcome people, but another to truly reach out and try to connect."
This family is active now in another church in our community. In fact, it's a good church, but of another denomination. This person said that even though they had grown up Baptist, they felt more welcome and connected better at the other church and that's where they will call home while stationed here.
Fortunately, this family has found a church to call home. I'm confident God is blessing their church and their family. It's just that this conversation once again brought to the surface something I've heard for the past sixteen years. It's time we all work to make this "culture of unfriendliness" disappear.
Here are some practical "Do's and Don'ts". . .
DO . . .
Introduce new people to your friends.
Take the first step. Even if you're shy, take a chance and introduce yourself.
Get connected yourself so you'll have a place to invite others to get connected with you.
Welcome others with both your words and actions.
Be aware of what you can do to make others feel comfortable.
Remember that visitors don't know our church culture yet.
Laugh. A good laugh puts everyone at ease.
Put others first.
Be approachable - inside church and outside.
Pat attention when someone talks to you.
Keep in touch with people who don't show up. Let them know they were missed.
Engage people in the parking lot on the way to church. If they are guests be willing to be late to your class so you can show them to the Welcome Center (especially if they have children.)
Remember there's joy in the Lord. Tell your face! :-)
DON'T . . .
Make judgments about personal appearance.
Turn people away with negativity.
Assume others will connect. Do it yourself.
Gossip or glare at newcomers (or anyone else for that matter.)
Assume someone is a snob. They're probably shy.
Talk so much that the other person never gets a chance to share.
Use church as a place to sell your home-business products.
Assume people have Bible knowledge, understanding of our denomination or the practices of our church.
Assume someone else is being friendly so you don't have to.
Use language that makes others feel like outsiders.
Believe it's the ushers job to welcome folks. It's everyone's job.
Wait for a specific "welcome" time in the worship service. Even when we do this, it's not always authentic.
Take yourself too seriously.
It's pretty basic. Yet, even as I look over the lists above, God is saying "You have a lot of work to do." I know I do. I guess we all do. The message we offer - that of Life and Hope and Truth is too valuable. People matter too much for us to miss the opportunity share.
It's obvious we are in the age of social networks. When the internet was just something that folks checked once a week or so to get updates on their favorite sports teams or read about their favorite band, most churches didn't even bother. However, in what seems like just a short time, the internet is now a part of just about everyone's daily life. Oh, I know there are still some holdouts, but their tribe is dwindling.
Now, just about every church has a web presence. Some church sites are incredibly interactive an informative. Others look like a Word document that's been uploaded and updated about once a year. Somewhere in between those extremes is our church site - www.opfirst.org. I built the site and update it and while I try to keep it up to date, it's not that easy, especially in a church with so many different ministries and things going on.
So, over the past couple of years, we have looked at how to use the web to our advantage. That's when social networking really took off. At first it was Friendster (anyone remember that?), then MySpace (which was big for a while, but as my kids tell me now - it's the "ghetto" social networking site), and then Facebook. Facebook continues to grow and while there are questions about privacy issues it seems that more and more people are logging in to connect with friends, reconnect with long lost schoolmates and to keep up to date with their children and grandchildren.
We have been using Facebook and Twitter extensively over the past year to communicate and connect with people in our community, church and beyond.
If you're on Twitter, be sure to follow the following:
- David Tarkington - davidtark
- Shelvin Lamb - theshelv
- Ryan Rouse - ryanrouse1980
- Brandon Phillips - bphillipsonline
- Orange Park First Baptist Church - fbcop
- Real Men's Ministry - realmanhood
By following these tweets, you can stay up to date on the latest happening in ministry and in the lives of our pastors.
Then, once you're in Facebook, go to the following group pages and "Like" them in order to get regular updates:
- Orange Park First Baptist and the Creek
- The Creek
- Real Men's Ministry
- Heart Matters Women's Ministry
- First Baptist Singles Ministry
- First Baptist Collegiate & Young Single Adult Ministry
- 168 Student Ministries
- First Baptist Preschool Ministries
- Orange Park Truth Project
We even have a page on MyChurch - though, it's not updated regularly.
Recently, we created our own social networking site for the church. Our desire is not to keep you on the internet, but to discover new and better ways to connect members and guests at First Baptist. So, if you get a chance, join our network at www.opfirst.ning.com. It's free and you can stay up to date on current church events and even join or create groups for specific ministries.
Oh yeah, our network integrates with Facebook and Twitter, too.
Visit Orange Park First Baptist
This week, we continue in our character study of "Joe". Joseph has been sold into slavery and taken to Egypt, yet the Bible says "The Lord was with him" through it all. Today we look at how Joe grew in his faith and when temptation came, he responded as only he should.
This evening I covered the second half of Ephesians 2. This one is all about the church being One in Christ! Powerful!
This past Sunday we began a new teaching series called "Joe." All week, I've had people asking what "JOE" stood for. Well, it's simple. It's stands for Joe. We're looking at the life of Joseph from the Old Testament and how his faith grew despite difficulties. His life may seem like yours.