Posts Tagged ‘Reorganization’

Moving NewChurch LIVE Out There

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Church growth pulls towards strategies of promotion.  ”If only we had the right sign” or the “right add” or the “right music” or the “right preaching.”  Yet we live in different times.  Church growth no longer centers solely on promotion.  Like 12 Steps Programs, church growth will come more and more to focus on attraction.

The promotion strategy does on occasion work.  But when it works, it can actually lead us to the wrong conclusions.  As one author noted…..

Many of us have a story about someone who stopped, looked, listened and came in. (Attracted by a sign or an add) That person is now chair of the church council. But there’s a danger here: when a story becomes an anecdote to justify a strategy, it soon becomes a deterrent to congregational efforts at becoming truly missional. The few who are attracted by the sign reinforce the church’s behavior. They are like pigeons pecking on a lever that rarely rewards them with a grain—but all it takes is one grain in a thousand pecks for them to keep pecking at that lever.

What then of “attraction”?  The terms “attraction” needs definition. It is not the attraction of a beautiful church filled with smiling faces.  It is the attraction of a church whose members actively engage themselves in the world around them.  The congregation’s members then becomes the attraction – not from a deliberate endeavor to draw people via person magnetism but by the compelling, quiet witness of lives lived for a higher purpose, lives lived for others.  Church is a matrix, an environment supporting that journey.

We will NOT grow by traditional means as the church has over centuries come to understand it.  Doctrinal debates and proofs will attract some but serve few.  Beautiful buildings will attract some but serve few.  Even emotionally moving services will attract some but serve few.  (My two favorite Pastor’s – Andy Stanley and Rob Bell – are masters at being a calm, understated presence in the pulpit.)  What will attract many is the serving of many.

That does not of course mean the Sunday service is done, is over.  We need the magic of Sunday.  It is the critical pivot, the “foyer” as one famous minister characterized it. But sustained growth, growth beyond just the surface, will depend on co-creation that travels far beyond the Sunday experience.  It is the co-creation – deep partnering – that brings the Church to the world, that shares the suffering and joy of others, and supports people in cultivating their dreams as God gives them to see them, and refining those dreams into ministries.

Last night I was asked by a friend how NCL planned to grow.  Well, that is it.  Co-creation/ deep partnership/ ministry is not a complex strategy but it is effective. I find myself constantly pulled by the desire to “do more” to “add more” – to make it more complex.  And yet there is this quiet and sure knowledge that growth does not lie in what the preacher does or in the sheer volume of offerings.  It lies in what the Church does, what the Church creates, how the Church partners with others.

Each of you has a dream my friend, one given you by God.  Live into it.  Christ is there as a loving partner and witness to your bringing it to life.  That was His intention in creating the spark that is you.  Not all dreams are realized.  But so what.  His gift is the journey – through blessings and breakings – the gift and holiness of life.  That is growth.  Even failures in that context are life giving.

Such an orientation forces us as a Church outward.  It forces us to serve by going deep.  That is tough terrain yet it in doing that, I think we begin to speak the language, one to another, that is the heritage of Christianity, a heritage not of exclusion but of inclusion, a heritage of life lived for others, a heritage of care for the spirit, a heritage of love and wisdom realized in service. The soul of the New Church.

Closing “Lets Build A Church”

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

This week we close our “Lets Build a Church” sermon series.  We covered three areas.

  1. True North
  2. The Empty Chair
  3. Blessed Unrest

From this series we will launch into our next one – a series closely connected – titled “Dream.”

Through the process of these two series we hope to effectively communicate where we are traveling as a congregation.  There is actually great fun imagining the future.  Of course there will be the dynamic tension, noted last week between the known and the unknown.  It is not for us to “solve” that tension.  It is our job to “manage” it.

Many churches struggle today because, unfortunately, they are far more comfortable with the “knowns” than with the “unknowns.”  Yet the “known” really remains relegated to the past.  As noted, the days of hanging up a particular denominational “shingle” as being the key to growth are behind us.  2 years ago I attended a small church where the big announcement was the new sign.  That was painful to witness because the roadside sign is no longer the most critical interface with the world.  The most critical interface frankly has migrated to different environments.

We are blessed with being in a place where we can, with God’s guidance, figure out new and ever more effective ways to serve. To find the blessing however, we need to live in the unknown, and actually – GULP! – get comfortable with it.

True North

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

The Compelling Need for a True North

NewChurch LIVE seeks to be a growing, outward reaching presence in the world.  In so doing our hope is to join many other churches and denominations in the real work of faith-based living.  We join a movement,  broader than any particular denomination.  ”Movement” actually forms the very core of why churches were established – to draw a community together around a movement – a movement then supported by a disciplined community that inspires, informs and supports.

As such we actually need to travel to the edge of what feels like chaos.  A growing church, as is true with any growing institution must carefully tread that line between the known and the unknown, finding the “sweet spot” where creative tension moves us from the “as is” to the “can be.”

That place is admittedly uncomfortable.  We will take time to look at more extensively as we close the series with a sermon on “Blessed Unrest.”  And that is where we are and where we need to be!

To keep our bearings, we need a “True North.”   Easy to fall prey to mixing the busyness of congregational life for the business of congregational life.  Our “business” centers on several key non-negotiable.  I share these knowing there are numerous ways to state them.

  1. God’s Word, a.k.a. the Bible
  2. New Church Theology, a theology codified by Emanuel Swedenborg to articulate the true meaning of Christianity
  3. Life lived for others without claiming cultural or spiritual superiority.
  4. Respectful dialog that treasures belonging

From that place we tap into the co-creative capacity alive in all of us, a place from which a dynamic emergence grows into life – aka “A Monday Morning Church.”  That is where our church hits its real capacity to be a positive force in the world.  For the fact is, as Senior Pastor, maybe one of the more significant leadership insights I can offer is “I don’t know.”  I don’t know.  I don’t know where NCL is headed.  And that is actually pretty exciting.

What do I know?  I know the heart.  We have seen it over and over again.  It is a heart not unique to NCL but a heart where maybe NCL is a special expression.  The other part I know?  I know that while I don’t know where NCL is headed, I fully trust that you do.  I trust that God is stirring something in your heart, that He is calling something into Being.  ”True religion is always a deep intuition that we are already participating in something very good, in spite of best efforts to deny it or avoid it.”  I trust that the team will fashion and achitecturalize structures that support that “knowing.”

Then we will possess what I think Jesus calls us to – a true north that both settles and expands.   So lets build a church!

What Does NewChurch LIVE Look Like?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011


Since our restructuring, what will NewChurch LIVE look like?  February 13th hopefully answered many of the questions.  For those fans of NewChurch LIVE, this blog entry describes what we are doing to continue building a thriving congregation.  Join us this weekend to check it out!


Our focus on message remains the same.  In a fall survey, the NCL congregation was clear – message is our most important asset.  Our messages focus on relevance, in taking what we talk about on Sunday and having it be transportable into Monday.  To accomplish that task we first look at God’s Word and how it can answer the questions of the 21st century world.  We often use contemporary examples wrapped in culturally relevant imagery.  Our hope is that people will continue to leave feeling inspired.  (Video: How To Build A Sermon)

We are also likewise big believers in a teamwork approach.  Services involve upwards of 20 individuals who help with everything from ideation, to graphics, to sermon construction.    Individuals also often tell parts of their own story as part of the service, either in words or in music.


We purposefully chose more contemporary music.  This is because our primary audience is the first time attender. Many of them are at best uncomfortable with “Christian Rock.”  We are a definitively Christian church – just a branch of Christianity more interested with the inclusionary claims of Jesus vs. the exclusionary claims made by some Christians today.  We seek to reach people where they are.  Secular music with a deeply spiritual message best conveys the message that “you are welcome here.”


Kids are very important to us as a congregation.  We seek to serve families.  Curtis Childs, aka “Mr. Curtis” does a wonderful job with this element our program.  Designed for those in the elementary grades, KidsLIVE seeks to convey the simple yet profound message of God’s presence in their lives.

We recently moved our KidsLIVE program from a separate building into the lobby of the Mitchell Performing Arts Center.  For those too young for KidsLIVE, we are opening the “Green Room” at the Mitchell Performing Arts Center (MPAC) during the service, a very comfortable space where families with young children can watch their children and the service at the same time.

Volunteering/ Service

These elements continue to be critical to NewChurch LIVE.  Approximately 40 individuals volunteer every Sunday at our Sunday worship environment.  Others help out during the week.  Many folks in addition serve on community service projects both local in the greater Philadelphia region.

Small Groups

Small Groups are frankly our biggest “win.”  If a person involves themselves in a small group they often find religion coming alive in new ways.  Our offerings rotate. For example right now, we are offering 2 Bible Study groups, 1 support group for working mom’s, and a bi-weekly program called “Strength” – a program for those with habits, hurts, and hangups (aka all of us!) who want to employ the 12 Steps of recovery to spiritual growth.

Online Presence

All our services are posted online via our homepage, Vimeo, and YouTube.   People can join a live chat on Facebook as well.  We also publish services via Podcasts for those who like to listen while walking!

The Road Ahead II

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

We launched NewChurch LIVE, May of 2009 with The Road Ahead.  This week the service topic is Road Ahead II.

Important to note, we are moving forward.  Joining me on the team will be Angela Cooper as Executive Assistant.  In addition, filling part time positions – Randy Wagner will take over as Music Director, Stephen Bochneak as Production Director, Curtis Childs as KidsLIVE Director, and Shada Sullivan as Content Director.  Three other part time positions remain vacant at this time but will be filled shortly.   Kyla White will be helping us with the transition for a period of three months.

There are numerous opportunities for people to step into volunteer roles.  These include opportunities to serve and opportunities to lead as well.

I want to close with a deep appreciation over the countless emails, phone calls, and conversations with so many of you who care so deeply about this church.  I have always been “in.”  I think of life as giving a few blessed opportunities to really make a difference.  I believe this is one!  For many of us, it may be the work of our life.  That sure brings a smile to my face.

NewChurch LIVE Reorganization: FAQ

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

I wanted to take the opportunity to answer some of the questions we are receiving.

Is NewChurch LIVE ending?

No, NCL is not ending.  We are restructuring in order to ensure our financial stability moving forward.  We have met with a great deal of success at our current location.  The original model anticipated however a much wider base of those accessing NCL via the internet for use in “satellite services .”  That did not materialize.  Therefore we need to proactively move to a new model.

Our last full team service in February 6th.  The next week, February 13th, we launch our a series on relationships.  We will do a series on the new model – “Want to Build a Church?” – in March.

Has the mission changed?

No, no, and no.  The mission remains the same.  There is a lot of language around it and whether one says “A Monday morning church”, “A church lived for others without claiming cultural or spiritual superiority”, or “Eye level Christianity” it is all the same.  Our focus is the “other.”  It is service.  It is a caring life informed by faith.   That is what the New Church is all about.

I didn’t know NCL was in financial distress.  Why wasn’t I better informed?

We obviously could have done a better job communicating.  We will attempt to do a better job in the future.  Glenn Bostock, a member of the Pastor’s Council, will be working with us to develop a financial “dashboard” as a way to track and communicate clearly our financial condition.  We will also be forming a team to handle stewardship, the seeds of which were planted in the Pastor’s Council.

Also important to communicate that fund raising in churches is always tricky – many want approached and many do not.  We will be more candid about financial needs. And my hope is that we can all frankly see stewardship as an opportunity to share what God has blessed our lives with and invest in this endeavor.  My hope, specifically, is that people consider tithing or percentage gifting.  We will talk more about this in an upcoming series.

Our decision to downsize was done in reality as a proactive measure.  We chose it.  We wanted to be in front of the curve, developing a financially responsible plan not in 5 years but now.  While a church is never about money, financial health whether in the home or the congregation is important.  It shows what we value.  We value being responsible.   In so doing we create a solid foundation that does not only serve our current partners, but serve others well into the future.  The church could thrive in different ways as more volunteers involve themselves.

What issues are getting tackled and when?

In order, our first priority is getting a service up and running on February 13th.  Second, returning to some sort of online presence.  Third, launching ministries.  And fourth, creating a Board of Directors.

What about the Team?

That is hands down the hardest part of this entire process.  These are amazing people who not only did a job but lived a job.  They were so creative because they cared so much.  Some will stay in part time roles.  Others will move onto new employment. We will honor what they created on Sunday, February 6th

What about the new Team?

The new full time team is Angela Cooper (Executive Assistant) and myself.  We will be joined by Kyla White who will help us for several months with transition.  We will staff part time positions in KidsLIVE, Music, Production, and Content Development. We also have a live band.

What can I do?

  1. Prayers: Keep the team members impacted by the reorganization in your prayers.
  2. Volunteers: Surveys are coming out this Sunday.  This is an opportunity to really step up.
  3. Stewardship:  It is all a gift.  By supporting this church financially you are investing in something that makes a difference in people’s lives.
  4. Invest and Invite: Invest in relationships.  We are all here for each other.  Call a friend.  Send a note.  If God gives you the words and the opportunity to invite someone to a NCL program, do it.  And, if the opportunity does not arise for that invitation, the simple investment in others is so much the Christian message.


Monday, January 24th, 2011

Over our year and a half in existence, NewChurch LIVE met with many successes, none more important than the growing core of people who found a spiritual home where before we had none.

Our ambitions for success were great.  We met many of those measures and fell short on others.  Over that time, it has become increasingly apparent that the initial model we created is not financially sustainable.  What that means is that we need to take the necessary, prudent steps now to ensure the long-term financial viability of New Church LIVE.

The painful part of the process is right-sizing our budget.  That includes layoffs.  Many involve those who brought the concept of NewChurch LIVE to fruition, work that began long before I arrived as Senior Pastor.   Words of gratitude do not do justice to the heartfelt thanks for the invaluable contributions our professional team made to this endeavor.  They created a living church.  That is no small feat.  It took not only professionalism in a variety of areas but real dogged determination to bring this church to life.

We have come to a point, through their efforts and yours, where we are an established congregation, over 200 strong gathering every week in worship and service.

Many will ask what they can do.  First and foremost, join me in supporting our original team at this difficult time.  Please join us on Sunday, February 6th at special NewChurch LIVE service as we celebrate and honor their contributions.

Secondly, I want to continue that quiet call for us – the “we”- to continue that work of building this spiritual home – NewChurch LIVE.    This is our church – our work to take up in the spirit of service that true Christianity calls us to, a New Church Christianity of life lived for others without claiming cultural or spiritual privilege, a caring life informed by faith.  To that end, we will announce “next steps” over the next couple of months at our Sunday service.  There will be many places to pitch in.

Important to note, we will continue to meet for worship on Sundays.  We will continue our small group programs.  We will continue our engagement in community service.  As we grow and develop stewardship practices that allow us the financial resources to re-enter the online world through professional grade video, we will do that.  In the meantime, we will use lower quality video and Podcasts in the foreseeable future to serve our online audience.

To close, words will fail to ever appropriately convey the gratitude I have and that I know many, many of you share for the very existence of this church – a group of people trying to do church in a living way.  To say goodbye to parts of that endeavor is certainly hard.  So to the team, from the very depth of my soul, and on behalf of this congregation, thank you.