“Are you Staying for Preach’n?”

 

“Are you staying for preach’n?” This may sound like a crazy question to be asked at a place of worship on a Sunday morning, especially to millennials. Most of my colleagues are praying about ways to get more of the congregation involved in small groups where they can build community. Then its helping them discover their gifts, passions, and calling so that they begin to serve Christ as a Spirit-filled disciple.

Isn’t that the greater challenge? Moving people from the corporate worship into small groups, places of kingdom service, and helping them to truly be the church? Yes, that is certainly a task that the church I serve is regularly tackling.

I am also aware of another danger, however, that reminds me of a question that I was often asked in a Sunday School class as a child in the 1970’s. “Are you staying for preach’n?” You see, along with the Sunday School offering, the attendance report, the number of folks who had read their Bible daily and studied their lesson, there was a place to report the number of class members who planned to also be in worship. And it was not uncommon for the worship attendance and Sunday School attendance to be about the same. At the country church I attended, approximately 10% of those in Sunday School did not stay for worship. But another 10% not in Sunday School would show up for worship.

Today corporate worship participants tend to significantly outnumber those who attend a small group, to the degree that I am afraid we may be overlooking an important and influential minority. I’m speaking of the ones who are involved in small groups, usually serving in some capacity, as well as serving in a variety of other areas in the church. The ones I see around all the time… except when scanning the congregation from the pulpit! 

What’s the big deal, right? They’ve already advanced to that next level of service and involvement. You don’t have to worry about them. Uh, not so fast. In fact, I may be more concerned about this group. Let me give you some reasons.

1. I know the importance of my calling, and I take it very seriously. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 14:3 that my proclamation of biblical truth under the anointing of the Holy Spirit in a corporate setting is absolutely essential for body life. Specifically, if I am doing what God has called and gifted me to do, those present will be edified, encouraged, and comforted. In other words, it is a necessary time of refueling that fights discouragement, breakdown, and frustration in various areas of kingdom service and living. Those who regularly miss corporate worship will almost always experience the latter.

2. I know the impact corporate worship has on my life. When we sing great confessions of faith as a body in agreement, the pipeline from my soul to the heart of God is strengthened and restored. I realize that I am part of the Bride of Christ. I become more aware of His presence by the mere synergy of worshipers exalting Jesus together. Emotions are horrible masters, but wonderful servants. And those who miss this synergy while always serving in other areas find themselves emotionally drained.

3. I know our natural tendency to avoid confrontational truth. Our corporate gathering also serves the purpose of our “spurring one another toward love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).” Back to that country church I grew up in. I will never forget homecoming services. I distinctly remember arriving very early with my grandfather one year. A group of men had been awake throughout the night preparing the stew. They would work together through the corporate worship hour to have the delicious BBQ ready. But my thoughts concerning half of the men present at that moment were, “Who are these men? Why are they never in worship? Are all of them really needed here? Why are their wives often in worship alone except for Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day?” Even as a child I could discern that these men had no intention of allowing the Word of God proclaimed by the man of God to confront their souls which were far from God. 

The slipping away from consistent corporate worship that refuels, encourages, unites, edifies, and restores souls in the context of a covenant community is so subtle. One week you had to keep nursery. The next week a member of your family was sick. The following week that relative who doesn’t attend church prepared a lunch celebration at noon for the whole family, so you jetted after small group. Then? Guess what? It was your turn in the nursery again, followed by a travel ball tournament, followed by that Sunday you were helping in the kitchen for the church social. Oh, but you stayed active! You were active serving in mid-week ministry to children and attending small group occasionally. But before you knew it, it had happened to you. The passion and power experienced by so many, igniting a fire in your brothers and sisters, has eluded you! You are present for “Martha moments” to serve and feel better about your devotion, while having too few “Mary moments” until you are no longer present at all. Your service has become lifeless and drudgery.

And you may not even know why! It is because you are missing the biblically mandated prescription of the corporate worship encounter way too often. And it is taking a toll on your spiritual fervor.

 

 

7 Steps to Writing a Personal Mission Statement

A personal mission statement can sharpen your focus and help you to have greater impact in our world for the glory of God. It can help you know which opportunities you should embrace. Perhaps more importantly, in this super-paced world we now live in, it can help you know when to say “NO!” to opportunities. A mission statement will not only clarify your direction in life, it will also fuel your passion to move in that direction.

I formulated the following steps under the influence of a couple of decades of teaching God’s Word and incorporating tools from godly leaders. Robert Lewis’ Men’s Fraternity studies, Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God, Ike Reighard’s North Star Journal, and numerous notes from John Maxwell on leadership have influenced the somewhat simplified approach below. I came up with this “abridged” approach to accommodate men that I meet with regularly that may not have availed themselves to all of the resources above. I highly recommend further research using such resources. I also suggest journaling one’s way through the following considerations over a period of several weeks.

  1. Begin with Prayer. “God delights in the prayers of the upright!” (Proverbs 15:8) Born again followers of Christ are in a spiritual pursuit of the will of God. We need to be guided by His Spirit in this pursuit. (See Jeremiah 29:13 & 33:3, Ephesians 1:17-18, and Colossians 1:9-12.)
  1. Study God’s revealed purposes for all of humanity. Use key texts that summarize those purposes for us. Reading Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life or Chuck Swindoll’s Rise and Shine will greatly enhance this step. Here are a few key texts that summarize God’s revealed purposes:
  • 1 Peter 4:11 (Man’s “chief purpose”)
  • Matthew 22:37-40 (The Greatest Commandments)
  • Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8 (The Great Commission)
  • Matthew 5:13-16 (New Covenant Cultural Mandate)
  • Genesis 1:28 & 9:1 (Dominion Mandate through lens of the above texts!)
  1. Consider your Character and the Legacy you want to leave. Start with Scripture that you rely on for character. Perhaps Galatians 5:22-23, Joshua 1:9, Philippians 4:6, Proverbs, Psalm 1 are examples of verses that people embrace as legacy verses or “life verses.”
  • List the names and traits of people that you greatly admire.
  • Write down the qualities that you feel energized by when others recognize them?
  1. God’s Specific Calling on your life. What is it that you believe God has called you to do for him as it relates to specific ways to accomplish his revealed purposes for all? This can relate to vocation and/or areas of service in God’s kingdom. More specific Scriptures may come to mind here when you apply the first principle. Also consider passions, promptings, open doors, and confirmations from the Body of Christ. (See Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God.)
  1. Describe the venues of life where your mission will be fulfilled. Include both actual and aspirational, where you flesh out your mission now and where you hope to do so in the future. (e.g. home, work environment, mission field, target ministry areas, etc.)
  1. What resources will you draw from to help you accomplish this mission?

Consider:

Aptitude (i.e. Servants by Design Profile that can be taken http://www.youruniquedesign.com) What do others say that you are good at? When are you in your “sweet spot”? The Servants by Design Profile, and other personality and aptitude profiles like it, will help you to understand your personality “viewpoint” and “currency.” This is invaluable information for writing a personal mission statement.

Spiritual Gifts (Especially motivational gifts) It is quick and painless to do a spiritual gifts test online thanks to numerous websites like http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com.

Passions What really drives you to do what you do? What makes you come alive?

  1. Pull it all together! Use key words and reemerging themes to write your life mission statement. Take your time. Allow for fluidity with enough guiding principle that never changes. Below is a template that may help you pull together notes from your reflections on the first six steps.

By God’s grace, I want to be (or become) (see #3)…

Primarily for/with/at (see #5)…

Who is all about (see #2)…

I will fulfill God’s call more specifically by (see #4)…

I will rely on God’s strength and wisdom as well as how he has designed, equipped, and gifted me to (see # 6)…

*Take all the space you need to begin creating this statement. You should familiarize yourself with this statement, then shorten it as much as possible without losing important elements. Then evaluate goals, objectives, plans, and decisions in light of this mission.