Picture courtesy of Pete’s blog
So this is going to be a long post. It was only 9 hours of a conference, but it’s taken a few days to process. I’m still processing to be honest. In some ways, this conference was just a continuation of the changes that have been rumbling inside me, specifically surrounding the church. But in others, I was still challenged about my responsibilities as a church member and views of church in general. They say it was meant for church pastors but I say if every church member could hear it, a true Uprising could start.
How We Got There
To start off with, I wasn’t really supposed to be at this conference. Many people, even those at the conference, continued to ask what this thing was and why were we going? A few months ago, Pete Wilson gave away a few set of tickets and I blindly signed up, seeing that he and Perry Noble were speaking. That was enough to know whatever it was about it couldn’t be too bad. Come to find out it was geared for pastors and leaders. But as I expected, we didn’t walk away empty handed.
God Was There
My prayer walking in was simply God speak to us. Even if I got nothing but a few words from God, the trip would be worth it. And should I be surprised he showed up in the first sentence that Pete Hise, senior pastor of Quest Community church, spoke. He said “What If? What if He speaks? What if He brought you here?” Just those few questions had God all over them. First, as I said, my prayer was that God would speak. Isn’t it funny that question was the first he asked? And second, if you’ve been reading, you may remember one of the first series we went through and really “hooked us” to our church was the “What If” series. When Pete started with “What If?” Scott and I whipped our heads from our notebooks and looked at each other open-mouthed. The moment wasn’t missed.
Opening Session with Pete Hise
There were 3 main sessions. The first by Pete Hise. Pete painted the picture of the modern-day American church. He threw out statistic after statistic that showed the decline of the church. As if it takes research to see that. But to help paint the picture, here are a few I wrote down: 85% churches are declining, over 10 churches close every day, 90% of new churches don’t last more than 3 years, only 17% of people go to church regularly, 195 million Americans are unchurched. In fact, America has become the #1 nation targeted for foreign missions.
His point was that it’s going to take something seismic and radical to reverse these statistics. We need God to break our hearts for the lost. We must show a self-sacrificing love to show the sacrificing love of God. And the problem is we say that our hearts are breaking but when it comes to messy ministry, a lot of Christians shut down. The fact of the matter is when Jesus speaks, irreligious people show up. Christians are going to have to have a radical shift in how they think church should work to change these statistics. It’s not too late for this uprising. He closed with two questions: Does my heart truly break for lost people? Am I willing to let God make a seismic shift in my life and ministry?
I didn’t cover half of what he talked about but can I say my heart was moved. It’s been a really long time since I was truly reminded of the transformations God can and does make in individuals. So many churches are filled with Christians. We forget our calling. We get stuck in traditions. We forget that it’s supposed to be a hospital for the spiritually broken. And we say that it is, but let me tell you, by the end of the day, I can say that it’s not happening. Churches aren’t growing because the lost are being found and joining churches. If churches grow, it’s because Christians are moving around. And oh yes, I’m one of those. This session lit a fire for the lost to be found.
Perry Noble – What Matters to the Church
Can I just say Perry Noble is a funny guy? Really. funny. And straight up honest. He stepped on toes without apology. But he spoke the truth. If you don’t know Perry Noble, he has a church in Anderson, South Carolina (go SC!) that has 10,000 people in it. God is moving in his church and I was excited to hear what he had to say. This session was geared more towards pastors but I found that these were one of the sessions that many church pastors AND members should hear.
He went over three main things that should matter to a church
1 – Environments Matter
Somehow I don’t have a lot of notes from this point but Perry talked a lot about the actual physical environment people walk into. He talked about lights and music and general environment. It should be inviting, accepting and cheerful. People come to church to be lifted up, not pushed down. He talked about Matthew 17 where he took 3 of his disciples up a mountain to see him, Elijah and Moses. The church’s goal should be to show Jesus.
Can I just insert how much I enjoyed the environment at Quest? No lie, no less than 20 greeters CHEERED for us as we walked in as if we had just finished a marathon. Every single helper wore the same shirt, had a smile on their face and was overly helpful. They had a modern, new building in a warehouse, no less. They had a bookstore, a coffee bar, a concierge, seats with cup holders, amazing lighting. Their worship was dynamic, and worshipful. They had dramas, poetry readings and testimonies that left you in a puddle of tears. Let me tell you, environment matters.
2 – Vision Matters
He talked a lot about pastors having a vision for the church and then letting church members with the money or influence push down the vision. He asks if you want your church to be a prophet or prostitute? Don’t let fear dominate you. Leadership is as easy as listening to God and doing it. He wants your church to grow more than you do.
3 – Clarity Matters
Matthew 17:8 is his prayer for his church. When they looked up, they saw no one but Jesus. Don’t let policies and programs override the vision. Policies don’t last.
Pete Hise – Closing Session
In the closing session. Pete talked about 3 ingredients for a culture of redemption
It’s not about technology. Don’t try to be something you’re not. It’s your gifts and experiences that create an authentic church. He points to Acts 2 as the “church goal”.
1 – People Always Trump Programs
Your church has to make changes when people aren’t changing. Principles don’t change but methods change. Churches always care about children, discipleship, worship and outreach. Outreach should take twice as much effort and resources than the rest.
2 – Community with a Capital C
Do life together authentically. Quit hiding your sin. You can’t hide your sin and experience real love. Remember we are all capable of horrible sin.
3 – Paint a crystal clear picture of Jesus
When people see Jesus for who He really is, they want Him. Is Jesus clear in your message, marriage, etc. Jesus is a remarkable magnet to the heart of God. He wants to be for you what you can never be for yourself.
Pete Wilson – Irresistible Community
Pete has a church of several thousand in Nashville, TN. I’ve read his blog for, oh, I don’t know, maybe a year or so. He’s legit. The church is legit. True transformation is happening there. He shares their philosophy for community.
You were created with the capacity for deep connectedness.
1 – Your church must understand the everybody is welcome.
You have to create an environment where people belong before they believe. This means letting a practicing homosexual hand out bulletins. Or a drug abuser fold the bulletins. (both of which are happening at CrossPoint) Most churches expect belief, behavior modification and then belonging. Their philosophy is opposite. Let people become engaged and then let the transformation happen.
2 – Your church must accept that nobody’s perfect
In order for the everybody’s welcome philosophy to work, you have to remember NOBODY’s perfect.
Matthew 7:1 Do not judge or you too will be judged
Luke 18:10-12 This is the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector and the Pharisee saying at least I’m not like him. When in reality, he was a sinner too. It was just different sins. The sins you find most appalling to God are usually the ones you don’t struggle with.
3 – Your church must believe that anything’s possible
Pete showed a video of “Crack Granny”. I’d seen this video on his blog before ( and I can’t find the link right now!) but it’s the story of a 30 year crack addict that has changed her life around. God has the ability to transform anyone.
It’s the church’s job to create environments where we help people discover their new name.
Pete’s breakout session has left me scratching my head. As long as I’ve been reading about CrossPoint and reading Pete’s blog I don’t know why I was surprised about this belong before you believe concept. This was a concept that was sprinkled throughout the day and I’ll close on it because I think it sums up the day.
All these fast-growing churches represented have a theme. People are being transformed. But also? People are coming that need transformed. I’d venture to say that most churches I know wouldn’t let a practicing homosexual hand out bulletins. Heck, I know of a church in our town that wouldn’t even let a homosexual attend. And this is not just about homosexuals. During one of the worship dramas, two former strippers as well as a woman that had had an affair, told their stories. But both had been accepted by Quest and later transformed. One of the speakers suggested Christianity is becoming the modern-day Amish. It’s so true.
Look, I have to admit I don’t know how and if you draw lines for when and how non-believers belong but I can tell you this, most churches need to change. We have to be more accepting. We have to open our doors. Our hearts need to break for the lost, broken and hurting. And not just feel bad for them. Not just let them sit on the back row. We have to allow the church to CHANGE in order for them to be accepted. And this is not to say they come and we’re ok with their lives. But if we’re showing them Jesus, HE is responsible for convicting. The cross is where transformation happens. We can’t guilt people into change. That does nothing but push them away.
I know we’re not pastors or even leaders in our church right now but I just wish pastors could hear this. Environment matters, your vision matters, community matters. To church members, I’d say, let God break our hearts, quit hiding your sin and judging the sin of others. To all of us, I say, remember that Jesus wants to redeem all his children. He’s fighting tooth and nail for us.
For me, it’s hard to boil down what this conference was about. As Pete says, it’s a movement. An uprising.