It happened again. For the third time in six months, the pastor of a large church in my hometown of Orlando, Fla., has resigned from his pulpit because of adultery. I’m sad. I’m sick. I’m sorry for the pastors, and sorrier for the congregations that are having to deal with the fallout caused by bad choices.
I’m also cringing because an increasingly hostile public sees these train wrecks as evidence that Christians are hypocrites who preach one thing and live another. We stand for biblical marriage between one man and one woman, but in many cases those marriages are failing. No wonder the gay community hates our flimsy platitudes.
Why are we witnessing this epidemic of moral failure? Many factors could be cited (easy access to pornography, sex-saturated entertainment, the devil and his demons, etc.)—but I don’t think we need a list of excuses today. I’m tired of excuses. The devil does not make us do this. It is totally possible for Christian men and women to live in holiness today. The power of His grace is not affected by social trends or hell’s attacks.
What people experience in your church has the power to propel them toward Christ or push them away. What we do matters, and doing it well is essential. From your website to the parking lot signage, more than likely your first-time guests have gotten an earful before they’ve even heard the first word of your sermon.
Here are a few time-tested proven how-tos for engaging your community:
Another megachurch pastor has stepped down after admitting to a long-term affair with a woman who’s not his wife.
David Loveless, former lead pastor of Discovery Church in Orlando, Fla., is the third in the area to resign in the wake of immorality in the past six months. He follows Isaac Hunter, former lead pastor at Summit Church, and Sam Hinn, former pastor of the Gathering Place Worship Center in Sanford, Fla.
If those were the only three pastors to rock their churches with sex scandals, it would be hurtful enough. But sexual immorality and idolatry are growing trends in the church—and I imagine they're more prevalent in the pews than they are in the pulpits. The spirit of Jezebel is usually behind this immoral trend.
Excellence in all things and all things to the glory of God.
At Prestonwood Baptist Church, you’ll hear this phrase often. Everyone on our ministry team and staff take it to heart because it isn’t just what we do; it’s who we are. We serve a mighty God who deserves all of us and the best of us.
His very name is described as excellent in Scripture: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth” (Ps. 8:1). And in Isaiah 12:5, the prophet calls salvation “excellent”: “Sing to the Lord, for He has done excellent things.”
So from janitorial to ministerial, we strive for excellence. In ministry, just as in life, there must be a commitment—to rise above the mediocre, to ascend above the average, to soar like eagles. We can flock and honk like geese through life, or we can soar like the royal eagle in the heavens.
Creating a Compelling Guest Experience
To us, excellence in all things is about paying attention to detail. The little things mean a great deal. From the moment visitors arrive at your church building until they leave, do they experience excellence? Is there a winsome feel to your church and worship services? I don’t want anything about the worship experience to take away from the mission of the church, which is to proclaim the gospel.
When we started our North Campus, we met in a high school. Our church members took great pride in the “set up and tear down” that helped transform a school into a warm and engaging service each Sunday. We did little things such as placing signage throughout the school welcoming people to Prestonwood and inviting them to make this church their home. It wasn’t opulent, but it was excellent.
We’ve learned that excellence starts long before someone gets to one of our worship services, beginning with the church website. No doubt, this is a media-savvy world, and it’s our responsibility to engage the culture and communicate effectively. Is your website reader-friendly? Do you keep people engaged through Facebook, Twitter or other social media?
From your website to your parking lot, excellence should be a value for you, your staff and your church.
Try this exercise with your team: Ask them to spend the week visiting the church website and looking around church grounds. Then get together and discuss these questions: Was it easy to find service times and direction on the website? Does your church parking lot have potholes? Are the trees and bushes overgrown and unkempt? Is the carpet frayed and stained? Are the walls dingy? Do paintings hang crookedly? When someone walks through the doors, what do they see first? What do they smell?
The Worship Experience
Beyond the website and building, evaluate your worship experience. Train volunteers to greet every guest and help direct them. As people enter the sanctuary or worship area, make Bibles and pens readily available for anyone who may not have a Bible. The worship guide or bulletin should be well written and error-free. During the service, make the lyrics for worship songs easy to read on the screens, and provide notes on the screens that complement the message so that first-time guests can easily follow the teaching.
Our mission at Prestonwood is “to glorify God by introducing Jesus Christ as Lord to as many people as possible and to develop them in Christian living using the most effective means to impact the world, making a positive difference in this generation.”
The most effective means for us includes everything available that will help support and strengthen our church as we share the love of Christ and proclaim the message of salvation to a lost and hurting world. As His church, we should proclaim Him with the excellence He so richly deserves.
Jack Graham is pastor of the 32,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church, with campuses in Plano, Dallas and Prosper, Texas. He also is the voice of PowerPoint Ministries, the church’s international radio and TV ministry known worldwide. Follow him on Twitter @jackngraham.
Building an ideal customer profile is a common business practice whose goal is to identify the type or types of people the business caters to. This involves identifying needs, wants, pain points and more. This type of study into the minds of customers helps businesses market more effectively and offer products and services that really meet the needs people have.
So, how does this relate to your church?
Quite simply, if you can learn to identify those you serve best in the community, you will better understand how to attract them to your church and meet their needs.
Do you remember going to chapel in Bible college? Every once in a while, one of “the greats” would show up.
You knew you were listening to one of the great communicators when you heard two things:
1. "The Voice." It seemed to me that every great Pentecostal preacher from the early to mid-1900s cultivated what we referred to as "The Voice." It sounded deep, resounding with such vibrato that it just about rocked your bones. Every person in the room instantly snapped to attention when a preacher turned on "The Voice."