Why I’m Stepping Down from Kairos

Eleven years ago, a group of single adults took me to lunch to pitch an idea for an evening of worship for young adults. They had demographic studies, growth trends, and model services from other cities; it was a very impressive meeting. Of course, I told them I would help get it started, but I didn’t have time to do it.

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Famous last words…

Eleven years later, I’m still spending every Tuesday night teaching several hundred young adults who gather at Kairos. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love these young adults. I love their rawness, their honesty, and their courage. Of all of the things I’ve had the chance to be part of, Kairos has to be one of the highlights of my ministry.

But things change, and Kairos is changing. There is a different and exciting future for Kairos. I can see that future, but I’m just not the one to get Kairos there. There are several reasons for this.

  1. My life has changed. We’ve moved my mom to Nashville, and I’m responsible for her care.
  2. The Middle Tennessee Initiative means Brentwood Baptist Church has 5 campuses, and we’ll be adding more campuses in the near future. This will demand more and more of my attention and time.
  3. There is a generation of Millennials coming into Kairos, and I’m separated from them by almost 3 generations. I don’t understand the world they live in—not like I should to effectively teach them well.

For the last several months, I’ve been sensing Kairos was coming to a necessary time of transition. I talked with friends I trust, and my thoughts were confirmed. Confident of God’s leading, I asked the leadership of our church to initiate a search for the new Kairos pastor. I’m glad to write that Chris Brooks joined our staff in December. He’s going to bring a lot of good things to Kairos.

And he’s different than I am. Of course he is! The whole point was to find a different style of leadership and teaching that could bring Kairos to a new future. He has skills, experiences, and gifts I don’t have. That’s why we called him to come! Already, in big and small ways, I’ve seen his leadership and pastoral leadership confirmed. I’m confident we’ve made the right decision in bringing Chris to Kairos.

I’ll still be around. I’ll be teaching from time to time and counseling the Kairos team as they need me. I’m still committed to Kairos and its success. I just won’t be involved in the day to day ministry.

This has been my decision and mine alone. I made this decision because of my great love for Kairos. It’s time for you to fly. You’re ready, and I’m going to be your biggest fan…

Kairos, you will never know how much you mean to me.

I do love you, guys. God’s best to you all.

Mike

Preaching in the Multi-Site Church

I was recently featured in Preaching Magazine. You can read the article in full by clicking here.

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Here’s an excerpt:

We decided early on that it was important for the way that we wanted to do it (multi-site churches), that we have a live preacher. There are times when we do the all-state, as we call it—the state of the church vision—[a time when] we want everybody to hear the same message. Once, maybe twice a year, we do that. The other times, we all preach from the same text, we preach the same message, we have the same rocks. We call it the big rocks; everybody gets that. From there, the pastors are free to contextualize that message.

Relax, We’ve Been Here Before

Since the ruling of the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage, my email inbox has been filled with Chicken Little prophecies foretelling the death of the church in America. According to these Debbie Downers, the federal government will systematically begin to shut down every institution and organization that doesn’t support the cultural agenda. Law suits will follow law suits and the church will be forced to close its doors.

Relax, We’ve Been Here Before

All of this, and more, may come true—except for that last part. The church in America won’t close up. We won’t be shut down. We may change. We may adapt, but we won’t close. God will always find a way for His people. I’m old enough to remember when China closed the “Bamboo Curtain” and no missionaries or Christian literature were allowed in China. We thought Christianity had been eradicated in China, but when the country opened itself to the world we found, to our utter amazement, millions of Christians in China.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do think that part of what’s going on is God is judging His church in North America. For too long, we’ve traded away our gospel birthright for the porridge of secular influence. We’ve become involved in secular politics to the point that the church is now viewed as just another political action committee. We’ve tried to become engaged in the entertainment world to the point that we’re just another demographic group to target through marketing.

Like the church at Laodicea, Christ is calling us back to our first love—Him and Him alone. He’s calling us back to the centrality of our mission—the proclamation of the good news of His gospel. We’ll find new energy and new power when we focus again on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

How will we do this? The same way the church has always done it. We’ll focus on the places and people no one wants. The medieval church was the only institution that responded to plague victims and their families. Mother Theresa reached out to the dying lepers of India. Again, we’ll find those people and places no one is paying attention to and start serving there. It’s what the church has always done when the church has been at her best.

And we’ll do it wherever we can. We’ll share the love of Christ in our homes, in neighborhood coffee shops, out under trees—wherever two or three will gather together. The church has never been tied to buildings or methods. We’ve been free to adapt our methods as needed to accomplish our kingdom message.

Yeah, I know it’s a different kind of day for the church in America. But then again, it’s not that different at all. We’ve been here before. The church has overcome worse. In fact, the church of Jesus Christ seems to thrive best in times like these.

So, trust Christ. Trust the message. Love your neighbors and spread the Word. Be encouraged. Our world is asking questions for which Jesus is the only answer.

A Little Honesty About the Pew Report

Back in May, the Pew Research Center released a study that showed the percentage of people claiming to be Christians had rapidly decreased over the past several years. Humanists were elated. “See,” they shouted, “we told you religion is dying.” Church leaders wrung their hands and blamed the culture, liberal seminaries, and lukewarm church members for the decline. “The culture has become hostile to the faith,” they told us, “and the weak are falling away.”

A Little Honesty About the Pew Report

I have a little different take on this. I don’t think the Pew study is shocking. I just think the study is honest. I’ve been doing what I do for a long time, and here’s a dirty little secret that no one will tell you: we’ve never had as many Christians or church members as we have claimed. Anybody who works in a church can tell you this. In a typical church, attendance will be half of the total membership, and a “healthy church” will have 80% of those who attend worship involved in Sunday School or Bible Study.

If you serve an older church, one that’s been around for over 50 years or so, you literally won’t be able to find 25% to 50% of the membership. They will have moved, died, or joined another church, but never updated their membership status. The published numbers of church membership and those claiming to be followers of Christ have always been suspect.

There are several reasons for this. For one thing, several years ago, there was a great deal of social pressure to be a “member” of a local church. You didn’t have to attend, participate, or even give. You just had to be a member. As a result, our churches were filled with “members” who never intended to be a part of church life.

Our demographics are different. Populations are changing and churches have been slow (ok, totally failed) to respond in meaningful ways to the needs of the new communities around them.

Now, our culture has changed and there’s no longer any social pressure to be part of a church. Sunday has become just another day in the weekend. People attend entertainment events, ball games, shop, go to the lake or the beach, and never think twice about missing worship. If you ask them, they will tell you point blank, “We don’t go to church anywhere.”

And there you have it—an honest answer. For me, this is the great revelation of the Pew Research study. People are now honest about their spiritual choices. I, for one, welcome the new reality. Now, we know where we stand.

And yes, there’s a great challenge before the local church, but for me, I find great freedom in this new honesty. People are declaring their preferences and from there, it’s a lot easier to start the conversation about Christ, faith, and what matters in life.

The Pew study didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. We may not have wanted to admit it, but we knew it. Churches and church leaders are going to have to make some hard decisions—either become missional or become extinct. The Pew study makes our choice a little easier, a little more obvious.

After all, now that we know what we know, we really don’t have an excuse, do we?