Friday, October 9, 2015

Three reasons your church should cancel its fall festival & encourage your members to stay home this Halloween

What if I told you once a year lost people will flock to the homes of Christians everywhere? Wouldn't we want those Christians to be at home for this? Sure we would. We would all wait with anticipation as our neighbors come one by one to our homes.

But what if I also told you that most of us have this happen every year but we aren't at home for it? That's right. I'm talking about Halloween. The one day a year that our lost neighbors knock on OUR door for a change. 

More often than not though, we aren't at home because we are at our church doing a fall festival or trunk or treat. Especially if Halloween falls on a Wednesday, Sunday, or Saturday. It happens to fall on a Saturday this year so it's especially true for most of us.

But here are three reasons why your church should cancel its fall festival this year & encourage your people to stay home.

1. By and large, lost people are no longer coming to us.

Now, there are some exceptions to this. But, the majority of lost people in our community aren't coming to our event. Some will. But most won't. And even the ones that do come we know they are walking away with candy but it's likely none will walk away with Christ.

We need a change in mindset when it comes to reaching people that don't know Jesus. We have to stop doing events in our church that invite lost people to come to us. Why? Two reasons. One is practical & the other is theological. 

First the practical: Because they simply aren't coming to us anymore. They aren't coming. They aren't interested in what we have to offer. They don't want to come to our turf. And so it's just not working to forward the long term mission of our church. 

Second, the theological: The great commission tells us to GO & make disciples not invite them to come to us. In other words, when we are asking lost people to come to us, we are expecting them to obey the command of Jesus instead of us. We are expecting them to do the great commission. We are expecting the lost to be the missionary instead of us.

If we are going to see lost people come to Jesus, we can't expect them to come to our churches, we the church must go to them. Or in this case rather, we the church should stay home! 

2. Bait and switch isn't the best method for introducing people to Jesus.

We Christians are pros at the bait & switch technique. We offer a product or a service & then introduce people to Jesus. We promise free candy, food, & a good time & throw Jesus at them at the end. This bait & switch mentality isn't the best way for people to have their first introduction to Jesus.

Wouldn't it be better if people got introduced to Jesus through a real relationship with a person like.....I don't know.....a person that lives on the same street as them? I believe it would. So why not stay home & use Halloween as a chance to connect with your neighbors. Set up the grill in the front yard & cook burgers & hot dogs. Give them away for free with lots of good candy. Good candy, not the gross stuff that comes in those orange & black wrappers.

Who knows what connections & conversions we might have with a lost neighbor who comes to our house? Who knows what future conversations that connection might lead to? Maybe this is the first step for you to move back into your neighborhood. 

It just might be the best way to get the gospel to your neighbor is not to invite them to your church event but to be the church to your neighbor in your own neighborhood. All of this is possible without even having to change out of your house shoes.

3. The lost are literally coming door to door to US!

Ok, I've already mentioned this but it needs repeating. They are coming to us. We don't have to do anything. They want to come! They are asking to come. No one feels weird or awkward or doesn't know what to say or do. Everyone goes to everyone's door & asks for candy. It's natural.

And we need more natural connections with people that don't know Jesus. We need ways to engage the lost with the gospel that doesn't feel forced. Halloween is one of those times.

You might not like the holiday. That's ok. This isn't about us. It's about the families that you drive past everyday who need to hear the gospel & you may be the only person in their life that can tell them about it.

So, cancel your fall festival & just stay home. We might be surprised at the effect we could have if we did. I'm convinced we will have more impact for the kingdom of God if Christians moved back into their neighborhood rather than doing events in the church parking lot.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


"And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare." (Jeremiah 29:7 NLT)

Often when we think about the church & the city, we see the two at odds. Church members are often at odds with outsiders in the community & many non-church goers are at odds with the church. The city's interests normally don't reflect the church & vice versa. Rather than the church being a city on a hill in the city, it's more like a dark building outside of the city. Rather than the church working with the city it's in, the church is often working against its city.

But this verse paints a very different picture. This verse links the people of God WITH the city they are living in. The welfare of God's people & their context are undeniably linked. When the city does well, so do the people of God.

God gives his people a blueprint for impacting their context. God tells his exiled people to work for the good of their city, because it will effect them for good as well. So, there is a way for the church of God to work for the welfare of its city.

Here are a couple of ways to do it.

First, we have to work. That's what this verse says. Work. Go do something. Get your hands dirty. Be active. Invest. Plug in. Engage. Be a part. Volunteer. Serve your city! The church too are exiles. We don't belong here. But just because we are citizens of another country doesn't mean we should be poor visitors while we are here. We have to get to work. Investing our lives where we live for the good of our city. It takes work. Don't think it's easy.

Don't reinvent the wheel either. Don't start a food pantry, volunteer at the food pantry in your community. Don't start a crisis pregnancy center, get involved at the one in your city. Maybe you should start a ministry or non-profit but if there are groups already doing great work in your community, why not serve with them?

Second, we have to pray. This may be better as step one. But the passage has it second. Prayer cannot be overemphasized. If we are going to love our city & see its welfare, we must pray for it. We must ask God to change us & use us to change it. We must realize that there are some things that work cannot do. Only prayer can break down some walls. This reminds us that while our city has physical needs that we should be meeting, it also has spiritual needs that we must be actively engaging. For example, it's not enough to serve at Habitat for Humanity & not share the gospel when we have the chance. Because housing for people is good, but houses are temporary. Eternity is forever. We have to work & pray. It's a both/and. Without work, we pray & neglect the obvious things we can be doing for our city now! Without prayer, our work is only physical & lasting change eludes us.

Work AND pray. This is the blueprint for impacting our city for Jesus. 

Are we a church for the city? If not, how can we change? What work can we do? How should we pray!?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Rediscovering Our Sentness

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you’.” (John 20:21ESV)

God is a missionary God. He has been sending his people since the very beginning. In Genesis 12 God sent out Abraham to go to a country he didn’t know. He didn’t even tell him where he was sending him. Similarly, in Isaiah 6, we see God asking, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”


The pinnacle of this sending language is found in the gospel of John in the New Testament. The word is sent used over 40 times. Jesus uses this word of himself to show that he was sent from God. One of the more prominent uses is when Jesus heals a blind man by rubbing dirt on his eyes and telling him to go wash at a pool called Siloam. I’ll give you one guess what the word Siloam means in Aramaic.




So, Jesus heals a blind man by rubbing dirt on his face and telling him to wash at the pool called sent. Jesus was trying to communicate something. He was sent from God to accomplish the mission that God had given him. But he wasn’t just sent from God but John 20:21 tells us that he was now sending his disciples. Just as the father was sending him, he was now sending those that follow him.


If being sent was the primary activity of Jesus while he was on the earth, that activity has now passed to those of us that follow him. In fact, we are following him today because those 11 men were sent out by Jesus. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them taking that sending nature seriously.


But a quick analysis of the church today will show that we have forgotten this sent out identity. Most churches are based on a “come and see” approach to church rather than a “go and tell” approach. We have bought into a “Field of Dreams” methodology for doing church. The classic line from that 1989 film is, “If you build it, they will come.” The main character Ray, played by Kevin Costner, keeps hearing a voice telling him to build a baseball field in the middle of his corn crop in rural Iowa. He thinks he’s crazy, but as soon as he actually builds it, players from old appear to play on it. Eventually, people come from everywhere to see the field and the baseball that is played there.


This Field of Dreams, attractional way of doing church has permeated North America. And the results of this have been devastating. We have lost the sentness (if I can use that word) of the early church. Brad Brisco, a church planting catalyst in Kansas City, says it this way, “If we fail to go to people who don't know Jesus, then we are requiring them to come to us. We are expecting the lost to cross the cultural barriers to come to Jesus. We are expecting them to be the missionary.”


Did you catch that last phrase?


“We are expecting those that don’t know Jesus to be the missionary.”


Let that sink in. The church now postures itself to our culture in a way that the culture has to do all the work to come to Christ. What we need is a radical return to the sentness of the church. We need to recapture this missionary nature of God and the church. Where the church doesn’t just send missionaries but where the church IS the missionary. We must recapture the words of Jesus, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”


This is life or death stuff we are talking about here. Why? If Jesus hadn’t decided to be sent by God, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Who out there is therefore dependent on our sentness?



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Processing Success & Failure in Church Planting (during the same week)

On October 11, 2009, I preached the last sermon ever delivered at Lifeway Church in Arlington, TN. On October 18, 2009, the next Sunday, I delivered the first sermon ever preached at Compass Church in Batesville, AR. Within a week's time, I had experienced the death of one church & the birth of another. The range of emotion was overwhelming. From sadness & grief one week at the loss of a church & the death of a vision to the excitement & anticipation the next week at the birth of a church & the possibilities of realizing that same vision. The two experiences could not have been more different. Even the messages that I preached were miles apart. At Lifeway (the closing church), I preached the whole life of Joseph from the book of Genesis with the main theme of, "What the enemy meant for evil, God means for good." I reassured the church that God works all things out together for our good & his glory. At Compass (the new church) I was preaching about the vision God had given us to reach that community for Jesus through planting a new church. Not many people have experienced these two polar opposites, much less in the same week! But I have. And it wasn’t easy.
I came to Lifeway in 2004 & we struggled for 5 years to see the vision of a healthy, viable, gospel-centered, & mission-focused church birthed there. The church was already 5 years old when I joined the staff team. I was only working part-time doing music at the time while I went to seminary. In 2006 my pastor went to Brazil to serve on the mission field & I was asked to be the pastor there, just two months from graduating with my Masters of Divinity. The next 3 years we had many ups & downs but eventually we felt led to close the doors of the church. It was 10 years old & God had been faithful but it was time to say goodbye. And what hurts even more about this was our church was situated in one of the fastest growing communities in the Memphis area. Since then, several churches have planted new campuses there and are doing well. I often look back at Lifeway & wonder why it never became what we hoped it would.
The results at Compass again reveal the difference in the two churches. Our first preview service in October of 2009 had 3 times the people at it that the last service at Lifeway had. When Compass officially launched in February of the next year we have over 150 people in attendance. Now, we regularly average over 400 people in weekend worship services. We have done 3 services to accommodate the growth & are working on building a new facility. Again, the results could not be more different.
With this in mind, I want to share the things that I have gleaned from being a part of a church that has done well & a church that has struggled. Maybe you can find encouragement for where you are in your life as a church planter.
First, your successes or failures in church planting is not dependent solely on you. If this were true, Compass would have failed or Lifeway would have succeeded. But one closed & the other has thrived. And it cannot all be because of me. I have been a part of a church that closed & one that has done well. But I'm still the same person with the same vision for what I believe God wants for his church. Not much has changed from what we tried to do at Lifeway from what we are trying to do at Compass. It's not about me & it's not completely about you either. The success (and we constantly need to look at how we are defining that term) or failure (that one too!) of your church plant has to do mostly with God. I don't understand it but I do believe that God in his providence works these things out. We are called to be faithful to plant & water but ultimately it is God who controls the growth (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). There are many factors that lead to a healthy church & many factors that lead to an unhealthy church. Ultimately, the church does not rise or fall on us!
Secondly, your past does not define your future. Trust me, people who close the doors of churches are not in high demand. No one wants to put that on his resume. And that was a concern for me & the leadership of Compass when we planted. How would I be able to be a strong part of the leadership of this church having just closed another? But God is faithful! And just because you have had a hard time in ministry in the past, doesn't mean that you will continue to struggle in the future. You don't have to be defined by your failures. We are now defined by who we are in Jesus, not how we lead churches. The last thing I wanted to do was be a part of another church plant. The thought made me literally physically ill. But when Mickey Jones called to tell me that they were planting a new church & wanted to know if I would be interested in being a part of it, God restored my excitement for church planting again. I mean, even Michael Jordan was cut from his Junior High basketball team.
Lastly, God never wastes any experiences. From our perspective we often wonder what God is up to. Some of the things he allows into our lives don't always make sense to us. But God never wastes any experiences in our lives. I'm reminded of what Tim Keller has said about Romans 8:28. "Because of Jesus," he says, "Even our bad things turn out for good, our good things can never be lost, & the best is yet to come." I honestly don't believe I could have been a part of Compass the way I needed to be if I had not first been the pastor at Lifeway. For one thing, it would have been tempting to believe that everything that was happening at Compass was because of me. But I know better than that. Why? Because I also know I have the ability to close churches as well as be a part of seeing them grow. So, no matter what your experience has been in church planting, keep in mind that God is not wasting any of this. He is working all of these things out together for your good & his glory.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bible Reading Plans in 2015

As the new year approaches I would encourage each of you to use a Bible plan to read through the Bible in 2015. We have one on our compass website that you can access here:

I put this plan together a few years back because I wanted a plan that went through the whole Bible, allowed for catch-up days, & spread the gospels through the whole year & not just at the beginning. 

Here is another list of reading plans & where to look for the one you want:

Lastly, here is a great article on how to approach the Bible as a self-feeder:

This new year, be a self-feeder. Read the Bible for yourself. It’s really the only way to know, love, & obey Jesus. May you know him more intimately this year than ever!

Happy New Year!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Compass Church Communication

Our church recently published a survey on how we communicate with our church family. If you haven't filled it out & you want to, here is the link:

Based on feedback we have received so far (47 responses), I wanted to try to give some clarification on communication processes at Compass.

The Navigator
The Navigator is Compass' weekly newsletter. We communicate church-wide level upcoming events & activities through the Navigator. We keep a running list of upcoming events & try to highlight the 4 to 5 most important events in the main sections. These are limited to church wide happenings to avoid clutter & an overwhelming amount of information.

You can access the Navigator in several ways. Every week the Navigator is posted on the City, the Compass website, & on the bulletin board in the welcome center. If you want to receive an email about the Navigator, you need to turn on your notifications for the City to send any new information to your email. Here is a link on how to do that:

An email will be sent to you when the Navigator is posted & you can click the link to have access to the Navigator.

Here is a link to the Navigator on the website (it is updated weekly):

The Compass Minute
The Compass Minute is an announcement video that plays during our weekly gatherings. The minute is approximately one minute long. It contains the 4 to 5 most important announcements or events happening that involve Compass Church as a whole. These correspond to the Navigator's top 4-5 announcements as well. If you have seen the Compass Minute, you have seen the most urgent & quickly approaching events at Compass.

The City is Compass' one stop for several things at our church. We needed a church management system at the church & the City offers this to us. It has a backend that operates as a way for us to keep church member contact & family information. It also has a children's check in module that helps us keep things all in one location. It also offers a way for the church to communicate with one another in multiple ways. We can post events, prayer requests, our newsletter, needs, & even personal messages all in one location! You have the option to post items via your missional community group or church wide. It combines so many features in one service.

Instead of sending emails, social media posts, text messages, phone calls, or any other type of media, the City allows us to send information to one location that can be accessible to everyone. Every Missional Community at Compass has their own group on the City for ease of communication, for example. All MC group sponsored events will be posted via the city. Those events can be posted on The Compass Church main group page if you would like to include other groups and individuals or can be posted to your group exclusively. This works two fold to keep the minute/navigator focused solely on Compass sponsored events while still allowing a forum to keep people informed about group sponsored activities.

We are trying to get everyone associated with Compass on the City because of how multifaceted it is. Instead of sending the same information 5 times to 5 different places, we can just send it one place. Instead of your MC using texting, your ministry team using Facebook, & the church using email, all of those groups can post & exchange information in one place. This greatly reduces the need for admin help, which we have little of at Compass. We don't have administrative assistants. Every minister is responsible for their own administration & the City helps us maximize ministry & minimize maintenance. We want to save money on admin costs so that we can use those resources for missions & ministry. The City greatly aids us in this.

In order to help everyone stay connected, we have opted to use the City exclusively. If you can't get all the info you need via email, why do you need the City? If you can get it via text, why do you need the City? If you can get it via Facebook, why do you need the City? So it may be convenient to receive information how & when you want it, but it doesn't streamline the process on the church's side of things. So in order to establish one place we can all go for the information we need, we turned to the City.

If you want to receive information from Compass like a text, you can set your City app to receive notifications just like a text. Just go to the settings on your City app & make sure your notifications are on. If you want to receive Compass info from email, go to the City & make sure that your notifications for email are set to receive everything. This will send you an email every time something new is posted. The City can deliver the information to you however you prefer without even having to log in!

If you haven't signed up for the City, join today! We already have 300 and counting on The City. Simply copy & paste this link into your browser to get connected!

Other Matters
If you are a covenant member & you want info on church budget matters, you can access them anytime through the website at this link:

It is password protected so you will need to email a staff member for the password at They are regularly updated & accessible for you.

If you want any other church information, the Elders & Staff are always available to you if you are a covenant member. If you have questions about the building project, we are available. Because we don't have business meetings, we don't have an open forum for discussing church matters but we do have an open door policy. We will meet with you to discuss anything you want related to Compass Church.

I hope this has been helpful to you in understanding our heart to communicate as best as we can. Thanks so much for your feedback in helping us discern how best to do that. Let us know of anything else you need.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blood moons, Ebola, & ISIS Oh My!

The panic in the media right now over current events is everywhere. And there are a lot of things to be concerned about. Ebola is wreaking havoc in Liberia, ISIS is raining terror in the Middle East, & blood moons are bringing much interest & concern over the end of the world.

In the midst of all of this suffering & unrest we need to keep a few things in mind.

First of all, we need to realize that we aren't the ones suffering. So many people are suffering from Ebola & it's not Americans. There is a whole country suffering from this disease & it's not America. Yes, there have been a couple of cases here and that's terrible but it doesn't compare to the suffering in Liberia. According to NBC news over 2400 people have died there from Ebola. We would do well to stop panaking here & start praying for there.
We should also pray for those suffering from the oppression of ISIS. A lot of those are believers & they are suffering for their faith.

Secondly, the United States is not the center of the universe. Many people talk about current events & Bible prophecy like the United States is God chosen people. We are not. The United States & Israel are not synonymous. Christians are God's people. And God is the center of the universe, not Americans.
So we need to be careful how we talk about what is going on with the world & the USA with the Bible. Just because there is prophecy in the Bible doesn't mean it's about the USA. In fact, it's probably not about America.

Lastly, the panic of some Christians in response to these events is unsettling. Have we forgotten that our God is sovereign? Have we forgotten the nature of our hope? God is on his throne no matter the circumstances & our hope is rooted in something much deeper than our current surroundings. We have a living hope in a resurrected Savior. All of us will die one day & the great hope of our lives is that if we know him death is just a doorway, not a destination.

So we should pray, be hopeful, trust our sovereign God, & look beyond ourselves to a world in need of hope. We have that hope. Believe it & share it.