Month: February 2017

For the past ten years or so, many churches across the country have taken the step to stream their services online to expand their audience. Many have a variety of quality outputs based on a production standpoint, but as a church wanting to move to live streaming, it is good to know some of the pros and cons. Continue reading

Who Are The “Shooters” In Your Life?

I watched a favorite movie of mine the other day:  Hoosiers.  It’s getting a little dated but I still get “all the feels” whenever I view it.  Hoosiers is such a compelling story.  Having 4 boys at home who are just starting to get into sports, I thought it would be fitting for them to view the iconic basketball “David vs. Goliath” story.

If you’re familiar with Hoosiers, you know it’s a story about the sleepy small-town of Hickory, Indiana where basketball is a religion.  Set in the 1950s, it follows a fictional high school team which goes from nobodies to state champions (spoiler alert).  Along with the overall story of an unlikely team finding sports greatness, the movie has several subplots.  There’s the new coach with the sketchy past:  Norman Dale played by Gene Hackman.  There’s Jimmy Chitwood, the team superstar whose basketball career might be over due to his father’s passing.  And then there’s Wilbur “Shooter” Flatch played by the late Dennis Hopper.  Shooter seems doomed to be stuck in the glory days of his basketball past, as his present-day life consists of alcoholism and begging the town locals for spare change.

It’s the character of Shooter who left an impression on me during this most recent viewing of the movie.  By all estimations, Shooter is an embarrassment at best and an incompetent drunk at worst.  His son Everett plays on the team and to his dismay, Shooter will show up at games slobbering and stammering in a drunken stupor.  Shooter may love the game of basketball but he can’t stay sober even for a couple hours to watch his son play a game.

Despite all of this, it is Coach Dale that decides to risk big and take Shooter on as an assistant.  He realizes Shooter knows the game and has an eye for finding the opposing team’s weakness.  But he takes Shooter on one condition:  he must clean up and sober up.

If you’ve watched the movie, you know the rest of the story.  Shooter comes on board and grows in confidence as Coach Dale gives him dignity he hasn’t had in a long time.  Shooter earns back the respect of his son and even helps the team to a last-second win after Dale gets “kicked out” for disputing a ref’s call.  In the end, Shooter does fall off the wagon but he’s come too far to turn back.  He’s admitted to the hospital and gets detoxed, determined to turn his life around once and for all.

It occurred to me as I watched this movie that the attitude of redemption and seeing something of value in people is a very Christ-like trait.  Although the movie had no direct ties to make this statement, I saw in Coach Dale a small representation of what Christ must see in all the “least of these”.  In those whom society sees no worth and no possible chance of redemption, Jesus sees something else.  He sees worth and value and He puts Himself in the middle of their story.

The Gospels are chock full of encounters displaying Christ’s compassion.  Think of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4).  Or the woman caught in adultery (John 8).  How about the lepers healed in Luke 17?  Finally, even in His death Jesus reaches out to the thief on the cross saying “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23).  In each story, we see our Savior giving meaning to someone otherwise meaningless.  He chooses to give worth to the ones deemed unworthy.

So what does this mean for us?  If we’re honest, we all have “Shooters” in our lives:  people who have been broken by an event either of their own choosing or perhaps circumstances they had no control over.  But that event led to an unraveling and a form of cultural shunning that has left a mark no less obvious than a proverbial “scarlet letter”.  The neighbor down the street who nurses a private painkiller addiction.  The husband and father who lost his job and has to file for unemployment to help pay the bills.  The pregnant and unwed teen who sees no hope and is seriously considering an abortion.  The list goes on and on.

I’m convinced that in every situation, we as Christians are called to minister to the least of these knowing that when we do, we are ministering unto Christ Himself.  We do it because Christ’s love compels us to; His Holy Spirit works within us to produce feelings of compassion and a desire to reach out to the unlovable and undesirable.  It’s a mystery how this happens as we cannot produce these feelings in and of ourselves.   As the Bible teaches our good deeds apart from God are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).  Society’s best efforts apart from Christ are really just that: best efforts.

The challenge for each of us is to consider, who can I give dignity to today?  Many will never darken the door of a church, let alone crack a Bible or pray.  But we can be imitators of Jesus, putting on His flesh and speaking life to those who are desperate to be looked at as a real person.  We can bring a message of hope and salvation in Jesus Christ.

How about it?  Who are the Shooters in your life today?  What person has been put in your path which the rest of society has passed over?

Written by Derek Charles Johnson. Derek is a singer/songwriter and church worship leader at New Life Fellowship and resides in Aberdeen, South Dakota. To find out more about Derek, be sure to check out his blog here

Three Ways A Church Becomes Guest-Friendly

We have many good memories from the people who have been in our home over the years.  I have two not so-good memories as well.

It is easy to be hospitable and guest-friendly when everything goes the way you expect.   Our response to the unexpected is a good measure of how guest-friendly our home is.  Our bodies often communicate what our mouths may never speak.

The first memory was when a high school guy spilled a soft drink on our new couch.  Normally, our family doesn’t eat or drink on this piece of furniture.  Five years later, we still have this rule.  We had a gathering for high school students and somehow the drink made it to the family room.  When multiple high school students spread out on a couch, a mess is about to happen.  It’s a reality of the situation.  The spill was cleaned up and nothing was said.

The second memory was a dinner party.  Everybody took off their shoes except one person.  Calling out that person would have created an awkward meal and so we let it go.  Ironically, the person has guests remove shoes when entering his home.

The point is that guests don’t always know the unspoken expectations of our homes.  The same principle is true for our churches.

In churches, many unspoken expectations don’t even make sense to our guests.  Today, I want to give you three ways to become more guest friendly at your church.

First, have greeters stand at the doors.  I’m a big believer in this one.  I was part of a church that had 10 entry points to the building and people were missed every week.  The staff transitioned down to three entrances with greeters at the door.  Many times, we get one chance to make a good first impression.  If we meet a family at the door and care them well before they enter the building, there is a better chance they will come back.

Second, take down your “no drink” signs.  One of the dangers with these signs is what it communicates.  To a guest (and even a millennial), this communicates that your building could be more important than me.  If the church engages with the mission of making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ, a cup of coffee in the worship room becomes a small issue.  If a guest needs coffee or a fountain drink to comfortably hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then our sign becomes an obstacle to the kingdom work that morning.

Third, change how you communicate events.  I hate the “announcement time” of most church services anyway, but this one drives me crazy.  So many churches communicate an event and ask people to go see s0-and-so (first name only) to sign up for the event.  Every church is capable of making a shift in this area.  Most churches have a website, email, some form of connection card and a phone number.

Instead of asking people to go see so-and-so, try shifting to something like “indicate you’re interested and we’ll call you”.  You can use a service like FORMSTACK to put a registration form on your website.  You can create a designated email address for event inquiries.  You can ask people to make a note on a connection card.  You can have a designated text number.  There are many services to help with this one,  but it might be the easiest (and cheapest) to have a staff member add a line to their plan and have the church reimburse the expense.  If your church has a smartphone, all of this can be done through the app.  I recommend using AWARE3 for a smartphone app that incorporates online giving.

As our world changes, churches need to explore better ways to communicate with everybody.  People have less time but more demands.  Our mission should always be making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ.  One of our objectives should be getting people information as easily as possible.

You are loved!

Written by Chris Peoples. Chris has served churches in Michigan and Indiana since 2000 as youth pastor, executive pastor and interim pastor. He has also been a speaker for camps and retreats since 2006.

Chris has a Bachelor degree in Ministry Leadership from Cornerstone University and a Master’s degree in Pastoral Leadership from Cincinnati Christian University. Look for more articles from Chris at