By Bob Russell with Rusty Russell
The remarkable story of Southeast Christian Church
One of my favorite movies is Hoosiers, where Gene Hackman plays the part of Norman Dale, a former college coach with a tainted past who is hired to coach a rural high-school basketball team from Hickory, Indiana. Coach Dale leads the team all the way to the state finals. On the day of the semifinals, the team arrives at Butler Field House, the huge inner-city arena where they’re to play in just a couple of hours. When the players enter the arena, their jaws fall slack and their eyes open wide. Gawking at the seats, the stand-alone goals, the suspended scoreboard, and the lights, they are awestruck and intimidated.
Coach Dale instructs one of his players to take a tape measure and determine the distance between the free-throw line and the goal. “What’s the distance?” he asks.
“Fifteen feet,” the player says.
Dale then tells the smallest player on the team to climb on the shoulders of a taller player so they can measure the goal. “How high is it?” he asks.
“Ten feet,” the player says.
Coach Dale says, “I believe you’ll find these are the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory.”
The team members share in some nervous laughter, and everybody begins to relax. As they exit the gym, Coach Dale turns to his assistant and whispers, “Sure is big, isn’t it!”
I don’t know what monumental challenges lie ahead in this new millennium. But I know we’re still playing the same game. It’s the same Bible we are teaching, the same truth we are proclaiming, the same Lord we are exalting. For the church to be the church–in any millennium–we must follow certain principles. If we ignore even one of these essential principles, we’ll become something other than a church, with no defining characteristic to separate us from a country club or civic organization.
I’m convinced that if your church is characterized by the ten principles outlined in this book, regardless of the methods you choose to implement them, God will bless your efforts. They are Truth, Worship, Leadership, Excellence, Faith, Harmony, Participation, Fellowship, Stewardship and Evangelism.
Many church leaders go to conferences looking for a quick fix or easy solutions to their problems. They hope to discover some fresh program, some unique gimmick that will jump-start their church–contemporary music with a band, shorter or longer sermons, expository preaching or thematic preaching, small groups, or technological enhancements in the service. Discussing those ideas may be helpful, but what works in one culture or one area of the United States may not work in another. What one church adapts as positive change may be a source of division in another.
The methods we have implemented at Southeast Christian Church may or may not work at your church. You can’t fight Goliath wearing Saul’s armor. You can’t minister with someone else’s style. You have to be yourself and adapt to the culture around you. But the principles that undergird those methods–the ten principles discussed in this book–should be enlisted by every congregation that intends to glorify Jesus Christ. Although I will share with you some specific ways our church has tried to apply these principles, you must remember that the secret ingredients are the principles themselves, not the applications.
At 22, Bob Russell became the pastor of 125-member Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky. Thirty-four years later, SCC has become one of the largest churches in America, with 14,000 attending every weekend. Bob has written 10 books, is heard weekly on the national radio broadcast The Living Word, and writes a weekly column for The Lookout Magazine. Rusty Russell is an associate minister at SCC, where his father, Bob Russell, is senior minister. As a member of the preaching staff, Rusty works behind the scenes in sermon preparation, research and writing. He is a graduate of Cincinnati Bible College and is currently pursuing a master of divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to joining the SCC staff, he served as a preaching minister, teacher and Christian school administrator.
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