Monthly Archives: December 2013

First Impressions: Making the Most of Seven Seconds

Palm Sunday 2“Don’t offend them—you let me do that.”  In essence, this is something I heard Andy Stanley said that he conveyed to his staff.  I get this—the gospel of Christ is offensive to many.  Our bathrooms, parking, décor, lack of signage, etc., should not be.  Are my eyes opened to this reality?  Are yours?

Tim Cool penned an outstanding book called Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Space.  Rather than this book being simply about buildings, I found that this book was mainly about the vision of the church.  The chapters are short, accessible, and thought-provoking for churches ready to take that next step.

In Chapter 24, entitled, “Seven Seconds: Make the Most of It,” he tells us things that we as established churches need to hear about those who visit our church:

Seven seconds: that is how much time you have to make a first impression.  Some experts say more, some say less, but most pundits agree that seven seconds is the average time you have to make a first impression.  Think about that.  That is not much time.

There are dozens of posts on the Internet that will give you hints to best utilize these seven seconds when going to a job interview or making a sales call.  But the same principle applies to the guests at our churches.  Have you ever thought that your guests are looking at their experience in much the same way they might evaluate a buying decision?  Don’t get defensive when people enter your facility for the first time with this perspective.  This attitude may not be healthy, but it’s a reality churches must understand.

So what can you do in those first seven seconds to influence their experience?  I actually believe that a guest to your church will have multiple seven second encounters.  Below are the areas that I believe most critical:

  1. The parking lot experience.  We nee to be aware that if this is a challenge and their first seven seconds on your site are frustrating, that may not stay.  Even if they do stay, then you began the visit with a tone of frustration.
  2. Where do I go now?  Way-finding and signage are too often underwhelming, which can add to the anxiety of our guests.
  3. What door do I go in?  Guests do not want to ask questions and do not respond well to facility ambiguity.
  4. The First “Hey.” The first person to visually, verbally, and physically interact with a guest sets the tone for the entire experience.
  5. We have been preparing for your visit.  As they step into your facility, will a guest see that you have been intentional about their arrival?  Are things clean, neat, inviting, engaging, and well maintained with a sense of pride?

Don’t squander those seven seconds.  Be intentional.  Be deliberate.  And be consistent. 

Thoughts?  What are we doing to make the first impressions of our guests positive ones?  This matters to me because lots of these take place even before I get up to preach! 

What think ye?

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Categories: church, church attendees, church growth, Church Life, church membership, vision | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Eleven Personal Goals for 2014

  1. Continue to read Scripture and pray daily.  I recently passed along some Bible reading plans.  Everyone needs to plan and be intentional.  May it be so with all of us in 2014. 
  2. Continue to date my wife frequently and in a better way. 
  3. Work through a children’s story Bible with my family.  At the beginning, I will work through The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos, and hopefully implement a Baptist Catechism based on the 1689 London Confession. 
  4. Read through two major theological works:  The Christian’s Reasonable Service by Wilhelmus a Brakel; and Doctrine for Life: A Puritan Theology, edited by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones.
  5. Continue to develop leadership abilities through reading and wise counsel from others. 
  6. Taking time daily to dream. 
  7. Outline the vision for 2014 for ARBC the first three months by preaching through Romans 12-16, finish John leading up to Easter, then begin preaching through the Book of Acts.
  8. Continue to look for opportunities to develop relationships in order to share the gospel.
  9. Helping new believers to start strong, established believers to grow in Christlikeness, and helping senior adult believers finish the race strongly.
  10. Find opportunities to invest in young pastors both here and abroad. 
  11. Continue to develop relationships with fellow pastors here in South Denver. 
  12. Obtain my black belt in Taekwondo.  (If all goes according to plan, I should obtain my black belt sometime late summer or early fall, just before my 43rd birthday.  I’m grateful to the ATA Karate Denver school for dealing well with this middle-aged, stiff-hipped fellow slogging through it all.  But God has been using this to help me keep this “temple” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) in shape for the rigors of ministry.)
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New Sermon Series Unveiling the Vision for ARBC: Are You Ready to Take the Next Step?

next step sign I’m convinced that 2014 will be a gamechanging year for Arapahoe Road Baptist Church.  Am I going by gut-feeling?  Possibly.  While I do operate on facts, statistics, and various other tangible evidences, I also operate on what I call ‘pastoral feel’ (count on that as a blog post later). 

For the next three months, we will spend our Sunday mornings looking at a new vision for ARBC.  The vision, in essence, is this:

Helping all peoples take the next step in their journey with Christ

And how do we know that they are moving in the right direction?  When they see that Jesus is enough.  The only change that matters is the change that Jesus brings.

So as I was going through my Bible reading back in late November thinking about 2014 and beyond, God providentially brought me to Romans 12-16.  And it became as clear as can be.  The steps rose to the top as we look at taking those next steps:

    1. Come (Romans 12:1-2)
    2. Connect (Romans 12:3-8)
    3. Contribute (Romans 12:9-13)
    4. All undergirded and fed with the notion of Cultivate (Romans 12:14-21) as we grow in all aspects of this vision God has given.

As we continue looking at this section of Romans, we begin to look at how this vision plays in our…

    1. Culture (from the aspect of ‘Come’)(Romans 13:1-7)
    2. Community (‘Come) (Romans 13:8; Romans 15:1-7)—broken up into two sermons)
    3. Congregation (‘Connect)(Romans 14)
    4. Creation/the Nations (‘Connect’)(Romans 15:8-33)
    5. Lastly, looking at the beauty of ‘Contributing’ from Romans 16.

Our church is engaging in a number of endeavors to refocus all of our teams and systems on the Great Commission, bringing them all under an evangelism umbrella.  There must be a purpose to why we do things—never simply doing them just because.  Christ died to redeem His church for a more viable reason than “just because.” 

Pray for your pastors and leaders in these various processes as we prayerfully look to get ARBC maturing and ministering inwardly, and mobilizing outwardly. 

Keep an eye on what’s happening, but moreso, keep an eye on our Lord Jesus.  ARBC belongs to Him. 

Are you ready to take that next step?

Categories: church, church growth, Church Life, vision | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Bible Reading Plans for 2014

I hope all of you will begin a Bible reading plan on January 1, 2014 (in fact, I hope you’ll start one on December 30, 2013).  To me, it’s a lot like working out or studying for a test.  It’s better to work out or study a little bit each day rather than try to catch up or cram after being off for a week (and I’m certainly feeling that exercise-wise during the holidays).

There’s no shortage of Bible reading plans.  Here are a few I’d recommend:

  • Download the YouVersion Bible app for iPhone/iPad or Android or various other formats.  With scores of Bible translations to choose from, you may read on the app, have the Bible reading sent to your e-mail, or have the app read it to you (at times, I have the ESV read to me while driving).  Plus, you can download a number of various Bible reading plans.
  • McCheyne Bible Reading Plan:  With both OT and NT readings, you’ll read through the OT once, the Psalms and NT twice.  Usually, the readings take between 15-20 minutes per day, so you can split them up between morning and evening.  You can even take one aspect of it and use it for family worship. D.A. Carson has an excellent devotional based on this Bible plan that you may subscribe to here.
  • The One Year Bible:  In book form, these are already-arranged readings through the ESV (other versions are available).
  • The Bible in 90 Days:  The title is self-explanatory.  Are you up for this?

You may also look in the back of your study Bibles–usually, you’ll find a Bible reading plan there.  The ESV Study Bible and the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible both have plans.

Will you begin reading through the Scriptures?

What plan will you use?

Will you get with another to share what you’ve learned?

Take that next step in your journey with Christ.

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A Evangelical Small Group Discussion–on Cable?

Denny Burk passed along a fascinating ‘small group’ discussion that took place on Cable TV.  The theme of the topic is “Religion’s Comeback?”  I encourage you to watch this and to see that people in this world are looking for something more substantial that what the culture is feeding them.

And we as the church will be here for them when they are ready to take that next step.  

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A Christmas Devotional from Spurgeon

disk-04-15-117.jpgIt is a sweet thought that Jesus Christ, did not come forth without his Father’s permission, authority, consent, and assistance. He was sent of the Father, that he might be the Saviour of men. We are, alas! Too apt to forget, that while there are distinctions as to the persons in the Trinity, there are no distinctions of honor; and we do very frequently ascribe the honor of our salvation, or at least the depths of its mercy and the extremity of its benevolence, more to Jesus Christ than we do to the Father. This is a very great mistake.

What if Jesus came? Did not his Father send him? If he was made a child did not the Holy Ghost beget him? If he spake wondrously, did not his Father pour grace into his lips, that he might be an able minister of the new covenant? If his Father did forsake him when he drank the bitter cup of gall, did he not love him still? And did he not, by-and by, after three days, raise him from the dead, and at last receive him up on high, leading captivity captive? Ah! Beloved, he who knoweth the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost as he should know them, never setteth one before another; he is not more thankful to one than the other; he sees them at Bethlehem, at Gethsemane, and on Calvary, all equally engaged in the work of salvation. “He shall come forth unto me.”

O Christian, hast thou put thy confidence in the man Christ Jesus? Hast thou placed thy reliance solely on him? And art thou united with him? Then believe that thou art united unto the God of heaven; since to the man Christ Jesus thou art brother and holdest closest fellowship, thou art linked thereby with God the Eternal, and “the Ancient of days” is thy Father and thy friend. “He shall come forth unto me“. Did you never see the depth of love there was in the heart of Jehovah, when God the Father equipped his Son for the great enterprise of mercy?

There had been a sad day in Heaven once before, when Satan fell, and dragged with him a third of the stars of heaven, and when the Son of God launching from his great right hand the Omnipotent thunders, dashed the rebellious crew to the pit of perdition; but if we could conceive a grief in heaven, that must have been a sadder day, when the Son of the Most High left his Father’s bosom, where he had lain from before all worlds “Go,” saith the Father, “and thy Father’s blessing on thy head!”

Then comes the unrobing. How do angels crowd around to see the Son of God take off his robes He laid aside his crown; he said, “My father, I am Lord over all, blessed for ever, but I will lay my crown aside, and be as mortal men are.” He strips himself of his bright vest of glory; “Father,” he says, “I will wear a robe of clay, just such a men wear.” Then he takes off all those jewels wherewith he was glorified; he lays aside his starry mantles and robes of light, to dress himself in the simple garments of the peasant of Galilee. What a solemn disrobing that must have been!

And next, can you picture the dismissal! The angels attend the Saviour through the streets, until they approach the doors: when an angel cries, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up ye everlasting doors, and let the king of glory through!” Oh! Methinks the angels must have wept when they lost the company of Jesus—when the Sun of Heaven bereaved them of all its light. But they went after him. They descended with him; and when his spirit entered into flesh and he became a babe, he was attended by that mighty host of angels, who after they had been with him to Bethlehem’s manger, and seen him safely, laid on his mother’s breast, in their journey upwards appeared to the shepherds and told them that he was born king of the Jews.

The Father sent him! Contemplate that subject. Let your soul get hold of it, and in every period of his life think that he suffered what the Father willed; that every step of his life was marked with the approval of the great I AM. Let every thought that you have of Jesus be also connected with the eternal, ever-blessed God; for “he,” saith Jehovah, “shall come forth unto me.” Who sent him, then? The answer is, his Father.

— Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

The Incarnation and the Birth of Christ

Preached on December 23, 1855

New Park Street Baptist Church, Southwark, England

We wish all of you a Christ-filled Christmas and a blessed 2014! 

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No Wonder This Article Was So Popular

Tim Challies is a prolific blogger best posted daily for about the last 8 years , and does so with a brilliant quality that has fed Christians and non-believers alike.

Today, he posted his top articles from 2013, and no wonder this article was so popular. The title? 18 Things I Won’t Regret Doing with My Kids.

New Year’s resolutions will abound around this time of year, and the parents will be making all sorts of resolutions regarding their children. If you are a parent of children still living at home, keep this list close by. We invest our money, and our time and the things that matter most to us. May our Savior, our spouses, and our children be at the top of the list.

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Change in Name. Intentional in Focus. Still Gospel Gripped.

ImageWhile I love blogging, blogging is not the center of my life.  The order of my priorities are as follows:

  1. Christ (who saved me and called me);
  2. My wife (my love, my partner in ministry)
  3. My children (who Christ gave to me as the first of those whom I am to disciple);
  4. Arapahoe Road Baptist Church (to whom Christ called me to serve as His undershepherd);
  5. My community (where God placed ARBC);
  6. A plethora of other areas to where God would have me serve and influence for the Kingdom (including blogging).

Here in Colorado, there’s no shortage of things about which to blog:  civil unions, legalization of marijuana, fires and floods (and the disaster relief that comes along), sermons and takeaways therein, and of recent school shootings and Phil Robertson (the last two items are in my mental queue to address).

But I have looked at blogging wrongly.  When I first started back in 2006, I wanted to blog for the universal church.  Now, as 2014 approaches, I want to do with this platform what I’ve always wanted to do with my life: serve the church to whom Christ called me.  

As a result, the assumed focus of the blog will be assumed no longer.  My focus will be to edify, encourage, and exhort the church where Christ called me–and should anyone else wish to look in, then praise God.  

I think this is where a lot of pastors just starting out miss the mark: they want to make a worldwide, or even a national impact like some of their heroes–all the while missing the local impact they could be having.  Now that I’m here in Colorado and now that I’m getting into my 40s, I’m finding some perspectives changing (possible fodder for future blog posts).

So the new name of this blog will be “Confessions of a Colorado Pastor.”  The goal of this blog will be:

  • To encourage our church to help all peoples inside and outside the church to take that next step in their journey with Christ.
  • To enlighten our church as to some of the things pastors think about and study (pulling back the veil, if you will).
  • To evaluate the culture and the systems our church has and should have in the process of moving forward with the vision God has given to help as many as God would have come, connect, and contribute to the cause of Christ through ARBC.  

Still Gospel Gripped?  Always.  But I shall blog as a pastor, an amalgamation of husband, father, preacher, teacher, Bible scholar, counselor, apologetician, chaplain, vision caster, systems analyzer, culture cultivator, staff supervisor, equipper of leaders–and follower of Christ first and foremost.  

Many have high expectations of pastors–some based on Scriptures (which is good), others based on their own perceptions (which is bad).  If the expectations are based on Scriptures, then those same Scriptures show that pastors are human beings saved by grace, called by Christ to shepherd other sinners saved by grace.  But if folks begin putting their own expectations on pastors, then when they themselves are offended due to a breach of their own standards, little grace is extended to pastors.  

Having said that, I shall never under any circumstances blog about confidential matters, or matters dealt with in regards to a person-to-person issue.  Matthew 18:15-17 still holds.  Any trace of this potential breach of confidentiality will never be intentional.  

This will not serve as a daily blog–although I may have stretches where I do blog daily.  I do not want to force out material that will carry little weight.  The blog will serve me, not vice versa.  

We shall see where God takes this.  But this blog is His, not mine ultimately.  

Change in name. Intentional in focus.  Still Gospel Gripped!

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The Takeaway, Episode 2: The Word, Front & Center

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When Was the Last Time This Moved You?

She walked out of our worship service crying.

I confess, I was not expecting someone to walk out of our worship service with tears streaming down her face. I am blessed to serve at a church that is joyful, with so many lingering after the service to not only catch up with family and friends, but they make a special effort to speak with those who are visiting our church. We have a lot of laughter at our church, and it brings joy to my heart.

But here she was, one of our senior adult ladies, who possesses a blessed combination of joy in Christ and a determination to face the many struggles that have beset her over the two years I’ve been here at this church, and here she was.

Crying.

What brought this on? The Lord led me to preach on how God is for us through Jesus, our great high priest.  I preached on how Jesus was from the order of Melchizedek, a priest who showed himself to Abram after a victory to try to rescue his nephew Lot (Genesis 14:17-20). He was a priest of God, and Abram show him honor and gave him a tenth of everything.  We see that the Messiah would come from the order of Melchizedek in Psalm 110. And we saw how this Melchizedek  was different from Aaron, in that he had no earthly lineage and therefore no beginning nor end, and that he came with a different law that dealt with an indestructible life rather then a law that made us aware of sin and thus led to death (Hebrews 7).

So Christ, through his weakness in being tempted as we were, and yet without sin, not only served as our great high priest through offering the sacrifice to atone for sin , but that he himself was the sacrifice for sin. And because of this, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence. For the Jew, this would be difficult to overcome in their psyche. They remembered from Moses that God told him that no one could see his face and live (Exodus 33:20).  They even saw in the book of Judges that one Manoah was approached by the angel of the Lord regarding his son, and soon to be judged Samson, he went home to his wife and knew that he was a dead man because he saw the Lord (Judges 13:23). And when the Apostle John saw the resurrected Christ on the Isle of Patmos, revelations chapter 1 says that he fell at his feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17). 

We approach the throne of grace of confidence? It’s because of what Jesus already accomplished on our behalf. He made us ready through his intercession and sacrifice, through his obedience and his ascension to the right hand of the Father. He is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Sitting. Not standing. Should he still be standing, that would mean that work still needed to be done for our redemption. But he sits. It is finished.

And this, my friends, is why she was crying. I asked her, and she said, ” He did all that for me.”

When was the last time the thought of his sacrifice on the cross for us moved us?

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