St. Luke’s community in meaningful ways.
Something to Consider
FORWARD IN DIVERSITY
A God Story by Lynne McAlexander
I have never written a “God story” for the Epistle. However, Sunday was one of those days when God was reminding me that we are all part of His family. Nearly every week one of our Jr. or Sr. Kindergartners does or says something that lets me know that we are blessed to be among them. However, this was the kind of Sunday that gets you. It was a sad, but sweet day in our Sunday School class. It was sad because it was our last day to have Sam Zhang in our class, but very sweet because of Sam and his family. Wally and I have enjoyed getting to know Sam and his family over the past months. The first time I met Sam was at last year’s Children’s Christmas Workshop. Then he began coming to Light Night and in the spring started coming to Sunday School. He was a joyful participant in VBS, and has continued coming to St. Luke’s ever since. Sam is from China and his father who was here with the University of Memphis, has completed his work here. So, Sam, his parents, and his little brother who was born in Memphis a few months ago will be returning to China this week. When Sam started with us, he couldn’t really understand English and didn’t talk much. He was always treated so kindly by our sweet group of children. Over the months, his language skills, and his joy for being a part of the group have blossomed. He has been a wonderful classmate and I know the other children will miss him as much as Wally and I will.
When Sam’s father, Wei, brought him to class on Sunday, he said how much he appreciated what everyone at St. Luke’s had done for Sam and that he had brought a present for the church from his family. The present was a beautiful small Chinese screen that had the title on the outside, “Be Tolerant to Diversity.” I can’t help but think that Wei thought that this would be something we would treasure and I am certain we will. I have watched Sam grow and know that he is loved as a child of God. He has been part of our diverse Sunday School class, and a VBS program that looks a bit like the U.N. He has seen St. Luke’s people accept all children and all adults from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances. Surely this diversity is what heaven will look like as well. The gift of the beautiful screen with such a great sentiment was wonderful. However the Zhang’s sharing their sweet son with us and our children was the best gift of all. Our children learned so much from Sam. They learned that we love people and that even if we can’t understand every single word that we can still communicate in a spirit of love. They learned that patience is rewarded and that given a little time and help we can always understand each other. I think Sam also learned from his classmates. It is my great hope that he will return to China having learned lessons of acceptance and love that he will remember throughout his lifetime.
How lucky we are to be part of God’s Dream here on earth!
The screen is on display in Hospitality Hall
The 2017 fourth quarter Forward in Faith newsletter is here.
Inside you will find the updates of what’s moving forward in faith.
TEN REASONS YOUR CHURCH ISN’T GROWING (OR GROWING AS QUICKLY AS YOU’D LIKE)
What follows is a list of ten things that might be holding your church back from realizing the potential of its mission. The points that follow are, frankly, a bit blunt as well as short. But you’ll figure out fairly quickly which apply and which don’t. While we’re often the last to see what so many others see, once someone names it, we’re free to deal with it. In fact, among those who take it seriously and act, progress often ensues.
1. You’re in conflict.
Ever been in someone’s home as a guest only to have your hosts start to argue with each other? It doesn’t happen that often, but the few times it’s happened when I’ve been around have made me want to run out the door. If you’re constantly bickering and arguing, why would any new people stay? It’s not that Christians shouldn’t have conflict, but we should be the best in the world at handling it. The New Testament is a virtual manual of conflict resolution, but so many of us prefer gossip, nonconfrontation, and dealing with anyone but the party involved. How conflicted is your church – honestly? As long as you’re conflicted, you’ll have difficulty growing. Growing churches handle conflict directly, biblically, humbly, and healthily.
2. You’re more in love with the past than you are with the future.
This can be true of churches that are in love with tradition and churches that have had some amazing days recently. When leaders are more in love with the past than they are with the future, the end is near.
Many churches have frozen in their favorite era. Walk into some churches and it feels like 1949, 1970, 1996, or even 2005. The songs are dated, as is the approach. It’s as if you’ve unearthed a time capsule. If your church is a museum of 1950 or even 2012, the likelihood of reaching the next generation diminishes with every passing day.
3. You’re not that awesome to be around
Fake. Judgmental. Hypocritical. Angry. Narrow. Unthinking. Unkind. Those are adjectives often used to describe Christians, and sometimes they have their basis in truth.
Alternatively, we all know certain people who are energizing to be around. You feel better than when you came, simply because you were in their presence. Unfortunately, not enough Christians today fit that description. Jesus was mesmerizing. Paul caused conflict for sure, but he had many deep relationships and incredible influence. The early church was known for compassion and generosity.
If people truly don’t want to be around you, don’t let the reason be because you haven’t let Christ reshape your character or social skills.
4. You’re focused on yourself.
Too many churches are focused on their wants, preferences, and perceived needs. They are self-focused organizations filled with self-focused people. It should be no surprise that outsiders never feel welcomed, valued, or included. Sadly, if a person is self-focused, we call him or her selfish. If a church is self-focused, we call it normal.
If you want to reach people, however, you simply can’t be self-focused. After all, a life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone.
5. You think culture is the enemy.
If all you ever are is angry at the culture around you, how are you going to reach people in that culture? Christians who consistently expect non-Christians to act like Christians baffle me. If you treat your unchurched neighbor like an enemy, why would he ever want to be your friend? It is extremely difficult to impact people you don’t actually like.
6. You’re afraid to risk what is for the sake of what might be.
Let’s face it: at least your church has something going for it. You’re paying the bills. You have more people in your church than the churches around you that have closed. In fact, you can likely point to some programs in your church you might call a success, even if the success is only moderate. Which is exactly why you’re struggling with the fear that virtually all of us struggle with: you’re afraid to risk what is for the sake of what might be. That only gets worse, by the way, the more successful you become. The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.
When you’re perpetually afraid to risk what is for the sake of what might be, you may as well cue the funeral music now.
7. You can’t make a decision.
Governance is a silent killer in today’s churches. When your decision making is rooted in complex bureaucracy or congregational approval for every major change, it makes decision making difficult and courageous change almost impossible. Effective churches develop governance that
– Is nimble;
– Is aligned around a common missions, vision, and strategy;
– Trusts staff to accomplish the mission; and
– Has minimal congregational involvement in decision making.
While that might be a surprise to some church leaders (perhaps even heresy to others), too-heavy, interventionists boards and committees don’t scale and won’t allow staff leaders to be as agile as they need to be to accomplish what they must accomplish. Your governance might be killing you. And if it takes you five layers of meetings to even decide whether that’s the case, you have a very serious problem indeed.
- You talk more than you act.
Most church leaders love to think and love to debate issues, which is great. Thoughtful leaders do that. But effective leaders add one more component. They act.
Most church leaders I know (staff and boards) overthink and underact. If you acted on even a few more of your good ideas, you could possibly be twice as effective in a very short time frame. A B-plus plan brilliantly executed beats an A-plus plan that never gets implemented, every single time.
- You don’t think there’s anything wrong with your church.
I still run into a surprising number of leaders and church members who love their church but can’t figure out why no one else does. What are other people saying that you’re missing? Church leaders who think there’s nothing wrong are on their way to soon having much more to lead than a stalled -out club for the already convinced.
- You’re more focused on growth than you are on God.
Some leaders get so jacked up about growth that they forget it’s about God and his mission. This is a danger every motivated leader needs to keep in mind. We’re leading people to Jesus, not to ourselves or to our awesome church. Keeping the focus on Christ ensures that genuine life change happens and lasts.
Okay, so maybe this list stings a bit. Acknowledging the truth isn’t easy for anyone. But I think being honest with yourself is the first step toward lasting change. If you’re honest about where your church falls within these reasons, you’ll be primed to make a meaningful change.
Having read the reasons, what reasons are true for St. Luke’s? What role do you currently play? How can you make changes individually, in a committee, or as a leader to mitigate some of these reasons?
As always, please continue to be in prayer as St. Luke’s grapples with the reality facing churches today. Pray for creativity and courage to step out in faith. Pray for God to take aware our fears. Pray for humility, grace, and love in dealing with differing opinions. Pray that our St. Luke’s family fully understands that we’re called to share the love of Jesus with the world, not focus on ourselves.
If you’d like to read more from Lasting Impact – 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow by Carey Nieuwhof, please contact a member of Forward in Faith and we’d be more than happy to loan you a copy.
For more information on the Forward in Faith initiative contact Megan Warren – email@example.com
Forward in Faith Team
The Forward in Faith team wants to make every effort to communicate frequently with our Church family. Look for articles in the Epistle, announcements, quarterly newsletters, Church Council reports, or just talk to us in person.
At this time, we’ve had two newsletters published in the Epistle: January 23 and April 3. You may link to the most recent one above.
Should you have any questions or ideas for Forward in Faith, please feel free to contact one of the members. The members include the following:
Megan Warren – Director of Community Connections
Although the above people meet monthly to discuss moving forward, St. Luke’s – the entire church – is a part of this endeavor. Opinions, feedback, ideas, solutions, prayers from everyone make this committee and the work we are called to do, the best it can be. We all want to see St. Luke’s grow and remain viable in the future and that must include fresh ideas, renewed passions, growing pains, and YOU. We’re thankful for your involvement and your love for St. Luke’s.
Continue to pray constantly for St. Luke’s to be a place where our lives and our community will be transformed. Consistently pray for God to help us carry out the Great Commission and to help people know Christ.