Checkout Lines and the Church

Are you opening new lanes to be the Church?
Sunday I told the story of standing in line at Wal Mart during Christmas. It was frustrating. The man in front of me took his items out of the cart one at a time and doubled checked each price before he handed over the next item. It about drove me crazy. But the universal experience we have at Wal Mart has much less to do with the person in front of us in line as it has to do with the lack of access to opportunities to check out. How many times have been you standing in a long line while there are more than a dozen checkout lines closed without a cashier? Why is it that at the peak hours there are at only a couple lines open and moving? Why can’t they simply open more lanes?
Several things happen when there are not enough lanes open. Shoppers get frustrated. The likelihood of a return shopper and positive shopping experience diminishes. And more than once I have seen someone leave their cart full of groceries in line and walk out the door. I am not proud to say I did that very thing many year ago in Texas.
The same is true in church. For the first year in our church, there were just a couple lines to move into into the life of the church, to connect with what this really is. And what we have done has worked extremely well to start the church, to share faith, and to create a congregation of people who felt outside of faith prior to experiencing Big Life.
But we can’t keep doing what we’ve done if we want new results – new growth, new steps in people’s faith, and new relationships. If we do not add more ‘lanes’, the relational lines will back up, faith will not be grown, well-intended efforts that used to work fine will become frustrating and worse – someone who does not know faith or has an immature faith may just walk right back out into the cold. The warm welcome you received months ago simply will not be available to welcome others if we do not open more ‘lanes’.
Each time you connect with someone before and after worship, you are opening more lanes of welcome and connection – and I am not talking about just the role of the door greeters. When you have your head on a swivel each week, looking to welcome someone you don’t know, you are opening more lanes to welcome newcomers to the church – or simply people you don’t know yet. When you join a small group where you know others and are known by name and missed when you are not present, you are opening more lanes for connection and real relationship. And when you have courage to invite someone to worship personally, their connection to the church extends far beyond a marketing tool, a single worship experience, the music on a given day, or the pastor/ staff’s work. This is really less about church programs and more about you choosing to engage in the empowering from the Holy Spirit to truly be part of the church.

I have visited churches in which no one in the congregation welcomed or engaged visitors – other than the staff/ pastor. And I have visited churches where warm welcomes were normal and anticipated throughout the body of Christ. I have been part of churches where people cared about others intentionally. And I have been part of churches without that care or connectedness. It is not a mystery which ones lived out the mission of Jesus’ church and which ones just felt awkward and stilted…at best.
This week at Big Life we continue our series “It’s (Not) Personal” as we talk about how “Word Matter.” What we say and how we say it are critical issues to a well-formed, mature, and loving faith. I look forward to seeing you this week as each of us grow in our ability to be the Body of Christ.

Are You Canceling Church?

Last weekend was the first time in my ministry career that I have had to cancel church! It was not just a first for Big Life C.C., it was a first in my 20 years of working in the church!
But was church really canceled? While there was definitely too much snow to gather on Sunday morning at Churchill Elementary, it is not as if we canceled “Church.” Church is more than a single gathering, a place, or a worship style built on your or our preferences. Church is the people of God living for God. In that sense, no matter the weather, the location, or the convenience, Church is never canceled if you choose faith in Jesus lived out by loving the person in front of you.
When you reach out to a lonely friend in a snow storm, you are the Church. When you stop replaying the dramatic fight and start to forgive, you are the Church. When you take 10% of what God has given you and entrust it back to Him through offering, you are the Church. When you find the strength you didn’t know you had to understand your spouse’s point of view, you are the Church. When you take the simple, but sometimes monumental step of inviting a friend to worship to experience faith with you, you are the Church. Church is really only canceled if YOU cancel it.
Similarly, the Church is only as strong as you. The Church is only as generous as you. The Church only grows as you grow. Our internal drift to canceling Church in our daily lives will always seem less dramatic than a snowstorm, yet it is far more damaging. When we cancel Church for ourselves it damages our family, reduces our ability to love, robs us of forgiveness, and justifies our lack of generosity.
Church worship services will not be canceled this weekend. We are about to hit a warm front! Yet the real question is, how are you canceling Church within your heart? Or are you doing your work, investment, and faith to grow the body of Christ within yourself?
Have a great week. We hope to see you – and a friend – this Sunday at 9:30 or 11.
Lead Pastor

New Year’s Considerations

From Ed Stetzer on Christianity Today:
The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.
1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?