7 FAQ’s About Visiting Church Easter Sunday

Immanuel

Visiting a church for the first time, or after not having been for a while, can be intimidating at times. You often don’t know what to expect. You’d love to ask, but you’re not sure who to ask or even if your question sounds silly. It’s not. Probably others have the same question as you.

I was asked a question recently about what someone should wear Easter Sunday if they visited Immanuel. It was such a great question, because it made me think. What if someone didn’t come, because they didn’t know the answer? I get that. It would almost be easier not to visit than to wear the wrong thing. Less complicated. The safe choice.

This person asked. And, so I was able to answer.

It made me think some other questions people may have about visiting a church the first time. I thought of some of the more common. This post actually originated in one of our lead staff meetings. Someone suggested, “Why don’t you compile a list of of the top questions people may be wondering, but haven’t asked, and write about it?” Okay, here you go.

Keep in mind, this is written for Immanuel, but I suspect most will be true for many churches you’d visit Easter Sunday. And, I’m nearly positive about this — most pastors would prefer you ask rather than wonder and not visit at all. So, if you don’t know, ask. Please.

Here are 7 frequently asked questions about visiting Easter Sunday:

What should I wear?

I posted this answer on my Facebook recently. At Immanuel Baptist Church, you’ll see all styles of dress. Some will wear suit and tie and dresses and hats for women. Some will wear jeans and t-shirts. We may even see shorts if the weather is warm enough. To answer your question, choose an outfit you already own, one you feel comfortable in, and join us. (No speedos please, but that’s just a personal request, otherwise, you’ll be fine. :) )

What will we do? What can I expect?

We will have a fairly typical worship schedule. We will sing some songs, have a short greeting time, I’ll share a message (my intent will be to share hope), we will sing some more. We will attempt to have a blend of songs and music all ages can enjoy. And, yes, in full transparency, and in case you’re wondering, we will receive an offering. Our offerings support the full range of ministries we offer in the church, community, and around the world. You are not required, however, to participate during this time unless you choose to do so.

Will you embarrass me?

I certainly hope not. It will be a primary goal not to do that. I don’t personally like to be embarrassed when I visit somewhere new, even in a church — and I’m a pastor — so my goal is to create an environment that is comfortable for all. You WILL NOT be singled out as a visitor. We don’t make visitors stand, raise their hand, or even fill out a card if you choose not to do so. (You certainly won’t be asked to sing a solo, unless you sing really, really loud — and then you’re on your own. :) )

How long will the service last?

Slightly more than an hour. I’d love to say an hour, but sometimes the service ends up being an hour and 5 or 10 minutes frequently. At the most, you’ll be with us for an hour and 15 minutes. (Walking to and from the car time and all.)

What time should I arrive?

That’s a great question. And, I’m really trying to help when I suggest you get here a few minutes early. Maybe even as many as 10 or 15 minutes early. It takes a little while to make your way through our building, especially if you have children to check into our children’s areas or this is your first time. We especially want you to find a seat where you are most comfortable (some want up close — some want in the middle), and you’ll feel more acclimated to the room if you have a few minutes to adjust before the service begins. We have a special Easter bulletin you can be reading while you wait for the service to start.

Do you have something for children?

Absolutely. Birth through 5th grade have their own activities designed especially for them. They will enjoy a worship experience that will engage them at their level. Of course, we don’t keep you from bringing children with you in the worship service if that is more comfortable on a first visit, but our experience is that they truly do enjoy the service designed for them. Either way, we love when entire families join us Easter Sunday.

Can I only come one time? Really, for what am I signing up when I come Easter Sunday?

There’s no obligation beyond Easter Sunday. It’s a “free look”. Promise. Being honest, we do ask you to fill out a contact card and, if you do, we will follow up with you. And I hope you do. I love seeing who God brought to us as visitors. I love meeting visitors. But, even if you fill out a card, we allow you to tell us how you want to be contacted. Phone, email, social media, or visit — or none — you tell us. We won’t put any unfair pressure on you to ever come again. We hope you will, and we’d love if Easter triggered that desire in you, but that’s your call — not ours.

I hope that answers some questions of those who think about visiting our church. I’d be honored if you are our guest.

What other questions do you have? Seriously, I’d rather you asked. 

My Top 7 Goals to Accomplish on Easter Sunday

Easter-Graphic

Easter. It’s a time of year when churches have an opportunity second only to Christmas in attracting visitors. Hopefully all of God’s churches will be packed Easter Sunday. That’s my prayer.

We’ve had months of praying, planning and preparing. We’ve done all we can do, but God is ultimately in charge of all that happens in our church — and yours.

I’m often asked, however, what I hope to accomplish on Easter Sunday — such an important day in the life of any church. It could seem overwhelming if we try to accomplish too much in one day, so what do I, as a pastor, have at the top of my list of goals for Easter Sunday.

I shared a guest post with Lifeway’s pastor blog about 7 ways a church can prepare for Easter. In this post, I want to share what I actually hope we accomplish on Easter Sunday. Only 7 things. If we accomplish nothing else, and there are probably many other things we will accomplish Easter Sunday, I hope Immanuel Baptist does these 7 well.

Gospel is shared – Duh! But, after we’ve made all the preparations, it would be like inviting people to a turkey dinner with no turkey if we don’t share the Gospel. Once we’ve worked hard to gather people into a room, we must not neglect to share the simple truth that Jesus lived, died, and rose again and by Him and through Him alone we can be saved. We must give people an opportunity to hear the Gospel — if for the first time or one of many other times. The Gospel is Good News for all people. All times. After all, that’s what we are celebrating Easter Sunday.

People feel welcome – I hope everyone who enters the doors of our church feels welcome. Regardless of what they are wearing, what side of town they came from, what they do for a living, their education status, whichever “side of the tracks” from which they arrived — let them feel the genuine love and kindness of God’s people. There will be those who don’t feel “worthy” to be in a church Easter Sunday (because they don’t yet understand than none of us are apart from grace). What better day to “love one another” than Easter Sunday!

Next is highlighted – I want people to leave knowing where the church is going next. For example, we will be studying some of the Psalms in our next series. People need to know that — in hopes that they’ll want to return.

The church is presented well – This is the Sunday, even more than others perhaps, where I hope our people are willing to sacrifice for visitors. I told our deacons Sunday night I hope they are the ones willing to move to the center of an aisle first, to make room on the ends of a row for visitors. I hope Immanuel people help visitors in the parking lot, even if they’ve never before worked in the parking lot. I hope people who seem to be looking for the bathrooms don’t have to look long before someone helps them. I hope the building is cleaner than ever. (That’s why we have a cleanup day scheduled Saturday.) Just as when visitors come to your home for the first time, this is the time to be ready to receive guests warmly. I also want to answer as many questions as people may have about the church, so we are printing a special bulletin designed to give insight to visitors about who we are, what programs we offer, and easy places where they could quickly become a part of Immanuel.

Our people are encouraged – I hope people who call Immanuel their home church — even if they’ve been there over 70 years (and some have been) or just arrived in the last few weeks (and there are lots of those), will leave encouraged by what they experience Easter Sunday. I hope there will be a God-honoring pride that we did all God would expect us to do to present an atmosphere conducive for people to ultimately hear the Gospel. I hope they’ll be challenged for the days ahead and willing to sacrifice and serve even more, directly as a result of what God allows to happen Easter Sunday.

Children are safe and have fun – If parents entrust their children to our care they should be assured their children are safe and well-protected. In addition, I hope children leave telling their parents how much they enjoyed being at Immanuel this Sunday. Children have a raw honesty about them. They don’t always know the words to say, but parents know whether or not this is a place their kids will be welcomed. Children are often a huge door to the families eventual active involvement in a church.

People leave with hope – Second only from hearing the Gospel, I hope people leave our Easter services with a sense of hope. Actually, that’s my goal every Sunday. The world can be a scary place. There will be lots of brokenness among us Easter Sunday. As followers of Christ, we believe we hold the answer to hope for the world. It’s in the Resurrected Savior — whom we are celebrating — the King of kings and Lord of lords. I hope people don’t leave more confused or feeling guilty about their life, but rather they live knowing their is A Way, there is an answer — there is HOPE — in Jesus Christ!

Easter Sunday is coming. I’m praying for my pastor friends, for the church of Christ, and for those who will enter our gathering places this Sunday, joining the Church in Easter worship.

Releasing an Employee for Less Obvious Offenses

Unemployment

One of the hardest decision a leader makes is to release someone from employment. I’ve only known a few very callous people who weren’t extremely bothered by having to fire someone. Making any kind of employment decision comes with the sobering reality, regardless of what the person did wrong, that the decision will likely impact others who are many times innocent in the offense.

I’ve heard good leaders say repeatedly that we should “hire slow” and “fire fast”, but that’s much easier to say than it is to do.

When the offense is clear, due proces has been given and every reasonable attempt to restore has been exhausted as a leader, we must make the right decision for the good of everyone involved. Most leaders agree with that statement. Even as hard as it is to make.

If someone is a thief
If someone consistently lies
If someone is blatantly lazy

Those aren’t easy decisions, and due process, fairness, and grace still play a part, but they are often easier to clarify what needs to happen.

One of the harder decisions for me (and other leaders I’ve spoken to), but one I’ve had to make numerous times, is when I have to release someone for less obvious offenses. They aren’t black and white issues.

Sometimes it’s not for the offense but for the integrity of the organization that is at stake when employment decisions need to be made. And, many leaders miss these, because they are more difficult to clarify. (By the way, I’m writing this in an organizational sense, but this includes churches too.)

Years ago, I had someone on my team who was a tremendous producer. One of our best. He could sell anything. In a strictly bottom line — on paper sense, he made the company money. But, it was some of the external, not as easy to define aspects of his employment that made him a poor fit for the team. (He was disrespectful, never attended meetings, bad-mouthed the company, etc.)

It was hard to lose a top performer, but there were larger issues at stake.

Here are a few examples of situations I have personally experienced or walked through with other leaders.

1. The person has lost all credibility with the team. This is could be with peers, a team he or she leads, or with volunteers (this is especially true of volunteers). At this point the energy trying to repair their relationships would be too overwhelming. Everyone else is wondering why you haven’t moved sooner to make a hard decision. Sometimes it’s best for everyone if we simply start with a clean slate.

2. The person refuses to support the overall vision. They may have the skills to be outstanding, but their attitude causes them to serve as more of a cancer to the team than an asset.

3. The person has “left the building” in terms of wanting to move on to something else, so they no longer give any heart for the job. And, everyone knows it. It’s bringing down the morale and work ethic of the rest of the team.

There are others, but hopefully you get my point. Again, hard decisions. Not always easy to define.

But, making the right decision protects the integrity of the organization, the teams involved, and, often, the ability of the team to respect your leadership.

Do you have a hard decision you need to make these days? It won’t be easy. It may even be a temporary setback for the team. But, your credibility and success as a leader may depend on the quality of decision you make.

What are your “last straws” that cause you to release someone?

10 Reasons David Is Called “A Man After God’s Own Heart”

shepherd

Acts 13:22 says, “After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.‘”

Previously I posted on this truth of David being a man after God’s own heart. (You can read that post HERE.)

The following words describe the heart of David as seen in his own writings:

(All verses New International Version)

Humble – Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. Psalm 62:9

Reverent – I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:3

Respectful – Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. Psalm 31:9

Trusting - The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

Loving – I love you, O Lord, my strength. Psalm 18:1

Devoted – You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. Psalm 4:7

Recognition – I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. Psalm 9:1

Faithful – Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6

Obedient - Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Psalm 119:34

Repentant - For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Psalm 25:11

David’s example is a great road map for how we are to live our life.

Which of these areas need your greatest attention for improvement?

7 Truths about Pastors Who Disappoint You

preacher

I wrote recently about another fallen pastor. I shared how devastated I was at the news.

I’ve been amazed at some of the rude comments I’ve received. And, I love that this is my blog and I can delete them if I want to. It’s like they never read my post about Christians being less mean online. :)

Seriously, though, some people seem to think pastors are supposed to be super humans. Sure, pastors are held more responsible in the eyes of God for how we lead in the church, but we aren’t any better –or more equipped — at living a victorious Christian life than any other Christian. It’s all grace. It’s all a work of His Spirit. Apart from Him I can do nothing. And, whenever I stop submitting my will to His will — I fail. Every time. (One guy commented that since I said something like that in my previous post that I must be hiding an affair also. What? I deleted that comment.)

I think the undue pressure on pastors is one of the leading causes of pastor burnout. And, ultimately complete failure. And, granted, much of this is self-induced pressure. I admit that. And, no that is not an excuse. Sin is sin. Sin is a horrible offense to a Holy God. All sin. And all have sinned. And fall short of His glory. (That was my last sermon series by the way.)

I received lots of positive feedback also, but, like us pastors often do, I couldn’t get past the few negatives to celebrate all the positives. (I wrote a blog post about this problem some pastors — and others — seem to have.)

So, it led to this post. Just some random thoughts about pastors. Especially those who disappoint you. And me. Because I’ve been disappointed by pastors too. Shoot, I’ve been disappointed in myself.

Let me share a few things you may not know about pastors. Seven things to be exact.

Because I like the number seven.

And, let me be clear. I’m not taking this lightly. Sometimes I write more light-hearted to balance the extremes of those who seem to have forgotten how to even smile. And, yes, I think we are to rejoice — find joy — even in the midst of suffering. Because I read that somewhere.

To the contrary. Times like this, when another pastor falls, always reminds me of the horribleness of sin. It always causes me to look inward again at my own life. (And, that’s never a bad thing to do — “Search me God” — as David prayed.)

But, there are some things you need to know about pastors.

7 truths about pastors who disappoint you

One person, working on behalf of self, can’t destroy the work of the Holy Spirit, working on behalf of God. Your pastor may disappoint you, but that ultimately can’t destroy the work God began in you — even through the pastor’s teaching. You may be stunned for now, but you’ll grow back stronger if you continue to surrender to His will.

Pastors — and even a local body — come and go. But the church — Christ’s body — is here to stay. God WILL protect His church.

People will deceive you — even some pastors. But God’s Word will never fail you. Ask yourself — who are you extending ultimate trust to anyway?

Pastors lead. I write about it consistently on this blog. I believe God uses people to lead his church. But ultimately they aren’t in control. God is. He WILL have the final word.

Just because we preach truth, doesn’t meant we’ve always mastered it. We are still being sanctified too. Isn’t that why we need a Savior? And, why the pastor isn’t your Savior?

Pastors are often skilled at acting like everything is okay — even when it isn’t. You’ve fooled others before — right? So has your pastor. Some pastors have this false idea that we are supposed to keep you from seeing that we are human. Almost like it was seminary trained into us. (BTW, if I was supposed to get that in seminary — I didn’t.)

A pastor is less likely to be transparent with unpredictable outcomes. If they doubt the grace you’ll extend, they’ll be less likely to share their deepest struggles. We’ve almost created a system that makes it difficult for the pastor to have failings. And, yes, again, much of this is self-induced pressure.

We need help. All pastors do. All people do. We need people who truly care. Who can accept us flaws and all. Who will love us on days we are doing everything right and days we seem to do everything wrong. People who will call a sin a sin before it reaches the magnitude that destroys other people’s lives, damages our greater witness, and hurts the Kingdom work we felt called to do. And, isn’t that a primary purpose of the church — making disciples? We need the church too.

That’s my seven. Okay eight. But, sometimes we miscount too. Even on Sundays :) We aren’t perfect. And, there. Told you. Random. But, you need to know.

So I’ll stop there for now.

How’s that for honesty?

Now, again, none of this is aimed as an excuse. It’s just for transparency.

What are other random facts about pastors others may not know?

7 “BE’s” of Effective Leadership and Management

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One of the chief goals of this blog is to encourage better leadership. In this post, I’m including the term management. I believe the two are different functions, but both are vital to a healthy organization. Whether you lead or manage a large or small organization — or church — there are principles for being effective.

Here are 7:

Be aware – Know your team. People are individuals. They have unique expectations and they require different things from leadership. Some require more attention and some less. Use personality profiles or just get to know them over time, but learn the people you are supposed to be leading or managing.

Be open – Let them know you — as a person outside of the role as leader or manager. Be transparent enough that they can learn to trust you.

Be responsive – Don’t leave people waiting too long for a response. They’ll make up their own if you do — and it’s usually not the conclusion you want them to reach.

Be approachable – You can’t be everything to everyone, and you may not always be available, but for the people you are called to lead or manage, you need to be approachable. They need to know if there is a problem — or a concern — you will be receptive to hearing from them. I realize the larger the organization the more difficult this becomes, but build systems that allow you to hear from people at every level within the organization.

Be consistent – Over time, the team you lead or manage needs to know you are going to be dependable. The world is changing fast. It’s hard to know who to trust these days. We certainly need to be able to trust people we are supposed to follow.

Be trustworthy – Follow through on what you say you will do. If you make a promise — keep it. If you can’t support something — say it. If you’re not going to do it — say no. Let your word be your bond. Spend time building and protecting your character. Be the quality of person you would want to follow.

Be appreciative – Recognize you can’t do it alone. Be grateful. Be rewarding. Celebrate. Love others genuinely and display it well.

What would you add? Upon which of these do you most need to improve?

My Thoughts on Bob Coy’s Resignation — And the Epidemic of Moral Failure in the Church

I was devastated — heart sick — this morning to open my Facebook and the top story shared by a couple ministry friends was the resignation of pastor Bob Coy due to moral failure. Coy founded and led Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the United States, attracting some 20,000 people every week. In addition, Coy shared on a radio teaching program heard worldwide.

I heard of another pastor within the last couple weeks closer to home. I have personally dealt with nearly a dozen churches in the past couple years who lost a pastor due to a moral issue. One of the leaders in our denomination used the word “epidemic” recently to describe the number of pastors who are leaving the ministry because of moral failures.

I debated actually posting anything about this, however, having dealt with this issue so many times, and knowing there would be a flurry of news reports about this resignation, I decided to add a perspective to hopefully help steer some of the thoughts and discussions. Most of my readers are from the church — the body of Christ. This is intended as family talk. I believe there are things we can learn from times like this — as tragic as they appear to us.

My thoughts:

It does not negate Bob Coy’s teaching. No doubt now there was sin in Bob’s life. And, obviously, this sin was occurring while he was teaching. But, that doesn’t mean his teaching wasn’t true. Frankly, I love his teaching. My first church was an hour from where I lived. I was there for a one year commitment and I listened to Bob Coy every Sunday driving to that church. His teaching helped me be a better teacher. I’m certain his influence still impacts me today in a positive way. Many times I hear people wondering what it means from all the things they learned under a pastor who falls. There are thousands who have been positively shaped by the teaching of Bob Coy. If the person was teaching truth, God’s Spirit is the ultimate teacher and that doesn’t change with yesterday’s resignation.

The enemy gets a new “attaboy” for his efforts. Satan loves to attack the good ones. Others will now say, “See, pastors are no different from us.” And, we are not, but the enemy will attempt to use this to draw people away from their faith in Christ.

Bob Coy can be restored. Fully. It will depend on his repentance, humility, willingness to be completely transparent to those who need to know, and his acceptance of the grace of God. But, he can be restored. God used Moses, David, Noah, Jacob and so many others as Biblical examples of how He can use what is sinful for eventual good.

Every pastor is susceptible. Stand guard. If we ever believe we are above temptation we have opened the door for the enemies prowl to be effective. Most of the time it begins subtly. No one wakes up in a single day and thinks about destroying their personal life. It happens gradually over time. The time to build our systems of accountability, support and protection is always now.

Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale is still a great church. From what I read they are handling this as well as could be expected. My prayer is that few would leave and the church would see a renewal during this time. Many times, as in our personal life, with proper leadership, a church can grow stronger during a trial.

We don’t need to know any more. We now know enough. It’s bad. We need to avoid our natural tendencies to want to know more about the situation than what the church and the Coy family chooses to release. And, hopefully that will be minimal. More information only stirs more false information and broadens the damage. People often criticize a church for “not extending grace” to the fallen pastor, but many times the grace is extended — to the person, family, and everyone involved — in not sharing all the details.

Christ and His church will survive. The gates of Hell shall not prevail. Jesus promised this.

I’m so burdened by this news. I have a heart for the hurting pastor. For several years I’ve owned the domain name hurtingpastors.org. I recently acquired ministrytransition.com Right now they point to my blog, but my hope has been to launch a ministry aimed at helping fallen, burdened, or misplaced ministers. We are losing too many men and women who once sensed a call of God on their life, but have, for whatever reason, left their current position. The Kingdom is left void of the ideas, passion and work of someone God intended to use for His glory. As my friend said, it’s epidemic.

This is a good time to pause, pray for Bob Coy and his family, for Calvary Chapel, and for your pastor and church.

Wisdom in Years — As Fast As I Could Write

wisdom road sign arrow

I met with a near 80 year old business leader recently. I’m not sharing his name. He’s not famous, but he is well-known in the region where I live. But, he’s been exceptionally successful. He’s made lots of money. And, as a result, he has tremendous influence and a very comfortable lifestyle. He’s a straight, candid talker. In spite of his success, he was exceptionally approachable and genuinely seemed to be a kind-hearted man. His benevolent activities in the community indicate that is true.

(As a side note, I’ve learned people such as this man are willing to share their wisdom if asked. They are often honored to do so.)

This man is still working hard today — hasn’t slowed down a bit — in fact, the day we met he was exploring a new business deal that will take an enormous amount of his time, but has huge potential for returns.

Knowing that I connect with community leaders — I feel that’s a large part of growing a church these days — several people suggested I meet with him. He’s very active in the region and therefore I knew he would have insight into how our church can be more involved locally. He is a believer, but does not attend my church.

I quickly knew I was in for a overload of wisdom. I couldn’t capture it quick enough. (Which is another reminder to always take a way to record notes when you have such a meeting. I’m glad I did.)

He was particularly interested in the next generation. He used the term “entitlement” several times. He feels we’ve perhaps spoiled our children too much and it is impacting who we are as a society. You’ll see those thoughts in our talk. We were surrounded by pictures of his family. I suspect he’s concerned for his children and grandchildren’s future.

I share some of his statements in our conversation without commentary — just as he shared them with me. My purpose in sharing is just to give you the opportunity I had — gleaning from a successful, self-made, community leader.

Here are some of the random notes I took away from our conversation:

A huge problem with leaders at times is the zeal axis and the wisdom axis aren’t aligned. By the time you develop your character enough (wisdom axis) you lose your zeal.

The older I get the easier I can see a bigger picture. I’ve learned a few things I wish some of our younger employees would hear.

I always try a team approach to an issue. I don’t like surprises. Worst thing in leading is a surprise. With a team approach there are fewer.

Don’t burn bridges. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t make them bad people. Don’t treat them that way. You may need their connection down the road.

I carve out the piece of someone I don’t like and love the rest of them. You can love them without loving that piece of them (that they may not even like themselves).

As a businessperson, I’ve had some of my best success dealing well with the least of these. Don’t consider others better than yourself and you’ll be rewarded eventually (for your humility).

There are no substitutes for hard work.

I quit hiring people who have “lifeguard” or “golf caddy” on their resume. I hire people who have worked at Wal Mart or Dairy Queen — places like that. I want to know you know how to actually work for a paycheck.

Many of the young people we hire today want all the quality of life benefits now, but they don’t want to earn it.

At what point did we become entitled to Spring Break? Or to better shoes than the mom has?

I believe every business leader owes it to their community to participate in making the community better. It makes you feel better. It helps the community, and the bonus is you actually get business out of it.

Every good thing that ever happened to me (apart from God’s grace) I earned. Every bad thing that ever happened to me (apart from God’s mercy) I earned.

You reap what you sow, generally speaking. As the old saying goes, “The harder I work the luckier I get.”

You may or may not agree with everything he said, but what stands out to you most?