7 Minutes and Counting

Stop-WatchToday, we continue talking about Nelson Searcy’s book Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church. Searcy titled chapter 3, Seven Minutes and Counting. In the chapter, he talked the importance of what happens to first-time guests during the first 7 minutes of their visit. He wrote,


Seven minutes is all you get to make a positive first impression. In the first 7 minutes of contact with your church, your first-time guests will know whether or not they are coming back. That’s before a single worship song is sung and before a single word of the message is uttered.

Common sense tells us that we never get a second chance to make a first impression, and unfortunately, first impressions are usually lasting impressions. If Searcy is correct in saying that guests are deciding whether they are coming back in the first 7 minutes, then the question becomes, “what’s actually being judged?”

Are they judging the building, the landscaping, the parking lot, the church sign, the entrance area, the lobby, the parking lot greeters, the door greeters, the bulletin? The simple answer is “YES“! They probably judge all those things, but keep in mind, they decide if they are coming back before they sing the first song or hear a word of the sermon.

As pastors, we usually spend a large portion of our week planning the worship service and preparing the message without being proactive in this important area. We should continue our practice of sermon preparation, but we should also give thought, time, and attention to helping our guests have a great first impression. As pastors, we should take the lead in this area.

In my next post, I will look at the 7-minute, first impression time Searcy refers to as the time “from the street to the seat.” Here are my other posts along these lines.

Share this post:

How Can You Reach People for Jesus?

There are more than 7 billion people in the world today, and less than 20% know Jesus.  How can you reach them all with the life-giving message of the Gospel? Can your dollars reach from you to eternity? This video shows how through the Cooperative Program, mission dollars go from you, to your church, to the Kentucky Baptist Convention and around the world, powering missions and ministry every step along the way. This video would be excellent for use in worship services, Sunday School, and new members classes.

Share this post:

Churches Can Be Happy, Happy, Happy

Duck DynastyEvery time I watch Duck Dynasty I go away with a smile.  I’m encouraged, challenged, and sometimes emotionally moved.  In short, I go away happy, happy, happy.  Why can’t our churches be that way?  If our Baptist churches were a little more happy, I suspect that 75% of them wouldn’t be declining or on a long plateau.

Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not talking about the heresy of prosperity theology that is expounded from so many mega pulpits today.  I’m simply talking about preaching the truth of the Bible in love and in the joy of the Lord.  Biblically, the Greek word for joy is the word chara.  The word occurs 59 times in the Word of God and is generally translated “joy” throughout.  Joy is not something that is derived from the world; joy comes from Jesus.

In a recent post at Thomrainer.com, Dr. Thom S. Rainer shared Nine Traits of Happy Churches.  Here’s Dr. Rainer’s list:

  1. The pastor was a strong leader, but not an autocratic leader. He was able to maintain that healthy balance of providing clarity of vision without imposing his will on every decision.
  2. The pastor regularly demonstrated and affirmed love for the congregation. In both his actions and his words, the pastor communicated clearly that he loved the members of the church. And he loved them regardless of their apparent feelings toward him, though most of the members genuinely loved the pastor as well.
  3. The pastor regularly demonstrated and affirmed love for the community where the church was located. Though he could not be omnipresent, the pastor made it a point to be involved in many of the affairs of the community. He genuinely loved people in the community and viewed the entire area as his mission field.
  4. The ministry staff liked each other, and they worked well together. If there are tensions among the staff, they cannot be hidden from the congregation. But if the staff is unified and banter in fun with one another, the members feed off that joy and unity.
  5. A high proportion of the membership was actively involved in ministry. When church members are doing the work of ministry, they have a sense of fulfillment and joy. When they aren’t, they often have extra time on their hands to be divisive.
  6. Business meetings were brief and friendly. These meetings were rarely a time of infighting and complaining. To the contrary, most of the members were too busy doing ministry to be negative (see #5).
  7. A high proportion of the members were in a small group or Sunday school class. Community grew in these small groups. People who are true members of a community tend to be happier people.
  8. The pastor’s time in the Word was protected. It is easy for a pastor to yield his time in the Word for the tyranny of the urgent. Thus he becomes frustrated, as he has to rush to complete a sermon, or as he does not have sufficient time to do the sermon well. The members likewise become frustrated because they don’t feel like the pastor is feeding them. A happy church makes certain that the pastor has adequate time every week to be in the Word.
  9. The pastor had a small informal or formal group to whom he was accountable. This group includes those members who clearly love the pastor. They offer both encouragement and accountability for him. The interchange between this group and the pastor is frank, transparent and, overall, healthy. And all communications take place on an unmistakable foundation of love.

If churches truly want to experience revitalization, this list should be reviewed from time to time.  Keep in mind, this IS NOT a formula for church revitalization, but let’s be honest, it sure couldn’t hurt!  People are much more likely to “tune in” to a church that is happy, happy, happy!

Share this post:

Start with Good Ingredients

Recently, I’ve developed a casual interest in a variety of television cooking shows. Ironically, I can’t cook much of anything–I specialize in eating. Oh, I can serve a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich along with a decent pot of coffee, but let’s be honest, that doesn’t really involve cooking. I’m not sure why I enjoy these shows, but it may have something to do with my competitive spirit. The competition-based cooking shows like Chopped are the ones I really like to watch.

Although I am no cook, I’ve noticed that cooking and spiritual growth has something in common . . . .

You have to start with good ingredients!

Good ingredients are paramount if the food is going to be great. Chefs talk about the key role ingredients play on these shows all the time. The same is true in spiritual growth. Believers must have the ingredients in their lives that lead to growth. We refer to these as spiritual disciplines. Lots of lists of spiritual disciplines exist, but here are the basics:

  • Reading the Bible
  • Praying to the Lord
  • Fellowshipping with other believers
  • Sharing your faith
  • Ministering to others
  • Walking with Christ

One of the best books on the subject of spiritual disciplines is John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted. If you haven’t read it, kick off 2013 by reading it during the month of January.

Share this post:

The Chick-fil-A Church

imagesThe average church could learn a lot from Chick-fil-A. About once a week I drop by our local Chick-fil-A for lunch. I always have a wonderful experience. Good food, great service, fair prices! Their mission statement is simple, “Be America’s Best Quick-Service Restaurant!” The founder, Truett Cathy, may well have fulfilled that statement.


  • Clean and neat. The restaurant is well landscaped, clean, and bright. The atmosphere makes me comfortable and relaxed from the beginning.
  • Friendly, prompt service. The employees who take my order make eye contact, smile, welcome me, and process my order perfectly.
  • Generous. Condiments are available at the condiment station and I’m trusted to get the amount I need. A whole basket of delicious mints are available for the taking. (Note: I only take one.)
  • Great product. Of course, the main reason I go to the restaurant is to eat. Their food is always hot, tasty, neatly packaged, and delivered with a smile.
  • Customer-oriented. Let me tell you what happened one day when I was there. After my meal, I walked to the counter to get a refill of their delicious sweet tea. At that particular moment everyone was busy, but a gentleman who was wiping off a table saw me, stopped what he was doing, quickly came up and said, “Sir, could I get you a refill.” I really don’t think it was his job to refill my tea, but he left what he was doing to serve a customer. After I thanked him, he said, “It’s my pleasure sir.” I’m sorry, but that was just flat impressive!

I’m not going to bother trying to make an application to the church because I think the application is obvious. I repeat, the average church could learn a lot from Chick-fil-A.

For more help with assimilation, see The 3-Minute Rule.

Share this post:

The 3-Minute Rule

stopwatchAny church can immediately become more effective by practicing a simple little rule each time they gather for worship.  I call this rule the 3-Minute Rule. It’s simple, and it ONLY takes three minutes.

Here’s how the 3-Minute Rule works. Immediately after the morning worship service ends, all the regular attenders spend the first 3 minutes talking with guests, newcomers, or simply people they do not know, before they begin talking with their friends. If possible, they introduce those they meet during the 3-Minute time to their friends with the hope of including them in the group. This intentional approach would greatly improve “first impressions” of the church and assist with the assimilation of newcomers. We should always keep in mind that . . . .

We are a culture craving relationship. In the midst of our crowded existence, many of us are living lonely lives. We live and work in a sea of humanity, but we end up missing out on the benefits of regular, meaningful relationships.  (Andy Stanley)

I think we should practice a similar rule before the service as well. I call it the 2-Person Rule. Strive to meet at least two new people before the service begins. Imagine how many people you would meet after a few weeks. Remember . . . .

People are not merely looking for a friendly church; they are looking to make friends at church.  (Steve Rice)

It’s true that worship can be a time of personal reflection and adoration for the Lord, but it can also be a place of service. Make an effort this Sunday to meet at least two new people before the service and then take the first three minutes after the service to venture outside your normal conversation circle.  You’ll be blessed and you be a blessing to others as well!

Share this post:

The Title That Lasts Forever

Tonight I sit awaiting the championship game of the NCAA Basketball Tournament with mixed emotions. Oh, don’t misunderstand, I’ll be watching every second, coaching from my chair with every play, leaning and jiving, cheering loudly for the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Yet, for some reason things are different as I age.  As I mature in the Lord (hopefully), I realize that tonight’s game is just that–a game! The title of NCAA 2012 Men’s Basketball title, like all earthly titles, regardless how prestigious, are only temporary.

When it’s all said and done, I hope that UK will hang its 8th National Championship Banner, but what title will last throughout eternity, when it’s all said and done? What title should I seek? What title should you seek? The title we should desire is the Biblical title of OVERCOMER! Who is an Overcomer? What does that title mean? Consider the following verses from the Word of God:

4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV)

When I repent of my sins and place my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior, I am “born of God.” Those who are born of God are Overcomers. Jesus told Nicodemus:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:3-6 (ESV)

I encourage you to search your soul and know with 100% certainty that you have born of God. Examine your heart and be sure that you are God’s child and that you possess the title of Overcomer through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Life is filled with uncertainties, but eternity can be definite. Decide right now to be an Overcomer!

Share this post: