Friday, January 20, 2017

Who Is Lord: Christ or Caesar?

Someday, we will be like Him. That’s our hope. But it’s not a hope that we put on the shelf, and it’s not a hope that sends us into a cave. It’s a hope that sends us into the world with confidence. We can be confident in God, confident in His Word, confident in Christ, confident in the gospel, and confident in hope. In the AD 90s, Domitian ruled as emperor over Rome. His cruelty rivaled that of Nero. He insisted that he be worshiped as a god. Christians, of course, could not participate in the rituals of this emperor cult. That left them vulnerable, and that vulnerability led to persecution. It is likely that John’s exile to the island of Patmos directly resulted from Domitian’s edicts. John refused to bow.

John wrote Revelation during this time, many scholars believe. Also around this time, an early church figure named Clement, serving as bishop at Rome, sent a letter to the church at Corinth. Clement opens his letter by referring to “the sudden and successive calamitous events.” Persecution rolled over the church like wave after relentless wave. Clement wrote to comfort them and to exhort them to stand firm. Near the middle of his letter, he simply reminds the believers at Corinth that Christ is our leader and we are His soldiers. Read More

4 (More) Spiritual Cures for Shallow Christianity

This is the second of two posts on spiritual practices that combat superficiality. Check out the first post here. Read More

Related Article:
4 Spiritual Cures for Shallow Christianity

3 Aspects of the Vision God Has for Your Church

I’m often asked, “Is there any single common denominator that you can find in every growing church?” I have studied churches for many years, read about them, and visited them. I’ve discovered that God uses all kinds of churches, in all kinds of different ways, all different methods and styles. But there is one common denominator that you can find in every growing church regardless of denomination, regardless of nationality, and regardless of size.

That common denominator is leadership that is not afraid to believe God. It’s the faith factor.

Nothing starts happening until somebody starts dreaming. Every accomplishment started off first as an idea in somebody’s mind. It started off as a dream. It started off as a vision, a goal. If you don’t have a goal for your church, your default goal is to remain the same. If you aim at nothing, you’re definitely going to hit it.

A church without a vision is never going to grow, and a church’s vision will never be larger than the vision of its pastor. So you as a leader and as a pastor, must have God’s vision for your church. The very first task of leadership is to set the vision for the organization. If you don’t set the vision, you’re not the leader. Whoever is establishing the vision in your church is the leader of that particular church. A church will never outgrow its vision and the vision of a church will never outgrow the vision of the pastor. Read More

Related Article:
It’s Time to Get Mean About the Vision God Has Given You

12 Problems in Church Nurseries

More than one church growth writer or blogger has written about the importance of the church nursery, especially if we want to reach young families. Here are some of the problems our Lawless Group consulting teams have seen in nurseries.... Read More

3 Ways to Deepen Small Group Prayer

We sat around the warm fireplace, journals open, pens ready, eyes eagerly awaiting the wisdom of our women’s ministry director. We’d gathered for a night of reflection, learning, and sharing. The first semester of small group had flown by; now was the time for the leaders to consider how it had gone. Did the women seem to be growing in their faith? Was there an eagerness to read the Word? Were the women committing to the life of the church?

Our director proceeded to touch on the subject of prayer. What was the temperature in the groups? Was getting prayer requests from our women like pulling teeth? Or were the women eager to share their hearts with each other? Read More

The Trump Era Has Begun

Here are a selection of articles on the Christian faith and the United States' new president Donald J. Trump:

On Christianity Today:
The Church’s Integrity in the Trump Years
Trump Inauguration’s Bible Reading Is Not in Your Bible
How Trump’s Inauguration Will Catalyze Christian Witness
3 Priorities for Evangelicals in the Trump Years

On Christian Today:
Monster Or Messiah: How Should The Church Respond To Donald Trump?
What Does The Bible Have To Say About A Trump Presidency?
Pray For Trump's Success, Says Arch-Critic Russell Moore
Conservative Christians Will Gain Influence Under Trump, Poll Says

From Gospel Coalition:
How to Live Under an Unqualified President
Faithfulness in the Age of Trump

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Gospel’s Compelling Uniqueness

It is impossible to be ambivalent about Jesus. He said so Himself (Matt. 12:30). It should come as no surprise, then, to see that as Jesus traveled around preaching, teaching, and doing ministry, He had an immensely polarizing effect on those He encountered. Some responded in loving awe and others in seething hatred. And this would not have been true if Jesus had simply been what many modern thinkers assume He was—a good moral teacher. No, Jesus is not quite so safe as all that. Jesus Christ is a spiritual disruption of the space-time continuum.

Just as in the days of his earthly ministry, the truth claims of Christ and His church continue to both resonate and repel. Of course, it’s the repulsion that many evangelicals today are concerned about. Some of them are concerned enough about it that they seek to soften some of the harder edges of the Christian faith to make it more appealing. And what we discover in adulterating the message of Jesus is that we may soften people’s objections to Him, but we also temper their enthusiasm. The safe Jesus of modern evangelicalism is not offensive, but neither is He very compelling.

No, we must embrace the real Jesus—Jesus as He was and is, with all His cross-taking demands and soul-baring truths. And when we do so, we will discover that for all the animosity the real Jesus stirs up, there are also a good many affections for Him stirred up, as well. This is how Jesus Himself described this phenomenon.... Read More

Introducing Lent to your Congregation

It starts with your example.

I will never forget saying goodbye to the church in which I served as an assistant pastor. As a full-time church planting res­ident, I had an opportunity to preach once a month for three years. I took this responsibly seriously and worked diligently to prepare and craft each sermon for maximum spiritual impact. Each time, I prayed for spiritual fruit to be produced. As my time drew to an end and the congregation said their goodbyes, a few people mentioned my preaching in passing. But, to my surprise, the most common refrain was about my parenting. I heard things like: “I was blessed to watch you be a father to your kids in church,” and “I appreciate the way you and Laura work together to raise your family.”

The people of God are looking for examples. They want their leaders to show them how to follow Jesus, even as we teach them. Challenging sermons and correct doctrine matter a great deal, but are inseparable from a godly life. The people we teach and exhort need to see us fail, repent, obey, and live by the power of the Spirit to love God and others. Another way of saying it is that our three dimensional lives are usually more interesting than our two dimensional sermons.

The most important way for you to lead your church through the season Lent is to show them with your life. You need to go first. Church leaders are far from perfect, to be sure. But we are called to lead with our lives. We cannot expect our people to devote themselves to Jesus in Lent at a level that we are not. With that in mind, consider how you might lead your church by example. Read More

What People Expect from the Pulpit

Since 1995, I’ve been studying North American churches, lostness, and outreach. Much has changed in those 20+ years. What hasn’t changed, though, is what people expect from the pulpit....Read More

Six Reasons to Consider Avoiding Cute Sermon Series Titles

I’m not sure when this trend started, but like many trends, it likely has innocent beginnings. A pastor heard the name of a popular new book, movie, or album, and decided it would be a great sermon series title.

Maybe the pastor thought it was catchy. And maybe it was. Maybe the congregation appreciated the play on words. It’s highly likely.

Then other pastors started imitating the pastor. They started doing the same—taking pop culture references and morphing them into sermon series titles. And things spiraled out of control.

Now, to be fair, there is nothing wrong with a catchy sermon series title. There is nothing wrong with one that’s not catchy, either. But the cute, pop culture-y, pun-tastic sermon series titles really should be rethought, and here are six reasons why.... Read More

The Power and Phobia of Public Speaking in Ministry

“I know that men are won over less by the written than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to great orators and not to great writers.”

The above statement, written by a renowned leader, is a strong declaration on the power of public speaking. He wrote the words in his autobiography, where he outlined his ideology and plans. So even as he wrote, he confessed his speaking would make a bigger impact than the words he was writing.

The autobiography is Mein Kampf, and the leader was Adolf Hitler.

Hitler’s speaking gift and skill were horribly misused, and the end results were sinful and heinous. For a ruthless and ruinous agenda, he was able to galvanize people through speaking. His speeches deeply altered human history. Hitler did not take his speaking opportunities lightly. He honed the craft, working hard on both the content of his messages and their delivery. His colleague Joseph Goebbels observed Hitler working on speeches late into the night and speaking them into the typewriter to get the rhythm and cadence right. Heinrich Hoffmann captured photographs of Hitler practicing his hand and arm gestures.

While movements are launched and sustained through spoken words, many people are terrified of speaking. While some use public speaking as a powerful tool, it is terrifying to others. Spoken words may launch and sustain movements, but a plethora of people experience anxiety even imagining standing in front of a group of people to deliver a message. The Washington Post, for example, reported that more Americans fear public speaking than heights, bugs, and drowning.

For the purpose of destroying a people, Hitler approached his speaking with great intensity and intentionality. How much more should those of us who speak in ministry contexts value our speaking for the purpose of exhorting and equipping a people? Here are three thoughts about the power and phobia of public speaking in ministry.... Read More

When the Beloved of God Are Hated by the World

You may be wondering, “Why should the world hate Christians?” After all, look at all the good that followers of Jesus have brought to society: hospitals, homeless shelters, ministries to the poor, law-abiding lives, protection of the unborn in the womb, and the list could go on.

This question cannot be answered sociologically. It must be answered theologically. It ultimately doesn’t matter what you and I may do. It ultimately doesn’t matter how much we may give or how sacrificially we may serve or how compassionately we may love. The answer to the question, why does the world hate Christians, is found in John 15:21, 23-24. The bottom line is this: people hate God. They only hate you because you love the one whom they hate.

Let’s begin by defining the sense in which people are said to “hate” God. They don’t necessarily declare openly “I hate God.” But they resent his existence. They despise the fact that the God who exists is holy and will hold all mankind accountable for their moral rebellion and disobedience. They are infuriated that they are told this God has authority over their lives to tell them what is right and what is wrong. They don’t want to be told that sexual intercourse before and outside of marriage is sinful. They don’t want to be told drunkenness is forbidden.

They don’t want to be told that they must have no other ‘gods’ before the God of the Bible. They don’t want to be told that to honor or worship or to serve another ‘god’ is idolatry and is worthy of eternal death. They don’t want to hear about hell. They cringe at the suggestion that they are not the final authority as to what they can or can’t do. They don’t want to be told they must repent. They get angry when they are informed that there is only one way to be reconciled to God and forgiven of their sins, and that it is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Read More

Outreach and Evangelism: What Works Today?

When traditional outreach misses the audience and "evangelism" becomes a dirty word, how can we share the Good News?

Today's church faces profound challenges within the broader culture: political correctness, postmodern relativism, religious pluralism. We live in a society full of unchurched people who don't know the basic tenets of Christianity or the redemptive story the Scriptures tell. The church at large has a poor reputation among non-Christians. Many hold distorted views of Jesus, the gospel, and traditional Christian faith, so they are biased against us before we’ve had a chance to start a conversation.

Our ability to engage the world is also hampered by internal issues. Some Christians question the motives behind traditional outreach efforts, viewing them as a bait-and-switch. Many in our congregations seem reluctant to share the gospel, either claiming that evangelism isn’t their gift or hiding in fear of potential rejection.

In light of these challenges, how can our churches share the Good News of Jesus Christ in a dark world that desperately needs it? Read More

The Story Behind Trump’s Controversial Prayer Partner

What Paula White’s Washington moment implies for the prosperity gospel’s future.

Donald Trump discovered Paula White the same way legions of fans and followers did: on television.

Fifteen years of prayer, visits, and friendship later, the Florida preacher now serves as the top spiritual adviser for America’s president-elect and, essentially, his guide to the country’s religious conservatives.

Her behind-the-scenes counsel became news as Trump prepared for the presidency. It was White who arranged a meeting at the Trump Tower for fellow televangelists (including Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, David Jeremiah, and Jan Crouch) to anoint him in prayer back in 2015. She defended the sincerity of his faith to fellow Christians, and continues to network Trump with members of his evangelical advisory board to discuss appointments and policy going into office.

“I’m the bridge-builder,” said White, pastor of New Destiny Christian Center near Orlando, in an interview with Christianity Today. “It really, truly is the board and the wisdom of so many great men and women of God.”

But White’s involvement carries major baggage, especially for evangelical leaders who have for years lamented the endlessly positive health and wealth theology associated with her ministry (even doing so in rap). Critical voices within the church worry that White’s political prominence will push the prosperity gospel mainstream—or prove that it’s already there. Read More

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

7 Reasons to Consider a Small Church Internship

Small churches have unique characteristics, quirks and blessings that can only be learned by having ministry experience in them.

Church internships are great. For the church and for the intern.

If they’re done right (yes, that’s a big “if”), they can confirm or define a call to ministry, provide real-life experience, enhance classroom learning, and bless a local church.

If you’re a pastor who thinks you can’t run an internship program because your church is small, think again.

And if you’re a college student or high school senior considering a church internship, a small church may be your best option. Read More

3 Simple Steps to Reproduce Church Leadership

It is called discipleship...

In every church I’ve been in, people want to reproduce leaders, but few think they know how. Sometimes we complicate things in leadership. In my opinion.

In fact, finding new leaders – in theory at least – may be one of the easier issues to solve in leadership. There are almost always leaders to be found if one is looking. The key is having a strategy of leadership reproduction in place and actually working it.

I’ve written more detailed posts on this issues. Lots of books have been written. My intent here is to be simple. Simple often works. Read More

Related Articles:
The Top 7 Ways Leaders Demoralize Their Teams
Pray for Your Church Leaders

What to Do (and What Not to Do) When Your Pastor Move On

I heard from another pastor recently whose exit from his church went sideways. He and his wife believed the Lord had called them to step down from their current position and serve in another location, and after several years of (by all accounts) successful ministry, he believed he was resigning on good terms. He knew his news would be a surprise to his congregation, but he was not prepared for the depth of hurt feelings and anger his departure would stir up. And what should have been a bittersweet parting of ways turned into a sad limping away.

His story isn’t rare. And it’s quite a fascinating—if depressing—phenomenon. I’ve heard from more than a few ministers who’ve resigned on good terms—no moral failings, no being forced out, no ethical impropriety, no significant ministerial failure or exacerbating conflict in the church—and yet found themselves surprised and hurt by their congregation’s handling of their exit. We sometimes expect pastors leaving under bad terms to leave a bad taste in the church’s mouth, but we don’t really think about what can go wrong when an otherwise good pastor leaves under otherwise good circumstances.

If you’ve got a good pastor, now is the time to think about this. He may not leave any time soon (or ever!), but preparing your heart now for a statistically common reality can help prevent plenty of heartaches in the future—for you and for them. Here are some things the church ought to do if and when their pastor resigns under good circumstances.... Read More

Should a Staff Person Fill the Pulpit When There Is No Pastor?

The pastor has resigned or retired.

That pastor was in the pulpit 45 times a year.

Should a staff person become the interim preacher until the new pastor arrives?

Like many other situations in a church, the non-answer is, “It depends.”

Rather than provide definitive guidelines, here are some questions to consider.... Read More

10 Lessons about Ministry and the Internet

I’m old enough to remember when we didn’t use the Internet to do ministry. Now, I can’t imagine life without it. Here, though, are some lessons we need to remember as we utilize this tool to do God’s work.... Read More

Retraining Our Minds on the Things of Christ: Thoughts as We Draw Closer to Inauguration Day

Four Questions to Ask Ourselves as We Adjust to a New Political Reality

I have recently posted a number of articles on politics, in particular about where Evangelicals find themselves as the new President of the United States is inaugurated and how our witness has been damaged as a result of this election (Rebuilding Our Witness: Part 1, Part 2).

Regardless of how you voted, it’s just obvious that this has had a negative impact on the reputation of Evangelicals.

Of course, this topic is front and center for me with the inauguration of President-elect Trump later this week. I am even co-hosting a panel discussion on Tuesday, January 24, at 7:00 pm CST that you can attend in person or via livestream (Fractured).

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Christianity has taken a blow for the worse in this election, and likely antagonism toward Christians will continue to rise in our nation, because the fundamental pattern remains unchanged. (Of course, not in the form of martyrdom and death as in many other countries of the world, but in other real and tangible ways.)

When I say Christian reputation has taken a blow for the worse, it’s not because of who won or lost. It’s because of how the Church acted before, during, and after the process. It was, in fact, quite far from the shining moment of the Christian faith in America. And yet we must move forward. The gospel, and the Person the gospel speaks of, compels us to move forward and once again shine brightly in the world.

Let me share a few questions for us to consider over the next year as we adjust to a new political reality and how we can best respond. Read More

Image Credit: Linda Nichols

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

We Will Not Pray For Donald Trump By Name Because He Is A 'Trauma Trigger' Says Christian Minister

An Episcopal church in California in the US has stated it will not pray for Donald Trump by name.

This is because the name of Trump is considered to be a "trauma trigger" - and a risk to health and safety.

It is traditional in Anglican churches worldwide to pray for a nation's leaders. Church of England parishes regularly pray for the Queen and Episcopal churches in the US pray for the President and the Government.

"We are in a unique situation in my lifetime where we have a president elect whose name is literally a trauma trigger to some people – particularly women and people who, because of his words and actions, he represents an active danger to health and safety, says Mike Kinman, Rector of All Saints Pasadena in his blog.

He defends the Trump name boycott as justified because his church must be kept as "a place of safety from harm". Read More
All Saints Pasedena’s decision to refrain from praying for the new president by name has provoked a firestorm of criticism from conservative Christians who voted for Donald Trump or support the Republican Party. All Saints Pasedena is a liberal Californian parish, known for its progressive activism, and therefore is considered fair game for bashing because of its positions on other issues that divide the Christian community. What is overlooked amidst the acrimony and rancor is these three important things.

First, All Saints Pasedena is not refraining from praying for the president and those in authority, only from praying for them “by name.”

Second, praying for the president and other political figures by name is a matter of local custom as is praying for the ordinary of the diocese by name. Unlike the Church of England whose service books, The Book of Common Prayer (1662) and Common Worship (2000) , require congregations to pray for the reigning monarch by name, the three American prayer books presently in use, the 1979 Prayer Book, the 1928 Prayer Book, and Texts for Common Prayer, do not require congregations to pray for the president by name. F
or fifteen years  I was a communicant and lay leader of an Episcopal parish  that generally did not pray for the president of the United States or the ordinary of the diocese by name. This parish was far from liberal in its social and theological outlook. The Continuing Anglican congregation with whom I presently worship also does not pray for the president or the ordinary by name. It also is a conservative congregation. Whether a congregation prays for the president by name is for it to decide. We may not agree with its reasons for choosing to do so or not to do so but the choice is its to make.

Paul exhorted the New Testament Church in his first letter to Timothy to pray for all men, for kings and those in authority. He urged the church to pray for the latter because they were in a position to affect the well-being of the church. But he says nothing about praying for them by name. Whether or not we name them, God knows for who we are praying.

Third, at the time of the American War for Independence the colonialists who sought independence from the United Kingdom, refused to pray for King George III. Theirs was a far more momentous decision than All Saints Pasedena’s decision not to pray for President Trump by name, a decision which we have seen it is free to make.

There are far more important issues that should concern us than whether a congregation names the incoming president in the Prayers of the People.

Market Place Bivocational Ministry Featuring Jimmy Scroggins - Rainer on Leadership #294 [Podcast]

Jimmy Scroggins returns to talk bivocational marketplace ministry and church-based ministry training.

Some highlights from today’s episode include.... Listen Now

My 3 Goals in Preaching

In the last decade I have invested a lot of time in public speaking. With employee meetings, plenary sessions, breakouts at conferences, consulting ministry leaders, and speaking on books I have written, I have given hundreds and hundreds of leadership and ministry presentations. I have also preached weekly for the last several years as teaching pastor, interim pastor, and now a bi-vocational senior pastor. Preaching is different. In both the burden of responsibility and the eternal impact, preaching the Word of God to a congregation of His people far outweighs speaking on other subjects. Preaching differs from other speaking in that the message we deliver is the only message that will endure forever (Isaiah 40:8), the only message that brings someone to saving faith (Romans 10:17), and the only message that can transform the human heart (1 Peter 1:23).

So what is my aim in preaching? My good friend Ed Stetzer asked me that recently and it caused me to jot down some of my thoughts. One way to describe this sacred stewardship is “Teach Christ and the text in their context.” The aim is three-fold.... Read More

Related Article:
Leading from the Pulpit

Ten Reasons Every Church-Planting Team Needs a Worship Leader

Many Evangelical Christians have a very truncated understanding of worship. When asked to define it, they respond, "It's singing," or "It's praising God." Worship, from a biblical perspective, is far more than merely singing or praising God in the assembly of the saints (as right and wonderful as that is).

For years now, I have collected definitions of the word. One of the best I have found was penned by Dr. Bruce Leafblad. I have expanded it slightly and hope that it will provide a framework for our understanding:
Worship is both an event and a lifestyle in which believers, by grace, center their mind's attention and their heart's affection on the Lord, humbly glorifying God in response to His greatness, His mighty acts, and His word.
One might also ask, "What is a worship arts leader?" This is someone who is uniquely gifted, called, and trained to lead the people of God into the presence of God. I incorporate the word "arts" into the role because, both historically and biblically, all the arts have played a major role in corporate worship. They should, therefore, continue to play a major role, especially in the cross-cultural church-planting context.

As those committed to church planting, our strategies and practices must be built on firm, biblical foundations. Much work remains to be done to better understand the implications of worship in regard to our theology and missiology. I humbly submit to you the top ten reasons every church-planting team needs a worship arts leader.

Every church-planting team needs a worship-arts leader because.... Read More
Every church needs worship leadership, which may differ in form from church to church.

5 Ways to Use Google Hangouts for Outreach

Regardless of how you feel about Google+ and its impact (or lack thereof) on social media, there is one major feature that has captured the attention of Google+ fanatics and everyone else: Google Hangouts ( Google Hangouts are an enhanced version of video chat, with up to 10 people simultaneously participating in a video chat. The add-on features, such as integrating YouTube videos, Google docs or screen sharing, have only made Google Hangouts even more attractive to people.

When thinking about Google Hangouts, the closest comparison is Skype and its easy-to-use video-chat features. Unlike Skype, Google Hangouts have the capability to be broadcast live via YouTube to an unlimited number of people; this feature alone makes Google+ an amazing tool for webinars and online broadcasts. Another great benefit is seamless mobile device integration. Whether a participant is on a laptop, desktop or mobile device, they can participate in the Google Hangout.

How can Google Hangouts be used for churches? Here are five ways. Read More

When Christians Act Like Mormons

The other day I was getting ready to take the kids to our park when there was a knock on the door. Thinking it was a present from Amazon, I looked out only to find an even greater present: three Mormon missionaries. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. A long time goes by before your last visit and you start getting excited about the next time Mormons come knocking at your door. Every time I see Mormons, I get this sudden urge to talk to them. And every time I walk away discouraged and saddened for how blinding their religion is. And the cycle continues. Over the last few years, I’ve had many interactions with Mormon “elders.”

Mormons are usually very sweet people. They genuinely believe their religion, and they do believe that what they teach is the truth. They believe their religion is best and that you will be happiest if you follow it. But what is fascinating is the training that they receive before coming to your door. They are taught to focus on the positives. They are all about image and the way they present themselves. They are, in fact, salesmen, and they sell their product through smiles and offering “hope.” Over the last couple of years, I’ve asked Mormons what they are selling. I say, “Ok, you guys have come all the way to my house and to my door, what do you guys want me to do?” “What are you guys offering?” and whether it was Virginia, California or a random Chick-Fil-A in Georgia, they all said, “Happiness in this life and hope for the next!” Read More

Four Continuing Anglican Church bodies Plan Joint Synod in October

They pledge to pursue full unity

Leaders of four Continuing Anglican Church bodies; ACA/ACC/APA/DHC will hold a joint synod when they meet in Atlanta, Georgia, October 2-6, 2017.

At the conclusion of the week it is the intention of the four churches to sign an agreement establishing full communion (communio in sacris) among the four bodies as well as a pledge to pursue in a determined and deliberate fashion increasingly full unity.

The Churches will also discuss common plans for mission and evangelism. Each Church will hold its own mandatory business meetings and Synods, but the four will join together throughout the joint synod for common worship and social occasions. Read More
Not an unexpected development.

3 Things Evangelicals Might Regret About Donald Trump's Election

In this post-truth age it's been repeated so often that it's become true: evangelical Americans voted for Donald Trump in massive numbers and helped him on his way to the White House.

In actual fact, this ignores something very important about the word evangelical. It refers to someone's background beliefs and social assumptions rather than their practical religious commitment – like being 'Church of England' did not so long ago on the other side of the pond. Among churchgoing evangelicals, Trump wasn't nearly as popular. Furthermore, while 'evangelicals' were helpful, they weren't nearly as helpful as Catholics.

During 2016, though, we learned that facts and truth aren't the same thing. So just supposing it's true that evangelicals got what they wanted when Trump was elected, what does it mean for evangelicalism, and why should evangelicals worry? Read More

Monday, January 16, 2017

Supporting Small Churches Does Not Mean Bashing Big Churches

When we bash churches for becoming big, we fail to recognize the power of the gospel to draw people to Jesus, in both large and small crowds.

I like big- and megachurches. I wish there were more of them.

I like small churches even more. I wish there were a lot more of them.

As I continue to write and speak about the value of small churches, I’m noticing a disturbing mini-trend that I want to opt out of. It’s the tendency in some people, when they hear that I’m for small churches, to start talking trash about megachurches.

“I’m glad you’re going after those megachurches. They’re so shallow,” one person wrote. “Big churches don’t care for their members as much as small churches do,” another said. “A large crowd is the sign of a shallow church,” was another comment I heard recently.

And, of course, there’s the meme that keeps making the rounds showing a huge megachurch, with the words “When you tell them what they want to hear...” contrasted with a photo of a small, empty church, and the words “When you preach the truth.”


Not only do these comments betray a complete misunderstanding of my beliefs and intentions, they fail to recognize the power of the Gospel to draw people to Jesus, in both large and small crowds. Read More

6 Types of “Dangerous Charisma”

“He has a charismatic personality.

” “She is such a charismatic leader.”

Those phrases are often credited to leaders whom others line up to follow, who are seemingly able to alter any room they enter, and who are able to quickly rally people around a vision or direction. Charisma is often defined as “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.”

But that type of charisma can be dangerous. We have seen leaders known for their charisma lead people in horrific directions or crumble because their own inner health was woefully inconsistent with their external persona. Here are six types of dangerous charisma.... Read More

Understanding The Power of Caged Momentum

This is huge.

In church planting, I learned an important leadership principle. I’m not sure you can learn this one without being forced into it, so learn from my experience.

Let me illustrate it with a practical example.... Read More

Dick Lucas: New Talks!

New talks on Mark's gospel by Dick Lucas, recorded between 2014 and 2016, are now available for the first time. Given in the first instance with the Bible teacher in mind, but useful for everyone, they are a fresh and compelling appraisal of Mark, build on the foundation of decades of study. Read More

Image credit: St.Helen's Bishopgate

January is the Perfect Time to Add More Small Groups

January is the perfect time to add more small groups. Tell your members small groups are important because — Read More

Repealing Obamacare without a Replacement: How It May Hurt Small Church Pastors and Church Planters Near You

ACA repeal/replace has a lot of implications.

Many people may be unaware of the impact that such a repeal (without a replace) will have on church planters and small-church pastors. In fact, I constantly talk to church planters who have taken advantage of the ACA and have found it to be one of the only ways they could continue their work and provide for their families.

I asked some pastors and church planters to share, and here are a few of their comments. Read More
Small church pastors and church planters are one of a number of groups that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a workable replacement is going to negatively impact. Among these groups are hundreds of thousands of children who will lose their health insurance coverage when their parents lose theirs. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Hot ‘New’ Church Growth Method

A new study just unearthed a remarkable finding: conservative doctrine grows churches.

This isn’t necessarily what we’ve heard in recent years. Whether it’s the music, the attractive facility, or the feeling of community, we need something to keep the church growing—something besides biblical teaching. How surprising, then, that David Millard Haskell, Kevin N. Flatt, and Stephanie Burgoyne have found that doctrine grows churches. In their peer-reviewed scholarly article for the Review of Religious Research, a prestigious journal, the trio present findings among mainstream Canadian churches showing that—contra the stereotypes—doctrinally conservative churches that reach out aggressively often grow. Churches that soften biblical teachings and de-emphasize evangelism often shrink.

What might these findings mean for the future of evangelicalism? Here are four quick takeaways. Read More

5 Reasons Churches Don’t Break the 400 Barrier

If your church has spent more than five years in an attendance range of between 290 to 490, you are stuck at the 400 barrier.

In my experience, more senior pastors reach out for help at this size range than any other. That’s because the complexity of issues they confront at this size are fundamentally different from what had to be addressed to break the 100 and 200 barriers.

If you keep bumping up against this size range, consider these five most common reasons why this might be happening. Read More

Don't Waste Your Welcome Center

I’m a firm believer in First Time Guest tents. I think there are strategic, guest-focused, practical reasons for keeping them outside year-round, making them highly-visible – and highly-useful – to guests before they ever walk in the door of your church. But there are a few reasons a First Time Guest tent may not work in your context:
Cost. Yes, it’s an expensive expenditure. But I promise you it will be worth it. Start budgeting for next year right now.)

Location / facility. Perhaps you’re in a rented building where the landlord won’t allow outside tents, or zoning laws frown upon temporary structures of any kind. Or maybe there’s no “good” place to put a tent outside.

Tradition. You’ve never done it that way before. (I say this with love: that’s an excuse, not a reason.)
But perhaps the biggest factor for jettisoning the tent and bringing things inside is weather. What do you do when the weather works for 40 weekends out of the year, but the other dozen it’s the snowy season? Worse, what happens when you live in a very cold / hot / rainy climate, and an outdoor option is all but impossible? That’s where an indoor welcome center becomes a necessity. But as many of you have experienced, a station that is inside can quickly get forgotten. Read More

SCRIPTURE: Is it really all we need?

In 1955, when T.C. Hammond came to the 6th of his reflections on the 39 articles, he did something different. He didn’t write one piece for the ACR. He wrote two. And then followed them up with a third piece in the next issue. Why? Why this extra attention on Article 6? It seems that in this article he saw a watershed moment. Articles 1-5 covered doctrines which were foundational, but they were largely accepted by the Christian community. Article 6 was different. It was contested. And as with any point of contention this presented a choice – a choice to speak less and move on or to talk more, in love, about what it means. T.C. chose to do the latter.

Article six is still a watershed moment. It is still contested. And we still have a choice: to speak less and move on, or to talk more, in love, about what it means. Let us be people of the Lord by being people of his word.

Given the significance of Article 6, we’re going to follow T.C.’s lead and spend the next few weeks reflecting on the sufficiency and authority of scripture in our ACR Vault articles. First we’ll hear from T.C. and then from D.B. Knox through a pair of extended articles he wrote in 1948. So to kick off, here’s the first of T.C.’s reflections on article 6. Enjoy. Read More

Related Articles:
Propositional Revelation, the Only Revelation
The 39 Articles: A Re-statement by Philip E. Hughes

Why Congregational Singing Matters Today More than Ever

Just as home entertainment has morphed from family and neighborhood sing-alongs to the ability to consume whatever music the global professionals offer, the church has shifted away from an emphasis on corporate singing. At best, larger churches have shifted to more professional, performance-oriented music. And smaller churches have adopted less of the traditional “come one, come all” since because it feels outdated, irrelevant, and at times downright embarrassing. Who can compete with the masters, after all?

It seems our society’s progress has played a role in the end of congregational singing. Right?


Congregational singing is far from dead, mainly because it’s connected to a source of life higher than cultural trends or modern comparisons. Even so, it receives less attention and adulation than it should—and there are several reasons. First, people tend to be attracted to larger churches where the “performance” of music approximates the professional; in principle, there’s nothing wrong with that. Second, the music in most churches tends to be so loud that the congregation simply cannot hear itself sing. Third, smaller churches with less ability to produce professional-sounding music tend to minimize singing altogether, so as to minimize embarrassment or perceived weakness.

But now is the moment to re-embrace the crucial role of congregational singing in our churches. Singing is an act of obedience; we gather and sing because we’re called to. Like telling the truth. Like loving our wives and our children. Like loving our neighbor as ourselves. These may seem like bold statements, but consider this: Singing is a real and tangible expression of loving the Lord with our whole hearts and our whole selves, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Singing is also a privilege, a foretaste of heaven. After all, one day in the future every tribe, language, nation, and people will sing as one congregation before the throne of the risen Lamb. Until then, we find a microcosm of that day in the unimpressive form of congregational worship. As we anticipate the matchless glories of heaven, there’s immeasurable value in our singing together on earth. The extent of this importance becomes increasingly realized in three ways. Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: "The German Antidote Against America’s Theological Enemies" and More

The German Antidote Against America’s Theological Enemies

Taking the advice of C. S. Lewis, we want to help our readers “keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds,” which, as he argued, “can be done only by reading old books.” So to that end we continue our Rediscovering the Forgotten Classics series as we survey some forgotten and lesser-known Christian classics. Read More

The Challenge and Blessing of a Multicultural Leadership Team

One of our desires when we started our church was to reflect our increasingly multicultural world through the beauty of a multicultural church community. We still have many areas to grow and many things to learn in these efforts but we’ve been blessed to experience a growing diversity of cultures represented by the people who are our church. I think diverse leadership has been an essential factor in cultivating these dynamics. However, a collaborative leadership model was not in our DNA when we started the church. This led to some early missteps. Read More

3 Better Alternatives to Playing “Devil’s Advocate”

In the book Ten Faces of Innovation, Tom Kelley, offers ten alternatives to playing devil’s advocate, a position he believes wrecks ideas and fosters negativity. I won’t list all ten, but here are three I found most compelling. Instead of playing devil’s advocate, here are three other roles to play.... Read More

How To Reinforce Your Staff’s Core Values

Naming and emphasizing staff values is gaining more and more popularity in the corporate arena. Especially with millennials flooding the workforce seeking jobs with purpose, smart companies are establishing their team values, making them public, and seeing awesome results. Read More

3 Ways to Recognize Workaholism in Ministry

Ministry leaders, like all leaders, are prone to either laziness or workaholism. On your worst days, on days when you are not living in submission to Christ, you either move toward being lazy or move toward finding your meaning in work. By God’s grace, we don’t need to live in either. But how do we recognize workaholism in ministry? What does it look like in our hearts? Here are three indicators.... Read More

4 Ways to Recognize Lazy Leadership

Lazy leadership is unfaithful stewardship. Instead of wise stewardship, lazy leaders foolishly squander resources, gifting, and opportunities rather than make the most of the brief season in which they are privileged to lead. When attempting to uncover and address laziness, people often look in the wrong places. Lazy leadership is not about office hours, email response time, and vacation days—as someone can be incredibly lazy while checking emails in the office. Here are four ways in which lazy leadership tends to manifest itself.... Read More

5 Keys for Leaders to Read Through the Bible in a Year

I’ve just completed my 19th year in a row reading through the Bible cover to cover. This practice is one that fills my spiritual tank and which provides the fuel that drives my leadership. Read More

Teach Them: About Hell

Children are not too young to die, and therefore they are not too young to think about what will happen to them when they die. They need to hear about the Father’s house with its many mansions and the place that Jesus is preparing there for all who love Him and put their trust in Him for salvation. Read More

How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently

Survey: African Americans value spiritual formation in community, while whites prefer the opposite. Read More

French Evangelicals Defy Decline - Open A New Church Every 10 Days

Evangelicalism in France is on the rise, a study by the National Council of Evangelicals in France (CNEF) has found. The study reported by Evangelical Focus shows around 35 new evangelical churches were opened in France last year or three a month. Read More

‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian

Islamic extremism now has a rival, according to 2017 World Watch List. Read More

Trump's Inauguration: Why Who Prays Is Always Controversial

Donald Trump's six religious leaders who will join him on stage at his inauguration have a perilous task.

The lineup of pastors, clergy and rabbis at presidential inaugurations are always controversial.

Seen to be praying, offering a benediction, reading or simply being on stage is seen by watchful churchgoers as an endorsement of everything that particular President stands for.

Equally being prayed for or inviting someone to read or give a blessing is also seen by some to be the President endorsing everything the pastor stands for. Read More

Related Articles:
The 6 Religious Leaders Who Will Pray at Trump's Inauguration
'Extremist' Franklin Graham Must Not Pray At Inauguration, Trump's Team Told

Friday, January 13, 2017

How to Adjust When Church Giving Decreases - Rainer on Leadership #293 [Podcast]

Last week we discussed how to respond when church giving increases. Today, we look at the other side of the coin—decreased giving. Unfortunately, of these too scenarios, this one is far more common. Listen Now

Why and How My Wife and I Give to the Church

Many, if not most churches, struggle with finances. Some struggle because they simply don’t challenge and equip their members to give sacrificially. In that light, here are some things that Pam and I have discovered about giving over the years.... Read More

Simplicity in Preaching

It’s short and so helpful that I think I can say without exaggeration that every preacher should try to read J. C. Ryle’s Simplicity in Preaching. The 22-page booklet, recently (and inexpensively) reprinted by Banner of Truth, began as an address to a group of clergy at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in the latter part of the 19th century. Before moving to the substance of his lecture (which Ryle reworked into written prose), Ryle starts off with four prefatory remark.... Read More
J. C. Ryle's Simplicity in Preaching may be downloaded free in PDF format from FirstLove Publications. It also available in EPUB and Kindle on the same website. You will need to scroll down to the middle of the page.

Secularism, Preaching, and the Challenges of Modernity

This post is the first of three in a series on Preaching in a Secular Age.

I began my chapter on preaching and postmodernism in We Cannot Be Silent with these words, “A common concern seems to emerge now wherever Christians gather: The task of truth-telling is stranger than it used to be. In this age, telling the truth is tough business and not for the faint-hearted. The times are increasingly strange.” As preachers we recognize how strange the times have become. Almost anyone seeking to carry out a faithful pulpit ministry recognizes that preachers must now ask questions we have not had to consider in the past. We recognize that preaching has been displaced from its once prominent position in the culture. Many of us are wondering, why is preaching more challenging in our cultural moment than it has been in other times? The answer to this question ultimately rests in this fact: we now live, move, and have our being in a secular age. As preachers, and even as Christians, we must understand the trends of secularization and advance that the only authentic Christian response to the challenge of secularization is faithful, clear, and informed expository preaching. Read More

Why Do We Give Up on Bible Reading?

So you’ve committed to reading the Bible again this year. Praise God.

Maybe this is something new for you, one of your resolutions for the New Year. Or maybe you’re a seasoned, veteran reader, just hoping to maintain the patterns God has blessed over many years now.

However much or little you have read in the past, though, will not change what’s going to happen soon, probably even sometime in the next week. Maybe it’s happened already. You’ll sit down for your time in the word, spend half an hour in Genesis or Deuteronomy or Psalms or Romans, close the book, and have no idea what to do with what you just read.

What do you do when Bible reading produces no obvious application — when you walk away from your Bible reading with no fantastic insights, no deep revelations, or even any profound experience of awe or wonder? This happens more often than any of us would like to admit. It unnerves us. I just heard from God, and nothing seems different.

What do you do when your Bible reading seems insignificant or irrelevant? Read More

Get a Basic Overview of the Bible

Virtually every Christian at some point has resolved to read the entire Bible. If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, it’s natural not to want to miss a word of it. If God delivered a letter to your mailbox, I am sure you would read it. But the Bible is a pretty big letter, and its sheer bulk is somewhat daunting, even to the person with the best of intentions. Therefore, few Christians actually keep a resolution to read through the Bible. Read More

10 Things Worship Leaders Need to Stop Saying

Worship leaders are often the first people guests will hear from after sitting down for worship. So what are they hearing at your church? Author and pastor Jared Wilson ( suggests 10 popular phrases that may be working against you and why. “Don’t take this too seriously,” he says, “… except maybe do!” Read More

Rebuilding Our Witness (Part 2): Developing an Understanding of the Connection of Love & Evangelism in Light of Our New Political Climate

A Christian worldview embraces two things: the Great Commandment and the Great Commission

In Part 1, I talked about why we are at a time when we need to step back and assess how we view the world and the lens we apply to all that we see and do. I talked about a Christian worldview that holds in one hand the Great Commandment and in the other the Great Commission. It’s a worldview that embraces a love of God and a love of others above even ourselves.

Recently, we have seen many ways in which these two elements have broken down. Many Evangelicals have acted and said things over the past months that have not conveyed a belief that God is in, over, and through all things (Eph. 4:6). Many have also not sought to place the needs of others above themselves. It has been a disheartening time for the Church in many respects.

And yet here we are. We have a witness problem.

As we consider the Christian worldview that holds the Great Commandment—to love God—and the Great Commission—to love others—together, it is imperative that we view evangelism—proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ—as a core component of our daily lives. Read More

Image Credit: Laurie Nichols

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Multiplication: The Most Important Thing Your Church Will Ever Do

Church planting is part of Saddleback’s DNA. We’ve started at least one church every year since the beginning.

It is simply who we are. We believe that mature churches are just like mature plants or mature people: They bear fruit.

You can tell an apple tree is mature when it starts growing apples. You can tell a Christian is mature when he or she starts winning other people to Christ. And you can tell a congregation is mature when it starts having babies — planting other churches. Read More