Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Keeping our Focus

As we try to figure out where we think Trinity needs to relocate in the days ahead, I want to encourage us as a congregation, a family, to not lose sight of who we are as a body.  I think it is critical that we keep "the main thing" really as "the main thing."  We can easily get sidetracked and caught up in the chaos that is our life right now, and miss out on some the great things that the Lord is doing in our midst as we hold to His Truth.  Read this blog by Challies and let it encourage you to hold firm to truth during these days!


Destroy a Church in 4 Simple Steps

A short time ago I learned of a church building in our neighborhood that was for sale. For years now Grace Fellowship Church has been looking for a building of our own, so we thought we should go and give it a look. This had once been a thriving congregation. Faithful Christians had given sacrificially to construct that building. They had consecrated it to the Lord and had worshipped there for many years. Yet now that building was deserted, decaying, and up for sale.
What happened? How did that church go from thriving to dying? How did it slide from healthy to sick to dead? I think I know. I think Paul tells us in his second letter to Timothy, the letter he wrote just days or weeks before his death. There, in chapter 4, he looks into the future, he sees a church being destroyed, and he warns us how it happens. It’s as straightforward as four simple steps.
This church is destroyed by people claiming to act in the name of Jesus. Before we get to those four steps we need to see one critical piece of information: this church self-destructs. The church is not closed down through government persecution; it is not afflicted by cultural pressure and does not succumb to the attacks of another religion. This church is eroded from the inside, from within the membership. This church is destroyed by people claiming to act in the name of Jesus.
Here are those four simple steps that lead to a church’s self-destruction.

Step 1: Reject Truth

Paul warns Timothy that “They will turn away from listening to the truth.” The first step in destroying a church is turning away from what is true, losing interest in the truth as God reveals it, growing weary of what God says is true and lovely. What was once a love of truth becomes a dislike and then disgust toward truth; what was once a hatred of error becomes an intrigue and interest in error. Hearts begin to harden.

Step 2: Reject Truth-Tellers

As they turn away from the truth, they necessarily turn against the truth-tellers. So Paul tells Timothy that in that day to come, “They will not endure sound teaching.” It’s not that people won’t know what is true, but that they won’t endure what is true. Because they have come to hate the truth, they will now hate those who proclaim the truth. The very teachers that once drew them will now repulse them.

Step 3: Embrace False Teachers

This church has rejected the truth and those who teach the truth. Now what? It is obvious and inevitable: They will embrace false teachers. “Having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” As these people become hardened in sin, as they grow in their rebellion, they will want to be led by people who tell them those things they want to hear. Paul uses a great word-picture to describe this: itching ears. These are ears that want to be tickled by novelty, by something that will be respectable to society and palatable to a godless world. They will soon find this kind of teacher who will justify their turning away from truth and who will validate them in their rebellion.

Step Four: Embrace False Doctrine

The narrow road to salvation has no room to wander Once they have rejected truth and truth-tellers, and once they have found teachers who will tickle their itching ears, “They will wander off into myths.” They will now embrace full-out error, full out heresy. They will become hardened in their sin so they will now believe error is good and true. They will become so deluded and rebellious that they will celebrate what God hates and do it all in the name of God. They will wander off, just like dumb sheep wandering away from their good shepherd. The narrow road to salvation has no room to wander, but that broad road to destruction has all the room they need to wander this way and that.
And they will die. In the end, those who claim to have acted in the name of Christ will be shown to hate Christ. That church, that congregation, will die.
What happened to the church that once worshiped in the building we visited and wanted to buy? The people developed itching ears. They would no longer endure sound teaching, and accumulated for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. They turned away from listening to the truth and wandered off into myths.
Two thousand years ago Paul wrote to young Timothy and told him exactly how this church, and so many like it, would die. He also gave Timothy a charge that would keep his own church from experiencing similar destruction and from wavering through the time of itching ears. But I will save that for another day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Time of Personal Privilege

There are very few times a year when I just take a moment and blog about something that really doesn’t pertain directly to ministry or TBC, but it is just "near and dear" to my heart. Today is one of those days…  because tomorrow is Administrative Assistants’ Day. I have never hidden the fact that five years ago, upon becoming Pastor at TBC, I had never worked in a more toxic environment whether it be ministry or secular. Through time, truth, leadership and personnel changes things began to turn day by day. Today, we have a mixture of ladies who have been serving the Church before I ever became Pastor to some who have come on as early as this year, and let me say without any hesitation or doubt that I have never worked with a sweeter, more gracious, unified group of ladies at any time in my life. We are in the  process moving our entire congregation into a new facility all the while sharing our present facility with another congregation – along with all the “behind the scenes” chaos that accompanies this type of undertaking.  I thank the Lord for the grace, love and patience He has given both church families, but let me say that there is not a group of people in either congregation or on either staff that has been more affected, displaced and moved around as much as the Administrative Assistants at TBC. While they have been the most disrupted group, I can honestly say they have been the group that has complained the least (including your Pastor).

Mary, Debbie, Peggy, Carol Ann, Mrs. Shirley and Michele…I want you to know that you sweet ladies make the toughest times manageable and even the tough work enjoyable. Your sweet spirit, your love and dedication for our Church body, and the passion you show for our Lord has encouraged me in so many ways.  The grace and patience you have displayed to your Pastors and leadership is nothing less than sterling. Our Church only knows a fraction of what you do and I only know a small percentage I’m sure, but please know that I speak for all of our Pastors when I say that as wonderful as you have been in the past, it pales in comparison to how you have been through the last several months. One of the greatest joys I have is to not only serve as your “boss,” but that you also allow me to serve as your Pastor and you have loved, prayed and been so faithful through every transition. I just want to jump out one day early and let you know that we love you and simple words of appreciation or recognition can never express my personal gratitude. Thank you for what you have done and thank you so much for they source of encouragement you have been to me through these years. You are greatly loved and appreciated.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Looking at the Cost of Ownership.....Big Decisions for Trinity

I am posting one final post by Tim Cool....this one is an article found in Church Executive magazine and deals with the difference between purchasing a building vs. leasing a building.  I thought, given our current situation and the decisions we are facing as a church family, it would benefit all of us to look at this more closely.  Hope this article helps explain some of why we are considering the options we are currently exploring. 


Cost of ownership

What’s the real cost of ownership?
By Tim Cool
I come from a background of planning and building ministry facilities, having been blessed to investing 23 years of my life in serving churches to develop new and renovated ministry facilities. That phase of my life brought me great joy and fulfillment.
But now I am very burdened by the millions, even billions, of dollars that are spent each year on religious construction without a clear understanding of the “real” cost of ownership. I also think that most ministry leaders do not understand that the ongoing costs eclipse the initial costs and do so in a much larger way than you would imagine.

Look at the real cost of ownership of our ministry facility:
1. INITIAL COST. Assume that our new ministry facility is 30,000 square feet and we can have it built for $125 per square foot; of that, the construction partner’s fee was 9 percent and we paid the design professional a fee of 7 percent of the construction value. We will also assume that the land has been paid for and is unencumbered of debt. So what do the numbers look like?

INITIAL COST: 30,000 SF x $125/SF = $3,750,000 plus design fees = $4,012,500
Construction Partner Fee: $3,750,000 x 9% = $337,500
Design Professionals Fee: $3,750,000 x 7% = $262,500

2. COST OF “MONEY.” Assume that we borrowed $3 million to pay for the project and we did so based on a 15-year loan at 6 percent; but we paid it off in seven years. In this scenario, you will have paid about $1.1 million in interest.

3. COST OF OPERATION. Based on our research and benchmarking provided by the International Facility Managers Association, the average church in America will spend $4.50 to $7.00 per square foot annually for janitorial services, utilities and general maintenance.  In addition, a church will spend an additional amount in capital improvements that will be in the $1.50 per square foot range (if the capital reserve account is started at the time construction is complete). This number grows significantly higher if you neglect the capital reserve account during the early years of the building’s life cycle.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that we will spend $6.50 per square foot for operational and capital reserve items.  This may be low, but we want the calculations to be realistic.
30,000 SF x $6.50/SF = $195,000/yr.

Assume a 40-year life cycle (which is not that long) at 1.5 percent per year of inflation.  Remember, that operational costs are perpetual and paid for with inflated dollars, so this is going to increase, and 1.5 percent is probably too low.

$195,000/yr x 40 years = $7,800,000 + 60% (1.5% per year inflation for 40 years…without compounding) = $12,480,000

So look at this:
1.Initial costs including design – $4,012.500

2.Cost of Money – $1,100,000

3. Cost of life cycle operations and capital reserve – $12,480,000 (that is $416/SF…OUCH)


Wow, that’s a big number. But here is the shocking part:
1. The combined cost of the construction partner and the design professionals ($600,000 in this example) is only 3 percent of the total cost of ownership

2. The construction cost is only about 20 percent of the total cost of ownership

3. The interest paid is only about 6 percent of the total cost of ownership

4. Leaving 71 percent of the total cost of ownership in operation costs and capital expenditures.

So what costs more: the initial cost or the cost after you occupy? I think the numbers speak for themselves. Do we invest the same amount of time and energy in planning your operational costs as we did when we developed our master plans and floor plans?

The fees that encompass only 3 percent of the total cost of ownership feel so important at the time we hire them, but the decisions, direction, means and methods that this team suggests and implements will be with you for the life of your buildings. Do we have our eyes on the real cost of facility ownership?

Tim Cool is the vice president of comperio C3 and founder of Cool Solutions Group, Charlotte, NC. www.coolsolutionsgroup.com

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Critical Change for Trinity....

Trinity is definitely in a time of transition and going through a lot of changes.  If you have been around us at all, you would know that our life as a church has been turned upside down and the Lord is really shaking us out of our comfort zone...but that is not a bad thing!  We are truly excited about all that is going on and are looking forward to whatever He has in store for us.   We have joked about being blessed as one of the "richest, homeless churches in America."

Our Strategy Team and Building Teams have been reading Tim Cool's book, Why Church Buildings Matter and it has helped us evaluate what we should be looking for in terms of facilities for our church body in the days ahead.  This is a fantastic book and I would certainly recommend all of our church members read it as we seek the Lord's will for where our church should move.  While certainly the location and type of facilities we will have are forefront on everyone's mind at this time, I want us to use this time of transition to look at the health of our church and other changes that need to be made.  After reading Tim's recent blog (below), I can't help but think that if we are going to be all that God has called us to be, then we have to change one very important thing about our church - and I believe it is this same thing that all churches struggle with today....



ism image
I was recently leading a workshop for a conference in Texas on Organizational Culture and how it communicates a story…similar to how our facilities communicate a story.  As part of the Q & A time, I was asked a question I have never been asked before.  It caught me a little flatfooted, but got my mind racing.
The question was – “If you could change one thing in ‘church’ today, what would it be?”
Wow…what a loaded question.  I paused while my mind tried to function like Tianhe-2, the worlds fastest super-computer.  The bytes were flashing through my head so fast you could almost see smoke coming from my ears.  I was processing things like:
  • Stop world hunger
  • Stop all wars
  • Stop injustice
  • Stop bickering on Bible Translations
  • Elimination of red carpet and purple pews in churches
  • The unification of denominations
  • etc, etc, etc.
My thoughts ranged from altruistic to humanitarian to downright outrageous.
But then it hit me with clarity I have rarely experienced.
We had just completed a discussion on being contextual…abandoning the unproductive rhetoric of “contemporary vs. traditional”. That discussion, about contemporary or traditional, is really a treatise on personal preference…which is actually a form of an “ism”….“me-ism”.
That was it!!!!  That is the one thing I would change if I could.  I would eradicate me-ism.
According to Wikipedia, me-ism is defined as “a focus on, or obsession with, oneself”.  Another website says it is “the error of exaggerating the value of one’s own point of view”.
My response became crystal clear and intentional.  Whether we are debating guitars and drums vs. an organ, or the KJV vs. the NIV or NLT, or if a steeple is more spiritual than a shopping center sign, or whether we should wear ties vs. flip-flops, it is all me-ism. These all represent personal preferences. Some based on our past experiences and others based on our current context….but they are about ME!
Can you image what a different church (and world) we would live in if we could abandon our me-ism for “you-ism”, “other-ism” and “Christ-ism”?
Next time you get embroiled in a silly debate about hymnals, pew color, instrumentation, when the offering should be received, tattoos, dress codes and which day to worship, step back and determine if it is merely me-ism.
Step out and be a me-ism killer!
PS:  This is as much for me as you. Like Paul, I am the greatest of sinner.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Planning for Our Worst....not bad advice!

Some time ago I saw this link  http://www.challies.com/christian-living/when-youre-at-your-best-plan-for-your-worst?utm_content=buffer71490&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer  and I believe it is timely for all of us. This advice should help all of us in every area of life, not just when dealing with the internet. 


When You're at Your Best, Plan for Your Worst

My children are growing up fast and, between you and me, they’re growing up a little bit faster than I had expected. My son is thirteen now, just a half school year away from being in high school. I sometimes find myself remembering when I was thirteen, and the kinds of things I awakened to and became interested in. Though I see now that I was only a kid, I was sure that I was all grown up. It’s disquieting at best. Meanwhile my oldest daughter is 11, going on 16. I love her to death, but she too is getting far too old for her own good. There are three kids in our home, but only one of them is still a child.

As my kids grow up, I find that I need to have important but uncomfortable discussions with them. They are unfortunate discussions, but the kind you’ve got to have in a world like ours. I suppose the only thing worse than having those discussions is not having them.

Some time ago we implemented a plan in our home to protect the kids from some of what lurks out there on the Internet. We removed Internet access from some devices, limited it on others, and applied filters that keep tabs on what we are doing online. It has been very smooth from a technological perspective, but a little less so on the interpersonal level.

Recently my son said, “Dad, you’re treating me like I’m addicted to pornography. But I haven’t ever seen it and don’t want to see it!” And he’s right, to some degree. If I’m not treating him like an addict, I am at least treating him like a pre-addict, someone who has the inclination, or who may well have it before long. In this way I think I understand him a little better than he understands himself. Of course our Internet plan is not designed only to protect the children from exposure to pornography, but that is still one of its major purposes.

But his exasperation and hurt feelings gave us opportunity to talk about one of the principles I have found helpful in my own life: When you are at your best, plan for when you are at your worst. I see this as an application of 1 Corinthians 10:12-13: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Right there, in the middle of this discussion about sexual immorality, the power of temptation and the promise in temptation, Paul gives a call to humility: “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” This is consistent with what he told the church in Rome: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3).

There is a kind of weakness, a kind of vulnerability, that may come when we are convinced of our strength. It is when we arenot being tempted, it is when we are standing strong in the Lord’s grace, that we ought to consider the times we will be weak and tempted and eager to sin. We need to assume such times will come and we need to use the moments of strength to put measures in place that will protect us when we are weak. The wise nation builds its defenses in peace time, not once the enemy has invaded its borders; the wise homeowner buys insurance before the big catastrophe, not once the flood has already risen. The wise Christian fights sin even when sin seems distant and dormant.

I have yet to meet the man who hasn’t been tempted at one time or another. And for this reason I have filtering software and accountability software and, even better, men who ask me good questions about my life. In the end, I explained, I am only holding my son to the standard I use for myself—the standard of a sinful man, wanting desperately to avoid a major fall, and all too aware that in those times I begin to lose my delight in God, I grow in my delight in sin. This, I hope, is the sober judgment the Lord calls us to.