I thought we had it bad.

This past week the elders of the church met with Tim Cole, Director of Church Planting for Virginia Vision. Virginia vision partnered with us in launching New Venture. We have been going through some challenging months with the staff searches, relocating to a new meeting place, losing some long time families, and struggling to make ends meet financially. All the leaders all passionate about working through the issues and turning the church around but are frustrated with lack of current progress and met with Tim to get his insight and advice. There were several encouraging and interesting discoveries that resulted from our time together. I want to share a few with you.

1. 85% of churches in America at the current time are on the decline. That is hard to believe, but an overwhelming majority of churches in America are not growing.
2. Most new churches, about the 4th 5th or 6th year, go through huge struggles and challenges. They determine what needs to be done to turn things around, make the tough decisions and emerge stronger and back on the growing track as a result.
3. By the fifth year of existence only about 20% of the original launch team of new churches is still with the new church. For a number of reasons from, fatigue, not agreeing with the direction of the church, disliking the style of music, moving out of the area, not being able to control the church or a number of other reasons they leave.
4. The average size church in America is currently 93.

As dismal and discouraging as this information might sound I found it to be quite encouraging. I hate the difficulties we have been enduring over the last several months but I find comfort in a few bright spots.

1. Hey, we’re not by ourselves when it comes to our current downturn. 85% of the other churches in America are in the boat with us.
2. It is actually normal and expected to go through the struggles, challenges and changes we are currently experiencing. Most new churches do the same thing.
3. If 20% is the average number of launch team people still have on board at the 5th anniversary, we were way above average with 45% of our launch people with us when we turned five.
4. We are above average, also, when it comes to size of churches in America.

So, even though I am not in any way pleased with our current challenges and obstacles, I do find a little encouragement when comparing our picture to the bigger picture.

Keep on doing the hidden things

I decided to go for a change of pace for my morning jog. Rather than jog the usual four miles I decided to just do a brisk walk for about 45 minutes. The morning was beautiful, the clouds were breathtaking the air was a little cooler so I decided to slow it down and smell the roses. I took streets through the neighborhood that weren’t on my usual jogging track to take in some new sights.

As I was walking along one particular street I came upon something that was quite surprising. I can’t figure out if it was there by accident or intention. I hesitate to tell you about it because just telling it takes away some of the value in what happened. But here it is.

As I walked along I happened to see a lengthy section of street with nails strewn along it. Perhaps, if I had been jogging, I wouldn’t have even noticed them but since I had slowed my pace I couldn’t miss them. Maybe they fell off the back of a construction truck driving through the area. Or maybe they were placed there by intention since they were across the entrance to a high school. Could they have been planted by kids from an opposing school to “slow up” the competitors since football, field hockey, track and band practice were all in full swing. They weren’t long nails. Just 8 penny finish nails but enough to cause a few flat tires and some stressful circumstances.

First I thought about walking right by, but something wouldn’t let me. I considered it again and found myself stopping to pick up the pointed intruders. The more I picked up the more I found. They were not just along the edge of the street but out in the street. I dodged traffic to capture the last nail. I looked around for any remaining ones but didn’t see any and continued my walk with my hand full of nails. What was I to do with them? When I came to the first piece of wooded area I gave them a toss.

I tell you this to say that if I hadn’t told you this you wouldn’t have known anything about it. And, as I already said, the fact that I have told you takes away some of the value of the action. But I share it to encourage you to continue to do the things that God puts before you to do whether or not anyone every finds about them. In fact, do everything you can to keep them your secret. Do them because they need to be done. Do them because it’s the right thing to do. Do them because it’s what makes God smile. Do them for an audience of ONE.

Hang tough!

How often do you feel like keeping on in the same direction just isn’t working or worth the effort? When was the last time you felt like throwing in the towel? Why do you keep hearing those little voices that say, “Give up, it’s never going to happen?” What do you do when within and without you continue to get the compulsion to quit?

Keeping on, when multiple sources seem to say give up, abandon ship, change course, is about as difficult a task as we face as human beings. How do you maintain and keep on keeping on, in spite of so many voices to the contrary?

You have to begin with making sure the course you are taking is the one God is behind and in support of. You know that it is God blessed if…

o You have poured yourself out to Him repeatedly seeking His direction not His approval of your direction.
o You are absolutely certain that your direction does not violate the clear teachings of the Bible.
o Your plans and directions have been confirmed by mature Christ followers that you have confided in.

If you know the certainty that you are pursuing what God approves, then rest in His promises.

* “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is FAITHFUL .” 1 Cor 1:9

* “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we DO NOT GIVE UP.” Gal 6:8

* “Being CONFIDENT of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil 1:5

* “If we are faithless, He WILL REMAIN FAITHFUL , for He cannot disown himself.” 2 Tim 2:13

* “Let us HOLD UNSWERVINGLY TO THE HOPE we profess, for he who promised is faithful .” Heb 10:22

I know firsthand how difficult it is when you are right in the middle of the doubt, confusion, weariness and conflict. It is so easy to get consumed and overcome by it all. But, in spite of the challenges and voices to the contrary, look beyond and above it all to the source of strength, direction, calmness and hope that is ours in Christ Jesus. He, and he alone, can give you everything you need to stay the course until breakthroughs happen.

what people are saying about our new meeting place

Six weeks into our new Sunday meeting facility people are talking. I asked them to tell me their feelings about our new digs. Here are the comments as they have come in.

“I like it and think it is great!”

“Two Words! Love It!!!!”

“Much better. I like the closeness due to smaller size of the room. The kid venture is much better now w/ the separate rooms. I like the new setup!”

“It’s closer to my house. I enjoy the small rooms for the kids. Less space for the service, but overall its cozy.”

“I think the new meeting place is great!  The location seems to be getting some new faces, the sound quality for the band and your sermons are clear.” 

“Close to home logistically. In a good spot. Not 100% on the physical/cosmetic appearance.”

“It’s good – wish we could start some “other” classes.”

“LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION. That’s all I have to say :”)

“Love it! Great area for KidVenture.  Made it to service last week for the 1st time and loved the cozy feel of sitting near people!”

“LOVE IT! Smaller space, more convenient, open to more neighborhoods nearby to draw members.”

“Love the new location.. Feel more like church and still we can be relaxed.. Love that the kids have there own space also”

“Love it. Great for the kids. Getting used to the acoustics/sound but that will come. Adds to the family atmosphere. I am a little worried visitor can slip in and not be noticed. Several people have seen our signs and asked me about our church. ( invite was extended ) Overall I think it was a good move.”

“We enjoy the new location and like that the space feels cozy. The facilities for the children are an extra bonus. :)”

“Love it! Love the smaller “sanctuary”…it really contributes to a closer worship experience. Love the classrooms downstairs….Love the way the band sounds. Love the opportunity to socialize after while cleaning up. Love the location. I really can’t think of anything negative at this point. Let’s just keep on keepin’ on!”

“We like the proximity to our home, it is closer and easier to reach than the school was. The new location is more churchy, so less relaxed. But, I applaud the choice of location, I don’t think there is a busier street in the county.”

“The new location is amazing, and the perfect place for us to grow as a church.”

“I think the new location feels more like a “close knit” group because folks are not spread all over. It is much easier to take down the stage and I like the Kid Venture set up.”

If you have been to one of our gatherings since moving to 530 Courthouse Rd., I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings about the new location.
And if you haven’t visited yet, I hope these comments from “those who know” will excite you to give New Venture a try.