An electronic newsletter written for leadership in the Church of God in Virginia. Resources, Recommendations, and Reminders...
April 2015

 

Ministry Leaders and Local Church Volunteers:

Style holds a strong influence over what we do in the church. We sing a certain way; our worship is offered to God within the context of our culture. In fact, much of what we do in life and church is strongly influenced by the style we have been used to.
 
God’s family is large and diverse.  As with all families, there are multiple ways of doing things. When dealing with such a group as the church, it is always necessary to find a style that communicates the Love of God and His abundant Grace.

Our topic for April is finding Unity through our fellowship. I pray that in everything we do for each other and in our service unto the Lord that we build on the Unity of the Spirit to make us and keep us one in Him.
 
Blessings,

Bishop Mirkovich

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TO WORSHIP
Unity through fellowship

Religion versus The Church

Excerpt from Jesus Hates Religion by Alex Himaya.

Religious leaders will try to convince you their man-made path, typically a list of “dos” and “don'ts” they choose to adhere to, is the only way for God to be experienced.
 
Religion is pride. It’s a human being or a group of human beings looking at the distance between them and God, and then saying, “I can right this wrong.” In other words, they believe there are ways they can be good enough—by filling their lives with love, purity, acts of kindness, social justice, etc.—to earn God’s favor. Ultimately, all of these little paths are arrogance because they’re saying, “I can fix that.”
 
But when you get away from all of the teachings, all of the preaching, all of the performers, and when you just read the Bible, you’ll find one clear message: it’s not about you being “good” enough . . . it’s about God being enough. Period.
 
Since most people equate church with religion, it’s important to identify what the Bible actually says is the purpose of the church. One of the purposes God intended for the church is community—a group of people, with a common purpose, doing life together. In Acts 2:42–47, the Bible describes the first New Testament church. The believers, who all held a common belief that Jesus was the Son of God and had been raised from the dead, came together, devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, shared their lives with each other, and found encouragement and support.
 
As humans, we all desire community. ...The founder of Starbucks recognized a need for community, and he built an empire fulfilling that need.
 
One of the reasons God created the church was to fulfill our need for community, yet people have twisted and perverted the church, to the point it has become a place for people to unite with like-minded believers, who ascribe to a common code of ethics. So, when I say that Jesus hates religion, I’m not saying that God hates the church. He loves the church. He created it!
 
The church is the body of Christ and the bride of Christ. He hates the perversion of many churches that have added their own rules and standards to His genuine, honest, and simple offer of relationship.... As a pastor, my desire is to see the people who attend church transform from a gathering of religious people creating their own paths to God into a gathering of people who know and believe that without God nothing is possible.
 
I love the church. There’s something very powerful in being a part of a community of Christ followers with a common purpose, and I believe there are many great churches that exist today. It is powerful when all of the people—from the pastor to the volunteers changing diapers in the nursery—are all striving toward the same purpose: a relationship with God, undefiled by man’s dos and don’ts.
 
The church is not equal to; it is greater than man-made religion.
  
Source: www.lifeway.com/pastorstoday

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TO GROW
Unity through fellowship

Chasing Community
by Ed Stetzer

Article Excerpt:

What does a healthy church community look like? So many churches are trying to get larger. They put a lot of time, energy, and money into their pursuit of getting bigger. And yet size does not always equate to quality. A true gospel community is going to be good for the church body, ‘attractional’ to the watching world, and conducive for discipleship. Jesus prays that His church would be a family of deep, loving relationships.
 
Culture for Community
 
Church community is not a once or twice-a-week event- it’s a matter of doing life together. But this kind of synergy does not happen automatically or without effort. Small groups, groups in general are key to forming community. Being strategic with your groups is also key.
 
When it comes to group development, churches appear to be either prone to strategy or prone to organic experience. With strategy, churches can fall prey to an assembly-line mentality. With organic experience they may never do anything. There is room for a third category: a strategic culture of community. We need to create systems that move people from being passive spectators to becoming active participants in small-group life.
 
This kind of strategy is essential to creating a culture conducive to community. Once this is done, we should not underestimate the power of our group in demonstrating the gospel to a watching world.
 
Community as Gospel Apologetic
 
We do not exist as a community in a vacuum. The world is watching, and our church culture can either be helpful to evangelism or a turn off to those lost around us.
 
The building blocks of every church community are the disciples that are being made within it.
 
Jesus has an intention for His church, and has not left us without a vision of what our community should resemble. Jesus prays that His church would be a family of deep, loving relationships. And He knows that if this happens, then the world will truly know that Jesus is real. This real witness supports our intellectual arguments for the gospel.
 
So we recognize that we must be strategic, and aware of our communities, but there is a final element we can not overlook.
 
The Building Blocks of Community
 
A community by definition is a collection of individuals. And it is only going to be as healthy as its individual members.  So as we think about community, I think it is very helpful to consider what discipleship is and what it is not.
 
Community should be the by-product of every healthy church. But in chasing community, we should not lose sight of the importance of being strategic in our culture, apologetic in our witness and discerning in our discipleship. Let our churches be communities that proclaim to the watching world the value of the love we have to offer in Christ.

Source: www.christianitytoday.com

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TO SERVE
Unity through fellowship

10 Ways to Avoid Building Community
Published By MinistryBestPractices.com (2007)

Article Excerpt:

I have the position at my church with the title, Pastor of "Doing Life Together". In a nutshell, I am committed to helping people connect at Big Creek.
 
Needless to say, I get torqued when I hear people saying "I don't feel connected." Now of course, one response should be to ask, "What are we doing or not doing ... that is making it difficult to connect?" It first needs to be a question about our systems and processes. But the flip side of the coin is, "What is that person doing or not doing that it prohibiting their ability to connect?" That question has got to be asked as well.
 
With that in mind, consider this "sarcastic" list in order to help evaluate whether or not you are doing all that it takes to build community and get connected....
 
10 Ways to Avoid Building Community Within Your Church
 
1. Keep conversations short.
Just like the old Dragnet character, Joe Friday, "Just the facts..." Don't get into details. Don't share anything with an emotional element to it. Make conversations short and sweet…
 
2. Always sit in your “assigned” seat
By always sitting in the same seat you always sit around the same people. These folks know the deal, and stick to the appropriate 30 second conversations.
 
3. Avoid new people
If possible come to church through the back door. It’s one thing to deal with all the people that you already know at church, but it’s another to actually meet new people..., so just walk right past anyone you don’t know.
 
4. Come late to church
Don’t overlook the beauty of this one. By coming in late you totally avoid even the 30 second conversations. And (bonus), you avoid the new people!
 
5. Leave immediately after the service (or early)
You got to get out quickly in order to get a seat at the local restaurant. This strategy has the same benefits as coming in late.
 
6. Be physically present but mentally absent
When talking to someone, pretend to listen by nodding your head and saying “uh huh” while you are really thinking about what comes on TV later that afternoon.
 
7. Don’t share a meal
If your goal is to avoid community, this step is of the utmost importance, don’t ask people to lunch! Especially don't invite people over to your house for a meal, that would be doubly stupid. Sharing a meal is an intimate thing that creates deeper relationships.
 
8. Stay very, very busy
The busier you are, especially on a Sunday, the less time you have to “deal” with people.
 
9. Make your default response “everything is great” or "fine"
People will always ask how you are doing. Make sure that you have your “default” answer ready so that when they ask you are ready to say, “everything is great!” or "fine;" ...otherwise you might actually let on that your life is not perfect, or worse, that you are struggling and actually human.
 
10. Don’t show up
This is definitively your best method of avoiding community overall because there is no community where there are no people.

Source: www.ministrybestpractices.com

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TO GO
Unity through fellowship

How to Encourage Peace Between Generations
by Ed Stetzer

Article Excerpt:

It takes work to have a harmonious family. That’s true of your biological family and your church family. It’s also true of your organizational family. Organizations should recognize that their uniqueness is part of a healthy diversity that can serve the faith well. There should be a complementary understanding of uniqueness without each generation idolizing its own ways to the point of conflict. Those with experience who try to encourage stability are seen as out of touch. Sometimes they are, but from my experience, they often just have a different view. Those who push the envelope to make an immediate impact are seen as aggressive. But often the two groups are just talking (or shouting) past each other. Here are three ideas to help keep the peace.
 
1. Refrain from arrogant attitudes.
 
This means young members have no business sending out mailers saying, “This ain’t your grandma’s organization. Are you tired of boring, dead conferences? Ours is smoking.”
 
You cannot run down those who came before you and expect to have peace with them. Chances are, grandma paid for your church building, prayed for you and sponsored your youth camps and mission trips. There are more traditional people in your network who are reaching the lost you aren’t. You don’t get any extra points in heaven for being the hippest organization.
 
There also needs to be a sense of confidence among older generations in their kids and their grandkids. They may be doing things differently, but they’re doing those things for their faith. Brag on the younger generations who are doing things differently. Celebrate them. Cut ’em some slack.
 
2. Respect varied ministry callings.
 
I was in an elevator once with pastors Darrin Patrick and Adrian Rogers. They are well-known pastors from very different worlds. Patrick was young and cool and on his way to growing a church called The Journey in St. Louis. Dr. Rogers was… well, he was Dr. Rogers. I didn’t call him Adrian. So, I said, “Dr. Rogers, could I introduce you to Darrin Patrick?”
 
Patrick was like a kid in a candy store, meeting one of the most famous preachers in America. He didn’t feel the need to say, “Our church is contemporary and yours is traditional, so mine is good and yours is bad.” He didn’t point out their differences and try to convince the veteran he needed to “get with it.” He valued his elder for who he was and what his faith had helped him accomplish. But respect went both ways. Dr. Rogers didn’t say, “Young man, put on a tie.” He treated Patrick (who was wearing jeans with holes in them) like he would treat a friend and a colleague. See, they both are in very different places serving the same Lord. And, both seemed to be genuinely thankful for one another.
 
3. Reinforce a culture of peace.
 
“Brag on the younger generations who are doing things differently. Celebrate them. Cut ’em some slack.”
Peace is not achieved with silence. If you want a culture of peace between generations, you need
to communicate it clearly and often. Unstated goals are just wishes. Understand what encourages and discourages peace, and then empower those in high-risk areas to make the right choices for the health and success of the movement. Sometimes this is achieved with positive reinforcement after a good interaction. Other times it takes a proactive approach before something bad happens.
 
It is important to remember that substance is more valuable than style. We can and should be aggressive when it comes to issues of substance. But we should be generous when it comes to style. There is more space for variations. When it comes to flexible issues that will change according to context, intentionally work in and toward peace. Faith-based organizations must have common beliefs with diverse applications across ethnicity, languages and cultures. That’s a given. What is harder is to see that diversity across generations.

Source: www.rejuvenatemeetings.com

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FREE MINISTRY RESOURCE
 
This month's resource is a free video download in mpeg format or quicktime; 3 minutes in length titled, OBSTACLES by Worship house media.

We can all stand and sing the words on the screen, but is something blocking our hearts from truly entering in to worship? This brief, reflective video will challenge your people to think about and adjust their readiness to praise God. Featuring the song "Doxology" from Page CXVI (pagecxvi.com).

To download, you will be requested to choose your "size" and your "format" on the order page and then "add to cart."  After clicking on the cart icon in the upper right corner you will be taken through the checkout process to create a user account; but please note, you will not be required to add any payment info for this "zero charge, free item."  Next submit the order and you will be taken to a page to "download" your free file in the format requested.
 
LINK TO FREE VIDEO DOWNLOAD PAGE HERE

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