My Confession: I don’t want to go to church.

Enjoying Phil & Jan's pool.

Enjoying Phil & Jan’s pool.

Sometimes I feel like a school principal. It’s weird. People miss church and then send me a note through social media, text or email, “Johnny missed church Sunday because he had a fungus growing in his ears.”

No, it’s not that extreme but I feel a little weird when people feel like they need to tell me why they weren’t in church. It’s like they want me to know they aren’t just playing hooky but have legitimate reasons.

The whole “going to church” mentality is, as far as I can see, off the mark. I think years of perfect attendance pins and gold stars on Sunday School attendance charts have undermined what should pull us out of bed.

Here’s my confession: I don’t want to go to church. Really, I don’t.

What I do want to do is gather with my friends to worship our God, hear about their lives and make plans. I want to make their kids laugh. I want to kiss Ruth on the forehead and have Helen hand me a cough drop. I like Kip’s morning hug and teasing Vicki about her Cowboys. I love sitting in the lobby laughing with Cam and Sean, high fives and hugs from Sara and Shelby and hearing Sara call me “dude.” I love connecting with that row of Anthony, Kylie, Nicole and Adam, seeing Obrien smiles and teasing Kim. I could go on and on and list a hundred names from sharing baseball stories with Sally to seeing Nancy’s smile, from talking cameras with Al to laughing with Pam and Larry, name after name is popping into my mind right now. I like that.

I get up Sunday morning not to go to church; I get up because I want to gather with the church, the people, my family. I want to worship with the church, learn with the church and grow with the church in this big white building where it meets.

I hope that is, or becomes, your motivation. I don’t want you to feel guilty for missing “church” but I do hope we continue to build such a loving community that you miss gathering with the church when you are away.

Yes, I believe gathering regularly with and being connected with the church is vital. I think it is much more difficult to grow and navigate life without connecting with others who share our beliefs, values and purposes. When I do not make gathering with the church a priority, it impacts my life and my attitude negatively.

Summer is here! It is time for vacations, family cookouts and canoeing with friends. I love that. Please shake off the church guilt complex and kiss the perfect attendance pin goodbye to enjoy the beach house. Breathe deep, reflect, read a book and enjoy sabbath rest. I am thrilled you are getting away to be refreshed. I am happy that you are building memories that will last. I love seeing the smiles in the pictures you post on Facebook and I know my God loves it when you laugh and relax.

Know that no one is taking attendance here and know that we do miss you when you are gone but please don’t feel like you need a note or that the pastor is going to be upset because you missed church. This pastor is thrilled to see you loving your family enough to vacation and loving your spouse enough to take out the kayaks to head for the water.

I know that September is coming and I know that we Mainers need to grab these brief summer days while they are here. I can’t wait to welcome you back and hear about your summer fun.

I remember hearing someone once say, “Yeah, I felt so bad that I hadn’t been to church in so long that I never went back. It would be awkward hearing, ‘where have you been?'”

That’s silly.

When you get back just know that we love you and have missed you like crazy. We want to hear about your adventures. We’ll just pick up right where we left off.

Deal?

I hope you are having a great summer. I hope you are squeezing out every drop of vitamin D each day offers.

I’m looking forward to seeing you when you get back whether it be next Sunday or this fall.

We don’t go to church, we are the church.

– Scott Linscott

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Are We Making It Hard(er) for People to Meet Jesus?

After our series on the Foyer, Living Room and Kitchen atmosphere, this blog post on the Exponential Blog struck a chord with me. – Scott

Download the E-book

Download the E-book

By Arron Chambers

Some things in life are more complicated than they need to be.

Like turning on the television. Remember when you could turn on the TV by just urning a single knob? Now, you need a degree from MIT to navigate the remote control. Or like ordering coffee–an infinite number of coffee options, but most of those options change with each coffee shop. I love white chocolate-flavored coffee in a medium-sized cup or mug, which at my favorite coffee shop, is a 16-ounce (not medium) white chocolate mocha. But when I go to Dunkin’ Donuts, the closest thing I can find to that same drink is called a medium (not 16-ounce) Dunkaccino, which is always difficult for me to order because I have to pay for it with my man card.

Or becoming a Christian. Remember when becoming a Christian was as simple as hearing and responding to the gospel? Now, too many Christians and churches have made it so complicated to find Jesus. Put yourself in the Toms, Skechers, Vans, Doc Martens, or Birkenstocks of a lost person with me for a moment and realize what they have to be willing to walk through to actually hear the gospel.

They have to walk through the stereotypes that Hollywood and the media project of Christians as not being very nice or normal. I spoke for an event in Tennessee where I heard a heartbreaking story. A local church youth group ate at a local steakhouse, made a huge mess and left a note instead of a tip. The note to their server: “Repent or you’re going to hell.” The server burst out crying and left work. That story so enraged me that my wife and I made plans to eat at that steakhouse the next night with my in-laws. We asked for that server and left her a huge tip. My in-laws resolved to do everything within their power to build a friendship with that young woman with the hopes that she’ll meet Jesus along the way.

They have to walk through the well-documented hypocrisy of some of our biggest celebrity preachers who have sinned publicly and scattered their golden house fixtures, jewels and fur coats as they fell back to the earth.

They have to walk through our denominational division and find the “right” church with the “right” version of the gospel.

They have to walk through our undocumented and unspoken yet highly unbending dress codes, which clearly prohibit tattered jeans, skinny jeans or saggy jeans and T-shirts advertising beer, pot, the Oakland Raiders, Obama, or ‘80s big-haired rock bands.

And then, if lost people can clamber over, around and through those obstacles, they have to walk through our doors … where the fun really begins.

None of this is a surprise to Jesus. Remember what He said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14).

Yes, the way is hard, so why would we make it even harder? I’m convinced and convicted that it’s time we simplify evangelism, focusing on three key areas:

1. Relationships

Let me put it simply: Relationships are the key to reaching lost people.

I define evangelism as “an intentional relationship through which someone is introduced to Jesus Christ.” Healthy relationships are essential if we want to have the kind of life God intended for all of us. And they are also essential if we want to reach lost people like Jesus did. A few years ago, the Institute for American Church Growth (today known as Church Growth, Inc.) asked more than 10,000 people, “What was most responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?” Seventy-nine percent responded, “A friend or relative invited me.”

Which is why a man who was at one time the leading abortionist in the country came to Christ. I’ll call him Richard.

One day a preacher (I’ll call him David) met Richard and started a conversation with him. The two men quickly struck up a friendship, both unaware of the other’s profession until after a relationship had already come to life.

Richard, a recently retired abortion doctor—at one time performing more abortions than any other abortion doctor in the United States. David, a presently employed preacher—at no time thinking he’d become friends with an abortionist.

Over countless breakfasts and cups of coffee, they forged a strong friendship. On paper it shouldn’t have worked, but in real life it did. David told me that Richard used to hate Christians, especially the ones who yelled at and picketed him and his office. He said that their anger only made him more resolved to keep doing abortions.

Interesting.

Well, David didn’t yell at Richard. Instead, he ate with him, loved him and rejoiced with him when Richard gave his life to Christ, repented of his sins and was baptized. You see, it’s really not that complicated.

Let’s just love people, intentionally.

2. Resources

I don’t know how Peter did it.

How did he convince about 3,000 people to give their lives to Christ without handing out even one fake $1 million bill with the steps to receiving the “free” gift of eternal life detailed on the back?

Where did we get the idea that gimmicks, pamphlets and direct mail campaigns were the best way to lead people to Christ?

What if we set aside the gimmicky resources and simply just told people the true story of what Jesus has done to transform our lives?

What if we removed the gospel from all of the impenetrable packaging so that lost people didn’t have to work so hard to receive and enjoy truth, grace, forgiveness and life? What if we embraced every opportunity to develop intentional relationships with lost people through which we can introduce them to Jesus telling them true stories of transformation?

Seeing this through the paradigm of The Golden Rule, I’d much rather you give me a true story than a fake $1 million bill.

3. Responding

At Journey Christian Church where I pastor, we’re big on taking away people’s excuses for not coming to church. So we’re intentional about creating an environment where truth can be proclaimed in a relevant way, where it’s okay to not be okay, and where grace always wins.

We want to take away their excuses for not being the church in the community, so we’re intentional about creating regular opportunities to serve our community in significant ways.

We want to take away their excuses for not responding to the gospel, so we’re intentional with how we present the gospel and how they can respond to the gospel each week. I’m surprised by how many churches are no longer publicly calling people to make decisions for Christ, and instead are leaving the presentation of the gospel for a more appropriate time, such as the quarterly New Members’ Class. We’ve intentionally designed our weekly services to include a lengthy time of commitment during which someone can take communion, pray in one of our prayer rooms, be prayed over by a church leader, give his or her life to Christ, and be baptized.

And when it comes to baptism, we’ve gone to even greater lengths to take away their excuses. We baptize people in their street clothes (I do the same, so I need three sets of clothing ready to go). We have large black T-shirts they can put on over their clothes, plenty of towels and plastic trash bags to protect their car seats on the ride home. And our worship center seats are plastic and thus waterproof. In the past 12 months, we’ve baptized 205 people. We see people submit to baptism almost every single week.

It’s amazing how such a simple act can have such a significant impact on a congregation and how a congregation who witnesses transformation on a weekly basis can have such a significant impact on a community.

Yes, the gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life. Let’s resolve to not make it any harder than it already is.

Questions to consider:

What is one thing you can do this week to help your children or grandchildren to either find life in Christ or grow in their relationship with Christ?

What is one thing you can do this week to help someone who is “far off” find the narrow way?
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This article was excerpted and adapted from the new eBook Narrow-Minded Evangelism: ReThinking Evangelism … & The Golden Rule by pastor and author Arron Chambers. 

About Arron Chambers

Arron Chambers, author of six books, including Eats With Sinners and Devoted: Isn’t it time to fall more in love with Christ? (NavPress October 2014), is also the pastor of Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colo., an inspirational speaker, a marriage coach, husband of a lovely wife, and the father of four beautiful kids. For more information, visit his website.

WANTED: Can kickers

canBy Scott Linscott

Do you remember that feeling as a kid playing Kick the Can when you would watch someone sprint toward the can to boot it and set everyone free? I remember the anticipation, the laughs and the chaos as everyone scattered. I loved the times I was the guy who got to kick the can and initiate all that. We played for hours.

I think the church in America needs some can kickers. Me, you, someone in your pew.

Can kickers are driven by the desire to scatter. Can kickers don’t mind risk. Can kickers like a good dose of chaos.

The church in America has gone through at least three decades of making self-preserving moves working to ensure everyone is comfortable and getting their needs met. In the meantime, fewer and fewer people have been hearing about Jesus outside the church walls. We’re so busy at church we just don’t have time for relationships.

Everyone is gathered around the can. We talk about Jesus, we sing and we throw around words like “evangelism” and “outreach.” But mostly, we just stare at the can. In this church game, most of us have even forgotten why the can is there.

And then it happens. Some wild one comes sprinting in and kicks the can. He comes in, kicks it and says, “Let’s get outta here! Run!” But he’s not running away from God. He’s not setting people free from Jesus. He’s calling them to risk, chaos and bringing Jesus to people outside the church. He’s yelling, “Go! Go and make disciples! Run!”

A bunch of like-minded, daring disciples are immediately and instinctively into it. They are the ones who make others in the church uncomfortable because they dare ask Jesus to heal people, do miracles and answer prayer. They talk about following Jesus with everything and they don’t think faith is a private thing.

Cans are being kicked all over the United States. For the first time in decades more new churches are opening than old ones closing. Urban centers, universities, neighborhoods, suburbs, theaters, pubs and schools are seeing people excited about Christ starting new works that don’t look much like the churches they have seen.

Studies are showing that 50 percent of the people attending these new faith communities are exploring Jesus for the first time. That’s what Jesus was talking about! That’s what we’re supposed to be doing – starting new communities and revitalizing old ones.

I see the can. I feel the adrenaline building. I’ve got the urge to make a run at it and give it a good punt. I want to hear the laughter, sense the  anxiousness and revel in the chaos of doing the crazy thing.

I feel alive. I want to equip a generation of can-kickers …

Eph 4: 11-13 He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher  to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church,  until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

 

Time to make the donuts?

By Scott Linscott

Imagine that you work in a donut shop. You arrive with the staff at 4:00 AM for your first day on the job. You are expecting to be elbow deep in flower but the owner gathers everyone around a dvd player and monitor and hits play. For the next two hours you sit and learn about the history of donut making. After a “discussion” which is actually mostly just filling in blanks in a workbook, you stand with your coworkers for a quick summary and then head home. No donuts are made.

The next day you come ready to bake but end up in the donut classroom again. On day two the focus is on ingredients. No donuts again. Day three is about donut making equipment. Day four is variety, day five oils and day 6 discusses the purpose of donut making. No donuts still.

By day ten you stop bringing your apron. The theory and practice of donut making is fascinating to study. On day 21 you get a different workbook and see that you will be talking about famous donut makers around the world. You even drop a few bucks into the collection for bringing donuts to new areas. Then there’s the discussions about the future and what will come, talk of serving donuts to the donutless and even discussions about what to study next.

You ask the long-time employee next to you, “have you ever actually made donuts?” He hasn’t but he tells you about a day before his time when this place produced piles and piles.

You’ve already surmised that im not talking about donuts at all. Im talking about the church of Jesus. We sure do like to talk, debate and study. We major in the minors while no one makes any donuts.

Throughout my ministry career I’ve noticed that we Christians tend to spend a ton of time majoring in the minors rather than focus on that which is clear. Some want to take class after class about dragons and beasts and endtime prophecies  while others love to study angels. Some want to talk about heaven and where it is, what it is like and what we will do when we get there while others love studying a new earth, new bodies and the second coming. Jesus told us to bring Good News to people but we seem more concerned with where the ark is now and what happened to the dinosaurs.

The excellent thing is that today you can Google all these fringe issues to your heart’s delight. You can spend hour-upon-hour researching aliens and the wheel-in-the-middle of the wheel. Or, you can study the depth of moon dust and use it to support your dedication to young-earth perspectives.

Me? I prefer to focus on the things that are clear and direct in Scripture. I’m not a big mystery chaser and I’m not interested in spending my time searching for secrets between the lines. I’d much rather spend my time focusing on the clear teachings of Christ rather than spend my time chasing mysteries.

If I were a donut maker, I’d want to make donuts. As a disciple of Christ I want to be a disciple maker.

“It is a bad symptom of any man’s state of soul when he begins to put the second things of religion in the first place, and the first in the second, or the things ordained by man above the things ordained by God. There is something sadly wrong when it is more important to us whether others are of our denomination and ceremonies rather than whether they repent of sin, believe on Christ and live holy lives.” ~ J.C. Ryle

Hi, I’m Scott. I’m your interim pastor. (What’s that???)

I'm excited to share these months with you! - Scott

I’m excited to share these months with you! – Scott

There are a few types of interim pastors. All of them are temporary positions. It’s similar to a substitute teacher except it’s more like a substitute shepherd. Word on the street is that it’s a tough gig. I honestly don’t know. I’ve never been an interim pastor before. But while your search committee is hard at work, here I am, your interim pastor.

What are the types of interim pastors?

1) The Maintenance Guy. The key to this model is that nothing at all changes. The maintenance interim comes in and does little more than fill the pulpit and lead the teaching times. His job is to maintain the status quo until a fulltime pastor is in place.

2) The Transitional Guy. The TIP (transitional interim pastor) has defined goals to accomplish before the church even searches for a new lead pastor. He may be a peace maker following a painful splt. Or, if a church family has endured crisis or abuse, his job might be to initiate healing and encouragement to get the people on a healthy footing for a permanent pastor. The transition interim is normally in place for a longer period of time.

3) The Intentional Guy. The IIP (intentional interim pastor) is a groundwork guy tasked with preparing the congregation for necessary change helping it move forward. His focus is more targetted than the TIP and his task is more defined. The IIP could be tasked with clearing blockages to growth, resolving conflict, building unity or even focused on preparing for a specific mission.

Interims number 2 & 3, from what I am gleaning, are specialists with the most demanding tasks whereas the Maintenance Guy is charged with filling the gaps.

From what I understand from meeting with FBC leadership, I am in the third role. My job is to begin laying the groundwork for a new lead pastor who will come in focused on outreach and doing some rebuilding. He or she will be tasked with leading the congregation of FBC into effectively connecting with its changing community. He will be charged with helping you discover the tools and methods needed to better reach our area with the hope of Jesus.

So what’s so tough about my “gig” as the IIP? It’s up to me to begin asking some tough questions. My job will be to get us excited about looking beyond what we like and need to what those outside our doors like and need. I’m going to do my best to get us praying courageously and faithfully so that we are ready to consider any option for the cause of Christ.

We will be asking two overriding questions in the coming months:

1) What will it take to reach the unchurched and dechurched* in our community?
2) Are we willing to to do what is needed even if it means change?

I am thankful that before my health declined and I had my transplant, I completed my Masters Degree in Theological Studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary with a focus on church planting and reaching today’s society. Then, the Lord moved us to Westbrook where I live close enough to hear the First Baptist Church carillon’s music at noon and 6:00 PM. And now, here I am, serving in an exciting capacity as Interim Pastor with some awesome people who are asking, “what can we do to reach our community for Christ?” I am constantly amazed looking back seeing how God has moved to accomplish His goals. Some call stuff like this coincidence. I doubt that.

I’m thrilled to be here with you for this season, First Baptist Church. Let’s get ready to ask some tough questions and prepare our hearts for what God is calling this church to do in the center of Westbrook.

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists,  the defeated, the demoralized – whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ – but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! – 1 Corinthian 9:19-23 (The Message paraphrase)

*dechurched: formerly involved in a church but left with hurt or disappointment.