Around this time of the year most bloggers are putting up “best of” lists. Leave it to me to put up a “worst of” list. I’m beginning to realize just how different Compass Point is from other churches around Lakeland and the United States. What works everywhere else usually bombs here. 2007 was Compass Point’s third year as a church plant and we did a lot of experimenting…and discovering. When we started the year we were still trying to flesh out who we were…by the time the year ended we knew. The following is a short list of things that didn’t work for us in 2007. It is not to say it wouldn’t work in other churches…it just bombed for Compass Point.
1. Topical messages series as the norm. In 2007 we started the year doing one topical messages series after another. It bombed. We began tp realize that our folks…and the unchurched people they brought with them…we hungry for a deeper teaching of God’s Word. I am not saying that any and all topical preaching is not deep…just the stuff we were doing wasn’t deep. We we just threw out the cute themes, graphics and sermon notes…and concentrated on preaching through a whole book of the Bible…it seemed to click for us. We still do topical series about three times a year (no more than four weeks at a time). The rest of the time it is expository preaching through the whole counsel of God’s Word.
2. Anything affiliated with a movie, television show or the culturally cool. Basing marketing and message series on LOST, Spiderman, 24, sex, bling, Desperate Housewives, etc. works in other churches…but crashes and burns at Compass Point. Our people have a low threshold for cheese…and anything associated with television shows, motion pictures or the latest cool thing…is cheese. We learned that the hard way with the “Evan Almighty” push.
3. Servant evangelism as an organized thing. No offense to my emerging brothers and sisters…but not everyone is called to feed homeless people. After we tried a church-wide, organized servant outreach push…it bombed. That is when we started taking the Scriptures about the body of Christ being separate parts functioning as one unit seriously. There are certain people at Compass Point that love to feed homeless people…there are certain folks that don’t. There are certain people that like setting up sound equipment at 6:00AM on Sundays….there are certain people that don’t. Compass Point needs both types of folks to do what God called us to do. We’ve stopped trying to force people to be “emerging” and just let them do what gifted them for. It’s working for us.
4. Marketing. I have no clue why marketing doesn’t work for us. Some of the disconnected folks coming to Compass Point say they came because “we didn’t send another stupid postcard to their mailbox.” That may be true…a bunch of churches in town send out mass mailing and bombard the local cable television with ads. Most of it is cheesy (see #2 on this list). We’ve put some invite cards into our folks hands to give out if they ask people to come to Compass Point…and that has seemed to work. Our attempts this year to truly market just tanked…hard. We doubled in attendance and tripled in giving…when we just stopped trying to put our name out there…and started trying to put Christ’s name out there. Go figure. 🙂
5. Functioning without structure, parameters, accountability and rules. We always prided ourselves with being a church that could make changes quickly. In order for that to happen we had little structure and almost no parameters. It looks cool…sounds cool…it isn’t cool. It is one of the main reasons we couldn’t take the next steps because you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Without parameters, written expectations and doctrinal guidelines we were failing fast. In September we started talking to some other churches about what they do. In October we went up to the “Best Practices Practicum” (there’s another one coming up May 12-13, 2008…don’t miss it) at Mountain Lake Church in the Atlanta area and hung out with Shawn Lovejoy and his staff. God literally used it to save Compass Point Church. We came back with ideas, plans…and most importantly parameters. We are going into 2008 with bylaws, leadership structure, job descriptions, doctrinal guidelines, rules, regulations, evaluations, budgets. etc. It has rocked our world for the better!!!
6. The junk we found in leadership and business books, magazines or podcasts. The secular world is not the Christian world. Companies are trying to make billions…churches are trying to reach people for Christ. Businesses have the idea that first is best…Christ said the first had to be last. Companies are trying to get ahead as quick as they can…churches are suppose to take the time to disciple. Trying to apply anything from a Fortune 500 company to a church is like trying to mix oil and water. We tried it…it was stupid…it bombed. We chunked the business books in 2007 and started reading the Bible. Way better stuff about leadership in it…not to mention it’s Godly leadership. Enough said.
7. Bigger is better. This isn’t a shot at megachurches…just something we discovered for ourselves. At Compass Point every time we tried to do something huge or really hype something…it bombed. The whole “be sure to be there next Sunday because we have a HUGE announcement that is going to totally change Compass Point in a HUGE way because I’m so pumped about it” fell into the cheese category for us…and thus came crashing to the ground. We discovered..the hard way…that our folks hate hype, but love to be crammed in. We stopped the hard push on events and started downsizing our meeting space. Last month we went from using all of the gymnasium to only using half. Our people loved it…and brought a bunch of new people the following weeks. In a time when most churches struggle with attendance because of the holidays…we had record attendance and salvation responses.
8. Winging, stealing, copying or borrowing sermons. Trying to use what God laid on other pastor’s hearts…and waiting until the last minute to prepare for the message I was going to bring…just wasn’t working. In October we just ditched it. When I get a little burned out from preaching week after to week these days…I just take a Sunday or two off and let someone else have it. Though I must admit I don’t take that many Sundays off these days from burnout. Spending more time in God’s Word each week and having an structured study and prayer regiment has opened up so many new avenues for fresh preaching and sermon ideas.
9. Lack of spiritual discipline. The whole “go along to get along” concept works well in liberal politics…but has no place in the church. We were so afraid of offending people and running off disconnected people that Compass Point allowed anything in the doors. Consequently there were various types of cancer within our midst. You can only do two things with cancer…cure it or cut it out. We spent too much time in 2007 trying to cure cancer to no avail. We learned that many times the best Biblical approach was to cut it out. It sounds harsh…it sounds unloving…but mostly is sounds Scriptural. It is not easy…it is painful…it is needed for both the church and the person causing the offense. It is rare…it is a last resort…it is something that Compass Point no longer puts off doing when needed.
10. Trying to be a communicator. The whole sitting on a stool sipping coffee calmly talking into a Countryman mic strapped over my ear just wasn’t working for Compass Point or me. I grew up listening to “fire and brimstone” preachers like Sam Cathey. I use to be comedian that walked all over the stage with a microphone in my hand. This whole civilized sit down and teach thing was not what God designed me to be. I am a preacher. I get loud…I get animated…I get up and walk around. I think of myself more of a barbarian in the pulpit than a statesman. In November we chunked the stool, canned the coffee and ditched the Countryman mic. God began to move, I got energized and the folks of Compass Point responded. We discovered that a mule may not be as pretty as a stallion…but most folks relate to the mule. 🙂