Church Culture pt. 2

Sometimes people spend so much time focusing on the details, that we completely lose sight of the big picture. I find this is especially true in the church world—ministers and parishioners run around so consumed by programs, classes and servicing the saints that we forget about the big things—the great commandment to love God, to love neighbor and, most importantly, the great commission. The biggest concern of any group of believers should be how to take the Gospel message to those who are far away from Christ.

If you polled a typical group of believers, I suspect the consensus would overwhelmingly support this idea, yet we continue to sit in our churches, so hyper-focused on ourselves—our preferences, tastes and comfort—that we do nothing to reach the lost and demonstrate the love of Christ to the world in a meaningful way. Moving a group toward a specific goal is naturally difficult—with so many people and parts involved in a typical church, without a strong, united vision, it is very natural for individuals to lose sight of the mission and focus on positions and departments. Church culture proliferates this tendency through exalting individuals and minimizing the collective mission.

My father became a pastor when I was very young, so I’ve seen the gamut of church styles, doctrines and administrations over my lifetime. More often than not, I’ve observed good intentions for reaching the lost in these churches, but their policies, attitudes and behaviors work in direct opposition to these intentions. In order for the church to thrive and meet the Gospel mandate in an ever-secular world, we must move away from the personality driven model that is so pervasive in the contemporary church, towards a system that builds strong, Spirit-led cultures that organize individuals and departments around a collective mission. The Gospel message cannot remain in the confines of the hallow buildings we call churches—it must be actively carried by people who are passionate to see lives changed in every day life.

I’m talking about empowering people to be effective ministers—energizing and motivating them to work towards a common, Godly vision. These ministers will know the Gospel message and have the confidence to communicate it in a relevant and vibrant manner. The personality-driven model has made Christianity a spectator sport, but Jesus and the Disciples played full contact Christianity!

One of the profound characteristics of the early church was that they held the teachings of the Apostles in common. This common, empowering culture that produced the incredible results observed by early church disciples like Stephen. In churches today, disciples are too often relegated to church service rather than Christ service—they open doors, usher folks to their seats and help with the mundane needs of the church. While these things are necessary for a successful corporate gathering, do they do anything to empower and equip the saints for the real ministry of Christ? Just about nothing the modern church concerns herself with helps to reach those far away from Christ. Our systems train the saints to serve the church and promote the idea that the work of ministry should be carried out by a select minority of believers.

The view that God has gifted and chosen a few and the rest of us are there to watch the show, go home and leave ministry at the church door must be eradicated from our thinking! I fully acknowledge the leadership gifts that God gives to the church—throughout the early church God sent men to groups of people. These men preached the Gospel with power and God confirmed His word with many signs and wonders. I am in no way suggesting that leadership should stop leading—rather, I am proposing we reconsider how Godly leadership trains, equips and empowers the saints. I am suggesting we strive to build a church culture that moves us toward our mission and puts the big picture front and center. Instead of the iconic-personality approach of modern day Christianity, we need to trust the Holy Spirit to inspire everyone to participate in ministry. We have glamorized senior ministry to such a degree that we have buildings full of people waiting for their big chance, meanwhile missing all the simple, everyday opportunities for ministry that made Jesus and the early church so effective at reaching the lost.

The big picture is not filling seats—it’s evangelizing the lost and making strong disciples. I want to encourage everyone to realize you can make a difference in the world, and it starts one life at at time.

– Ps. Ken

###

Ken is the pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Ps. Ken and listen to his messages online.

A letter for 2013 from Pastor Ken

An open letter from Ps. Ken for 2013:

I believe this coming year will be one of the most significant in the history of our church. 2013 brings with it as much excitement and promise as any of the past decade, and the opportunities available to us for ministry, and in the marketplace, are unprecedented!

Hard-times and difficulties of the past few years are yielding to opportunity and growth. This shift is taking place now—not sometime next year or here after a while—pursue your new business idea and embrace your wildest dreams because this is a year of divine favor.

Through careful planning and deliberate change, Spirit Life Church has evolved steadily throughout the last year in a meaningful direction. Our departments have gained renewed purpose and direction, and continue to align towards a single, united set of goals.

We must continue the constant evaluation and adaptation of our organization if we hope to take advantage of the favor of the coming year. Though it is there for you to take, success requires diligent effort and careful planning.

Now more than ever our actions must be deliberate and the commitment we make to our responsibilities must be paramount. No doubt we are up for the challenge.

Hebrews 6:11
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.

Start preparing, planning and executing towards your goals because they are yours to take in 2013.

Together we achieve greatness.

– Ps. Ken

###

Ken VanHoose is pastor at Spirit Life Church in Piqua. Visit the Spirit Life website to listen to his messages online.

Piqua: The Mayberry Enigma

Blog Post Marker

This is a guest blog by Larry Meiring, Piqua native and Spirit Life Community member.

Over the past year, I’ve invited dozens of friends and relatives to my church, Spirit Life Church in Piqua. With a mere 20% success rate, I soon began to question my own influence with those I’m close to. After brief cogitation I quickly determined this a laughable impossibility. With such a spirit-moving service week after week, I began wondering why people don’t, or perhaps just WON’T go to church anymore?

Pastor VanHoose said it best a few weeks ago: “I’ve never seen a region with so many churches, so spiritually handicapped.” A resounding Amen to that brother! In an effort to understand the situation I attended several churches in the area, asked around, and have unearthed some valid reasons that people won’t attend church. My findings reveal a sharp rebuke to the current influence of local Christian assemblies in the Miami Valley.

First and foremost, this community is condemned—their past church experiences were filled with messages of fire and brimstone—the classic pentecostal message: “Keep on sinnin’ and the gate of hell will split wide open!” They were reminded week after week if they continue ______ing (fill in the blank) and you’re going to bake in the lake of fire for all eternity! This is plainly a poor way to entice nonbelievers to follow Jesus, yet congregations have been sitting through sermons like this for decades and I can’t for the life of me understand why a church goer would put up with this weekly berating. The message is obsolete, stale and repellant!

Secondly, corporate worship for most parishoners in this area has bored them to tears—they spring out of service as soon as their last consecrations are made. The lifeless, spiritless churches in this region may have perfected the 48 minute service, but the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed a single life there ever! These are the congregations that go with the building, pastor after ineffective pastor.

Lastly, religious people in this region infect the nonbeliever with spiritually transmitted diseases. A desperate person whose life is in turmoil and is seeking God for answers happens into a church full of religious folk who usher them in and mold them into their image of what holiness looks like. They allow no room for spiritual individuality or outside-the-box thinking. Devoid of joy, absolutely! These congregations will have you doing religious calisthenics your entire life, as good as dirty rags offered to God the Bible says.

My family attends Spirit Life Church in Piqua. Pastor Ken Van Hoose educates us how to walk in grace and righteousness. It addresses and peels off layer after layer of self-condemnation we’ve been hindered with seemingly forever. Like the apostle Paul he teaches freedom, a message so badly needed in this region.

###

Ken is the pastor of Spirit Life Church. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Ps. Ken and listen to his messages online.

A letter for 2012 from Pastor Ken

An open letter from Ps. Ken for 2012:

Dear Spirit Life Community,

The New Year never ceases to bring with it a sense of hope and the feeling that what lies before us is filled with God-provisioned opportunities and possibility. My prayer and earnest belief is that this will prove to be especially true of the coming year—the winds of change are blowing and I’m more excited about our future together than ever!

The shift in the dynamic of our church’s culture that began taking root last year will flourish in 2012, ushering in a renaissance of ideas and strategies, building servant leaders, renewing our sense of corporate purpose and fueling the drive towards our mission.

I believe our community is at a critical mass of believers who, like myself, insist the season of saint-oriented church is over. The time for church politics is over. Our new mantra is culture and building the sort of New Testament community we’re striving to become will require a great collective of effort and cooperation.

1 Corinthians 12:12
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12

Over the coming months our departments and ministries will continue to be evaluated and purposeful, poignant reforms will follow. Too often we continue the status quo in perpetuity for no good reason—this is mental laziness at best and narrow-mindedness at worst.

Change is never easy but I believe we are up to the challenge! Focus on the big picture in 2012 and let the wisdom of God order your actions accordingly. Each person that supports this community financially or through serving in a department is vitally important to our success. Know that your sacrifice is not overlooked or under-appreciated.

Together we achieve greatness.

– Ps. Ken

###

Ken is the pastor of Spirit Life Church in Piqua, Ohio. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Ps. Ken and listen to his messages online.

That Which We Are, We Shall Teach pt. 2

This is part two of a guest blog series from Julie VanHoose. Read part 1 here.

1 Corinthians 12:12:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

What you celebrate becomes your culture.

In our families, our work place and everywhere else, we have the power to set the pace of culture with our thoughts and actions whether we care to acknowledge it or not. What do we celebrate corporately?

We should be striving to celebrate what God is emphasizing right now. Can we move passed the star-studded, “what’s my gift” 1990s, or are we so short sighted that we fail to see the power of coordinated, corporate effort? It seems like most of us consider our service to the local church community a chore—we come in once a week and do our penance, all while exerting as little effort as possible.

Rather than working to build a new testament community, we focus on socializing with our clique and where we’ll go to lunch afterwards. Has the great commission been overlooked and under taught?

I believe we are coming into a season where each hand, even each finger, are vitally important to the mission. The season that is coming will require the formation of functional teams, exalting ideas rather than amazing stars and great voices, and celebrating the wonderful uniqueness God has instilled in all of His creation!

I envision a local community that sacrifices and succeeds together. An elaborate tapestry of talented individuals possessing a culture that is teeming with innovative ideas and synergistic potential, allowing us to take the message of the gospel to unbelievers in a fresh, new and relevant way!

Get on board, challenge your old ways of thinking and embrace change! Together we can accomplish much!

– Julie

###

Julie is the wife of Ken VanHoose, senior pastor at Spirit Life Church. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Spirit Life Church.

That Which We Are, We Shall Teach

Ralph Waldo Emerson:
That which we are, we shall teach, not voluntarily, but involuntarily.

How were you raised? Were you brought up in a church that literally “scared the hell” out of you, leaving you with fear every night that you might not make it in? Did it seem like every little bit of fun you had was going to cost you big, eternally?

Unlike my husband, I wasn’t raised in church. I was, however, raised in an area with a high percentage of church attendance. It only makes sense that this led to me being a little afraid and occasionally trying to make deals with God for something.

Since I became a Christian in my early twenties, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among believers—the ones who were raised in church and should have a deep-rooted sense of Christ’s love, His sacrifice and the resulting justification, simply don’t. The very people who should recognize our God as the loving Heavenly Father He is, seem to be even more scared and condemned than I was as a little girl. It seems those who have been churched the longest, are the very ones who have the most trouble with fear and unrest.

Matthew 11:30, NIV:
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

My experience with Christ was entirely different than that of these believers. I came to Jesus a sinner, broken and when I discovered the liberty Christ offered, my burden truly was lifted! My condemnation was gone the moment I accepted Jesus and that’s where it stayed.

Are we collectively carrying the burden of Christ or are we aspiring to be like some man on a platform we admire? I’m afraid some of us are as bad off as if we were lost, looking to something other than Christ to satisfy our soul.

We are often quick to condemn the lost. We judge their every movement. Rather than being attractive like Jesus, we are condemning and judgmental and sometimes even scary. The condemnation and fear that was taught involuntarily, to so many of the Christians I know in their childhood, is now being transferred to all who come into contact with them voluntarily. It is tarnishing our interactions with the lost and our relationship with Him.

Do we care about the Great commission and our individual part in it? Do we notice the needs and wonderful Christ likeness around us in the church or are we so put off by change or people we don’t understand, that we ignore the lost and dying we run into every day?

What would it look like for a church to work through the concept of
1 Corinthians 12:15-31?

We are all necessary. The fields are white with harvest.

– Julie

###

Julie is the wife of Ken VanHoose, senior pastor at Spirit Life Church. Visit the Spirit Life Church website to learn more about Spirit Life Church.

Cross Culture: Current Series

Culture is a powerful force that can ignite movements and energize entire nations! It has the ability to effortlessly organize and motivate us around the values or goals of our community. It’s so persuasive in fact, that by the time we’re adults, we adhere to the standards and practices of our culture almost instinctively—when was the last time you observed someone riding an elevator facing backwards?!

Within the greater context of a region, every group, company and organization has a unique culture. Therefore, by design or by default, every church has a unique culture.

Cultivating a vibrant, Biblical culture is vital to uniting this church around a simple mission—to connect our community to Christ and to one another. That is our purpose.

We are first and foremost focused on presenting the Gospel in a manner that fosters genuine relationships with Jesus Christ! Secondly, we are striving to build a strong community of fellowship and love, where we live our lives together and work to implement the model of the earliest New Testament Christians.

“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common” [Acts 2:44 , NASB]

Cross Culture is the current series of teachings about the culture that must grow and flourish at Spirit Life Church—a God-designed culture that will carry this community beyond our four walls to the streets—making disciples, sharing our resources and living our lives with one another.

Cross Culture values our mission above all and contends for it at all costs.

Listen: Click here to listen to the current teachings from Cross Culture.

Questions: If you have any questions about the cross culture series, feel free to send them along to questions@spiritlifechurch.us or stop by the info center and chat with the concierge serving there.

Directions: Click here for directions to Spirit Life Church.

Learn More: Click here to learn more about Spirit Life Church.