The Chick-fil-A Church

Original Sandwich MobileThe average church could learn a lot from Chick-fil-A. Every time I drop by our local Chick-fil-A for lunch, I 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.

THINGS THAT CHICK-FIL-A DOES RIGHT

  • Clean and neat. The restaurant is 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. Before the pandemic, condiments were available at the condiment station and I was trusted to get the amount I needed. A whole basket of delicious mints were available for the taking. (Note: I only took 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.

3 Keys to a Successful Year

Success

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14, ESV

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, he gives us insight into his personal walk with the Lord.  You could call it a “formula for success” or as I prefer, “keys to success in our walk with the Lord.”

THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS IN 2022

1.  Release the past.  The Apostle Paul said, “….But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind….” (Vs. 13).  He is not saying that he actually lost memory of the past, he is saying that he put the past in the proper place–behind him!  He knew that the past can cause us to lose focus on the present and block our vision of the future.  He knew that the past can sometimes riddle us with guilt, lure us, haunt us, taunt us, rob us of intensity and passion, and even cause us to rest on our laurels.  Regardless of what we faced in 2021, let’s learn, let go, and move forward.

2.  Reach for the future.  Paul seems to say, “don’t look back, but BE SURE to look forward.”  He describes it as “…..straining toward what is ahead.”  I can remember running my first 10K race when I was 30-yrs.-old.  Because of my excitement, I started the race at a pace that was too fast for my fitness level.  As a result, my side began to hurt at mile 3 and I desperately wanted to stop and walk.  At that point, I saw my wife standing on the side of the road, so I didn’t want to quit in front of her.  Somehow, I kept plodding along and shortly after I passed the 5-mile marker, I saw the finish line about a mile away.  Something about seeing the finish line lifted my spirits and injected bounce in my step.  I finished fairly strong even though I had almost stopped to walk just a few miles earlier.  Paul seems to say that he keeps the finish line in view and it encourages him to do his best.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, let’s set some goals for 2022–spiritual goals, financial goals, vocational goals, fitness goals, nutritional goals.  Let’s “reach” for those goals day-by-day throughout this new year.

3.  Run for the prize.  What is Paul talking about when he talks about “the prize”?  We know he is not saying that we can live in such a way that we earn salvation because he just said in Vs. 9 that righteousness is “through faith in Christ.”  I believe Paul is saying that he is running for the goal of pleasing Jesus with his life and running for the satisfaction of knowing that he gave his best.  He is saying what he later says in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  If God tarries His coming and if He allows us to live to see 2023, I pray that we will be able to say the same about the way we served the Lord in 2022.

PRAYER:  “Lord, please help us remember the lessons you taught us in 2021, but Lord, help us to release last year and not relive it.  Help us to see Your plan and goals for 2022 and strain towards them in the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Help us to cherish your divine approval as our highest prize!  Be glorified in our lives!  Amen.”

Old-Fashioned Church

A few years ago our Church Consulting & Revitalization Team held a planning retreat in the Southern Indiana Amish country. Although I do not agree with much of the spiritual theology of the Amish, I have always respected them for their commitment to the “old-fashioned ways.” I believe that the modern church should strive to be old-fashioned in certain areas.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and would not want to give up my iPhone, iPod, iPad, iCloud, GPS running watch, or any other smart device. I also love a lot of the new music being written for the church today. I prefer indoor plumbing over outhouses, air-conditioning over funeral home fans, and padded pews over pews that make your body go numb, but old-fashioned is still sometimes preferred.

An old-fashioned church is a church fashioned after the Book of Acts!

So, where should the modern church be old-fashioned and what is an old-fashioned church? An old-fashioned church is a church fashioned after the Book of Acts. It is a church with the same priorities of the early church. It is a church that, at it’s core, has the same purpose and focus of the church in the 2nd chapter of Acts.

Characteristics of an Old-Fashioned Church

   42  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44  Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45  and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (NKJV)

1.  Doctrine. The church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Vs. 42). Several translations choose the word “teaching” instead of the word “doctrine,” but they can be used interchangeably. The apostles taught the people the Word of God. An old-fashioned church focuses on teaching God’s Word accurately, consistently, and thoroughly. The apostles knew that it matters what you believe, so they led the people to believe God’s Word and sought to teach how Jesus the Messiah was revealed throughout the Old Testament.

2.  Fellowship. The word koinonia in the original language was used several times by the Apostle Paul, but Luke used it only once in Acts 2. The word is usually translated “fellowship” and it indicates that the early believers had an uniquely close relationship because of their connection through the Gospel. Their “fellowship” served as a witness to the world that something was different about them that greatly affected their relationships.

3.  Obedience. The early church continued in “the breaking of bread” (Vs. 42).  Many scholars believe this included observing the Lord’s Supper together. Although the Passover meal was a long-standing Jewish tradition, connecting the symbols of the bread and juice to the body and blood of Jesus was new. Jesus told the apostles to continue the practice so they obeyed this new command.

4. Evangelism. The passage tells us that “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Vs. 47). This tells us that they were sharing their faith on a regular basis. Many modern church problems could be solved if church members would regain a passion for sharing their faith with those who need to hear the Gospel.

I fear that many churches today do not possess these first four Biblical characteristics. Instead of teaching doctrine, they teach the opinions of man or woman. Instead of experiencing fellowship, they experience conflict and division. Instead of obeying all the applicable commands of the Word of God, they pick and choose the preferable commands that best fit their compromising lifestyle. Instead of focusing outwardly on those who need to hear the Gospel, they focus inwardly on their own wants and wishes.

Is it any wonder that many modern churches are not experiencing a mighty move of God’s Spirit like the churches in the Book of Acts? May God help us possess these vital characteristics of an old-fashioned church.

6 Reasons I Like Deacons

I have served “as” a deacon and I have served “with” deacons. As a pastor I appreciated the office of deacon and the men who served in that role. Here are a few of the reasons I really like deacons:

6 Reasons I Like Deacons

1. Deacons are fellow servants. As a pastor, I was a servant of the Lord and a servant of the church. According to Acts 6, my main role as a pastor was to serve the church through preaching/teaching and prayer. Likewise, deacons are servants of the Lord and servants of the church.

2. Deacons are fellow men. I know there are exceptions where women serve as deacons, but in all the churches where I served as pastor, the deacons were all men. Men need to be around other men. We need the accountability and the example. Serving with men of God who were deacons helped to keep me on track in my spiritual walk and discipleship path. As Scripture says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, ESV).

Men need to be around other men.

3. Deacons are human. Even though pastors hold an important office and are held to high standards according to 1 Timothy 3, they are not perfect. They make mistakes just like everyone else. Deacons are held to the same high standards and qualifications as pastors, but they are human also.

4. Deacons are leaders. Most churches are desperate for leadership–especially servant leadership. Deacons, along with pastors, are uniquely positioned to provide much-needed servant leadership modeled after Jesus’ example in John 13.

5. Deacons are partners. Jim Henry, longtime pastor of FBC Orlando, referred to his deacons as “partners in ministry.” That is the perfect title for a deacon. No pastor or staff can carry out all the ministry needed in a local church. We need to partner together to serve God’s church.

…deacons are partners in ministry.

6. Deacons are friends. Some of my closest friends have been deacons with whom I have been privileged to serve.

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Reboot or Rebuild the Church

When the pandemic began, most of us assumed that our churches would just bounce back to “normal” shortly after the Covid-19 restrictions lifted. Much like turning our internet modem off and then back on when we experience connection issues, we thought the church would simply “reboot.” But, a reboot has not happened and it may never happen.

LifeWay Research indicates that only 50-70% of pre-Covid attendees had returned to in-person church activities by August, 2021. According to researcher, Scott McConnell, “worship attendance is improving, but there is still a large gap between today’s in-person attendance and pre-COVID levels.” The percentage is higher when online participation is included, but those numbers are difficult to track. As we move forward, we will not be able to simply reboot; we will have to rebuild!

We will not be able to simply reboot; we will have to rebuild!

That’s easy to recognize, but how do we have a “rebuild” mindset? What does that even mean? Here are seven key elements of rebuilding.

7 Keys to Rebuild the Church

  1. Outreach. We must continue to reach out to those who have never attended our church. Many communities are growing and new prospects are moving in regularly. Even in non-growing communities, there are people who need Christ. Some of them are experiencing grief related to the pandemic and are more spiritually open than ever.
  2. In-reach. Don’t give up on members and former attendees who haven’t returned to church. Without being pushy or assigning blame, reach out to them. Help them take small steps back to church. Maintain safety measures for those who are at risk and/or have concerns related to their health.
  3. Ministry. Provide pastoral ministry to all church members. That’s fairly easy for those in attendance, but challenging for those who have not returned. If the church is small, you can print off the membership role and call a few members each day to check on them. When you call, ask if they have needs and prayer concerns. Write down what they share and pray for them over the phone. When you call them in future, check your notes and ask them about the things they shared on the last call. If the church is larger, you can share this ministry with the deacons, Sunday School teachers, or form a special phone team. A safe, personal touch matters more than ever!
  4. Assimilation. Be prepared when new people attend and others return. In addition to all the normal assimilation basics, give priority to cleanliness and safety. We will never just “go back to normal” after living through a pandemic. Masks, hand sanitizer, bleach, and personal space changes are here to stay.
  5. Creativity. Don’t pretend the pandemic is over. The truth is, long after it is over, it will not be “over.” Be creative in providing options in worship and other church ministries. Make sure that those who are extra cautious are made to feel welcome and treated with respect.
  6. Technology. Technology is not the Devil! We’ve learned so much about technology during the pandemic, and reached new people as a result. We should continue to improve and expand our use of technology, even as our in-person attendance increases.
  7. Focus. Specifically, focus on Jesus! People need Jesus! Preach Jesus! Sing about Jesus! Pray in Jesus’ name! Walk with Jesus! Love Jesus! Model Jesus! People need Jesus!

“…focus on Jesus! Preach Jesus! Sing about Jesus! Pray in Jesus’ name!…People need Jesus!”

Bonus Tip: Don’t give up!

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10, ESV).