Sun, Dec 22, 2019
NOTE: If you are one of the 7 regular Scott’s Thoughts readers who actually read last week’s ST, you’ll recognize this week’s ST is out of sequence with the ‘new rhythm’ of rotating each week between ST and Great Questions Answered. Sorry–just needed to cover a few important items this week. We’ll jump back into normal rhythms next week. (If the previous three sentences mean nothing to you, move on, there’s nothing to see here.)
We are collecting a Special Christmas Offering to support two of our missionary families. Over the last few decades, our Christmas and Easter offerings have helped fund, by my estimation, about $500,000 of projects like these!
- Jim and Laurie Barnes – Missionaries in Prague, Czech Republic – Laurie is a local FCC product who, along with her husband, has spent over 20 years of faithful ministry in downtown Prague, where they are undergoing a massive $250,000 expansion to add more space for their library, numerous education, Bible study, and childrens’ programs, and a coffee shop space that will help them continue to reach into the community! It’s a huge undertaking and they could use our help. Keep up with them at czechbarnes.weebly.com.
- Steve and Kay Carpenter – Missionaries in Mexico City, Mexico – Since 1995 the Carpenters, who are East TN natives, have faithfully served in leadership development, church planting, theological training, and outreach to the community. They are currently in need of help in funding a couple projects for the community outreach center their church developed: roofing/upgrades to playground equipment and more office/educational space. These are exactly the kind of ongoing community outreaches the Carpenters have been leading for years!
You can donate that by designating for “Christmas Offering” on the memo line of your check, by clicking on “Give” at fccgreene.org, or texting the word “help” to 84321.
Bigtime Thanks and Report on Recent Community Outreaches
Bigtime thanks to so many of you Amazing People who have helped with one of our many Community Outreach events that have happened in just the past 5-6 weeks! We’ve joined forces, as a church, as campuses, and as Life Groups, to do a bunch of things this past month. We’ve
- sent 650 shoeboxes to Operation Christmas Child,
- installed new lights in the Chuckey-Doak High School auditorium and purchased a new vacuum cleaner for their custodians,
- helped with the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot,
- decorated the Chuckey-Doak High School entrance, commons, and auditorium for Christmas,
- provided refreshments for the Chorus Concert for Chuckey-Doak High School, and Middle School, and Doak Elementary School,
- collected 2 truckloads of food from Chuckey-Doak High School after a two-month food drive challenge, delivered it to the Greene County Food Bank, and rewarded the winning classes with a pizza party,
- led Cookie Decorating at Catalyst at the Downtown Christmas Shindig,
- fed the Greeneville High School faculty and staff,
- provided cookies for every single Greeneville High School student,
- “adopted” 55 kids from local schools to provide Christmas presents,
- made and installed a carpetball table for the Greeneville High School Teachers Lounge, made by our own Garrett Widmaier,
- and our Greeneville campus peeps have another one coming up, to help at the downtown Midnight on Main New Year’s bash!
(With apologies to grammarians for copious use of exclamation points and one-word sentences…) Wow! That’s. So. Awesome. Do you think that becoming a multisite church is helping us reach out into our community with open-handed generosity that is #forgreene?! Holy cow! The word is out, y’all–First Christian Church is serious about community outreach! Bigtime thanks to so many of you who pitched in!
We have a big vision and a big budget for 2020 that we’ll be telling you more about in the Elders Update Letter that is now a solid 4 weeks late bc of yours truly, which is awesome. #winning … Anyway, copies of the 2020 Budget will be available in The Hub or online starting next Sunday, December 29.
Here are a few reposted and new highlights of the 2020 Budget:
- The 2020 Budget includes giving away almost $120,000 from our General Fund to local and global missionaries, benevolence, and outreach organizations to help fund Kingdom work!
- One major change we made with multisite, beginning with 2019, is that each Campus Pastor not only dedicates approximately 20% of his time toward leading campus-specific outreach, but that each one has a line item in the budget to help fund it?! Cool, huh?!
- We have a slightly larger ongoing focus on technology and communications needs given that we now, as of 2019, are sending Sunday morning sermons to/fro campuses and have a Full-Time Communications/Technology Director.
- Our budget helps fund weekly teaching and spiritual nurture of over 200 youth and children?! It helps pay for curriculum, supplies, crazy youth group games, trips, training/leadership development for small group leaders, etc. (It does the same for people of other ages and many adult things, too, but, who wants to hear about how their money funds things for adults?!)
- We’ve badly needed to increase hours and wages over the last couples years in a couple Admin areas, with still further work to do. Federal wage laws have also changed some things for us and will in the coming years. Despite some changes in laws and hiring of new staffers over the last few years, we’ve been able to decrease staffing as a total percentage of the budget from 56.2% during 2017, which is traditionally a little high for a church of our size, to 51.9% during 2o20. (For the record, we do not provide benefits for full-time staff except for a cell phone allowance, so these percentages reflect total salary package. It will make sense when you actually look at the budget.)
- Over the last few years, we’ve begun to put increased focus on Leadership Development. That is reflected in a number of areas. This means funds to train key volunteers, take them along to a ministry-related conference, take them out for coffee, etc.
- We help support the livelihoods of 13 families, which includes 29 children?! (3 of them are mine, so thanks for your financial contributions!)
Our weekly budgeted needs for 2020 are an increase of 8.6%, which is relatively conservative given our weekly attendance has increased about 25% during that same time. This increase means our weekly need is going from $16,810 in 2019 to $18,245 in 2020, which is an increase of $1,435 per week. So we need your help! If you aren’t yet giving regularly or as meaningfully as you could to support the amazing work God is doing here at FCC, please prayerfully consider how much the Lord is calling you to give during 2020. If you’ve received an increase at your job, if you’ve had a windfall, please don’t forget–as we say in Next Steps and on Sunday mornings–that giving first shows we are giving God first place.
7 Days of Prayer
7 Days of Prayer is an opportunity to start off the year focusing on deepening your relationship with God. Our 6 Residents began to lead us in this, as a beginning-of-year practice, and it’s a good way for us to kick off our year together. More details here…
Re|engage Starts Up Again Soon
While Scott’s Thoughts is generally for stuff not covered through our normal protocols for promo, I wanted to mention that, if you haven’t yet done Re|engage, you should definitely consider jumping in on the upcoming Spring session! It can be a really helpful enrichment program to give your marriage a tune-up. Guys, your wife would love for you to suggest it. You will thank me later–seriously. More details here…
The Authority of the Word of God, How do we Get it Deeper into our People?, and Some (Mostly Helpful Toward that end) Tweaks to Sermon Series Planning
In my unique position of interacting pretty deeply with many people over the course of many years, I see the issue of authority cropping up in churches and in people all around me, and it will continue to be of foundational importance. Everyone who used to teach me about God and the Bible and who told me this was absolutely right: If you do not work to bring yourself fully under the authority of the Word of God, you will go off the rails.
Because our human tendency is to pervert the world into a self-salvation project with Guess Who at the center, we will turn everything else into an idol or an authority, ultimately ensuring that we are our own authority. To paraphrase Paul in the first few chapters of Romans: How’s that you-as-your-own-authority thing working, Smarty Pants?! You mean it has resulted in your condemnation before God just like every other single human who has ever lived?! Crazy. Whodathunkit?!
Friends, we must never stop holding up God’s Word as our center lest we ourselves go off the rails. In 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Paul reminded his protege Timothy of this very need to make the Word of God his center, in contrast to those who had gone off the rails.
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:14-17
In that vein, there are a few Sermon Series tweaks we’re making, some of which are ways we want to further implement something we like to say around here (Team Code Maxim #2): The Word does the work. We must continue to find ways to get the Word of God more deeply into our people! So here are a few tweaks we’re making…
- Going Verse-by-Verse through a Book/Section of Scripture – We’re going back to reimplementing something we used to do for years, namely maintaining a regular pattern of preaching predominantly passage-by-passage through a book or section of the Bible. We did 40-something weeks in Genesis and Revelation, another 20-something in Exodus, many weeks/months in Ruth, Esther, Psalms, Matthew, Mark, 2 Timothy, etc. So this will mean, for example, that we’re doing 22 weeks in Ephesians beginning January 2020. That will likely be followed by a short series on something more “topical” like the Attributes of God or Grace in the Old Testament, e.g., followed by the next series that will cover a book or section the Bible. So, something like 75% verse-by-verse through a book/section and 25% “topical”. For the record, we’ve always done truly expository/expositional preaching verse-by-verse through a text, but not always through a book or section of the Bible. (For the record, part 2, many improperly conflate “expository” or “expositional” preaching with verse-by-verse-through-a-book-or-section-of-the-Bible as if it’s more Biblical than going verse-by-verse through a section that may not be successive with the next passage in a book of the Bible. They usually do so because some preacher or church told them that’s more faithful more than a pattern or model we see in Scripture. To make the point, we see almost literally zero examples of this in the Bible itself. The sermons and preaching there show no such model for this. It has become a more modern test of conservatism that doesn’t have remotely the biblical precedent its purveyors claim. To be “expository” simply should mean, at least, that the main point being made in a sermon comes from the text.) That being said, we’re going back to our Old School verse-by-verse through a book/section method because, as we noted in last week’s Scott’s Thoughts: (1) I think week-to-week thematic overlap, within a series, that comes from the trajectory of Scripture itself, is better than the gathering of texts to create a theme. (2) I think it helps promote better Bible literacy. This is a problem that is getting worse and we should be worried(er than we are!) (3) Because I very much prefer preaching this way. It’s more who I really am. It’s how I like to study for preaching.
- “Bible Reading Plan” with each Series – As a way to continue to further implement Habit 4: Pray and study your Bible, we will be challenging everyone, during each series, to do something like, during the upcoming Ephesians series, read one chapter a day throughout entire series. Since Ephesians has 6 chapters, that means that from Monday through Saturday, reading through the whole book once weekly, for a total of 22 times by the end of the series! Think you’ll know Ephesians well by then?! For other series, we’ll change it up and do things like read a chapter a day for the whole week that contains the previous Sunday’s sermon passage, or read the entire book a day (for shorter books), etc. We’ll note what the Bible Reading Plan for each series or week will be in the Worship Guide each Sunday (which, friendly reminder, is available at fccgreene.org/worshipguide). Also, please note that this isn’t necessarily meant to replace your Read-Through-The-Bible type plan if you already have one, but is meant to be a starting point, if needed, or a supplement, if not, that helps to shape and unify us, corporately, through God’s Word.
- Scripture Memory/Benediction Passage for this Series – Beginning next week, we will be combining the concept of our “Scripture Memory” time that we’ve been doing before the Sermon with sending of the Benediction. In other words, we will recite together, once, at the end of the service, a passage that fits with the series theme as a send-off! (Don’t worry, we’ll put it onscreen like we do now!) We’ll also be printing the Memory/Benediction Verse Reference in the Worship Guide each week, which is important because it might change during a long series, depending on what section of the book of the Bible we’re in. For example, for Ephesians, during weeks 1–13, we’re memorizing Ephesians 2:8-10, but for weeks 14–22, we’re memorizing Ephesians 4:15-16. Those passages are decent summaries for the two main sections of Ephesians, so if you’ll work on memorizing the passages on your own, reciting them once weekly during the service, and you’re following our accompanying Bible Reading Plan, you’re going to be an Ephesians Expert! Boom. See how it all fits together?! One other thing this change does is it gives us back the time to read the passage for each Sunday’s message immediately before the message.
- Slightly Beefing up Weekly Study Questions – We’ve had a basic ongoing assumption that Life Groups meet–aside from the additional purposes of prayer and relationship-building–to primarily apply the Bible truths covered in the Sunday sermon. That’s why we call them sermon-based Life Groups. This works for us since (a) if you attend Life Group having heard/watched the sermon, and (b), if you’re listening well and/or taking notes, then you should have a decent theological foundation from which to begin to apply the message to one’s life in the context of Life Group. So… None of that is going away–we’re still keeping Life Groups and the Weekly Study Questions focused primarily on application–but we’re going to slightly beef up the weekly questions to provide a little more Bible oomph to them, that’s all.
- Preaching Rhythm Between Lead and Campus Pastors – This isn’t about sermon series or service tweaks, but just an FYI. Beginning 2020, we’re tweaking our preaching rhythm a smidge. I will be preaching for 5 weeks in a row and then our Campus Pastors will be preaching the 6th week, or at least–since it only works out that smoothly half the time–the basic amount of preaching will average approximately 85% me, 15% them.