In my last Pastor’s Perspective the word was, “Celebration.” It was good to celebrate the lives God has touched in the last five years, and to reflect on how God has allowed us to be a part of His kingdom work. But our five-year milestone also gives us the opportunity to introduce our second word, “Examination.”
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
Examination is a good thing, and a needed thing. One of the ways in which a church can become stagnant and ineffective is when it fails to examine what it is doing, and why. There’s an old saying: The last seven words of a dying church are – “We’ve never done it that way before.”
Built into Cross Culture’s DNA (Defining Non-negotiable Absolutes) is a promise to examine everything that we do to determine whether we are being effective. Does something need to be adjusted? Does something need to be discontinued? What results are we seeing from the time, energy and resources we’re putting in to something? Do we need to try something different?
Examining and evaluating what we do can be hard, because admitting that something’s not working, or something we’ve always done one way needs to change to another way, or trying something outside of own personal comfort zone requires that we humble ourselves and focus on the good of the kingdom, and not personal preferences. At Cross Culture Church we are blessed with a group of people that really do try hard to focus on the bigger picture, the Kingdom picture.
That’s not easy, but built into our very name, Cross Culture Church, is the idea that “We will be a culture built on the cross of Christ.” As Jesus put it, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
Our strategy is something that should be examined from time to time. We started with a Simple Church strategy, which was to focus on only a couple of things as a church, and to do those to the best of our ability. For us, that is a large group gathering (worship) on Sunday mornings, and small group gatherings (Life Groups) during the week.
That strategy is still a sound one, providing the opportunity to worship and celebrate our God in a large group setting is biblical. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25 NLT)
Meeting together regularly is something the Church has done for two thousand years. It honors God because we choose to come and worship Him. It edifies us through the teaching of God’s word. It also gives us the opportunity to give and serve in the body, as we are commanded to do.
Our large group gathering is also an opportunity to invite others that don’t attend a local, Bible-centered church. In fact, I believe our weekly gathering for adults and children is probably the easiest way we can share Christ with another person. Of course an invitation to attend church is not sharing the Gospel, but it provides a vehicle through which the Gospel can be shared with them, if they do attend a service.
If you’re like me, you probably don’t see many of the people you invite come. But remember, being obedient to the command to share Christ honors God. He does the work in someone’s life to draw him or her. We are simply commanded to share. Besides, if we invite them, they might say “No,” but if we don’t invite them there’s no chance for them to say, “Yes.”
And the other half of our Simple Church strategy is equally important, our Life Groups. We have great Life Groups! And we have a fairly high percentage of attenders of our Sunday services that also attend Life Group. But quite frankly our Life Groups have to be diligent to reach out to others that aren’t in a small group setting. Building relationships within a group is what needs to happen, but those relationships can’t become closed off to others. Every LG member should be looking to invite others into their LG, and making them feel like they belong to that group.
Every LG also needs to be looking to see how it can multiply itself by birthing a new Life Group. We need to find those individuals in our group that can, and should be looking to take on the leading of a group themselves. Sure, we love being together, but if we’re going to grow, we need more Life Groups.
Our methodology is subject to examination. Our ministries are constantly examining what they do, and looking for how we can be better at what we do. Not being afraid to change, not being afraid to try new things in order to better engage the world around us is a good thing. I’m proud of the fact that Cross Culture Church has remained, as we say, “Light on our feet.” We’re going to continue to, as we also say around here, “Operate inside the book, but outside the box.”
Our vision of reaching thousands has to be examined as well. Granted, it was a bold vision from day one. But it’s important to remember that it is a biblical vision. God’s word tells us that He is, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9b) Since hundreds of thousands live within a fairly reasonable driving distance of our current campus, is it unrealistic to ask God to let us honor Him by reaching a few thousand? Besides, having a big vision provides the opportunity for our God to show how big He is!
It’s okay to admit that we’ve not grown numerically the way that, I hope, all of us would want. But honestly, the responsibility for our lack of numerical growth falls squarely on the shoulders of each and every one of us. The verse we just looked at, and many more, tell us that God wants to reach people. We have to want to as well. We have to be more excited about our God and His church. We have to be more willing to put ourselves out there, and speak to others.
I’ve used this example before, but if one of us goes into Wal-Mart this week and leaves an iVite card with the person that checks us out, that person might come to Cross Culture Church, and that would be great! But what if twenty, or thirty or even one hundred of us gave an iVite card out at Wal-Mart? Do you think it’s possible that God could use those cards to spark curiosity among the employee’s of Wal-Mart about Cross Culture Church? I certainly think it’s possible.
No doubt someone will say, “It’s unrealistic to think that one hundred of us will give out an iVite card at Wal-Mart this week.” My question to all of us is, why is it unrealistic? It’s certainly not unrealistic to think that one hundred of us will be in Wal-Mart this week. The only question is, will we go to Wal-Mart with the mindset of going to get what we need, or with the mindset of going to give what they need?
I know we don’t all go to the same stores, or the same schools or live in the same neighborhoods, but the point is, if we’ll do our part, I promise you on the authority of God’s word that He will do His part.
But besides numerical growth Cross Culture Church can look at growth that has taken place in the lives of adults and children. We’re seeing people commit their lives to Christ. We’re seeing people grow in their walk with Christ. And that’s exciting!
I know this has been a long Pastor’s Perspective, but let me say one other thing concerning examination. It’s important to remember that examination begins first and foremost with each of us as followers of Jesus. Am I growing in my relationship with God? Am I learning how to walk in obedience to Him in every area of my life? Am I taking personal responsibility for my time in God’s word and my knowledge of His word? Am I praying for the growth of Cross Culture Church, and am I looking for ways to join God in drawing people to Him? Each of us has to examine our own lives and be brutally honest with ourselves in asking, “Am I the man or woman that God wants me to be?”
We’ve been a church for five years now. Considering the fact that 50% of new church plants fail within the first five years, we can be excited about what God has done. But I like the way Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, looks at their church.
“If a church planter ever loses his mindset of mission, conversion, and expansion, the church plateaus and eventually goes into a decline cycle…Every pastor should think like a church planter and every fall when school is back in session treat however many people they have as a core group launching the church yet again. Ideally, a church is not planted once. It’s planted every year trying to take all its resources and reach more people for Jesus Christ.” (Mark Driscoll, Inside Church Planting: From Church Plant to Megachurch, christianpost.com)
That’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to give up until we go up, so that as many people as possible can end up in heaven! Let’s keep planting Cross Culture, and let’s watch God bring the increase!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.