Our Numbered Days

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. — Psalm 90:12

People wonder if God talks to people anymore. People wonder about people who say God talks to them.

Since this author is convinced of both — that God does talk to people, and God speaks to me — you may wonder about me.  You’re welcome to do so. It’s a long line, and I’m in the front. I wonder about me a lot myself.

We should be clear about what we mean by this speaking with God business.

Calendar
Photo by STIL on Unsplash

It is not unexpected that there is uncertainty about people who say they’ve been in conversation with God and instructed by Him to do certain things. It started with Moses and the burning Bush, continued through and number of old testament prophets, and the new testament church builders — Jesus and Paul.

God-speak lunacy has been attached to crusaders, warriors, soldiers, church leaders, contemporary politicians and media practitioners. Indeed, a reason for much of our American party fighting is how either side co-opts God-speak to justify a personal cause that affects public policy.

Example:  I recently read a New Yorker reprint talking of how George W. Bush spoke of how God told him to invade Iraq; contrasting that point of view with how Muslim opponents contend the same type of conversation with Allah compelled jihad.  So, to be clear, I’m not talking about a monumental overthrow of issue that will make headlines for a news cycle.

I’m not disputing the perspective of faith as an instrument of public policy, nor supporting it. Not in this piece, if I were to take a position. I merely point out the differences of how God-speak exists today to further clarify what I mean — to distance myself from the lunacy bend as I prepare a journey and extend an invitation to join me.

The journey is simple. It’s a reading journey. One day at a time. There will be bumps and detours en route, but I guess that’s part of the fun. Kinda like those college road trips. “On the Road” with Jack Kerouac. Driving across “Route 66” on TV in a blue Corvette.

The road map here is just the Verse of the Day. I get one in my box each morning from You Version, one of the Bible apps I employ. My goal — the POINT — is to reflect, mediate and journal on how God speaks to me through that verse. That’s all. That’s our journey.

Route 66 TV Show
Opening credits of Route 66

I have no idea what the verses are until I see them. I’ve done this intermittently for years…the journaling from Scriptures. The process has yielded personal thoughts and many scripts I’ve written for Kingdom Impact Theater. Now in my Medicare days, the Scriptures inspire me differently. “Speak” to me differently; particularly in light of the daily events around us. Cultural and, yes, political.

I think that’s a beauty of reading Scriptures: the assortment of personal understandings at various points of our lives. On one level, we read them for knowledge. On another level, for guidance. There’s also a dangerous level in which some read Scriptures in order to bully…to manipulate an agenda. Yet, the bully pulpit can be defused and redirected by maturity — maturity through life experience, or through an equally forceful intervention by a more insightful, direct colleague who invokes the admonitions of Jesus and Peter and the litmus test of John.

Such centuries-old statements are cannons and whispers in my head today whether I’m reading Scripture, hearing a sermon, or watching a news interview with an evangelical-du-jour. I am intrigued in such moments when a passage or verse comes to mind that, as one-time talk show host Arsenio Hall would say, “Makes me say, ‘Hmmm.’ ” I think that’s when God’s talking, and, yes, I find that fascinating.  And scary.  And fun.

So, my desire to read them — and sit through sermons live or revisit online — has taken a new purpose.  Perhaps like me, you have endeavored to begin a new year determined to read all 66 books of the Bible in 365 days, and the 24-hour grace of a leap year.  Perhaps, like me, you’ve achieved the task; or perhaps, unlike me, you’ve read the Scriptures in their entirety numerous times, and have already begun such a journey.  You’ve perhaps even made a point about sharing how many times, or how many Bible translations you’ve completely read through.  I applaud your discipline, and ask: “How often in reading have you had that Aresenio Hall Moment of “Hmmm?” How often has your read of  Scriptures been fun? Breathtaking like a rollercoaster ride? Skydive free fall? Mental white water rafting?

Daft, you say? Maybe. But when I read the verse today — at the start of a new year, “teach us to number our days;”   and I am more certain that Moses’ prayer to God is also God’s voice to me saying “Don’t waste any more time.”

It’s the opposite voice of when I would start the day reading my horoscope and hoping something good would happen or fretting about the thing to watch out for.

I am also calmed and bemused by the Proverb posted on January 1  — “In their hearts humans plan their course, but The Lord establishes their steps.” — in contrast to the rituals surrounding resolutions, annual goal-planning, or good luck dietary meals designed to make the next 365 days go better than good riddance to the last 12 months.

You Version Bible Apps: Daily Verse, Devotionals and More

At the same time, the verses leave me humbled in light of the year-end posts of dear friends who recount their horrible personal challenges of the year — be they severe illness, multiple deaths of close friends and family, or just the inability to make ends meet.  In each case, no doubt, the last year began as this — with good riddance and hope in their hearts.  

In most of the cases of my friends who have suffered, most of them also recognized their achievements in spite of the losses.  In deed, several may say had it not been for the losses, the impact of their achievements would have been less…or not at all.

So, collectively, these events — plus the challenges in our own household — gave pause in the predawn quiet of this day when verse 12 came into my reading, and spawned not just a momentary read, but a thirst for more.  So I read the entirety of Psalm 90 which speaks of mortality, promised years, and God’s attributes — both His anger and His compassion.

Moses, the author of the Psalm, concludes his conversation with this request:

“May the favor of the Lord Our God rest on us — establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.” 

Psalm 90:17

Psalm 90: New International and King James versions side-by-side.

The lesson of numbering my days and establishing my work speak loudly as a freelance artist, especially since they were the first words I saw upon awakening the morning after a two-month assignment ended the night before. Actors or jazz musicians will tell you that often the power of a selection is less the script or notes on the staff, but the offbeat.  What’s spoken behind the line; the subtext.

So, the voice of God that also speaks through His creation (nature), His people (friends and enemies as well as clergy), His Spirit (“Hmmmmm”) as well as the printed text tells, me this:

“Stop saying, ‘I don’t have enough time,’ or, ‘I wish I wish I had 28 hours,’ or, ‘I’ll get to it,’ or, ‘There aren’t enough hours in the day.’ Stop saying that, if you say you believe in me.”

Numbering my days is God telling me, “Look, you choose to believe me and in me. So since you do, and you know I am creator, use the 24 hours I’ve given you as best you can. Given all the things you have to do or wish to do, which is the best to do today: Binge watch, or read? Social media rant, or conversation? Procrastinate, or create? Your choice. Just realize, the days, like the hairs on your head, are Numbered. And you are bald.”

Thus sayeth The Lord.

Featured Photo above by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Song of Reflection: Order My Steps

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Carol Story: A Handel on Flash Mobs, Hallelujah!

Imagine going about your daily activities of life — school, shopping, work, dining — and suddenly the sky around you bursts into song:  a voice here, a voice there, until the entire sky is filled with powerful harmonies singing repeatedly  the same set of lyrics, delivering a message.

What would you do?  Sit slack-jawed!  Complain?  Hide?   Join in? Call the authorities? Utter a sentence starting with “What the…”?

The shepherds tending flocks on the silent night on the hills above Bethlehem faced this situation.  In their case, “What the…?” may not have been  an unreasonable response, especially since shepherds were considered lower than blue collars, and even though the “authorities” were the chorus of Heavenly Host and voices of angels who announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah and calmed them with messages to not be afraid. 

George Fridrick Handel
Handel created “Messiah” for an Easter concert, not Christmas.

​The composers of the earliest Christmas carols musically captured the range of human emotions, and the majesty of authoritative voices in their fully orchestrated scores.  Two notable composers were Friderik Handel and ​Felix Mendelssohn, each of whom composed while embroiled in classic creative differences with other artists or financiers.

Handel’s now-beloved “Messiah” was controversial when he debuted it in 1741 as part of a commission to help get him out of debt.  “Messiah” ends with “The Hallelujah Chorus.” which Handel simply called  “Hallelujah.” He based the selection, not one the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, but on the Book of Revelation which prophesies the Second Christmas, the return of Jesus, for “Messiah” (which means God’s Anointed One, promised in the Old Testament), was created as an Easter presentation, not for Christmas.


LEARN MOREHow Handel’s Messiah Came About


However, over the years, “Hallelujah” has become a Christmas staple, enhanced by traditions which include the audience standing.  This tradition began, not in reverence to the King of Kings, but in deference to King George II of England, who stood at the concert when the chorus began.  Some say he stood to honor Handel, others say because he needed to stretch for health reasons (much like President William Howard Taft begat baseball’s seventh-inning stretch).  With King George and President Taft, protocol was when the head of state stood, everybody stood.

Why we stand when the chorus is sung today isn’t always clear to listening audiences.  But as you’ll see in the video of a flash mob in a Canadian shopping mall, it’s a tradition that has passed on and has meaning today.

Another missing element is understanding the meaning of the word “Hallelujah.”  It’s a compound Hebrew word meaning “Praise” (“Halle”) Yaweh (“lujah”); Yaweh being one of the Old Testament names of God.  (Another derivation is Hall-El-Ujah; “El” being a Hebrew designation for God.)

Of all the video versions of “Hallelujah,” this food court improvisation captures the beautiful vocal harmonies Handel created, the confusion the shepherds must have felt hearing the Heavenly Host,  the spirit of being moved to participate in the moment, then, ultimately, turn to others to share what they say and tell the good news.  In #CarolStory, the chorus emerges from the “Silent Night” Heavenly Host singing, “Hallelujah!” (“Praise Yaweh!”) to establish a conversation between the shepherds and angels that Charles Wesley expresses next with a little help from Mendelsohn.  Sort of.  As we shall see.

LEARN MORE:  “Carol Story” The Script

LEARN MORE:  “Carol Story” Live

Viral flash mob post that started as a customer thank you.

Alphabet Flash Mob

 On November 13,  2010, unsuspecting shoppers got a big surprise while enjoying their lunch.   Alphabet Photography Inc. of Niagara Falls, Ont. (Canada) created this video as a virtual ‘Christmas Card’ to its on-line customers and Facebook fans. The customers of Alphabet Photography Inc. passed it along to their friends and family. In a flash,  the video had over 20 million views and was featured on many news and media outlets. Today the video has over 34 million views and has broken all world records to date. 

LEARN MORE:  http://www.AlphabetPhotography.com

Combatting Cultural Christmas

…and He explained all that was said about Him in The Scriptures. — Luke 24:27

In these last days God has spoken to us through His Son. — Hebrews 1:2

Pastor Brian Bill of Edgewood Baptist Church in Rock Island, IL, has a pet peeve he has shared with his family, and in a recent advent sermon, with his congregation.  Bill toted a shopping bag to the stage to demonstrate his complaint about consumerism.

“Have you noticed how packaging gets smaller, but the price is going up?” he asked. His shopping bag examples included ice cream, bottled water, peanut butter and cereal.

“The boxes are hollow and shallow,” he said. “It kind of feels how Christmas feels in our society. The depth is gone.”

An “Amen!” moment.

“We can lament, and we should.”

Amen! And hallelujah! The Christmas Culture War truth is marching on!

The Christmas Culture Wars were hot and heavy in the last decade. You may remember, or have engaged in the battles:  annual backlashes against companies — mostly department stores — that mandated employees not say, “Merry Christmas” in deference to expanding people groups celebrating end-of-the-year holidays. Christmas was too exclusive. Too offensive.  Some even said, too “white.”

Offended Christians counter-punched:

“Happy holidays,” said the smiling cashier.

“Merry CHRISTMAS,” declared the dour deacon.

News outlets were replete with stories in communities going to court to remove nativity decorations from public view.  “Church & State….!”

Christmas faithful protested.  Onward Christian soldiers! To arms! To Shop-Mart! Store boycotts were enacted; headlines blared and pastors preached: “Let’s keep CHRIST in Christmas!”

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AND THE SURVEY SAYS…

This battle is still fought on many fronts, though now they’re skirmishes.  It’s not making headlines it seems, and that raises some questions:

  • Was the Christian counter-offensive victorious?
  •  Is “Merry Christmas” making a cultural comeback as a less offensive phrase?
  •  Are nativity scenes tolerated because when the nativity is put away – by choice or court order – in the eyes of many, Jesus also disappears?

And what of Christians lamentations?

  • Has Christmas become so homogenized that it’s just an adjective, even among Christians?
  • Have Christians become so accustomed to Christmas — so caught up in shopping, Christmas pageants and services at church that they, themselves, have minimized Christ in Christmas? 
  • Are Christians more guilty of removing Christ from Christ-mas because Christians limit Christ to Christmas?

“We’re in danger of shrinking our depth,” Bill admonished. “Our danger is that Christians can shrink our understanding of Christmas as well.”

Pastor Bill showed his shopping bounty to prepare his listeners to receive the weapons of The Christmas Culture battle.  These weapons, however, are in neither the courts nor bellicose retorts.  As the Scriptures say, “The weapons of our warfare are not of this world…”  They ARE however, IN this world, and were driven home in these quarters by three memorable pastoral encounters in three different communities during the week.  Each is separately powerful.  Taken collectively, however, they’re stunning Holy Spirit confirmations of how the victory over Christmas Culture Wars is literally in the our hands.  That’s why they’re connected here.

IN THE BEGINNING…

The sequence began midweek.  An item crawled on my Facebook timeline.  It was from Jay Manguba, a pastor friend from across town.  It’s rare that I stop to read timeline crawls, and rare for Jay to post, so when Manguba posts, it’s important:

“One of the coolest things I heard today,” he wrote, “ ‘I used to read a lot of books about the Bible but now I’m mainly reading the Bible.’ ”

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MEANWHILE IN THE QUAD CITIES

Sunday I was visiting across state, listening to Pastor Bill, whom I’d never heard before, launch into his shopping sermon and remind the assembled congregation, “Christmas doesn’t begin with the manger and it doesn’t end with the wise men… “The best way to understand the Bible is not just looking at small sections but by seeing the overarching meta-narrative.  God’s plan and the plotline of the Bible stretch from Genesis to Revelation.”

Ah, the Bible again.

  • “In the beginning, God…”
  • “In the beginning was The Word…”

A pattern is developing.

“How many of you have a Bible that has the words of Jesus in red? ” the pastor asked. “Imagine the Old Testament where every reference, every prophecy, every shadow, every image, every allusion to Jesus Christ appeared in red.  One author has written that if such a red-letter Old Testament existed, it would glow in the dark.”

Ah, the red-letter Bible.

SERMON AUDIO:  “Creation: God Makes” by Brian Bill, Edgewood Baptist Church

HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN

Returning to my home church Tuesday, the lead pastor (Curt Hansen), worship pastor (Andre de Mesquita) and I simultaneously arrived at our offices, and fell into a casual doorway debriefing about Sunday’s service.  As in Rock Island, the Elk Grove Baptist First Sunday service had the additional communion and Advent celebration elements.  Pastor Curt Hansen is a time-conscious man,  often concerned whether additional elements (read: speakers) will affect his presentation (read: edit  the sermon).  This Sunday, he was elated.  Without editing, speeding up or watching the clock, he was astounded to learn he finished at the exact time on the printed running order.  Moreover,  when Andre thanked him for the power of the words, Pastor Curt deferred, “It’s easy to preach when you preach the words of Jesus.”

Then to me:  “The last half of the sermon, I just read the words of Jesus.”

The arsenal was loaded.

“For the remainder of my message,” I heard about 12:00 into the audio.  “ I’m going to read the words of Jesus.  If you have a red-letter Bible, everything I read is in red….” For the next 13 minutes, Pastor Curt let Jesus preach.  Jesus finished with this: “If you hold to my teachings, if you obey me, you are really my disciples.”

SERMON AUDIO:  “The Actions of Christmas: Listening” by Curt Hansen, Elk Grove Baptist Church

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From three seemingly disparate locales, God spoke clearly about the responsibility of Christ-followers responding to “The Christmas Culture War”:

  1. Read the Scriptures
  2. Seek Jesus in the Scriptures.

BENEDICTION

Pastor Hansen’s in-the-moment voicing of The Word has its own impact: a personal, verse-to-verse response: “If one speaks to you, jot it down. And when you listen, listen with the mindset of, ‘What do I need to do to obey this instruction.’  After all, obedience is the point of listening.”

At the same time, Pastor Bill offered different direct warnings and challenges to bring perspective on transformational impact of The Word in a homogenizing, downsizing Christmas culture.

“Do you lament how Christ has been taken out of Christmas in our culture?” he said. “As Christians, we’re in danger of shrinking Christmas as well when we focus only on the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke and then only during the month of December.”

Just as Jesus came as a baby, said his followers must come to Him as children, and asked that children be brought to Him,  Pastor Bill highlighted a children’s reader to reinvigorate Scripture reading.

blog_story-bible“One of the most helpful resources for children is “The Jesus Storybook Bible.” Here’s how it begins: “The Bible is most of all a Story…The Story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell His Story. And at the center of The Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers His name.”

“For many years I thought that Jesus got his start when He was born,” the Pastor articulated a confession no doubt others think even today.  “Jesus didn’t begin when he was born,” the pastor noted, citing Christ’s words to the Pharisees (“Before Abraham was, I Am”) and the parallel between Genesis 1 and John 1. “Actually, Jesus Christ has always existed.”

Then what’s the point of the baby in the manger?  Why does it matter whether or not a nativity scene is seen?  The connection, says Bill, is not dissimilar to why crosses in public are troublesome.  They’re reminders.

“Christmas is all about how Christ covers our curse by dying in our place on the cross.  God was sinned against and so He provided a sacrifice for sinners.   God made coats of skin to cover sin.  Jesus is God with skin on…”

READ MORE: The Story Behind the Red-Letter Bible

While the cultural Christmas War may not grasp this, Pastor Bill, Pastor Hansen, and Pastor Jesus say it’s imperative true Believers do. It’s these revelations that make Christmas personal, regardless of what’s said at the checkout line or the courthouse.

“Listen,” Bill concluded.  “The way to keep Christ in Christmas is for us to let the light of Christ shine through us! We are containers for Christ!  Let’s not become “cheater packages” filled with shrinking spirituality.  It’s our job to not live lives of deception.  We must avoid going shallow.”

If this all sounds a deep, it should.  The answers, though, as Jay Manguba’s friend discovered, are in the book.  Start with the red letters.  They say, “Merry Christmas.”

Sermonized Announcements

Then Boaz announced  to the elders and all the people…” Ruth 4:9 (New International Version)

It’s the snarkiest of times, it’s the most troublesome of times.  It’s time for the church announcements, the bane of a worship planner’s planning.  What a to do!

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Our tendency is to rush through the items, as if necessary evils. There is also the tendency to languish, as if the presenter is self-possessed.

You could mention them at the start of the Service of Worship, like the pre-show curtain speech in theater .  But then, the people don’t hear them. They’re getting settled waiting for the real show to start:  the music; the real worship, you know?  Or for the music to stop.   That could be another 10 minutes.  More people would be in the audience to hear them.  But then…?

If the announcements are in the middle of the service, either before or after the sermon, they interrupt the tone set up by the music to receive the message, or the reflect on it afterward.

If they are after the decision-making, maybe tied in with the offering, they run the risk of being dismissed as a superfluous afterthought.  These days with so many announcements being produced as mini-movies, that can be demoralizing, running the risk of an unhappy video ministry.  On the other hand, even the most Oscar-worthy announcement verite risks a thumbs down, no matter how well done.  In some circles, the idea of movie announcements in church is as sinful as the organ, drums and guitars have been (are?).  At best, they become the annoying white nose between the sermon and the parking lot release; at worst, they are akin to audio-cranked, strobe-paced TV commercials that blur the line between the kingdom and the world —

“We interrupt our Worship of God to bring you this news about us.” 

Even if the next-to-last item in the itinerary before the  day’s exodus, there’s visual cacophony– often boisterously written on the congregation’s faces — of hearing a James Earl Jonesian announcer (the Voice of God?) intone, “We return you now to our regularly scheduled Service of Worship.”

That leaves a gamut of announcement options. These vary according to the church’s size, resources, expectations and clock-watchers: keep them short in passing; interweave throughout the elements, just don’t do them.  Let people read the bulletin or go online.  Enough with the tongue-in-cheekiness.

However they’re presented, however much creativity and energy are spent, even if they’re diligently absorbed by the most steadfast listener, the question remains:  do our “announcements” fit the idea of a Service of Worship which is focusing on God?

The answer, as with each element of church ministry, is found in this perpetual query from a mentor pastor who lassoed freewheeling, unending brainstorming with this earth-bound retort: “Toward what purpose?”

What is the purpose of church announcements?

Simply tradition?  A news and prayer update of the calendar or congregation’s lives that we’ve always done, or that everybody else does?  The stuff that church bulletin typos comedy is made of? Or is there something about this sharing of information that actually is — or can be — connected to the overall atmosphere of collectively honoring God?  Having wrestled with this dilemma for several years, I’m comfortable that there is.  Church announcements are as essential to corporately worshipping God as psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, and the sermon.  Perhaps, in many ways, more so.

As a presenter and visitor, I’ve experienced the good, the bad, the ugly of “announcements.” Our tendency is to rush through the items, as if necessary evils (emphasis on the final word). There is also the tendency to languish, as if the presenter is self-possessed.  I’ve been accused of both.

I’ve attended services where there are no announcements, announcements from the audience, music video announcements, Reader’s Digest bulletin sample announcements, “apologetized” announcements (where the speaker repeatedly makes excuses for what needs to be said), ABC announcements (where every line of the bulletin is read to the congregation).

However, a few months ago, I had an announcement epiphany while, of all times, listening to the pastor’s sermon.  Imagine.

You see, as a staff member, my Sunday mornings are often spent fine-tuning details of the service and balancing those with parental responsibilities.  When I have platform duties — like presenting the announcements — there are times when my focus is hazy.  The slightest technical bobble distracts me.  I mentally truncate the list of items to mention…because of the game clock.  Or the pastor makes a salient point that opens creative floodgates.

Sermonized Pix 1
Can we get listeners to view announcements as opportunities to serve God?  And once recognizing that, can we encourage them to participate?

On this particular day, I had no responsibilities but the family news, including no family tasks. So-freed, I allowed myself to become a congregant — to sing, reflect on the scriptures, absorb the message, and make connections.  One pastoral point stayed with me as I went forward to spread the news.   So much so, it took a moment to speak…and discover:  All three verbal items were related to the day’s message, our church mission, our vision.  Each had an inherent purpose for being read.  They weren’t separate.  We were doing these acts of service because of who we are as a church committed to Christ.  It was incumbent to express this to the audience, including those people who had never been to our church before.  The 3-5 minutes allotted me (the length of a song) now became, not a time out, but time to engage and to challenge; to allow the listeners to remain connected for the elements following — our financial offering, a celebration song, God’s benediction blessing.

 

Since then, I’ve been developing a more intentional template.  A guide for “sermonized announcements” that at least allows my sense of worship to remain attentive and inspired in the midst of ministry-threatening busyness.  The template works for a church our size (the 150s) and may have merit elsewhere.  It’s a guide to interacting with the congregation, whether through showcasing acts of service, greeting the audience,  presenting events information, or giving instructions for the offering or communion. The template allows the challenge of putting the moment in spiritual context and trusting others participate because they understand the “commercial” through Christ’s eyes.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

Can we get our listeners to view the announcements as an opportunity to serve God?  And once recognizing that opportunity, can we encourage members and guests to become active participants?

“…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)

Making too much of this announcement thing?  The point is to dispel the misconception that worship starts and stops with music.  It’s the entire time.   Our overhead projection that introduces this sequence is called, “Worshipping God through Offerings and Acts of Service.”   It’s important to underscore these concepts, particularly among guests whose idea of church may be “they’re always asking for money.” And to remind everyone why the church exits.  These items don’t need to happen at the same time.  They are, however, a checklist to review when deciding what information should be shared in corporate worship.  So, the template is something like this:

  1. Introduce yourself;
  2. Acknowledge the audience — regulars and guests;
  3. Point out information that needs to be written:  for example, names & addresses on a communication card;
  4. Give brief instructions to complete card and offering envelope;
  5. Express the church’s mission and vision;
  6. If you have a Welcome Packet, give summary of content, highlight special additions and where to get one;
  7. Connect the mission and vision to this sequence of worship;
  8. Connect to a sermon point if possible; or scripture; maybe note “This is why we do these events…”
  9. Point out the bulletin and refer to key items of the day to be addressed before leaving, and those to read at home;
  10. Invite the audience to a special activity not listed in the bulletin such as a class; when possible, highlight a topic;
  11. Mention any available sermon support material — a CD or order, web connection, or study notes;
  12. Pray, giving thanks for participation and reminding that contributions today underwrite ministries as the ones mentioned;
  13. Invite your offering collectors to begin.

The sequence may seem long, yet has purpose based in research:

  • Long-time attendees may go through these motions by rote, forgetting the importance of ministry service.
  • Newcomers don’t know the “rules” and may feel out of place.  In anticipation of growth, assume each week has new people.
  • If you have a video or audio ministry, telling people about the existence of this media for further study on today’s topic is more ministry uplifting and less commercial.
  • A special class invitation may pique the curiosity of a person who would like further study but doesn’t know what’s going on.

If the repetition annoys regulars, ask how many times they’ve seen their favorite “I Love Lucy” rerun.  Research also points out it takes several “touches” or reminders for people to latch on to a concept, especially to comprehend a church’s mission or vision.  One church mentor has said, “About the time you’re tired of hearing it is the time the people start getting it.”

We return you now to your regularly-scheduled reading.

(Featured photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash)

(Other photos by Dara Magrum)