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  • 5 Things to Consider When Searching for a New Church Home

    As a pastor I have come across a lot of people who are in search for a church home and who frankly, really struggle with the process. It can be a really difficult and scary journey, one that seems never ending for some. I thought it would be really helpful to a lot of people to jot down a little encouragement for those who are searching for the right church home. 

    5 Things to consider when searching for a new church home

    1. The perfect church doesn’t exist.

    We are not the exception to the rule despite what we will try to convince you over your first month. The perfect church doesn’t exist because the church is made up of people and no perfect people exist. So the question isn’t whether you will find a perfect church but once you find the place you feel God has planted you in, will you stay when you are often reminded of the imperfection of your brothers and sisters? Will you love them still? Also, good churches have bad days as do good people, so don’t toss the baby out with the bath water. That’s a ridiculous old saying (who would do that?!) and have no idea where it comes from but it sure does apply to a lot of situations in life. The truth is that its really hard to know the heart of a house in just one visit. 

    2. Consider how God might be starting a new work in your life.

      To everything there is a season. Once I heard a wise teacher say that every person has 1-2 church moves in their lifetime within the same city, so he was not counting those that have to move often for work and thus find a new church at each stop. 1-2 moves within their lifetime! We live in a much more transient day and age than ever before. Job mobility is a major deal in the 21st century job market. And people church hop like crazy. Some “shop,” some “hop.” That conversation is for another day. Nothing wrong with looking for the right church home but I worry that we do harm to the plant that is trying to grow by regularly uprooting it. As you move into a new season, be ready for God to do some new stuff in your life. I believe God will allow you to tap into and release new spiritual gifts, unlock new passion and ultimately meet the needs of the new body you are connecting yourself to. 

      3. Strong and meaningful relationships take a long time to develop.

      I recently read a study that talked about meaningful relationships in our lives and specifically about how long it takes to develop them. The average amount of time it took for a person to move from being an acquaintance to a casual friend was about 50 hours of quality time. To move from a casual friend to an actual friend was nearly double that at 90 hours. And to move from a friend to someone you consider to be a close friend was roughly 200 hours of quality time. I think of this in terms of the church world and I totally agree with the time. There are 52 Sundays in a year. I think after the first year at a church you can become casual friends with everyone with a mild involvement of showing up most of the weekends in a year, even though I wouldn’t classify a Sunday morning worship gathering to be quality time, though God might multiply our closeness through the Spirit. After nearly two years people start to feel like friends and after close to 4 years you can call these people your close friends. If you really want to develop meaningful relationships then you just need more time. Be intentional to water your relationships with quality time wherever you find yourself planted.

      God has designed the church to be a living, moving and breathing organism of spirit-filled connectedness with a singular focus and goal, to glorify God by building one another up and pointing others to Jesus. We cannot do this apart from loving relationships. The organization is a necessary skeleton to provide structure for the body but it is loving relationships that provide the meat and muscle on the bones. 

      4. Know what’s open handed and close handed

      Ever watch one of those shows where the couple is about to buy a house and they have all these “must-have’s”? The realtor tells them that their list is totally unreasonable based on their budget. Isn’t this a little bit how we approach finding a church? We have our list of “must-have’s" When each one of us step into a church asking ourselves, "is this the place for me?" we come in with a list of close handed items which are important to us and a list of open handed items of which we value less. Having a clear picture of what’s open handed and close handed will actually make the decision making process much easier and I encourage you to do this with your spouse if you’re married. As you begin to think about your open handed list and your close handed list I encourage you to consider that some of the items on your lists may be in the wrong list. When we do this we come face to face with our long list of preferences. We should never allow our preferences to be honored above God’s word nor the places he chooses to plant us. I have honestly grown so much in churches that didn’t meet all my preferences. I didn’t worship or serve because of the music or the style of small groups I preferred. I did so out of love for God and His people. This is the purity of heart that God desires and will always allow us to be led by God to His perfect plan for our lives. 

      5. Pray about it

        Rocket science right?! How often do we reason within ourselves and don’t submit it in prayer. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Doesn’t have be confirmed 32 times over. Sometimes it's just a peace inside. Other times its looking at the fruit of the impact already in your life and knowing you’re in a place that is going to help you grow in your faith and in friendships too.  

      1. 3 Building Blocks to a Culture of Empowerment

        Every leader is tasked not only to set a course for the future but to develop and empower those they are asked to lead. Here is a straight forward look at what I teach our leaders at Fathom Church. 
        3 Building Blocks of Empowerment
         
        • Authority: The right to lead - not just manage.…TRUST is vital.
        • Responsibility: The weight of authority - not just tasks….INITIATIVE is necessary.
        • Accountability: The environment of healthy teams - the expectation of progress. GOALS & REVIEWS are essential.
        4 Steps to Empowering Your Team
        1. Put it on paper. Map out where you are and where you want/need to be. It makes it so much easier to think about how to get from point A to point B when you can visualize the process. 
        2. Talk it out with a trusted leader. This doesn't have to be your direct report. In fact, I believe you will enjoy the conversation more if it isn't your direct report.  Decide who you want to talk about it with and set up a time. It won't happen unless you schedule it.
        3. Schedule facetime with some people you want to be a part of taking the next step. This isn't a big all call meeting. This is 1, 2, or 3 people within/ or not yet within your department that you like being around and think would add a lot to the team at a larger capacity. You often think to yourself, "Man, they could add a lot to the team" or "If I could only get them to do more..." Well there is a decent chance they are just waiting on the opportunity to do more. Have a written down agenda that they know nothing about. Let them know why you are having the meeting because you trust them and you need help taking the department to the next level. Let God lead your time together. 
        4. Pray for the right timing. Timing is such an interesting topic when it comes to leadership because God's timing is always so unique and His is perfect. Pray for the right timing to hand off authority, responsibility and begin a goal setting and review routine. We shouldn't delay in making these decisions nor rush them. Its all about God's direction and timing.
      2. When church doesn't feel right anymore...

        As a pastor, I have a sincere desire for every person that walks through our doors on Sunday to grow in their relationship with God and the church. I am keenly aware of the struggle that so many of us battle in understanding the Church (global), the church (local) and our place within it. Some of you have been around the Church a long time, many great experiences and probably a little heavier baggage mixed in there as well. For others, your relationship with the Church has just begun and you are still figuring all of this out. I want to share a few pieces of advice from my own personal experience and struggle with my relationship with the Church and the local church.
        When church doesn’t feel right anymore...
        1. Talk to God about your motives. The first bit of advice is probably the hardest. It hits us dead in the eyes most of the time because very few of us take the time to slow down and recognize selfish motives that have permeated our hearts. Our culture screams at us to have it our way all the time, and the Scriptures scream just the opposite. Culture beckons us to become our own god and the Scriptures call us to bend our hearts in submission to God. Very simply, this life, church included, is not all about us. Rather, God adopts us into His family and calls us to a life for His glory and renown.
        Here are a couple Scriptures to bring this home. 
        Psalm 51.10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
        Phil.2.3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
        2. Be more intentional in your relationships. Many of us long for meaningful relationships but never make any effort to have them. We pray for Biblical community but never have a meal with anyone in the body of Christ. We complain about feeling disconnected but show up once a month and don’t allow relationships beyond the surface level. The early church gathered daily to pray, break bread, fellowship and learning from the apostles teaching. Most of the time when we are struggling to find our way, fit in or just make it through the week, we go into hiding. The Christian faith is meant to be lived alongside one another striving for the same goal, to be made into the likeness of Christ and to live for His renown. One of the biggest hurdles I have overcome in my Christian walk is engaging intentional relationships that I know are good for my journey. Don’t avoid them or wait on them to come to you. Be intentional. You’ll be glad you did.
        Acts 2.42 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
        3. Embrace what God is teaching you in this season. I have always been a little bit of a weird bird in that I embrace the uncomfortable. When awkward things happen I pride myself on not being shaken but learning from them. I titled this “When church doesn’t feel right anymore…” for a reason. When most of us are in this place, the first thing we want to do is bolt. We cry out, “God, get me up outta this season! I don’t care what you gotta do but get me outta here.” The longer I’ve walked with God, the more I realize in every season the Lord is teaching me something new. The longer I keep hitting the eject button, the longer I will have to keep repeating the same lesson until I learn it. God wants to prune your heart in this season. Just let Him. 
        Daniel 2.21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
        Here is a few simple prayers if you find yourself in a similar season...
        1. God create a clean heart in me. Fix my eyes on you and away from my selfish desires.
        2. God open my eyes to the people you’ve placed in my life to build me up and bring comfort and joy to me. Help me to be real and be a godly influence on others.
        3. God help me to rest in this season I am in right now. Help me to embrace your goodness in every season and to learn what you are teaching me through it. 
         
      3. The Mission of the Church

        Recently I was asked to email a short response to this question by a friend working on some school work. What is the mission of the Church? I responded with this short, uncomprehensive, emotional response to what God is speaking to me currently for our church. Thought I would share it.

        "The mission of the Church is more deep than it is broad. I believe the American Church has gotten these two backwards. It has attempted to offer a surface level understanding and message of Jesus in many superficial programs and ministries rather than embracing the words of Jesus to live out the love of God as a faithful Christian community. At Fathom Church, we have simply enabled the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20) as our "mission statement". Go! Go out. Go upstream in your field of calling; your field of harvest. Go obey. Go point people to Jesus. Go radically obey in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let God supernaturally redeem your family, your office, your community by acting as a very practical vessel of His all sufficient mercy and grace.

        Shut down the programs. Shut down the busyness. Shut down the idea that we have something to give the world. And resurrect Jesus. Resurrect His simple message. Resurrect the truth that He is all we will ever need.

        In this the Church finds truth, mission, purpose, passion, compassion, true grace and real rest."