Archives For North Point Ministries

andy-stanleyWe live in a world that doesn’t view the Bible the way we do. And we have students and children who come to our churches that did not grow up with the same assumptions that we have about the Bible. We must do what the 1st Century Christians did for those first generations of Jesus-Followers and give them an understanding of why we believe what we believe.

Andy Stanley–Orange Conference, Main Session 2013

7 Guidelines for Communicating the Bible in a Biblically Illiterate and Skeptical World from the 2013 Orange Conference. #OC13

1. Choose a passage of scripture and stay there.

      I know that there is major debate about whether we should teach/preach verse-by-verse or verse-with-verse, but really–nothing is more confusing to a person who doesn’t know the Bible or the Bible narrative than hopping all over the Bible and using a whole bunch of passages of scripture like a proof text for a college paper. People coming into our churches don’t know the difference between Saul the King, and Saul the persecutor, Joseph the father of Jesus and Joseph and the technicolor dream coat. When we hop around the Bible we imply the Bible is complicated and confusing. By the way–this isn’t new: Henrietta Mears called this the Hop-Skip Method and believed it was the primary reason for the “boredom and disgust” of children in the Sunday School of her day

2. Give people permission not to believe or obey the scriptures. (I Corinthians 5:12)

“When you have a crowd of people who you suspect are non-Jesus followers, marginal, or not-sure-I-believe people, you have to give them permission not to believe or obey, because this isn’t even for them. . . . When you give non-Christians an out, they respond by leaning in.”

3. Teach in a manner that emphasizes the identity of Jesus over the authority of scripture.

Even though the Bible is the infallible, inspired Word of God our faith is not based upon “believing” in the infallibility and inspiration of the Bible. The foundation of our faith is based upon believing in an event in history: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

People must come to grips with the identity of Jesus before they can come to grips with the authority of the Bible. . . . the issue is always, “Who is Jesus?”

We shouldn’t expect rational people to believe that Jesus rose from the dead [simply] because “the Bible says so.”

“Do you know why we believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Not because “the Bible says so.” It’s because Matthew says so, Mark says so, Luke says so, John says so, James says so and Peter says so and they were all willing to die for what they said they believed.”

“Because the Bible says so” only works when the people you are talking to already believe what the Bible says. For those who don’t, “Because the Bible says so” makes us look foolish. And it doesn’t help our kids who will go into a hostile world where they will have to defend their faith.

4. Don’t refer to the Bible as a book.

It’s not a book. It’s way better than a book. A book implies that it is fiction. The problem is that most adults think the Bible is full of stories not history. Each week we share parts of history. Our kids need to know it is history not fiction.

“The Bible was written by over 40 different people over a several hundred year period and it tells one unique story about how sin came into the world and God fixed it. Isn’t that great? Now today we are going to look at this little piece of it.”

5. Cite authors not the Bible.

Every time you say something about an author you tie what you are saying to history, not stories.

“Today we are going to look at a letter written by James. James was the brother of Jesus. What would your brother have to do to convince you he was the Son of God?”

6. Acknowledge the odd as odd.

There are some odd things in the Bible. Most of what’s in the Bible is odd. We don’t need to be afraid of it, that’s just the way it is. It’s old.

We don’t have to worry about the odd things in the Bible because “the Bible says so” is not the reason we believe this but because Jesus believed this. I take the old testament seriously because Jesus took it seriously.

7. Don’t create the impression that one must choose between faith and science.

Science is the study of natural things. It attempts to find natural explanations for the world around us. Every time sciences discovers how something works we should be able to respond, “So that’s how God did it.”

How do you communicate the Bible to support lasting faith?

 

 

deep wide andy stanleyThe church leaders who are seemingly most concerned about the dropout rate of that demographic are the very ones who create the weekend experiences that this demographic finds entirely uncompelling.  To say it another way, the group responsible for connecting eighteen- to twenty-five-year-olds to local congregations are the catalysts for driving them away.

. . . somebody’s kids are attending your church. If you have kids, they are attending your church.  Every Sunday you are either instilling a deeper love and appreciation for the church or you are doing what most pastors do and providing them with one more reason not to attend when they no longer have to.  That’s a big deal.

Andy Stanley, Deep & Wide

That is a big deal.  According to Thom Rainer in a research project initiated by Lifeway, the number of kids walking away from faith and the church outnumber the adults who are coming to faith each year.  I think it is because we have missed an opportunity.  We have treated the youngest ones as though they are not important until they become adults. Then we follow that up by doing church the way we like it rather than the way we can reach the next generation.

God intends that we should win people in the days of their youth while their hearts are young and sensitive.   But we are apt to let the springtime pass and then with great effort create a religious fervor by our own efforts and win men to Christ. We work hard, spend thousands of dollars and at the best get disappointingly small returns. We have waited too long. That which we should do is to work with God in His seasons.

–Henrietta Mears    

If we save every adult on the planet, but lose the next generation, what’s the point?  The church is always one generation away from extinction. Not on my watch!

deep wide andy stanleyYou’ve got a bunch of teachers in your church.  The last thing they want to do is sit in circles with eight children for an hour on Sundays.  But they know curriculum. They know how to organize content. And some of them would love to present the bible story in a large group setting as long as they don’t have to take ownership of a small group. You also have some folks who aren’t afraid of middle school boys, but they don’t know jack about the Bible . . . yet.  They are scared to death you are going to give them Bible lessons to teach. But if they knew their only responsibility was to sit with their kids while a really good presenter did a really good presentation, and then discuss three specific questions from that really good presentation, they would be all over that.  You get the point. If you create a system that divides these disciplines, you are going to recruit a different kind of volunteer. But more to the point, you will have a system that frees your engaging presenters to make engaging presentations.

Andy Stanley, Deep & Wide

In I Corinthians the Apostle Paul compared the church to the human body where every member has a role and altogether make one body.  He said,

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

I Corinthians 12:12

I think we readily get this in some areas of the church.  It’s not unusual for us to have people who are worship leaders and we let them worship, and people who are communicators and we let them preach, and people who lead small groups and we let them lead small groups, and people who are great organizers and we let them administrate.  But somehow when it comes to kidmin we have models of ministry that expect one person to be every part of the body.  Generally we call them Sunday School teachers, but “teachers” is really a misnomer, because they are often expected to do lots of things in addition to teaching.  Things like collecting supplies, to crowd control, to storytelling, to singing, to connecting with kids and connecting with parents and wiping noses, to playing an instrument (which is why I think the autoharp was invented—so the musically disinclined could lead a group of kids in singing.).

I admit, that on some planet somewhere there are a rare few who can do all of these things well.  But. . .

Wouldn’t it be better if we simply divided up responsibilities according to gifting, or talents, or skills or desire?

This is one of the main reasons why we do large groups for some things and small groups for others.  We do small groups so we can leverage the gifts of those who are great at connecting, who have consistent spiritual journeys and who have a faith that we want our children to model and embrace. But we don’t expect our small group leaders to be great singers or great storytellers.  We let our great singers and storytellers to do that in large group.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

I Corinthians 12:27

 

deep wide andy stanleyI warn people in our community not to bring their kids to our church until they’re sure they want to attend on a regular basis. When they ask why, I tell them that once their kids “come and see” the environment we’ve created for them, they’ll never be satisfied anywhere else.

Andy Stanley, Deep & Wide

Wouldn’t it be great, before a child even interacted with a small group leader or heard a Bible story that they were hooked on the environment?  Or wouldn’t it be great if the environment paved the way, or set the stage, for what the child was going to experience on Sunday Morning at church?  What if the environment prepared the way for the small group leader or the storyteller to create a life changing encounter with the Bible and a relationship with Jesus?

Sadly, our environments in many churches do the opposite.  For skeptical 5th graders our environments are the first obstacle they see when coming to our churches. Worse, they become further evidence in a long list of experiences that reinforce most modern kids’ perspectives that church is not relevant.

I’m not suggesting that we replace the Gospel with entertainment or flashy environments.  What I’m suggesting is that we leverage our environments to surprise and delight, to create the unexpected, and ultimately disarm the kids who come to church.  In so doing, we set up what we really want to do, lead kids in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

This isn’t a new problem. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Henrietta Mears from the early 50’s.

The Church must be prepared to reach out and get the many millions of boys and girls who are still without religious instruction of any sort.  Compare the marble halls of our modern school buildings with the worn out carpets of the Sunday school department, and the up-to-date books, well bound, on every school desk with the ragged songbooks and Bibles, the fine hardwood desks with the dilapidated chairs relegated to most Sunday school departments.  No wonder youth thinks that the three R’s are more important than the fourth–Religion, when he goes on Sunday to a room poorly lighted and miserably furnished.

Henrietta Mears, Sunday School Changes Everything

 

What do you do in your environments to surprise, delight, or disarm kids when they walk through the doors of your church for the first time?

deep wide andy stanley

I agree with Howard Hendricks, who was fond of saying, “It is a sin to bore a child with the Word of God.” To present the Scripture to a child or a teenager in an unengaging manner is to teach the very opposite of what is intended:

Lesson #1 The Bible is boring.

Lesson #2 The Bible is irrelevant

Lesson #3: Church is irrelevant

from Deep & Wide by Andy Stanley

For the most part, the Bible isn’t boring.  Which just means the Bible isn’t the problem.  For my piece, here are some common ways we make the Bible boring and its results.

  • We teach in a way that ignores basic age-characteristics of children (We use words like “mortification” with High schoolers) They think the Bible is confusing.
  •  We teach Bible content that is inappropriate (Maybe because we want to teach the same things everyone else is learning at the same time.) They think the Bible isn’t written for them.
  • We don’t leverage a child’s felt needs to lead them to their real needs. They think the Bible isn’t relevant.
  •  We don’t teach from a context of deep, meaningful or consistent relationships that model a life under Biblical authority. They don’t think the Bible intersects with their lives outside of Sunday morning.
  •  We don’t build common ground when teaching. They think the Bible is moralistic and feel preached at.
  •  We teach the facts of the Word, but don’t introduce them to Jesus who is the Word. They think Christianity is a religion and not a relationship.

I wonder what would happen if we took the time we spend bemoaning the entertainment industry’s affects on attention-spans and behavior and spent that time more introspectively examining the role we play in engaging or boring children.  What if we invested our time in communicating in a way that captures the imagination of child with the radical truths of the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ? We might see the church drop-out rate decline. We might see unchurched people come to our churches and the de-churched, burned-by-church or anti-church people return.

Ministry Best Practice from Troy Fountain, Lead Pastor of Wiregrass Church, Dothan Alabama. I promised Troy I would blog about this. So here goes.

Have you ever noticed that anytime you throw something away, a week doesn’t go by before you need what you just threw away?

Best Practice: if you throw something away, don’t empty the trashcan for a week. That way if you need it, you can pull it out of the trashcan. If a week goes by and you don’t need it—empty your trashcan.

This could revolutionize your ministry. I foresee that some tech savvy person could figure out how to apply this to digital files as well. :P

This is the best part of about conferences—nuggets of truth in the hallways. This is why I go to Orange Conference.

Much love to my North Point Strategic Partner friends

Measured on the dial, an hour a week to prepare a life for eternity is too brief a time to allow one wasted moment or one careless touch upon a soul.  Henrietta Mears

Let’s face it, the amount of time we have with a kid is not growing.  Once you take away vacation and sick days we probably only have 40 hours a year with our most faithful kids.  And, when I look at all of the non-purposeful unstructured time in many Sunday kidmin programs, we could have much less than that.  One estimate puts actual teaching time at only 17 minutes on an average Sunday.  That would be less than 12 hours per year.   The mission of leading kids to Jesus and the limited amount of time we have to do so each week, demands that we become intentional about every minute we have with our kids.

When “Sunday’s coming” it is easy to get into thinking “How am I going to fill the time?” versus “How am I going to leverage the limited time I have?”  If leveraging the limited time you have with kids each week is important, I think the best thing we can do to make every minute count is to clarify what a win looks like at every level.  A win is what are we aiming for in everything that we do.

Clarify the Win

In baseball, there may be all kinds of “wins” like strike outs, catching fly balls, tagging a runner out etc. .  . but the difference between a winning team and a losing team boils down to one thing: how many runners cross home plate.  The ultimate goal is to get as many people to cross home plate as possible. That’s it.

Define the “win” of your kidmin:  If you only accomplished one thing what would it be? 

Just like baseball, kidmin has wins. If you only accomplished one thing what would it be? You can define the win for kidmin itself, every program, every part of that program, every event, every volunteer role, every department.  A good place to start is defining the win for all of kidman.

A “win” is not a mission statement.

A “win” is more than a mission statement.  Mission statements tend to be broad and all encompassing: “We exist to magnify God by loving others the way Christ loved us to develop every person’s gifts to fulfill the great commission to reach the lost in Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth . . .”  That may be a great mission statement.  It says a lot of things.  A “win” is an irreducible minimum.  If we could only do one thing what would it be?

Here’s a great kidmin win: when a kid takes the next step in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  That’s a win.

What it might look like: It could be the first time an unchurched kid comes to your church.  That’s a win. When a kid expresses an interest in following Christ.  That’s a win.  When a kid is open and transparent for the first time in a small group and a small group leader is able to speak God’s truth into that child’s life in a deeply personal and life transforming way.  That’s a win.  All of those are steps in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Defining the win at this level will help you prioritize your ministry.  If you can’t clearly define how something you are doing, whether it’s a program, an event, or a part of a program helps a child take the next step in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, it might just be something that you should stop doing.  Here’s where you can begin making a list of things not to do.

A great resource for more on this topic is 7 Practices of Effective Ministry

In my next post, I will talk about what wins might look like for a Sunday Morning program.

What’s your ministry win?

I know this Wall Street Jounal Article is a little old, but I still think it is worth commenting on.

This is lame—and this is the lamest part of all:

“Surveys always find that younger people are less likely to attend church, yet this has never resulted in the decline of the churches. It merely reflects the fact that, having left home, many single young adults choose to sleep in on Sunday mornings. . . . Once they marry, though, and especially once they have children, their attendance rates recover. Unfortunately, because the press tends not to publicize this correction, many church leaders continue unnecessarily fretting about regaining the lost young people.”

It is this sort of thinking that is exactly what is fundamentally wrong with how some people view the potential of 20 somethings. The thing is: 20 somethings who left do seem to come back after marriage and kids. But they largely come back having lost their first love and lacking the revolutionary spirit they had in their youth. They come back as church attenders, not as leaders or kingdom pioneers.

This sort of mentality robs the church of leaders. Leadership statistics show that most of our church leaders made a lifetime commitment to ministry in their early 20’s if not before.

There seems to be a strong corollary between healthy growing world changing churches and their engagement of 20 somethings. To name a few churches: Reality, Hollywood Pres (in the 40’50′s), North Point Community Church, Passion City, Mars Hill in Seattle, Elevation Church. All these churches have successfully engaged 20 somethings and deployed them in service.

We must secure a life time commitment to Christian service in High School and then train for that service in college (18-25).  We lose our youth because we are not engaging them in significant service tied to a compelling mission.

I think it is clearly short sighted not to leverage the passion of 18-25 year-olds. Jesus seemed to think so. The disciples were probably 18-25. Some will say as young as 13.

I don’t know how to say this more strongly—but this sort of stuff really makes my toes curl.  What do you think?

About a year ago, I saw a guy on a street corner in our community holding a sign with the words: Marijuana is the Answer. At the time, I thought, “An answer to what?” Is it an answer to the AIDS pandemic in Africa? Ugandan orphans? Poverty in Ethiopia? Sex slaves in asia? The Middle East Crisis? I just don’t think you would see anyone holding a sign that read “Marijauna is the Answer” on a street corner in Rhodesia.

Maybe because when you are struggling to put food on the table you just don’t have the luxury to discuss the merits of medicinal marijuana. Or the existence of Heaven or Hell, for that matter. (Sorry Rob Bell.) While I know that this is a rather provocative intro. I think it illustrates the fact that we are so far removed from pre-Christian paganism (the paganism of the 1st century and before) that we think democracy, freedom of speech, arm chair philosophy, equality of all people, male and female, young and old is the natural state of human beings and that unaided and unimpeded, people will just naturally organize themselves around the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. While we say that there are certain unalienable rights that are self-evident, history has proven that while they may be unalienable they are not self-evident and certainly not inviolate. We are entering an era of Post-Christian Paganism. And while many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence may have been deists, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” took 1700 years of Christian influence in the West to become self-evident. After you read Herodotus, it is very clear that such things were not self-evident in the pre-Christian pagan world.

In the first session at the Orange Conference, Andy Stanley made a simple statement: We are stewards of the message of eternal life, but we are also stewards of the message of a better life. (BTW if you are looking for a great summary of Andy’s talk check out these bloggers: Nick Blevins, or Steve Cullum or Dan Scott. ) I don’t think we often realize how important it is to communicate both messages. Of course it probably isn’t two messages. Both messages are communicated when a person comes to Jesus and then commits themselves to a life of service in His Kingdom.

It is our great heritage for wherever the church spire rises in the community, the culture of that community is changed, the status of womanhood is raised, hospitals are built, the aged are cared for, the orphans are ministered to. Education in all its phases follows quickly. Young people should understand what the church has done through the centuries. –Henrietta Mears

People don’t just need Jesus in order to get to heaven, people need Jesus for today.

My posts on the Orange conference are going to come out a little later.  So if you are looking for summaries of the conference sessions or break outs, there are some great posts from other bloggers.  So check them out below.  In the meantime I’m going to put together some thoughts in reflection on the sessions and breakouts I attended.

Here are some great blogs: