Looking back can be dangerous. Church’s can idealize the past to the neglect of the present. Parents can reminisce about how easy things were back when the kids were younger, forgetting that trouble is not bound by time.
It’s easy to idealize the past because we live in the present so we don’t have to deal with the troubles that haunted us back then. Parents forget that even the cutest newborn demands to be fed every couple of hours, not to mention that the end result of feeding a child is changing their diaper. Church’s forget that no season has ever been without it’s troubles.
Solomon talks about this tendency to look back with nostalgia on days gone by. “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10) Rather than looking back on “better days” perhaps wisdom is to enjoy each and everyday that God has given us in this life under the sun.
Every year our church puts together an annual report detailing out God’s work at our church over the course of the last year. This year’s report can be found online here. I decided to post my letter to the congregation here on the blog for anyone who’s curious about how things are going here in Cool, CA.
Dear Church Family,
As I reflect on 2012 I am almost rendered speechless surveying the grace of God in our church life. The Lord has been hard at work at Cool Community Church and there is still so much to come. Here is just a smattering of the great things that God has done in 2012.
1) In May our men went back to Lake Tahoe for a retreat we called “No One Like Him.” It was a powerful time of fellowship, teaching and just plain fun. One of the highlights this year was that our attendance nearly doubled from last year, bringing it up to 40 men who attended this retreat.
2) Our facilities have continued to receive a tremendous amount of attention in 2012. Thanks to a number of generous givers and some strategic planning we were able to:
Paint the entire sanctuary with a brand new color pallet specially designed for our needs.
Add a secondary screen and projector to balance out the room and allow us to reconfigure our seating arrangements.
Add a light truss to illuminate the stage more appropriately.
Changed the overhead lighting in the sanctuary from chandeliers to can lights.
Sand and paint the play structure
3) Financially 2012 was a great year as giving actually met and exceeded our proposed budget!
4) In 2012 we took in ten new members and conducted eight baptisms.
5) In September we introduced our new Purpose Statement, which has been overwhelmingly well received and has helped to focus our ministry as we concentrate on “proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things for the joy of all people.”
6) In January of 2012 we began to work our way through the gospel of Mark. This has been one of the greatest privileges of the last year for me and has proven to be truly transformative for our body.
7) Over the summer Amy and I hosted a marriage class titled, “What Did You Expect” based on a Paul Tripp video series. It was a rich class that proved to be a wonderful blessing to everyone who participated.
8) In September we also launched our Fall Home Groups Study on “Resolving Everyday Conflict” which was met with much enthusiasm as eight groups met throughout the Divide to consider this very practical study.
9) In 2012 we also began our “Renovation” focusing on 3 additional facility projects (bathrooms, outdoor fellowship hall, and exterior paint). To date we have received responses from 43 families and over $10,765 has already been received with an additional $18,500 committed over the next two years.
10) Finally, we said goodbye to a number of our close friends in 2012 as several of our members went to be with the Lord. We have certainly known our fair share of sorrow this year, but at the exact same time we have also experienced the joy of meeting many new friends and receiving many new families into our church membership.
Looking back on 2012 it’s clear that God has done great things for us as a church, but I still believe that the greatest things that God is doing is what is happening in the hearts of the people of Cool Community Church. For Amy and I, 2012 has been a year of profound joy as we have ministered to and alongside the people of Cool Community Church. Sometimes this kind of ministry involves a wedding and sometimes it involves a funeral. Sometimes it involves counseling and sometimes it’s a late night conversation over a cup of coffee. In whatever shape it takes, whether it be in our home or in my office, it is a joy to see God work in the hearts of the people of Cool Community Church.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to mention my profound thankfulness to my wife Amy for her commitment to ministry. Many of the things that she does are behind the scenes, but I want to publically acknowledge that her faithfulness is a profound blessing to our body. From hosting various events at our home (i.e. Home Groups, Ice Cream Sundays, Elder meetings, Leadership meetings, Youth Group, Foundations of the Faith, etc.), to her tender prayers for our body; she is a blessing to us and she is certainly my better half.
One last thing that 2012 brought was to change our church logo, bringing in an oak tree and a background of the foothills. I believe that this new logo is a perfect representation of what God has done and what He continues to do in our church. First of all it is an oak tree which is a symbol of strength and resilience. By God’s grace we have proven ourselves over 30+ years to be a strong and resilient people. Secondly, you can see that it is located in the foothills. Our church has a great love for the people of the Divide and it is our privilege to serve here. Finally, this tree is full of organic life. It’s clearly not done growing yet and in much the same way we too are still growing as a church. God certainly isn’t done with us yet, but we have much to be thankful for what He has done so far.
2012 has been a wonderful year for Cool Community Church and we look forward to what 2013 will bring as we continue to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things for the joy of all people.
Any church that’s been open for more than a few weeks knows the pain of people leaving the church. Sometimes the reasons are clear (i.e. they moved out of the area, the Lord took them home, etc.), but more often than not there’s almost no explanation whatsoever.
Tom Rainer gives some profound insights into the main reason people the church in this post. Here’s an excerpt:
But all the research studies of which I am aware, including my own, return to one major theme to explain the exodus of church members: a sense of some need not being filled. In other words, these members have ideas of what a local congregation should provide for them, and they leave because those provisions have not been met.
Certainly we recognize there are many legitimate claims by church members of unfulfilled expectations. It can undoubtedly be the fault of the local congregation and its leaders.
But many times, probably more than we would like to believe, a church member leaves a local body because he or she has a sense of entitlement. I would therefore suggest that the main reason people leave a church is because they have an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality.
One of the things that I’ve struggled with in ministry is how to balance out what I really want to do (shepherding, preaching, teaching, etc.) with some of the things that I really need to do (i.e. administration, facility management, etc.).
On the one side, some guys will just ignore the facilities or neglect administration in the name of being “spiritual” and “shepherding”. They say things like, “I will not wait on tables, because I must give myself to the word and to prayer.” The problem is that part of shepherding is leadership and part of leadership is taking responsibility for the oversight of the whole operation, regardless of whether it seems “spiritual” or not. Ultimately, if you don’t make arrangements to have the septic tank pumped…church life is going to stink.
On the other side are those guys who would much rather work a spreadsheet than visit someone in the hospital. They pride themselves on being “ranchers” rather than “shepherds.” The problem here is that ministry is nothing if it isn’t personal and to the degree that you remove yourself from the day to day care of the sheep, you remove yourself from the very definition of what it means to be a pastor.
I believe that the resolution to this tension between shepherding and administration is to realize that there really is no tension at all. Both of these responsibilities fall under the umbrella of oversight. Whether I am visiting someone in the hospital or pulling the lids off of our septic tanks, I am doing so for the sake of God’s people who happen to be in the hospital or in need of a working septic system . In other words, all of the work of ministry is done to the glory of God for the good of God’s people. There will be seasons where that work will focus more heavily on shepherding and there will be seasons when that work will focus more heavily on the administrative side of things, but regardless of what season you find yourself in all of the work of ministry is to be done to the glory of God and for the good of God’s people.
Graceway Media is one of my favorite ministry resources!!! In our image driven society, there is almost no greater sin than having bad PowerPoint slides or bad art in general, which presents a big problem for smaller churches. You see, good art is really expensive! It costs a lot of money to hire artists, to have a media department, etc.
Until I found Graceway Media, I had just taken it upon myself to try to make compelling PowerPoint slides or to try and find decent art on Google Images or any place else that I could scavenge it from; but not anymore!
Graceway Media is an entire website devoted to making killer PowerPoint slides, art, and banners that you can use for sermons, websites, fliers, etc. It’s been a godsend for me and I want to recommend it to any small church who wants to present a more professional look in their presentations, website and other publications.
Here are four reasons why you should consider using Graceway Media for your church.
1) It’s Easy – Downloading the PowerPoint files is a simple process that anyone can do. You’re given several different options for the format that you want for the files in and it even includes information about the fonts that were used, so you can make changes yourself if you want.
2) It’s Inexpensive – A year long subscription costs $250, which is an absolute steal for the product that you’re getting. I have literally downloaded hundreds of slides and I use them for almost every aspect of the ministries art department from fliers, to Sunday morning presentations, to facebook events.
3) It’s Professional – Using professional grade slides like these makes the entire organization appear more professional, because you can tell that someone put a lot of time into these things. With Graceway Media, that someone doesn’t have to be you!
4) It Saves You Time – Because everything is online, you can easily download your files to any computer, manipulate them anywhere and get them quickly. I’ve had a number of occasions where I needed a slide right away. With Graceway Media, I simply login, find a relavent slide, download it and put it on the screen. It really is that easy and it really does save massive amounts of time if your using PowerPoint or Keynote.
My friend Sean Higgins makes some great points in this post about being easily offended. Here’s an excerpt:
Too many church people are too easily offended. It only takes a spark to get a fire going and soon all those around run for cover. It’s almost impossible for an easily offended man to learn anything. The legitimacy of his irritation rests on his certainty of already being right. The offended lady makes herself the reference point, the higher standard that the lesser ladies apparently aren’t appreciating. Those who are easily offended are also easily isolated; they miss out on a lot of fellowship. They are easily anxious, since anyone and everyone might be the next possible offender.
Some people in the church seem to have the spiritual gift of discouragement. It’s all that guy can do – discourage others. Truthfully, we are all “that guy” far too often. We find it far easier to complain and view circumstances negatively than positively. So, when a person embodies encouragement, we notice. The apostles took note of a such a man named Joseph. They recognized that he was no ordinary Joe. They called him Barnabas instead, which translated means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36).
1) Encouragers Give Sacrifically.
2) Encouragers Draw Others Into Ministry.
3) Encouragers See the Grace of God.
4) Encouragers Tell Stories (they tell stories of grace).
Church distinctives are kind of a funny category of church information. They aren’t a doctrinal statement, so they don’t contain affirmations and denials. They’re really more like a list of aspects of the Christian life that a church holds particularly dear. At Cool Church, we’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about our distinctives and here’s what we’ve come up with:
THE WORD OF GOD The preaching, programs, and people of Cool Community Church are saturated with the Bible–the Word of God. Scripture is God’s special and revealed will for humanity. The Bible is to be believed in all it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises. The purpose of our sermons is to expose our hearts to the Word of God through expository preaching. Expository preaching is simply preaching that exposes the text of Scripture seeking to understand exactly what God has said. As Wayne Grudem states, “The authority of Scripture means that all the words of Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God” (Systematic Theology, 73). As we listen to God’s Word we want to do so in such a way that we invite Him to change us and seek to submit to the authority of His Word.
THE PEOPLE OF GOD At Cool Community Church we believe that God has created us to live in community with one another. As Paul Tripp has said, “The Christian life is not a solo venture, it is a community project.” We need to live together in community with one another so that we can grow and be sanctified. A large part of sanctification (spiritual growth) is growing in our love for the gospel. The gospel is not simply something we believed to get saved, it’s something we must continue to believe in order to be sanctified. Because of the importance of the gospel for everyday life we must live in community with one another and continually preach the gospel to one another in order to grow in our sanctification as individuals and as a community.
THE GLORY OF GOD At Cool Community Church we really do believe that "it’s not about us." So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). The ultimate purpose of every human being is to live a life that displays the greatness of God. We exist to glorify God, to please Him and to display His greatnesss. It is all about His glory, not our own. Indeed, the universe exists to glorify God (Psalm 19:1). So whether it’s Vacation Bible School, high school discipleship, or the Young at Heart, we seek to do it all for His glory, not for the glory of Cool Community Church, it’s leadership, or its membership.
One of the growing movements within evangelicalism that I’m thankful for is the “Family Integrated Church” (FIC). The FIC is doing a great job of ministering to families, pointing out the importance of fathers and calling the church back to a serious discipleship program for children and youth. That’s not to say that I agree with everything that the FIC stands for or is promoting, but on the whole I am thankful for what they’re doing. Here are a couple of recent sermons that I found very helpful in thinking about the FIC.
1) Family Matters by Austin Duncan. This is a message from this year’s Shepherds’ Conference dealing the FIC directly. Austin does an excellent job of pointing out the strengths of the movement along with some concerns. One interesting point about this message is that Voddie Baucham, who is one of the FIC’s leading proponents, was actually in the room while Austin was giving his presentation.
2) Educated Guess by Carey Hardey. This sermon is not about the FIC specifically, but it does deal with the question of how best to educate one’s children. The issue of how to educate children seems to be a hallmark issue for the FIC. Hardey does an outstanding job of presenting a balanced approach to the question of education. This is by far the best treatment of the discussion of education that I have ever heard.