WOW! Big Weekend was BIG

31 08 2010

I said last week that we were praying for 10,000 this weekend and if 14,000 came we would really need divine assistance.  Well, God came through with a little over 15,000 people and we actually survived with an awesome weekend.  It was a blast to see Hope folks coming in with their friends and seeing how much everyone enjoyed the weekend.

Amy Grant is the real deal.  Her humble, laid back, down home attitude was perfect.  She was right at home at Hope.  The service was exactly the way we wanted it — a worship service and not a concert.  She connected as she led in worship and the special music during the offering was beautiful.  See the video below of “Better than a Halleluiah”

We seemed to have made an impact in our outreach goal for the weekend.  We usually have around 40 first time guests who fill out our comment cards but this weekend we had over 200!  That is what it is all about.

Also, our connection with Target House went very well.  Amy did a concert with her band down there after the evening service.  The concert was great but watching her interact with these kids with catastrophic illnesses moved me to tears.  Her love, compassion and concern were very evident. 

God did smile on us this past weekend.  Our prayer is that some of our friends who visited with us really heard the message of God love and will return and become a part of Hope Church.


Big Weekend Coming

27 08 2010

Months ago we began planning at Hope.  The idea was a type of “Friendship Sunday” – where the congregation is encouraged to bring a friend to church with them.  That name sounded very 1970’s so we landed on the in-house name of “The Big Weekend”.  (I got the idea from Nelson Sersey’s book, “Ignite” where he calls it the “Big Day”.  And finally we made it our own by calling it, “Extending Hope Weekend”.   We wanted to take this to a new level. 

1.  We set a goal of doubling the attendance.  We are a church for the unchurched and are always looking for ways to reach out to as many folks as possible in the community who might have given up on church.   This would mean 14,000 total for the weekend and if that happens we are in deep trouble with parking — that is unless people come at our less traditional times of 5:30 on Saturday and 8:00 AM on Sunday.  We are praying for 10,000 and if God blesses us with more, He will have to help us out.

2.  We wanted to have a special guest who would be a part of our regular worship.  A mistake some churches make is to bring in all the bells and whistles — with dancing dogs and pyrotechnics — and blow the doors off.  But the problem is that people will come back the following week and it will be a huge letdown.  Therefore, we wanted to have something very special but presented in such a way that people will experience what we do EVERY week at Hope.  Okay, the cool thing is that we got Amy Grant to come and join us.  She is a long-time friend of our worship leader, Bruce Carroll so he extended the invitation and she accepted.  We are pumped.

3.  We prepared the people of Hope through a 3 week series entitled, “Dare to Invest in Others”.  The first week we focused on prayer.  We encouraged folks to start praying for the friends and family members they would invite for the weekend.  We also put the teaser out there that we would be having a special guest joining us for the weekend.  The second week focused on making the move to share with others pointing to Christ as he called his disciples and how God called us.  The third week focused on making the invite to others as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:18-20).   And this Monday we announced via email and Web that Amy was coming. 

4.  In wanting our people to invite and pick up their friends (to add a personal touch and to address the parking crunch issue), we came up with the idea of asking local restaurants to offer a discount for our people that weekend.  We are listing about 25 local restaurants in a bulletin insert that can be taken to one of the restaurants for a deal on their meal. 

5.  Another cool element is Amy’s involvement with St. Jude Children’s Hospital and especially Target House.  We will be highlighting Target House in our foyer during the weekend. 

We are praying like crazy for a great weekend — that God will bring together who He wants to be here and that it will be a life-changing encounter with Christ.

The Nones are Rising

28 04 2009
j04027841I met with a guy yesterday who over the years has rejected any type of religion.  He does seem like he has moved from a hard-core atheist to a semi-open agnostic.  He has been visiting Hope with his girlfriend and has found himself being moved.  He certainly has not embraced a concept of God, but he is open to the possibility. 
It appears that this type of nonbelief is rising across the nation and even here at the buckle of the “Bible Belt”.   Here are some highlights — or lowlights — of what the survey found:
  • 86% of American adults identified as Christians in 1990 and 76% in 2008.
  • Even Tennessee followed that patternwith 92% of adults identified as Christians in 1990 and 83% in 2008
  • The historic Mainline churches and denominations have experienced the steepest declines while the non-denominational Christian identity has been trending upward particularly since 2001.
  • The challenge to Christianity in the U.S. does not come from otherreligions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion.
  • •The “Nones” (no stated religious preference, atheist, or agnostic)continue to grow, though at a much slower pace than in the 1990s, from 8.2% in 1990, to 14.1% in 2001, to 15.0% in 2008.
John Ortberg in an article on the blog Out of Ur asks this question:
“Are we witnessing the process of secularization here in America similar to what Europe experienced in the middle of the twentieth century? “
What are we doing to help stem the tide?  I want to reach more people like my agnostic friend and I am grateful that Hope feels like a place where questions are welcome and doubters can enter safely and hear of the life changing power of Christ.

A Shining Example

2 04 2009


We are having a funeral today for a wonderful man — Frank Braden.  Frank passed away a couple of days ago at the age of 82.  What makes his death significate in the life of Hope Church is that he was the first adult batism here at Hope.  This was way back in 1988.  Frank is a shining example of why we do what we do as a church.

My brother told this story at our staff meeting today about how Frank came to church —- Frank was your classic unchurched person.  He had not been to church in years and had absolutely no desire to waste his time on a Sunday morning sitting around with strangers being bored out of his mind.

He had a woman who worked for him who kept asking him to come to Hope and he kept saying no.  In desperation she said, “Just do one thing for me and I will never ask you to do anything.”  He said, “What’s that?”  “Just come to church with me once, and I will not bug you again.”  Frank reluctantly came, and it completely changed his life.  He found a group of real people how loved him and accepted him right where he was.  Ultimately, he found Christ.  Today at the funeral there were no family members present — he had outlived them all.  But family was there — his family of faith here at Hope.

Frank, we will miss you, but know for sure that we continue to reach out to people who are just like you were some twenty years ago.

Connecting to Hope

27 09 2008

My job around Hope is to see how we can best connect people into our ministry especially through membership and volunteering.  But we cannot connect people who never come and check us out.  So, we do many things to advertise our ministry here — a presence on the web, a sign leading onto our property, billboards around our city at various times throughout the year, Craig’s new radio spots, etc….  But the best advertisement is people telling people.  In fact just the other day, I was in a doctors office and the nurse asked me what I did for a living.  I told her that I was a pastor at Hope and she said that she had heard a lot about our church and really needed to visit.  She said that she had been involved in a church that split a couple of years ago and had been disillusioned with the whole church thing.  I told her that Hope is about that very thing.  We are a church for those who have not necessarily given up on God but have given up on Church.  I hope she comes and check us out.

Another thing that we have noticed about people telling people about Hope is that some of our best evangelist are members of other churches!!!  Maybe they are in a very traditional church and invite some friends to their church and it just does not click.  They will say, “What you need to do is to check out Hope Church.  They are very different.  I think you might really connect with what they are doing over there.”  And that evangelism goes both ways.  I have pointed people toward other churches in our city where I feel like they might connect better.  No church has the corner on the gospel market.  We are just communicating the good news in different ways.

Check out this insightful post by Ben Arment that really got me thinking about this issue of outreach.

Externally Focused Church Webinar

28 03 2008


Listened to a great webinar the other day from Leadership Network.  It was entitled “Breaking into the Kingdom w/ Rick McKinley”  Rick McKinley the pastor of Imago Dei in Portland talked about Four Paradigm Shifts a Church must make to become Missional.  Check out a good summary of this webinar at Robert Grisham’s blog – …this remarkable new opportunity.

Or if you want to listen to the teaching click on the following link:

Good Stuff!

Be It Resolved from 2nd Pres

26 03 2008

2ndPresResWe had a special surprise tonight at our Session meeting. Our mother church, Second Presbyterian of Memphis, graciously sent us a resolution from their Session. Their pastor and our friend, Sandy Wilson came with the Clerk of the Session, Bill Martin and long time staffer Susan Nash. They shared with us the resolution and Sandy prayed for Craig and the church. Here is the resolution which fairly traces the history of Hope:


Resolution from the Session of Second Presbyterian Church

January 2008

Whereas Hope Presbyterian Church opened the doors of her new 5000 seat, 125,000 square foot sanctuary and her expanded 200 space parking lot to the community on January 5-6, 2008;

Whereas she, having begun in 1988, first met in Shelby Place Restaurant , then Evangelical Christian School, moving into her permanent home at 8500 Walnut Grove Road in 1996;

Whereas her sanctuary space at this current site was 80% full in the two hours that most people attend church and she had already expanded;

Whereas she has grown from a church plant of 25 to a fast-growing church of 5,954 members in 20 years;

Whereas her mission to the unchurched, their families and friends brings 6000 adults and 1100 children in their five weekend services times making her one of the largest churches in Tennessee and the United States;

Whereas she is both a local church serving the community at large, Caldwell community specifically and Mid-South churches through a multichurch network and a global church, planting and aiding churches in Mexico, Ecuador, and Kenya;

Whereas she is both a daughter church and a sister church to Second Presbyterian Church;

Be It Resolved that the Session of Second Presbyterian Church wholeheartedly congratulates Dr. Craig Strickland, the Session and staff of Hope Presbyterian Church for their leadership during these 20 years and praises God for the growth and advancement of His Kingdom through these servants.

William S. Martin Sanders L. Wilson

Clerk of the Session Moderator

January 28, 2008