This past week someone asked me to give an update on how things were going in the leadership transition at Christian Challenge. I thought I might share my response here. Here's the question and then below is my response (written on Wednesday night, 3/21, after church):
I want to ask you a question Nathan, if you don't mind.
When I was helping at a small church in WV, a nearby
larger church had recently gone through a change in
leadership with a new pastor. They started making some
changes. Boy, was there a lot of mumbling and grumbling
going on (for various reasons).
So how has the change gone over with your transition to
Senior Pastor and has there been any murmurings over
changes (even in decor)?
Interesting question, Lois. And I don't mind, at all.
The short answer is that the transition is going very well. I think it helps that I have been on staff for 16 years so I'm not just a "new pastor". I know the people and they know me.
Another positive is that my dad (Bro. Buddy) has always allowed me to minister and be myself and not try to fit his mold or be a "little Bro. Buddy." So the people were already aware of my distinct style of teaching and leadership. That has been helpful.
We are going through some significant changes both in style and decor. We have modernized the look of our platform, which has caused some discussion but not a lot of grumbling (that I'm aware of). There have been a couple of questions but when I explain my heart for outreach and our desire to make the entire facility as inviting and welcoming as possible, they seem to agree. I also explain that I don't want us caught in a "time warp" of looking stale. It's not change for the sake of change, but it's change for the sake of allowing us to be more accessible, more inviting, more engaging.
There has been a significant change in our view towards the community. Christian Challenge has always been (and always will be) a discipling congregation. In the past our focus has been on discipling the ones the Lord brings to us. We have done some outreach but it hasn't been a primary focus.
I feel strongly that the Lord is leading us to become more outreach oriented. So in building on our tremendous foundation of discipleship, we are now actively pursuing "out of the box" avenues of reaching out to our community. We strongly desire to demonstrate the love of Jesus in tangible ways.
For example, next Saturday, March 31, we will be handing out 500 bottles of ice cold water on one of the busiest intersections of town. With each bottle will be a small card that says:
We hope this small gift
brightens your day.
It is a simple way to say God loves
you - no strings attached.
Let us know if we can help you.
The opposite side of the card has our address, phone number, website, service schedule and map. I'm having 2,500 cards printed up to use in future giveaways and outreaches. The goal is to impact our community with the idea that "Christian Challenge Cares".
We've started the idea of a "Care Team" and encouraged everyone who wants to be involved in outreach to get a "Care Team" t-shirt. On the back in small letters it says "Christian Challenge" then in HUGE letters it says "CARE" and underneath that it says "Team". We will wear our shirts whenever we mow lawns, rake leaves, clean highways, give out water, serve at public functions, etc. When I shared the idea with our church last Sunday we had 3 times as many shirts ordered as I had anticipated! So it appears the people are really catching it!
We've had quite a few visitors since the transition and have had a few indicate a desire to officially join. I don't think we've lost a single member since the transition! So all-in-all I think it's going well.
The Lord is indeed doing something deep and real in our hearts. We're seeing reconciliation happening between members who may have been holding some resentments. Last Wednesday night we had a testimony of forgiveness and reconciliation. Tonight we had two different people publicly ask forgiveness of someone they had held resentment towards. It was an incredibly moving service.
I believe the Lord is healing us so that we can reach out with His healing to our hurting community. The vision I'm sharing with the church is that we need to serve our community with an open hand ... holding nothing back and expecting nothing in return, except to honor God. There are a lot of hurting people who want to know if anyone cares. We don't have answers for everyone's problems, but we do care. And we're going to demonstrate it.
I shared the illustration with our people that we should constantly have the smell of singed hair about us - because the hair on our hands and arms is singed from us reaching into the flames and rescuing those who are perishing.
Our congregation is palpably excited about what's going on. We are being given the opportunity to be real and we don't want to waste it! So we're building on the tremendous foundation that has been laid for 31 years. We will continue to disciple and train ... we're just going to have more people to do it with and more opportunities for them to put their training into practice!!!
Thanks for asking. I know this is a much longer answer than your question and if you've read this far, congratulations! (Or condolences!
Well, I know that was long ... sorry 'bout that! But it gives a good overview of where we are as a congregation, going into this celebration of 31 years of ministry in Cenla. I'm looking forward to what God has in store for us!
I LOVE serving Jesus with you!