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Posts Tagged ‘Sunday’

overflowing-cupI like to go to church
I like to go to church.
I like the happy songs we sing,
I like to go to church.

I don’t know when I learned that song but I was humming it as I walked home from church yesterday. It had been a good morning in worship, with an emphasis on prayer that pervaded the entire service and made me want to say, “Amen!”

And speaking of prayer…

Since I started talking about the missional church at First Baptist five years ago there has been some discussion about where that mission takes place—inside or outside the building. Sometimes the people who are on mission inside the building—teaching Sunday school, working with children’s choirs, serving Wednesday night supper—complain that all the attention is being focused on the mission outside the building—helping the homeless, building Habitat houses, and tutoring in the elementary schools.

Well of course it’s not either/or, it’s both/and, but in an effort to get us thinking outside the walls of the church and get us working in the community I have necessarily drawn attention to that part of our mission, and the church has responded enthusiastically, so enthusiastically that in my less faithful moments I begin to wonder if there will be anybody left inside the building to sing the hymns or teach Sunday school.

So, here’s the prayer I’m praying these days:

Lord, I want you to fill up the pews of this church until they are overflowing with people who love you and love to sing your praises.

I want you to fill up the offering plates until they are overflowing with gifts given back to you in tearful gratitude.

I want you to fill up the classrooms with disciples who are eager to learn, leaning forward in their seats, open Bibles on their laps.

I want you to fill up the hallways with people who greet each other with hugs and laughter, where every Sunday feels like a family reunion.

I want you to fill their hearts with love, fill their souls with faith, fill their minds with truth, and fill their lives with every good thing you have to give until it overflows this building and spills out onto the streets of this city and into every surrounding suburb.

I want you to pour yourself out through your people until your Kingdom comes, and your will is done, in Richmond as it is in heaven.

Now, that’s the kind of prayer that gets at the “both/and” problem, and gets at it in a Kingdom way.  There is no lack of abundance in God’s kingdom.  We don’t have to choose between being on mission inside the building or outside.

We can do both.

Amen?

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PastorShaunKing-133It’s Monday morning, friends, and after a big, exciting, celebratory day in worship yesterday it’s time to get on with the joyful work of bringing heaven to earth, right?

Well, maybe not.

Steve Blanchard forwarded an article recently about a pastor who resigned from his mega-church in Atlanta two years ago because people loved the dynamic Sunday worship experience he had created but didn’t love “caring for people and meeting the needs of the city” on the other days of the week.  Let me warn you: this example is extreme, but I do think there are some lessons here that every church–and every pastor–could learn from.

Take a look at this post from John White’s “Stories of the Revolution” blog.

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Mega church pastor: “We are completely off base with what discipleship means”

Shaun King stepped down on September 1st [2011].

Shaun resigned from the church in Atlanta that he started three years ago. Called “Courageous Church”, it was, in Shaun’s words, a “super cool Sunday worship-service-centered church with 700 people”. A mixed race congregation, it was seen as one of the cutting edge churches in the city. Highly “successful”!

Leonard Sweet, scholar and author, called Shaun, “One of the most dynamic, entrepreneurial, creative and passionate leaders on the American scene today.” How could this guy possibly fail? What would cause him to throw up his hands and give up?

Shaun stepped down not because of any scandal but because he was disillusioned and burned out. He had followed the advice of church planting experts on how to develop an exciting, growing church by focusing on a dynamic Sunday morning “experience”. He writes, “I sold my soul for church attendance in our first week and I could never quite get it back.”

Over time Shaun came to understand that “the overwhelming percentage of our time, energy, skills, budget and creativity were spent preparing for Sunday morning services, getting people to our Sunday services and getting them to volunteer for our Sunday morning services.” Then, Shaun made a big “mistake”. He tried to change all of this. He tried to create a discipleship oriented church where the “time, energy, skills, budget and creativity” went primarily into caring for people and meeting needs in the city. And, since he was the senior leader, he could make this work. Right?

Shaun planned to move the whole congregation into small missional groups with one large meeting each month. He worked with his leaders to develop the new structure. He preached a whole sermon series on the new vision (Preaching changes people. Right?). He reports that, as long as he was preaching about it, the people loved it.

But, once the “shift” took place, in his words, “all hell broke loose”. Three months later, 85% of the congregation wanted to go back to the “super cool worship-service-centered church”. Four months later, Shaun stepped down as the lead pastor. Here’s his evaluation…

“What I am saying is that church attendance, Sunday morning services, sermon-listening (or even sermon preaching), song-singing, hand-clapping, amen-saying and all the other things that “Christ-ians” have lifted up so high look so little like Christ himself that I am utterly convinced that we are completely off base with what discipleship means. Considering all of this, I think I have given up on church as I knew it. Big buildings. Hugh crowds. Few disciples. I’m not with it. It’s inefficient and just doesn’t feel right with my soul. This is not a rejection of big buildings or huge crowds, but an indictment on how few disciples are being made in the process of it all. A better way has to exist.”

Well, Shaun, welcome to the growing number of traditional church leaders (perhaps 1500 a month by some estimates) who are coming to the same conclusion. That is, that the building-centered, Sunday big worship-service-centered “experience” (one mega church here in Denver calls this “the big magic”) is a great way to entertain people but an inefficient way to make disciples. Not only that, but it takes a terrible toll on the pastors and on their families. (In my next post, I’ll tell you what Shaun’s wife wrote about this whole experience. I’m telling you… this lady shoots straight!)

And, yes, Shaun a better way does exist.

–John White, September 19, 2011

 

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I remember telling our Minister of Christian Worship Phil Mitchell nearly five years ago that one of the things that was so important about his ministry was giving us a little taste of heaven on earth, so that we would know what it’s like. Last Sunday he, and the choir, and accompanists Becky Payne and Eunice Kim, did exactly that. They brought the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, through a piece of music by Johannes Brahms called, “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place.” I hope you will take the time to close the door, quiet your thoughts, turn up the volume, and lose yourself in the beauty and power of this anthem. Or maybe you’ll plug your earbuds into your iPhone at Starbucks, and just let the music wash over you like ocean waves.

It’s glorious.

On a run with my colleague Wallace Adams-Riley this morning we were talking about how some statisticians and sociologists have almost given up on the church. They say Sunday morning worship is on its way out, and will soon be a thing of the past. I don’t think they were in worship at either of our churches last Sunday. I don’t think they recall that the first and greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. What better way to do it than through corporate worship? And what better place to do it than in church on Sunday?

I say that partly to remind you that this Sunday, March 10, we “spring forward” by setting our clocks ahead one hour when we go to bed on Saturday night. I wouldn’t want you to get to church on Sunday and find that everybody had already gone to Sunday brunch. So, do it: spring forward. And then get up, get dressed, and make the effort to participate in the most important event of the week—Sunday morning worship.  If you can’t come, then tune in on Channel 8 at 11:00 in the Richmond area, or join us by webcast at http://www.fbcrichmond.org.  It’s not the same as being there, but it’s the next best thing.  Either way…

…I’ll see you in church.

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Ministry Fair

missionfair2Today’s ministry fair at First Baptist Church is a perfect opportunity to “get off the bus” and onto the mission field. If you haven’t yet found your way to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, then find your way to the dining hall and gym at First Baptist anytime this morning. I feel sure that something there will catch your eye, capture your imagination, or hijack your heart.missionfair1  ministryfair9

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advent-wreath-4-candles-5It’s Sunday, everybody! And I’m pretty sure the Kingdom of Heaven is going to touch down at Richmond’s First Baptist Church today. If you can’t join us in person, please join us for the live webcast online at http://www.fbcrichmond.org/webcast or for the live telecast on WRIC, channel 8, Richmond, both airing at 11:00 a.m.

We’ll light the fourth Advent candle today, the last one before Christmas. Lacey McRoberts will sing “How Far Is It to Bethlehem.” The children’s choir will sing “Wrapped in Light, Wrapped in Love.” And we’ll all join in on “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Eventually I will preach a sermon called “Oops!” (which you might have to hear just to figure out where the title came from).

It’s going to be a great morning and then, this afternoon, several of us are going over to Essex Village Apartments to bring a little heaven to earth there. Steve Blanchard says:

Festivities will begin at 3pm at Building 117 with refreshments, the 25 cent Christmas Yard Sale, and One Accord singing. The afternoon will be very informal but help is needed to set up items, monitor and collect during yard sale, help set out food, mingle with guests, pack and clean up, etc… If you can be there, it would be appreciated. I know it is a busy time and most of you volunteer a hundred other places but if you can, or know of someone else who can, volunteer, I look forward to seeing you there.

If you’ve been looking for a chance to experience heaven on earth, or to help bring the KOH2RVA, this could be it. Hope to see you in both places—first at church, and then at Essex Village!

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It’s Christ the King Sunday.

One of the ways we can bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, today is to go to church (or tune in to the webcast at 8:30 or 11:00) and crown Christ king. We can remember, as I plan to say in today’s sermon, that he didn’t have to be elected to his office (thank God). The world didn’t give him his kingdom and the world can’t take it away. And, as the choir will sing this morning, “He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Coming to church on Christ the King Sunday is a good reminder that this year-long, every-member mission trip we’re on is not, ultimately, up to us. We can’t bring heaven to earth without help–without Christ’s help. When he taught his disciples to pray he taught them to pray that God’s kingdom would come and God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven, but right there at the end of the prayer, just in case they began to have some success, he teaches them to pray: “Thine (not ours) is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.”

So, let’s get up, get dressed, and go to church this morning. Let’s praise God for the great things he is doing in Richmond and beyond. Let’s remember that the kingdom, the power, and the glory belong to him…

…not us.

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For six years now I’ve been getting together with a group of colleagues so we can plan our preaching for the year.  It was Amy Butler’s idea.  When I was at First Baptist, DC, she was at Calvary Baptist, just a few blocks away.  We would get together at Starbucks on Monday mornings with a few other preachers to talk about what we were going to do the following Sunday and one day she said, “You know what we ought to do?  We ought to do this for the whole year!”

And so we sent out some invitations, and a few months later six of us spent several days at a big house in the mountains of West Virginia, looking over the lectionary texts for the following year.

Each of us had an assignment.  I was supposed to bring some good ideas for preaching through those Sundays after Christmas and before Ash Wednesday.  Others in our group had the seasons of Lent, Easter, Advent, and that long stretch of Sundays after Pentecost, often called “Ordinary Time,” which we divided into two parts.

We talked about a lot of things in those days.  We talked about our lives and churches and ministry, but we also ended the week with a pretty good sense of what we would be preaching in the year ahead, and that felt good.

We’ve been doing it ever since.

Last year we had the idea to do it in the summer instead of the fall, and to bring our families along.  We got the use of a big house on Lake James in North Carolina, and Russ Dean brought his ski boat.  So, we planned our preaching each morning and then, each afternoon (sometimes after naps), we went down to the dock for swimming and sunbathing, skiing and tubing.   In the evenings we would sometimes share our favorite sermons with each other.  One night we sat on the front porch telling the stories of how we met our spouses.  Another night we ended up in a free-spirited dance party in the living room.  The kids loved that.  And so did the grownups.

On the last night we gathered around the campfire to sing songs and make S’mores and it really did feel like we had been at camp for a week.  We all felt a little closer to God and a little closer to each other.  Plus, I had some idea of what I will be preaching each Sunday from now through Advent 2012.

You don’t have many weeks like that in a year, and when you have one you just want to thank somebody for it.  So, thanks to the family who loaned us their lake house, and thanks to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which gave us some funding for the event, and thanks be to God for colleagues who have become such close friends: for Russ Dean, and Amy Butler, and Don Flowers, and Dorisanne Cooper, and John Ballenger, and for our time together at…

…Preacher Camp.

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