I post this for two reasons. First, if you have had this happen to you know that you are not alone. Sometimes you just can't figure the numbers out. It doesn't mean you have failed the last time out. One week doesn't make a trend.
Second, I would love to hear what you have maybe learned about wild swings like this. What kinds of things should you look at when a wild swing in attendance happens? Leave your comment here or e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Go God we had two people make decisions for Christ!!!
11+ first time guests!!!
At a recent INCTampa gathering someone raised the question about environments for people to go “deeper in”. I have a few random thoughts on this if you have the time to read on:
First I think we need to redefine what “Christiandom” has defined “deep” as. They say deep is learning. It is information. It is the passing of knowledge. My good friend Hal Mayer says, and I believe the Bible actually defines deep as:
"Who are you serving and who are you influencing for Christ."
Jesus hated the religious people who walked around with their heads full of the Scriptures but their hearts were cold towards others.
I love what Perry Noble has to say about this: “I’ve heard it…you have too…”Christians” saying, “I just want to be fed!” It blows my mind! This would be equal to you and I going to an all you can eat restaurant and crying because no one would bring us any food. Food is all around in this environment…but if the person is lazy and self centered, wanting to be waited on hand and foot, then they could possibly starve to death when food is merely a few feet away.
Today as Christians we have WAY more information than we could ever apply. However, I think many people use “going deep” as an excuse as to not actually apply any of the knowledge they claim to be soaking up. I believe it breaks the heart of God when arrogant people claim intellectual superiority out of pride and stupidity rather than just seeking Jesus and trying to honor Him on a daily basis.”
He goes on to say, “Deep is not merely knowing information…because…judging by that standard Satan is actually deeper than most Christians…he KNOWS Scripture, but doesn’t apply it–which is dangerously similar to those in the camp of wanting to know more but not do anything…” I could not have said it better.
Second, I think we need to change the way we see the Bible. For too long we have taught that the Bible is a text book to be studied. I think that misses the mark of what God intended Scripture to be. I think we should get back to maybe something a little old school. Preach the Bible as the Word of God. It is communication!!! Living and active communication, not something stagnant like a history book.
We have to remove the stigma surrounding the Bible as something too hard to understand. Are there parts I don’t understand, heck I don’t get a lot of it, but then again I don’t get a lot of the stuff my wife communicates to me. But that doesn’t keep us from communicating. We have to get people into the Bible on their own, to feed themselves, and remove the exclusive rights people think pastors have on the understanding. People don’t need pastors telling them another Bible study on the architecture of the temple. People need to find the Living God in the pages of their own Bibles.
Finally, (and this was another point that came up at INCTampa) we need to tell people that it does “feel” different as you mature in your faith. Just like in any relationship the warm fuzzies will come and go that is why a relationship with Jesus is built on commitment and obedience. As you move away from the table from being fed to actually feeding others it will “feel” different. This is normal and not something that should send us running for the days when we gorged ourselves on the regular spoon feedings.
Here is deep for me. When I see set up guys arriving at 6:50am to set up a middle school so others can have a great environment to experience God. Deep for me is children’s volunteers giving up a Sunday worship experience for diapers and poopie little bottoms. Deep for me is the guy who begins to crack open his Bible on his own early in the mornings and really make his relationship with God personal.
Yes we should teach people. And we do at Church of the Suncoast. We don’t back down from any topic on Sundays but we preach for life change not information. I could care less if a guy knows about the color fabric in the Tabernacle if he is serving others at the local church and influencing the people around Him for Christ. That is DEEP and I believe Biblical.
But with that said I have to stop and take a look back at the summer that was 2008 at Church of the Suncoast. Here are some random thoughts:
- We saw two people take their first step with Jesus this summer! That is what it is all about.
- We baptized three people in June!!!
- We also did the One Prayer series with over 2,000 churches across the world. It was an amazing sense of unity as the church stood together.
- Our church participated in the One Prayer offering and nearly $2,000 was given above and beyond the normal giving to help start churches in four developing countries.
- Our numbers this summer were crazy for summer time. We tied our highest month ever in June, broke it in July, and tied it in August.
- Our attendance was up 25% over last summer.
- We had 146 people on July 4th weekend!
- We had another week of 137 at the beginning of August.
- Our August numbers were up, get this, 37% over last year.
- AND, our July numbers were up 40% over last year.
- My wife and I got to take a vacation again this summer which was great.
- We have added a 1/2 dozen new volunteers to our children's ministry.
- We had a guy actually break his leg doing set up, a first for me in ministry.
- Our offering in August was terrible. Not sure if it was back to school or what?
- We had a couple people leave and that always hurts.
So as I look back at both the good and bad I know God's hand was in all of it. I can see how good / growth will come from the negative stuff and I can see how much He blessed us and I know with the momentum we have had the fall will be incredible. I'll let you know next week some of the things we are doing for our fall kick off on September 14th. Be praying for the Suncoast!