Five Challenges for 2015/2016

Sunday was an important day for our church. Once a year I speak to the vision of our church (both NRHBC and Cross Church). It is a day I set aside to challenge our church around five areas of future growth moving forward in the remainder of this year and much of next.

Below is a quick recap of the five challenges. I have also included video portion where I speak to our church. If you care for our church, please join me in praying and rally together toward these five challenges.

1. Increase the Number of Bible Study (SMBS) Groups. We currently offer 36 adult SMBS groups at NRHBC and 5 small groups at Cross Church. In the next four years, we want to offer 45 groups at NRHBC. Sunday Morning Bible Studies is the lifeblood of our church. This is where we care for people and it is where we study God’s Word in depth. I cannot underestimate the importance of these groups to the life of our church. They are critical and God does so much good through this one aspect of ministry. In fact, if you are not in one of these groups, you are missing out on an area of growth and relationships.

To get to our goal, we need competent godly people to step up and start new groups. It takes real work to call, teach, and care for adults. However, leading also brings a great deal of joy. Seeing others grow in Christ and “get it” spiritually is extremely powerful. Pray that God allows us to move to our desired number.

2. Send 30% of of NRHBC and Cross Church on a Mission Trip by 2018. During a short term mission trip, we mobilize Bible-believing people for a short period of time, from a matter of days to a few weeks. The impact of how God works through these important times is incalculable. When you go on a short-term trip, you grow exponentially, but you also impact the people where you are ministering. Whether you are clearing debris after a disaster or sharing Bibles in a major metropolis around the globe, short-term missions puts you in touch with career missionaries and causes your hearts to beat with the love and compassion of God Himself (Romans 10:1).

To get to our goal, we need 450 people to step up on a mission trip in the next three years. We have trips planned to Colorado Springs, Colorado, Vancouver, British Columbia, and SE Asia. More trips are planned continually and you simply need to reach out to our missions pastor for more information on how you can be involved.

3. Join together for a Week of Prayer on November 8-15 and for 24 Hours of Fasting on November 14-15. In a recent New York Times article entitled “Googling for God,” we witness some of what happens behind closed doors when Americans are alone with their computers.

“It has been a bad decade for God, at least so far. Despite the rising popularity of Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, Google searches for churches are 15 percent lower in the first half of this decade than they were during the last half of the previous one. Searches questioning God’s existence are up. Many behaviors that he supposedly abhors have skyrocketed. Porn searches are up 83 percent. For heroin, it’s 32 percent… The top Google search including the word “God” is “God of War,” a video game, with more than 700,000 searches per year. The No. 1 search that includes “how to” and “Walmart” is “how to steal from Walmart,” beating all questions related to coupons, price-matching or applying for a job.”

Many of us feel the moral and spiritual fabric of our nation slipping away. The commitment to Christ and His church has slowly eroded. Apathy for spiritual things has moved to antagonism for people, for the Bible, and those who believe. Turning this around is beyond any one person and any one congregation. We need God to move in and change the tide. We need to recognize our inadequacy and plead with God to change our churches, our lives, and our nations. We need a spiritual awakening.

We are setting aside one week to ask God to bless our missionaries and to advance the gospel around the world, November 8-15. And we are calling for a church-wide 24 fast beginning Saturday at 7 p.m. through Sunday at 7 p.m. Your fasting should be a sacrifice on your part and it can include food, drink, social media, television, or video games. This 24 hours is set aside to plead with God to impact our church and our nation.

4. Finish Paying for the Land for the Future Home of Cross Church. Our church purchased approximately 27 acres in 2013 in order to begin Cross Church, our church’s second campus. God has blessed our work in a remarkable way over the past 18 months as our second campus has meet in a nearby school. Yet, our longterm goal is to secure the land as a future home and erect a building. We need a permanent home for many reasons but here is one of our biggest needs: a permanent home allows us to meet together anytime of the week rather than only Sunday mornings. A permanent home allows us to better serve North Fort Worth as community center hub.

To complete the purchase of the land, we have set aside Sunday, November 15 as a Big Offering Day. Our one day goal is $325,000. Join me in praying and giving sacrificially on this day.

5. Commit to Share the Gospel on Thursday, October 15. Let’s join with hundreds of churches across the United States in prayerfully committing to intentionally engage in a gospel conversation on this Thursday. Take time to share your commitment with friends and ask them to join. You may want to use gospel presentations such as 3 Circles or The Story. Begin praying right now for someone that needs to hear about God’s love through the cross of Christ. Again, I am calling on everyone of us to share our faith on this one day.

Thank you for taking time to read this and watch this video. Please consider sharing these five challenges with a friend, co-worker, or family member as a way to stir them to great faithfulness in Christ.

Related Post: For the Five Convictions that Direct our Church, go here.

For the full video of Sunday’s Vision Recast Sermon, go here.

Three Excuses Why We Don’t Pray

I doubt there is any Christian who has not found it difficult to pray. Here are three excuses I’ve discovered that often hinders people from a more effective prayer life.

1. Praying Doesn’t Really Help – There are some who say prayer is simply superstitious. It’s a way to cope with a crisis when we’re too weak to handle things or we when don’t know of anything else better to do. Others say so-called answers to prayer are really nothing more than self-fulfilled expectations. Or answered prayers are simply coincidences that we naively attribute to God.

But we don’t have to be a skeptic to doubt the effectiveness of prayer. Even believers occasionally wonder if prayer really works. Paul Miller has written a helpful book on prayer. Paul is the father to six children. Several summers ago, his family was camping in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. His wife, Jill, stayed home with their eight year old daughter, Kim. They were leaving the campsite to head home in their Dodge Caravan, when Paul’s fourteen year old daughter, Ashley, lost her contact lens. Looking down at a forest floor, covered with leaves and twigs, there were a million little crevices for the lens to disappear into. Paul said, “Ashley, don’t move. Let’s pray.” Before the father could pray, Ashley burst into tears. She spoke these words, “What good does it do? I’ve prayed for Kim to speak, and she isn’t speaking.” Ashley’s little sister suffered from autism and a developmental delay. She was mute because of her health problems. Kim had taken God at His word and asked that Jill, her sister, would speak. But nothing had happened.

Many of us share in Ashley’s cynicism as we’ve prayed and seen little happen as a result. Few of us have possessed Ashley’s courage to voice our doubts out loud. Cynicism throws water on the campfire of prayer. I sympathize with this young’s lady’s struggles. Nevertheless, such doubt hinders the arm of God (James 1:6). To doubt prayer is to doubt God. Don’t stop praying simply because you don’t see immediate results or desired results.

2. I’m Too Busy to Pray – Our American culture is probably the hardest place in the world in which to pray. We are so busy that when we slow down to pray, we feel guilty. Americans prize accomplishments. We feel remorse if we are not busy. Your confidence in your own abilities is among the top “killers” of an effective prayer life. People who are confident in their own abilities often fail at prayer. The very thing we are allergic to – our helplessness – is what makes prayer work.

To be effective at prayer, you must make time. Multi-taskers must quit multi-tasking in order to pray. If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy.

3. I Don’t Feel Like Praying –  Our challenge is that we don’t like to come to Christ messy. We wait until we feel “ready” to pray, acting as if we can’t enter the house until our shoes are clean. We think God is like our mother; He’ll be angry with us unless we clean our emotions up before we come before Him.

Instead, God wants the real you, the real messy you. He doesn’t want you to shower before cleaning up. Gunshot victims don’t do surgery on themselves before going to the hospital. Come to God messy. Don’t be frozen by your self-preoccupation. When we wait to pray until we feel certain emotions, we don’t fully comprehend just how unspiritual we really are. Even our best emotions and our best spiritual highs don’t earn us the ability to speak into God’s ear. God listens to us because of God’s grace – not because of our abilities.