Friday, October 31, 2008

Night of Worship

Looking forward to a night of praise and worship with our CCF worship team! Grab your calendar and mark it for Sunday, November 9th at 6:30pm! See you there!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Team Preparing

I have heard of team teaching a sermon many times. In fact, we have done it here at CCF. I have rarely heard of team preparing, but it is cool!! I just had my first experience with it today. I have known what I need to preach on Sunday, November 9th for a few weeks now. It is the Sunday after a new President will be elected. I feel like a message of response is in order. A message of response for Disciples of to embrace our new President, how to support them, how to accept them...regardless of who is elected. My goal was to have the message totally prepared by Monday, November 3rd so that the selection does not influence my preparation.

Well, here is the cool part....I invited another local pastor/friend, Paul Mutchler to join me in the preparation. We are team preparing this message and then each of us are teaching it in our context. This afternoon we met and are half done! We will finish up this Monday morning. Very excited about what the scriptures have to say about how we treat our leadership. The Bible is exceptionally vocal about what our role is these days. Look forward to sharing more on Sunday, November 9th right here at CCF at 10:30am.


4 Year Anniversary!

This month that we are ending marks 4 years in our "new" facility on Greenbelt Road. I did not want the month to end without recognizing the goodness of the Lord through these years. I think back to the sense of excitement that I had in my heart the days leading up to moving into the building. I often forget the days of working from from home. Well, I can say with all sincerity that my sense of excitement and anticipation NOW is loads higher than it was THEN! My sense of the immense Kingdom potential at CCF has only grown through the years.

If you have never seen all 3 of our physical locations over a span of 80 years, click here. If you wanna see the "church", you will have to look at the people. :-)

"Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told." Habakkuk 1:5

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Attractional Model vs. Transformational Model

There are lots of different models and approaches to getting people to come to your church. Personally, I have witnessed and observed the attractional model getting the most attention...or at least more of my attention over the years. Basically, this is...put on the best show in town and people will come. Flashing lights, great sound, concert quality worship, polished transitions, eloquent communicators, slick marketing, perfectly timed execution of media, etc. Just put on a flashy show for the glory of God and you will pack the place out.

Look, I am not about to slam these things. I will be the first guy to tell you that whatever we do, we need to do with excellence! Plan well, speak well, sing well, bring all your best for the Lord. However, I have been thinking through something recently. It was kinda lodged in me during a session at Willow a few weeks ago led by Willow's Young Adult Pastor (who was about my age).

So, here it is. I hope it makes sense:
  • People can't be impressed anymore, so stop trying. If they want a good concert, they will buy a ticket to one and head to the local stadium. If they want a good show, they will TiVo it and watch it. If they want to watch ANYTHING under the sun, they will just YouTube it. They do not need to come to church to see it. We need to get out of the business of impressing people. Not sure we were ever called to that.
  • Instead, we should offer people what they need that they cannot get on YouTube or Google....authentic relationships and life transformation by the power of the Living God! Not gonna find that just laying around anywhere. Instead of the attractional model, the church ought to adopt the transformational model attempting to lure people in with the power of life change through authentic and transformational realtionships with God and people.
That's my heart for CCF! May God help us to protect against the temptation to show off and compel us to spend our days and passion on creating space for transformation to happen.

What do you think? Join the conversation. Help me shape these thoughts.


Flying Solo

Okay, here is your sneak peak of a video that we will be showing in church on Sunday! It's pretty funny. Remember, you saw it here first! Blog reader privilege!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Let's Merge, Not Divide!

I often tap into what is happening at Granger Community Church in Indiana. I follow Mark Beeson, Tim Stevens and Kem Meyers blogs. They really do a fantastic job of drawing in many unchurched people by leveraging modern culture. Their sermon series frequently coincide with popular movies or TV shows. They then connect people back to the scriptures in very creative ways. Well, I recently saw this video. It saddens me. What would happen if the Body of Christ actually walked as one instead of slamming each other.

I guess it also struck me differently tonight after reading some of the posts on Swerve about merging churches. Let's merge, not divide!!


Retreat Reports

Yesterday, I saw a member who went on the retreat and she said:

"We were on such a high the whole way home in the car! We had such a wonderful time this weekend!"

Then, I got this email last night:

Pastor Noah,

I just want to say thanks again for such a wonderful and spiritually fulfilling time this past weekend. The retreat gave me the opportunity to grow closer to God and to get a better look at my life in general. I haven't stopped talking about my experience or God. God Bless and see you on Sunday.

I love it!! Any thought that I had of not doing these retreats in the future is officially gone. We will!!


Pastor Nelson's Blog

My teammate Pastor Nelson recently entered the Blogosphere. I like what he posted yesterday in light of the coming elections. Click here to visit his blog and read his post yesterday entitled "My Take on Politics."


Monday, October 27, 2008

Carving Pumpkins

Had a great time carving pumpkins tonight with Mommy, Davis, Uncle Randy and Aunt Bird. It's fun to get messy! Good times. Davis and I carved one together. It is the one with the square mouth and big round eyes. I guess our pumpkin needs dentures.


Thankful for Jon Wood who bought CCF a spot in the DuVall High School Paper and thankful to Michelle Ferrando for designing this ad! Good to know that we will be inviting that entire High School and their parents to church. They are our mission field! We ought never take for granted that there is a High School of this size just under a mile from us.

A fantastic weekend!!

Seriously, this past weekend's church retreat made for a fantastic weekend. Some of the specific highlights for me were:
  • We had FUN! Unfortunately, fun is an element that is lacking in many churches. Not CCF! We laughed, joked, carried on and just had a blast together playing Battle of the Sexes, the Newlywed/No So Newlywed game, and more.
  • Much Corn Hole! On our very own CCF Corn Hole set. More Corn Hole events to come. It was definitely a highlight for some people...including this guy!
  • We had the whole place to ourselves. That was nice.
  • It was so cool to see the kids having such a blast. They played and played and played.
  • I really enjoyed having church outside yesterday morning. Cool experience.
  • Relationships were started and strengthened just as I had hoped and prayed for! I am telling you....people connected!!
Awesome weekend. I just can't say it enough. So proud to lead such an awesome group of people. I told them this weekend that I have NEVER known community like this!

(I hope to post some pictures of the weekend soon.)


Friday, October 24, 2008

Off to Retreat

Just about ready to walk out the door for the church retreat. I will probably not even have cell service, much less Internet. So, I will be out of the blogoshphere for the weekend. If I have cell service, I will twitter a few updates for you who couldn't come along.

Lord bless you this weekend! For you who are not coming to retreat, be sure to be at CCF Sunday for worship at 10:30am!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good for a Smile

I thought these were cute. They were forwarded to me today from one of our teens who said she likes my jokes in church. I bet some of you wish she never egged me on. :-)

Q. What kind of man was Boaz before he married Ruth?
A. Ruthless.

Q. What do they call pastors in Germany ?
A. German Shepherds.

Q. Who was the greatest male financier in the Bible?
A. Noah He was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation.

Q. Who was the greatest female financier in the Bible?
A. Pharaoh's daughter. She went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a
little prophet.

Q. What kind of motor vehicles are in the Bible?
A. Jehovah drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden in a Fury. David's Triumph
was heard throughout the land. Also, probably a Honda, because the apostles

were all in one Accord.

Q. What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why he no longer lived in Eden ?
A. Your mother ate us out of house and home.

Q. Which area of Middle East was especially wealthy?
A. The area around Jordan . The banks were always overflowing.

Q. Which Bible character had no parents?
A. Joshua, son of Nun.

PS... Did you know it's a sin for a woman to make coffee?
Yup, it's in the Bible. It says 'He-brews'

Smaller is better

The more I think about it and the more I interact with the body of Christ, the more times I find myself thinking "smaller is better." That is a pretty unusual thing to say since most things in America are better if they are bigger (houses, diamonds, bank accounts, companies, churches, etc.). Look, if you know 0.01 things about me, you know that I want to pastor a healthy, growing church that is making immense impact for the Kingdom.

However...there are times when smaller is better. I think that this is a lesson some Pastors need to learn along with me. You see, in a Small Group, smaller is better. On a nice night out on the town with some close friends, smaller is better. At many different meetings, smaller is just better. Obviously, for my belly, smaller is better.

Well, I am sharing this to say that I see the Church Retreat as falling into this category! Smaller is better. Yeah, I would have loved to see everyone come, but I am quite glad for the 70 people that are coming. How would people really connect in a meaningful way with loads of people around. I know I would have been so preoccupied with managing such a large crowd that I would have been good for nothing. We introduce a motto in Discovery 101 that says "CCF wants to grow larger and smaller at the same time." Meaningful stuff happens in smaller settings.

I am really, really, really looking forward to the relationships that will be started and strengthened this coming weekend!!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Interesting Interview Questions

An Eastern Mennonite University Student emailed me after his Professor told him about CCF's story. For an assignment in his class on "turnaround churches", he asked me to answer some questions for him. I did. I sent them to him a few minutes ago, and then I thought that it may be good to post my responses. I thought his questions were good. If you are regular CCF'r, you may answer them a bit differently, but here were my answers. It's long, but it may be worth the read:

When did you begin to notice a significant increase in attendance? What happened prior to this?

CCF grew gradually over the years 1994-2004, from 30-150+. This growth was steady and strong. Then, in October 2004 (exactly 4 years ago), we moved into a new 3+ million dollar, almost 30,000 square foot facility in a great location in the MD suburbs near DC. Over the last 4 years, we have grown from 150-close to 350/400 (over 500 consider CCF their home church but we have a very transitional area with business travelers).

What was the vision cast by the leadership? Who was involved in this vision process?

CCF had an older vision that was privately understood by key people, but not publicly cast and embraced. Hence, there was no sense of clear corporate vision for the many new people to connect to. As a result, in 2006 as the Lead Pastor, I began privately praying and strengthening my sense of God’s vision and purpose for CCF for now and many years to come. I tried to do this by dreaming about CCF without me in it. That way the vision is the church’s and less mine! In 2007, I engaged the Pastoral staff (5 total) and a few key leaders around my sense of vision. They improved it, solidified it and began owning it with me. Then, since the first Sunday of 2008 we have been casting vision, writing it everywhere, preaching it, teaching it, and talking about it until you are sick of hearing it! You can never remind people enough!! Here is our purpose:

Loving God, Loving People, Living as Disciples

To answer your question about who was involved…

· Lead Pastor

· Pastoral Team

· Executive Board

· Anyone else in the congregation that was willing to come out to several Saturday morning discernment gatherings that we held. We had 20-40 people at each.

Here is my theory for no extra charge: If a growing church is healthy, the more it grows, the less people feel the need to be involved in vision decisions, ministry decisions, business meetings, and the like. The larger you get, the more people want to just be disciples, disciple other, dive in and make the vision happen. They trust leaders more and let them lead (unlike many small churches where people think that they need to do the leading and make all the decision themselves). You will never find a healthy church of over 500 where the people make all the decisions. The larger you get, the fewer people are at the table to make the decisions. (But, it needs to be the right people!!) Find me a church of 1,000+ people and tell me how many people are at the annual business meeting. Different things become important and full time staff is released to do lead. People are still involved and SHOULD BE! Just involved in doing ministry that way it should be according to Ephesians 4:11-13.

How long was it before you saw the church beginning to grow? What about the process of spiritual growth?

I feel that it was God’s hand of blessing and favor that caused our growth over the last several years. In addition, change in location, change in leadership and clarity of vision contributed to growth as well.

In my opinion, our spiritual growth process was strong in the 90’s and prior, but became weak as heck as we built, moved in and began in our new location! Then, in 2007, we began small groups. Since we started small groups, we see WINS all around us as people are growing through small groups and being discipled. We put all our eggs in the small groups basket and make no apologies for doing it. We believe that this will be the key to GROWING PEOPLE in a GROWING CHURCH!

Was there resistance to the vision? How was that handled?

Yes, there is always resistance to change. Always. But, we must listen to people, love them and then stay the course. People MAY make the whole thing better with their resistance and thoughts…and when that happens, it is powerful. On the other hand, sometimes if we just do what they say, they make it worse. This is all about leadership! The leader(s) must stand strong in the vision that they sense from the Lord. However, people need to get behind a vision that they can champion. Sometimes that means they need to be at another church with a vision they can get behind. We need to gently love them, but they may need to go. We have lost a few people just because they were “sick and tired of hearing about vision.” My Bible says that without a vision, the people perish. I would hate to be the guy responsible for the death of a church.

Why do you think people are coming to CCF? What do you have to offer that draws people? What is that one thing CCF is great at doing?

The one thing we are doing best in my opinion is a tie between being AUTHENTIC PEOPLE and being COMMITED TO OUR PURPOSE!

Let me give you a few of our other main attractors:

· The love of Jesus is present

· The presence of the Holy Spirit is welcomed and sensed

· We are uniquely diverse (over 40 nations and 25 denominations among us)

· Location, location, location

· Nice Facility

· High energy

· FUN church!

· Contemporary thinking

· Slammin’ worship

· Practical Biblical teaching

· The electric sign out at the road

What kind of people are you attracting? New or old believers, economic class, conservative/liberal?

Everything. Everyone. We are a conglomeration of it all. Seriously, if I started the list, it would be long!

Describe the role of prayer throughout all of this.

Prayer in services, small groups, staff gatherings, regular prayer services, much private prayer, prayer emails that we send, etc.

But not ENOUGH!! We are weak here in my opinion and need more. I do not think a Pastor should ever decide that their church is praying enough! On a side note, I take issue with looking at prayer as another calendar event that we schedule at the church. There must be a better way to see prayer woven into the lives of our people and our purpose!!