Putting Your Best Foot Forward

lexington-ky-hotel-location-topLast week, two members of the Kentucky Baptist Convention Church Consulting & Revitalization Team and I spent part of the day in Lexington, Kentucky touring the Downtown Lexington Hilton hotel for a future event we are planning. Throughout the day, I observed the hotel staff members utilize many basic, but impressive welcoming principles that can and should be applied to the church. See if you can pick up a couple of things from this post that can help in your setting.

The hotel did a good job of putting their best foot forward. We had an appointment with the Convention Services Manager, Emily Dowd, but she was tied up on a telephone call when we arrived.  Instead of making us wait, she sent another manager to greet us and make us feel welcome until she could break away from her call. When she arrived, she welcomed us and offered us coffee or a soft drink. Throughout our visit, she was helpful, ready to listen, and extremely knowledgeable about her facility. As we randomly ran into other hotel staff members throughout our visit, they smiled and said hello. Some even asked if they could help in some way. Mrs. Dowd invited us to join her for lunch in the hotel restaurant and made sure that we received a validated parking pass as we were leaving.

Here are some basic welcoming principles that impressed me from the day. I believe all of them apply to the church setting as well….

  • Be on time. Although we had an appointment, our appointment was simply for the “late morning.”  As a result of not setting a precise time of arrival, Mrs. Dowd could not help that she was tied up on the phone when we arrived.  Knowing the importance of being on time, she was courteous and asked another manager to “fill in” until she arrived.
  • Be prepared. We were there to get information and to make relational connections. Although, we did not expect the managers to know everything about their facility, we did expect them to know most things. We expected them to be organized and prepared for our visit–we were not disappointed!
  • Be nice. Everyone provided a warm handshake, a friendly smile, eye contact, and good manners! They acted as if they were truly glad we were there and honored we were utilizing their facility.
  • Be real. A mechanical “sales pitch” is obvious. It was nice to meet real people who were working at a real jobs. It caught my attention that everyone seemed very genuine.
  • Be flexible. Throughout the visit, we ran into a hotel staff member who is in charge of Audio/Visual. Although we had not planned to do so, we spent several minutes talking with him about new audio/visual improvements in the hotel. Mrs. Dowd was very patient and flexible throughout our visit.
  • Be thorough. When we’ve held events in that hotel in the past, the staff always sends a very nice thank you note or letter that conveys their appreciation. It’s a small gesture, but little things make a BIG difference.

Surely, if the business world can do such a good job of welcoming people simply for the purpose of their business, the church can do a good job of welcoming people for the purpose of God’s business. Keep striving to put your best foot forward!

For more help in this area, please see the following posts:

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!

Lessons from the Ark

Someone recently sent me an email about Noah’s Ark.  As a preacher, it caused me to think of several sermon ideas I missed over the years.  Read over the following “Lessons from the Ark” for yourself and see if you find them as helpful as I do.

Everything I need to know, I learned from Noah’s Ark . . .

  1. Don’t miss the boat.
  2. Remember that we are all in the same boat.
  3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.
  4. Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.
  5. Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
  6. Build your future on high ground.
  7. For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
  8. Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.
  9. When you’re stressed, float a while.
  10. Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
  11. No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting.

I want to thank my email friend for the sermon ideas and the “kernels” of wisdom.  I hope they help you as they have me.

“Hot Topics”

Through the summer I’m opening up a can of  worms at Shelbyville First Baptist Church! I’m wading in waters where I might just drown! I’m going out on a limb!  I’m biting off more than I can chew! I’m waking up several sleeping dogs! I’m swimming with the sharks! I’m taking a stick and hitting a hornet’s nest. For the entire summer, I’m going where very few preachers will dare go!

On Sunday, June 5, I will begin a sermon series called HOT TOPICS! I will address some of the most difficult and sensitive questions in life today. Here’s the list:

  • June 5: What Does the Bible Say about Homosexuality?
  • June 12: Is Laziness a Sin?
  • June 19: Is Sex a Four-letter Word?
  • June 26: Can a Christian Be Divorced?
  • July 10: Is Osama Bin Laden in Hell?
  • July 17: Is Abortion Always Wrong?
  • July 24: Is It a Sin to Be Rich?
  • July 31: What Music Is Real “Christian” Music?
  • August 7: Are We Prejudiced in Shelbyville?
See what I mean? I’m not sure if I’m really thinking straight, but we’re going to just go for it. We’re going to cut to the chase, shoot straight, get down to brass tacks, hit the nail on the head which may go over like a lead balloon. You may be able to say a lot of things about your pastor at the end of the series, but you WILL NOT be able to say that he is unwilling to tackle difficult subjects. Please use this series of sermons to invite your family and friends to church. Give them one of the Hot Topics Invite Card….who knows, they might just come.

Mammoth Cave and Mighty Mouse

Recently, Jacob and Beth Walters took their children and spent some time together at Mammoth Cave National Park.  Their trip reminded me of a few years ago when our family went there as well.  On our visit, we took a tour through the cave led by a young, female guide.  She made many observations throughout our descent and pointed out nuances the untrained eye would have surely missed.

She asked us to be seated on some wooden benches when we reached the lowest point of the cave.  She instructed us to secure our children and then suddenly, she flipped the switch on the lights.  At that point, she proceeded to describe to us what people experience when they are lost in a cave.

Here’s what I didn’t do next! I didn’t say, “now little missy!  You’ve obviously gotten us lost several hundred feet below the surface of the ground, so step aside and I’ll take over.”  I didn’t recite the Mighty Mouse cry of:  “Here I come to save the day!  I thumbed through a couple of books in the gift shop before the tour began, so I’m now an expert on the cave system!”

Nothing could have been more ridiculous than this type of reaction on my part!  I have learned the hard way that the same is true in my Christian walk through this dark world.  I should not try to “find my way” on my own while my all-knowing God desires to skillfully guide me.  Our daily prayer should echo the words of the Dorothy A. Thrupp hymn:  “Savior, like a shepherd lead us.”

Fights and Quarrels in the Church

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.This week I’ve been reading from the New Testament written by James, the brother of Jesus.  In the passage above, James asks the question, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?”  Then he answers his own question by saying, “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”  James 4:1-3, NIV

This week I have been reading the New Testament book written by James, the brother of Jesus.  I love his letter written “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1) because it is very practical and very direct.  We need more preaching and teaching like that today.

In the above passage (4:1-3), James identifies the source of most “fights and quarrels” in the church–they derive from our selfish, personal desires.  The greek word for the term “desires” is the source of the word “hedonism.”  Dictionary.com defines “hedonism” as “the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the highest good.”

We live in a day when many believe that the church exists to serve them, to entertain them, and to make them happy, but actually the opposite is true.  The Church does not exist to serve us; as Christians, we exist to serve the Church. 

May the Lord help every believer in every Christ-honoring church to set aside his or her personal desires for the church to pursue the desires that the Lord has for His church!  May it begin in me.

$22,000 Phone Bill

According to an Associated Press story, a 13-year-old California teen ran up a cell phone bill of nearly $22,000.

Ted Estarija said he was expecting his bill to be higher this month after adding his son to his plan, but wasn’t expecting a bill of $21,917 in data usage charges. The Hayward man said his Verizon Wireless  bill soared after his son apparently downloaded about 1.4 million kilobytes of data last month.  His plan didn’t cover data usage, so he was charged by the megabyte.

Estarija said after the first media reports, Verizon said they would credit his account for the entire amount. He has also suspended his son’s account.

When I read this story today, I thought of John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Unlike Mr. Estarija, Jesus knew the cost.  He knew that coming to this earth would cause him unspeakable pain and ultimately cost Him His life, yet He came anyway.

PRAYER:  “Lord, thank You, that although You knew the cost, You came to this earth.  You came so we could know You, see You, and experience salvation through Your death on the cross.  Thank you for paying our bill, caused by our sin and for crediting our account with your righteous when we trust in You as our Savior.  Lord, thank You!  AMEN.”