Tuesday, December 30, 2008


(I invited Joe Mannino, my brother-in-law, to be a guest blogger. Joe has a heart for God, Christ's Church, and lost people. He wrote this in response to a seminar on Radical Hospitality he attended in WPB, FL. He is also Italian and works out at the YMCA, so if you don't like his blog you better keep it to yourself or you may sleep with the fishes!!)


It is almost impossible for those of us raised in the church really to understand how unchurched persons feel about Christianity and about visiting our worship services.

The Fermi Project, a recent sociological study of how 16-29 years olds outside the church think about Christians, reports the following findings:

  • Judgmental - 87%
  • Insensitive to others - 70%
  • Hypocritical - 85%
  • Not accept persons of other faiths - 64%
  • Old Fashioned - 78%
  • Boring - 68%
  • Too involved in politics - 75%
  • Confusing - 61%
  • Out of touch with reality - 72%

While there are a variety of portals of entry into the life of a congregation, by far the primary entry point is worship.

Sixty to seventy percent of church goers say that the first time they came to worship they were invited and brought by a trusted friend of family member.

The main reasons people, who acknowledge that they would be willing to come to church, say they have not been to worship at a congregation is that they don't know anybody and nobody invited them.


People are most likely to invite their friends or family to worship when:

  1. They themselves are spiritually blessed by attending their congregation
  2. Their congregational leaders teach the importance of "Come & See Ministry" and encourage people to invite their friends.
  3. They believe it will be a positive experience for their friend or family member.

People believe their friend or family member will have a positive experience when they sense the worship service will:

  1. Connect culturally with them.
  2. Be meaningful spiritually to them.
  3. And be executed with excellence.


High Impact Hospitality exceeds people's expectations. There is a "Wow!" factor when a visitor feels that "They expected people like us to show up today and they were ready for us!"

High Impact Hospitality includes many things which people take in quickly and often unconsciously to make their first impressions of the congregation: Facilities, parking, greeters & ushers, refreshments, signage, bulletins & announcements, childcare and visitor follow up.

High Impact Hospitality includes many aspects about the worship service, but the two biggest are the music and the message. Can they relate to the music played and is it played with excellence? Does the message address issues that a visitor can relate to? Is it offered in a way that makes sense to them?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Recommendations for Resolutions

Last Sunday at church we looked at the historical reliability of the Bible. The Bible better be true, because we are called to believe big things and set the course of our lives by them. But believing the Bible is true doesn't do us any good if the scriptures stay on the shelf.

So if you are going to make any New Year's resolutions at all, please make feeding daily on God's word one of them. Here are a few Bible reading plans from the ESV website for you to consider. Find one that works for you!

  • Daily Light on the Daily Path. For over a century, Daily Light on the Daily Path has been a favorite devotional book of those who realize the tremendous benefit of reading and praying Scripture. Originally printed in the mid-1800s, Daily Light was born out of the devout faith of Samuel Bagster, a British bookstore owner determined to share his faith with his twelve children. The Bagsters' daily practice of reading Scripture together, then connecting the day's verses with other passages, inspired one of the children to compile their devotions for publication. The family discussed and prayed over the selection and arrangement of each verse until they were convinced that no further improvement could be made. After two years of prayer and consideration, the devotions were printed in two volumes for morning and evening reading.
  • Every Day in the Word. The popular reading plan features a reading from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs each day. This plan divides the text into 365 sections, so you can read through the entire Bible in one unforgettable year—in as little as 15 minutes a day. In one year, you read the Old Testament, New Testament, and Proverbs once, and the Psalms twice.
  • One-Year Tract Bible Reading Plan. This plan is based on the M'Cheyne reading system, featuring four different readings for use in both family and personal devotions. Each day has two passages from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, and one from either the Psalms or the Gospels. In one year, you read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice.
  • Through the Bible in a Year. The online version of the popular tract. Each day includes a reading from the Old Testament and New Testament. Starting in Genesis and Matthew, the readings continue sequentially—over the course of a year, you never read the same passage twice.
  • Book of Common Prayer Daily Office Lectionary. This plan follows the Daily Office Lectionary found in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) used worldwide by Anglicans and Episcopalians.
  • Daily Reading Bible. Follows the reading plan found in the ESV Daily Reading Bible. Each day has one Old Testament reading, one New Testament reading, and one reading from the Psalms. You read the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice over a year.
  • Chronological. Read the events of the Bible as they occurred chronologically. For example, the Book of Job is integrated with Genesis because Job lived before Abraham. This reading plan is copyright Back to the Bible.
  • Literary Study Bible. Readings every day from the Psalms and Wisdom Literature, Pentateuch and History of Israel, Chronicles and Prophets, and Gospels and Epistles.
  • ESV Study Bible. Readings every day from the Psalms and Wisdom Literature, Pentateuch and History of Israel, Chronicles and Prophets, and Gospels and Epistles.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Very Welch Christmas 2008

Here are some pictures from our holiday gatherings, mostly bad shots - but I was the photog, so that;s what you get!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Child of the Snows

The images of Christmas fly fast and furious past us like the hyperspace scene from Starwars. Words, on the other hand, slow us down and make us think. I did myself a favor and downloaded Dylan Thomas's "A Child's Christmas in Wales" on Mp3 to listen to on the ride to South Florida on Christmas Eve. Though recorded in 1952 (a year before his death), Thomas's voice is a resonant pleasure.

But poems make the best speed bumps. Poems make you read them and re-read them till you see the poet's meaning. Though my favorite poem by G.K. Chesterton is "The House of Christmas", here's another treat to chew on as you seek to savor the richness of the holiday (it makes me long to go to the inn at the end of the world!):

A Child of the Snows by G. K. Chesterton

There is heard a hymn when the panes are dim,
And never before or again,
When the nights are strong with a darkness long,
And the dark is alive with rain.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth a star.

And at night we win to the ancient inn
Where the child in the frost is furled,
We follow the feet where all souls meet
At the inn at the end of the world.

The gods lie dead where the leaves lie red,
For the flame of the sun is flown,
The gods lie cold where the leaves lie gold,
And a Child comes forth alone.

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Monday, December 15, 2008

God moves in

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Camping is a good way to get to know people. When I was growing up my family would go on a camping trip a couple times a year. This meant that instead of five people trying to coexist in one house, we now were crammed into one big canvas tent. You get to know your family (if against your will) in those circumstances.

We would go to "Sandsprit Park" in Stuart, Florida, in the heat of summer, at the height of mosquito season, in a canvas tent. It was a public park (still is – in fact the pictures I googled look like a serious upgrade from what I remember!). And being a public park we learned a lot about the other campers, especially the drunken fishing buddies two campsites down! But you learn about the nice ones too – the lady who shares some charcoal with you, the family making s'mores for anyone who walks by, the retired couple fishing off the seawall who show you how to bait a hook properly. You can't hide things from other campers like you can in your neighborhood back home.

So when God wanted to reveal himself to lost mankind, He chose the closest of human proximities – he pitched a tent.

When the Apostle John says "dwelt among us", the word "dwelt" is the same as the word for "tent". John's readers would have recognized the reference immediately: the Old Testament Tabernacle (literally "tent") – where God dwelt among his people! In the Old Testament when God wanted to draw close to His people he pitched a tent.

But when God want to reveal himself to a lost and dying world in the ultimate way, He "tabernacled among us" in His Son, Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God dwells among us in a personal way!

And, unlike our neighbors, this neighbor is glorious!

" ..and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

Glory is a pretty awesome thing. When glory comes down people fall on their faces, shield their eyes, and fear for their lives. Glory is nothing less than the visible manifestation of God!

And John is telling us that Jesus is the true glory of God! Pretty stunning truth about a kid from Bethlehem. And yet there it is – the glory of God, in human form, camping next door. And all this for us. Like the Nicene Creed says, "Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven". "For us"?! That's grace! (And truth!)

So this season think about this: God has drawn near to us - will you draw near to Him?

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Sunday, December 14, 2008

tcwelch@bellsouth.net sent you a link to content of interest

tcwelch@bellsouth.net sent you a link to the following content:

The Measure of Our Growth and Decay

The sender also included this note:

From my favorite blog...

Sent via a FeedFlare link from a FeedBurner feed.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Advent Longing…

The calendar for the traditional church year begins, not with January 1st, but with Advent. Advent is a time to get simple, get quiet, and stir up a longing for Christ's 2nd Coming. Only recent history starts the frantic rush of the "Christmas Season" the day after Thanksgiving. No, advent is actually a "mini Lent" intended to strip our souls of acquired excess and prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. We stir up that longing by reading the prophets and other Bible passages that point us to Christ's return.

Last week I was meditating on the traditional reading for the day from the Daily Office of the Book of Common Prayer - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words"

As I meditated on these verses, I was nurturing a hunger and desire to see Christ face to face. I was reflecting on the amazing thought that one day I will really see Jesus with my own two eyes! I was forcing myself to slow down and move deeper in my relationship with my Savior, because at the time I was feeling the pressure to prepare a message about Jesus for our church!

Then I realized the danger of knowing correct doctrine about Jesus, but failing to press in to know the person of Jesus. The core of our faith is not a dogma, it's a person. I can know right truth about Christ and communicate right truth about Christ. And I must. But I want my knowledge to feed a relationship.

I don't want to "meet the Lord in the air" like a blind date! I don't want to say, "Oh, you're the person I've talked so much about! Glad to finally meet you!" I want to meet Jesus like someone who has been talking on the phone with a friend, only to see him drive up in the driveway! It's not a new relationship, but it's so much more immediate.

Yes, I realize that now we walk by faith and not by sight. And I know that the return of Christ will take that relationship to a whole new level. But I want to spend my Advent getting quiet, getting simple, and stirring up a deeper longing for my Lord!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Monday, December 1, 2008

Stephen's Pictures

Stephen was practicing candel light photography with the digital camera, so I took a couple shots myself!

Posted by Picasa

The Wonder of the Incarnation

The Apostle's Creed tells us that our God is "Maker of Heaven and Earth". This can be demonstrated with undeniable scientific precision by performing the intricate experiment of walking outside. God's glory is demonstrated in all He has made. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see God's creative, caring, and revealing hand. His fingerprints are everywhere! As Paul stated,

"For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made." (Romans 1:20).

Yet we also see fallenness in creation. When sin entered God's good world, everything went askew. We are now alienated from our creator, our neighbor, ourselves, and even creation itself (Rom 8:21-22). That explains the homesickness in the center of our souls. As G.K. Chesterton said:

"For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done."
(From "The House of Christmas")

But God has not abandoned his fallen creation. He send His Son on a rescue mission to reclaim creation and restore all that was lost in the fall. The wonder of the incarnation is that to reclaim creation, Christ became a part of creation. The Creator is created, the Maker is made! Truly we have no response to this overwhelming truth other than flat-out mind-bending awe and face-to-the-floor worship!

So take these words by Christopher Smart (1722-1771) and reclaim the wonder of Christmas:

Where is this stupendous stranger?
Prophets, shepherds, kings, advise.
Lead me to my Master's manger,
show me where my Savior lies.
O Most Mighty! O Most Holy!
Far beyond the seraph's thought:
art thou then so weak and lowly
as unheeded prophets taught?

O the magnitude of meekness!
Worth from worth immortal sprung;
O the strength of infant weakness,
if eternal is so young!
God all-bounteous, all-creative,
whom no ills from good dissuade,
is incarnate, and a native
of the very world he made.