Tuesday, February 21, 2017

On the Net: "A Disturbing Trend in the Church—And How You Can Help Reverse It" and More

A Disturbing Trend in the Church—And How You Can Help Reverse It

The local church will remain incomplete, lacking vital ministries and gifts, until those missing parts of the body come back home. Read More

4 Obstacles to Church Multiplication

If we really are intent on bringing the world to Jesus, whatever model we choose must be infinitely reproducible. Read More

One on One with the Small Church Pastor who "Took Over" the SBC Pastors Conference to Highlight Smaller Churches

An "average" church pastor is the president of the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. Read More

Deadly Doctrines: Facing Evil Like Snakes and Doves

Since its earliest days, the church has been plagued by false teachers and deadly doctrine. Never has there been a period of rest, a time when Christians could relax their guard. Read More

The Folly of Trying to Measure Success In Christ’s 'First Shall Be Last' Kingdom

We need to measure what we can manage, but let’s not fall into the trap of thinking we have more control than we do. Read More

Pastor, Keep A Close Watch On Your Life and Illustrations

Sermon illustrations. They can make or break your message. Read More

How to Subtly Abandon Your Bible’s Authority

Christians in the West, face a number of explicit threats to the authority of Scripture. But explicit threats alone don’t weaken our trust in the Bible. Subtle threats—those that creep in unnoticed—also foster skepticism. Read More

Why Africa Needed Its Own Study Bible

And why Americans might want one too. Read More

Monday, February 20, 2017

5 Innovation Tips for Any Church, Any Size

When church leaders think “ministry innovation,” one of the first churches that comes to mind is Life.Church, based in Edmond, Oklahoma. Here are some of the best tips for the agile church from Life.Church’s innovation leader and Outreach magazine columnist Bobby Gruenewald. Read More

Soli Deo Gloria: To God Alone Be the Glory

Soli Deo gloria is the motto that grew out of the Protestant Reformation and was used on every composition by Johann Sebastian Bach. He affixed the initials SDG at the bottom of each manuscript to communicate the idea that it is God and God alone who is to receive the glory for the wonders of His work of creation and of redemption. At the heart of the sixteenth-century controversy over salvation was the issue of grace. Read More

5 Unfair Criticisms People Levy At Strategic Church Leaders

If you’re a church leader who thinks strategically, you’re probably going to get criticized. Maybe even more than you ever dreamed.

For some reason, being strategic is often viewed as being unspiritual in the church. Why? Read More

Six Reasons to Send Daily Email Reports about Your Bible Reading

If you’ve read about my Bible reading strategy, you know that I send an email every day to a few friends to report what I’ve read in the Word (now, in fact, I’ve turned these emails into the daily devotions I post on this site). I’m not arguing that you should write what I write, but I do think there’s value in writing a simple daily email that includes.... Read More

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Seven Steps to Getting the Unchurched Interested in Your Church

A shift has occurred in the culture. Unchurched people have always been open to a personal invitation to church, but that openness is now more for problem-solving in the community than a worship experience at a church building. Almost two-thirds of the unchurched are willing to attend a church event to make the community safer, and over half are willing to attend a church-sponsored community service project. That’s not to say invitations to a worship service no longer work. The best approach is a both/and strategy. Invite them to both a church service project focusing on community issues and also a church worship service.

In order for you to draw the interest of the unchurched, you will need to have tangible action items. I suggest seven steps, but you may change some or add more given your church’s particular context. Read More

7 Questions That Can Help You Crush A Plateau And Gain Momentum

Chances are you would like what every leader would like—momentum.

All of us hit both personal and organizational plateaus. As much as we think momentum should be a permanent state, it never is. No one lives in a state of momentum all the time.

So if you hit a plateau or fall in a rut, how do you get out of it—both personally and organizationally? Read More

The pernicious evil of the prosperity gospel and the theology of the cross

Several years ago now I was travelling down a road in Nigeria on which, at almost every corner, there stood a church with a name that promised their members, and all who would join them, success, victory, wealth and happiness. One that has stuck in my mind was 'The Winners' Church'. It seemed as if I was in the very home of the prosperity gospel! Yet so many in the surrounding streets, and those going in and coming out from these churches, seemed anything but prosperous, successful or even happy. I asked my guide, 'What do they do when reality hits and they are not healed, or do not become wealthy, or are struck by tragedy or the ordinary disappointments of life? How do they cope with suffering and even persecution?' 'They go to the next church', she said. 'The Spirit may be at work in the next one.'

Of course the prosperity gospel is not just a feature of aspirational Christianity in the majority world. It is alive and well and destroying lives in Western countries too. In fact there are very large churches which, in one way or another, are making similar promises right here in Australia. They attract the crowds and even Christians from other backgrounds want to be associated with them, or so it seems. It may well be they welcome such association because they desperately want to present themselves as mainstream and respectable. 'We are evangelical, just like you.' Read More

Preaching Christ: The Resurrection

As Easter Sunday rolls around each year, preachers everywhere wonder, “How can I preach a fresh sermon on the resurrection?” “How can I preach something that doesn’t sound just like last year, and the year before, and the year before....?”

This crisis is often caused by focusing too narrowly on the facts of the resurrection narratives in the Gospels. If all we do is narrate the historical facts of the resurrection, then, yes, we’re going to sound as if we’re on “loop.” However, there are a number of ways to “freshen up” our resurrection sermons so that they’re not just the “same old, same old.” In fact, I’d go further and suggest that we have a duty to ensure that such a glorious truth does not become mundane through our inability to think more imaginatively and creatively. Read More

Why Trump wants you to hate the media

If you watched President Trump's astonishing press conference on Thursday, you might be forgiven for concluding that the most urgent problem facing America is that the media "is out of control." Some media "is fantastic," the president allowed. But on the whole, journalism is plagued by "false, horrible, fake reporting."

It's clear that America's new President has chosen his new best enemy. Now that the campaign is over and it's not very useful to drive the crowds into a frenzy of hatred against Hillary Clinton, Trump has found the new direction in which to focus his supporters' animosity. But this time, the anointed enemy serves an even more useful purpose.

On Friday, he made his point even more directly, tweeting "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!"

(He later deleted the "SICK!" part -- while adding @ABC and @CBS.) Read More

Related Articles
With 'Fake News,' Trump Moves From Alternative Facts To Alternative Language
Trump's Attack on Media as 'Enemy of the People' Has Historic Echoes
Trump Calling Media “Enemy of the American People” Reminiscent of Stalin, Mao
Trump’s news conferences look a lot like Putin’s. Should you worry?
‘That’s how dictators get started’: McCain criticizes Trump for calling media ‘the enemy’

Saturday Lagniappe: "How Your Spiritual Gifts Correlate to Meeting People’s Needs" and More

How Your Spiritual Gifts Correlate to Meeting People’s Needs

For every need in the life of a person who does not know Christ, there is a spiritual gift that helps reach that person for Christ. Read More

When Ministry Is Unglamorous

We don’t always get to select our opportunities—sometimes our ministries are handed to us by the Lord, and sometimes they are as far from glamorous as you can get. Read More

Filling the Seats On Your Bus

When hiring for a position on your ministry staff team, what are the key attributes you look for? Read More

4 Theories of How a Leader Becomes Controlling

One of the most dangerous forms of leadership, and one of the most frustrating, in my opinion, is the controlling leader. Read More

Teach Them: The Necessity of Faith in Christ

Our children must learn that they can receive Christ and His salvation only through faith. Read More

4 Essentials of Running Your Church Website Well

I have been working on church websites for about sixteen years. I have worked with hundreds of organizations, some of them through many iterations of their sites, and I’ve noticed a thing or four that are common among effective sites. Read More

Trump Adviser’s Megachurch Withholds Major Donation from SBC

Prestonwood Baptist diverts denominational giving over concerns about Russell Moore’s ERLC. Read More

Friday, February 17, 2017

We Can Whine About the New Generation or Worship with Them – But We Can’t Do Both

We need to remember how devalued we felt when previous generations told us our music was too loud, our clothing was silly and our questions were inappropriate.

Why don’t people wear their Sunday Best for church any more?

A lot of older churchgoers (that is, my generation) seem to be worried about that lately.

I’d like to respond to that question with a couple of my own.

When did the members of my generation become such old fogeys? And why do they care so much about something that matters so little?

Yet that is part of a growing sentiment from my peers. Read More

6-Year-Old Girls Already Have Gendered Beliefs

Lin Bian, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, wanted to understand how and when gender stereotypes develop, and especially the old stereotype that boys are smarter than girls. The results of her study were stark. “Among the 5-year-olds, both boys and girls associated brilliance with their own gender. But among those aged 6 or 7, only the boys still held to that view. At an age when girls tend to outperform boys at school, and when children in general show large positive biases towards their own in-groups, the girls became less likely than boys to attribute brilliance to their own gender.” Already by age six, children begin to develop the idea that girls just aren’t quite as smart as boys.

This stereotype soon collides with a second—that the fields of math and science demand a special kind of innate brilliance. Because girls have absorbed the stereotype that they possess less of this talent, they tend to steer or be steered away from those fields. This “double whammy of stereotypes—that men are more likely to be brilliant, and that brilliance is required in some fields—creates an atmosphere that makes women feel unwelcome, and pushes them away.”

It is an interesting study and one parents—especially parents of young girls—would do well to consider. I want to use it as a springboard to discuss a related issue. Read More

What Is the Relationship Between Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility?

The relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is not instantly obvious, and at first glance it seems paradoxical. But Scripture offers us considerable insight into how these twin truths harmonize within the plan of redemption.

The first step in understanding the compatibility between God’s sovereignty and human will is to recognize that they are not mutually exclusive, and Scripture makes this absolutely clear. In God’s design, human responsibility is clearly not eliminated by God’s sovereign control over His creation. That’s true even though evil was included in His grand design for the universe even before the beginning of time, and He uses His creatures’ sin for purposes that are always (and only) good. Indeed, in His infinite wisdom, He is able to use all things for good (Rom. 8:28). Read More

8 Suggested Videos to Include on Your Church Website

I don’t write this post as a technological wizard (because I’m not one . . .), but as a guy who looks at websites simply to learn about churches. In that context, here are some types of BRIEF videos I’ve seen that added much to the site, in my opinion.... Read More

5 Critical Flaws of the One-to-One Discipleship Model

Because of the imprint of the Paul-Timothy model, we unquestioningly assume the one-on-one relationship as our reference point in discipling relationships. But with the hindsight of thirty years of discipling in microgroups, the following are my reflections on some of the limitations of the one-to-one discipling dynamics. Read More

When Evangelism Really Isn’t That Hard

Director of the BGCE Evangelism Initiative offers a guide on where we begin.

We do not take Jesus to anyone. He is already present, at some level, in everyone’s life.

How could it not be so given the omnipresence of God? Furthermore, because He is a God of love, He is near every person you meet, loving and wooing him or her.

We do not go to bring Jesus to anyone; instead, we go to make explicit what He is already doing implicitly. Read More

Free Online Seminary Level Course on the Reformation

Thanks to the generosity and permission of Carl Trueman—Paul Woolley Chair of Church History and professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, as well as the author of Luther on the Christian Life—and The Master’s Seminary, you can basically take Professor Trueman’s course online for free. (You just don’t have to take any tests, write any papers, or get any credit!)

I have posted below the heart of the course syllabus, along with all of the lectures, filmed at The Master’s Seminary in January 2017.

Over at the Evangelical History blog, I have posted Professor Trueman’s bibliography for further reading. Learn More

Thursday, February 16, 2017

8 Things North American Believers Can Learn from Believers around the World

In my various roles, I’ve been privileged to travel the world, talk to global brothers and sisters in Christ, and learn from them. I may be the professor, but they always teach me. Here are some things we North American Christians can learn from them.... Read More

Expositional Imposters

Mark Dever rightly describes Expositional Preaching as “preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” However, I have heard many sermons that intend to be expositional, yet fall somewhat short. Below are seven pitfalls that one might try to avoid. Each of these pitfalls either doesn’t correctly make the message of the passage the message of the sermon, or doesn’t make it a message to that congregation at all. Read More

Boring Church Services Changed My Life

While I fought to keep my eyes open, the gospel pressed deep into my heart.

I’ve never really had a moment in my life—39 years—when I wasn’t going to church. My parents got engaged and married in the church. I was born into, raised in, and baptized in church.

My parents, first-generation Christians, were devout church-goers. We went every time the doors were open—and many times when they weren’t. My father, a plumber, volunteered thousands of man-hours helping build church buildings. My mother volunteered, worked as a secretary, and later served as a preschool teacher.

Since the age of five, I sat in church services: Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday night prayer meetings. I wasn’t allowed to draw. I was required to sit up straight—no fidgeting. And I wasn’t allowed to fall asleep.

Up through my teenage years, I thought of church as a bit boring. Sure, there were some life-changing, soul-stirring messages at summer camp or a special service. But for most of my life, including my years as a pastor, I did pretty much the same thing every week: singing familiar hymns or choruses, standing up and reading Scripture, listening to a sermon. Read More

Five Reasons to Recommend Books to Your Church Members

I’ve been privileged to work for a voracious reader and also be pastored by one. These men have modeled godly leadership for me, but have done something else, too—they’ve taught me to love learning.

We say it often on the podcast—“A lifelong leader is a lifelong learner.” And while formal education (like you would find at a seminary like Midwestern) and ongoing ministry training (like we provide at Church Answers) are useful, personal development through the discipline of reading is also of great benefit.

As a pastor or church leader, you obviously play an important role in the spiritual development of fellow church members. But you can also develop members personally through the simple act of recommending books to them on a regular basis. Here are 5 reasons why.... Read More

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Is Church Growth a Solution Looking for a Problem?

The apostles addressed a broad range of church issues, but no New Testament writer ever told a church to get bigger.

We’ve invested a lot into the art and science of church growth in the last 50 years.

It makes me wonder. After such a massive output of time, energy, research and money, have we become like the proverbial man with a hammer who sees everything as a nail?

Is that why church growth is always the go-to answer for every challenge? Because we can’t afford it not to be?

Has church growth become a solution looking for a problem?

To address this question, let’s look back to the early church. Read More

A Note to 20-Something Church Leaders

If churches are to grow and develop in the next 100 years, we will need to raise up younger leaders. If you are a 20-something, perhaps you aspire to, or are on a trajectory toward, church leadership. As someone who has had to grow into a position of senior leadership, I want to share a few thoughts with you in the hopes that you will walk this path carefully—always in step with the Holy Spirit and the way that God has wired you.

But first, here is an important observation about how older leaders see you. Often, many older leaders lack faith in the ability of younger leaders to last for the long haul. Let me be honest and say sometimes their fears are justifiable. As a younger leader, you will need to demonstrate godliness, faith and commitment through your ministry involvement.

But the future of our churches depends on the transmission of our faith from one generation to the next. It’s true that leadership can be a gift of the Lord, regardless of age, but I also firmly believe that it is something that can be developed in every person’s life if he or she is intentional and committed to the process. Read More

My Unusual Preaching Feedback Team

The impact five dead prophets have on my sermon preparation each week.

I am pleased to introduce a most unusual sermon feedback team: 5 dead prophets. Nothing gets past them, which is why I keep them at the table. Their insights get to the heart of the matter, transcending mere praise or criticism. I invite you to experience the cross-pressure and promise of our conversation. I hope it will make your sermons more fruitful and faithful. Read More

Don Carson: How to Destroy Evangelism with Political Animosity

From Don Carson’s eighteenth lecture on Revelation delivered on June 17, 2005:
There is a great deal of anger on the American right at the moment. Let me just say a little bit about it, because it is troubling. It’s hard to know what to do. If you want to make a lot of money with a Christian book in this country, write a book that says what’s wrong with America listing all the bad things that you possibly can on the left. Demonize the left. It’ll sell like hotcakes on the right.

Do you want to raise money for Focus on the Family, or a whole lot of other institutions that are really good institutions in many ways? If they really want to raise a lot of money in a hurry, let them tell you the worst horror stories of the month. The money flows in. The reason it does is because there is so much in this society that feels, with a certain amount of justification, that “All those nasties on the left are taking away our heritage. They’re perverting our schools. They’re overthrowing principles of jurisprudence. They’re making the city unsafe.” Read More

Americans Warm Up to Every Religious Group Except Evangelicals

Pew finds fewer people personally know an evangelical anymore.

Evangelicals are the only religious group in the United States that has not developed a better reputation over the past few years. And Americans have become less likely to know an evangelical—more so than any other faith tradition.

While feelings toward evangelicals have remained stable (even among Democrats), Americans gave warmer responses to every other faith group this year than they did in 2014, according to Pew Research Center findings released today.

Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, and Mormons all improved their standings, with the two lowest-rated affiliations—atheists and Muslims—seeing some of the largest gains. Read More

Related Article:
Americans Express Increasingly Warm Feelings Toward Religious Groups

Eat, Pray, Lent: Here’s What Americans Actually Abstain From

Nearly 3 in 10 evangelical believers now observe the season before Easter.

During the season of Lent, some Americans give up chocolate or alcohol. Others dump guilty pleasures like social media or binge-watching television.

But most abstain from Lent itself.

Three-quarters of Americans (76%) say they don’t typically observe Lent, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research. Read More

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Why Board Games Are Back and What It Means for the Church

In The Revenge of Analog, David Sax chronicles how a hunger for tangible things is causing a resurgence in many industries, such as print, vinyl, and board games. In the midst of a digital revolution where more and more people are joining social media platforms and electronic gaming is getting more and more impressive, board games have made a comeback. For example, people in Toronto gather at Snakes and Lattes to drink and play games. Sax writes of Snakes and Lattes, “Tabletop games are just an excuse for getting together, but a perfectly designed, uniquely suited one, specifically because of their analog nature.”

In other words, board games are back because people want to get together.

A world of unlimited connectivity does not mean greater community. To the contrary, unlimited connectivity often means shallow community as the constant distraction prevents depth of conversation and relationships. So when constant connectivity does not deliver on true community, board games are poised for a comeback. What does this mean for a local church? At least two things.... Read More

What Tech Should My Church Get?

A hasty technology purchase can cost you big time down the road.

How can churches steward funds well by making lasting technology purchases that will benefit the overall mission of the church? This is no simple task. Chairs and communion cups are straightforward purchases, but there is no easy strategy for making technology decisions. By watching those who have gone before and seeking wisdom in planning, spending, and utilizing technology to glorify God, churches can avoid pitfalls and make the right purchases for their ministries. Read More

How to Welcome New Neighbors and Invite Them to Church at the Same Time

Invite new neighbors to church!

So, when I moved to Wheaton, I loved how my neighbors reached out and welcomed me.

They created a four-page (four page!) long list of things, including.... Read More

Belong, Believe, Become: A New Process of Evangelism

“Churches aren’t growing because of conversions. Churches are just swapping sheep.”

Have you ever heard someone make this claim or something like it? I have—way too many times, from pastors and church members alike. What do we make of this kind of comment, and how do we respond?

First, a note of encouragement: just because you don’t see conversions, it doesn’t mean they aren’t happening in churches in America. They are.

The gospel has never stopped being powerful. Conversion growth will continue to happen. Nothing can prevent the power of the gospel from working in the lives of those who believe it enough to act on it. Read More

US Evangelical Christians Are Divorcing At The Same Rate As The General Population, Study Finds

Evangelical Christians are divorcing at the same rate as the general population, according to a new study.

While a higher proportion of evangelical Christians are married (67 per cent) compared to other practising Christians (59 per cent) and the general public (52 per cent), the number who are divorced is the same – 25 per cent – across all three categories, the Barna group found.

Meanwhile, a significant proportion of practising Christians believe in cohabitation, according to the poll. Read More

Monday, February 13, 2017

Jesus Didn’t Wake Up this Morning Depressed By the Size of Your Church

Mondays can be tough for pastors of struggling churches. But Christ is with you. And he has good news.

Was yesterday a tough Sunday, pastor?


You did everything you know to do.

You prepared, prayed and studied all week long.

A couple days ahead of time, you got in touch with volunteers to remind them this was their Sunday to teach, sing, usher, and so on.

You arrived early, unlocked the doors, made sure everything was clean, and turned on the heat, lights and sound.

But at least one volunteer didn’t show up. No reason. Just didn’t.

You scrambled to find someone to cover for them. But that position stayed empty. Again.

Still, you battled through. Read More

The Resuscited Church

She was on her deathbed.

Every breath was laborious. Every breath was more difficult.

Those who surrounded her knew the end was imminent. It was only matter of time—a very brief time.

But the impossible became the possible. The dying lady survived. In fact, she not only survived, her outlook is very promising today.

Hers is a true story of resuscitation: from the brink of death to survival to improved health to a healthy life.

What about churches? Can a church experience a similar miraculous recovery? Admittedly, I have only seen a few churches with the same story of resuscitation. But I have seen a sufficient enough number to make some concise observations. These observations are among the most encouraging events I have ever witnessed.

How did these few churches go from near death to vibrant life? Here are their stories. Read More

7 Things Christians Should Give Up To Reach Unchurched People

So you want your church to reach people who don’t go to church.

That’s wonderful because that’s basically the mission of the church: to share the love of Christ with the world in the hopes everyone will come into a relationship with Jesus.

The challenge is that unchurched people aren’t exactly flocking to most churches, and many Christians seem stumped as to why that is.

There are many reasons, but a surprising number center around one thing: Christians who treat the church as if it’s their private club.

The gravitational pull of human nature is toward self, not towards others, and churches behave the same way. You will focus almost exclusively on your needs and wants unless you decide not to.

And that’s exactly what far too many churches do: focus exclusively on the needs and wants of their members.

Okay, it’s worse than that. Maybe it’s not even about needs and wants. Maybe it’s about preferences.

So many church leaders (staff and volunteer) struggle to lead beyond the preferences of the church members. And as soon as they try, they get inundated with complaints and angry emails. Too many Christians feel like it’s their right to have a church that caters exactly to their tastes and whims, and millions are paying the price for that (including unchurched people).

Catering to the preferences of members is a terrible idea for three reasons.

First, it’s killing the church. Attendance continues to stagnate or decline as people drift further and further from Christ (here’s a 5 part blog series I did on declining church attendance).

Second, it’s an unwinnable game. Even in a church of 100 people, you’ll never be able to please everyone.

Finally, and most importantly, it’s just wrong. Since when did the personal preferences of members become a legitimate reason to keep people away from God’s love?

When your preferences keep unchurched people from the promise of Christ, it’s time to change your preferences.

Here are 7 things Christians should give up to reach unchurched people. Read More

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey: 460 Years Ago Today

On February 12, 1554, 18-year-old Lady Jane Grey was beheaded after a nine-day reign as Queen of England.

To explain why, we first have to offer an all-too-brief primer on the political background of Tudor England up to this point. Read More

Also see:
Execution of Lady Jane Grey from Foxe's Book of Martyrs

Deadly Doctrines: The Pattern and Protection

We have learned that the church of every age is plagued by false teachers and their deadly doctrine. We have met seven of those false teachers and seen the devastation they bring. We have identified five tests we can apply to any doctrine to determine whether it is false or true. But this leaves us with some important questions: How does a church come to reject sound doctrine? How do we guard ourselves against false teachers and their deadly doctrines? How do we protect ourselves, our families, and our churches from their seductive lies? Thankfully, God has given us clear guidance in his Word, showing us how churches descend into deadly doctrine and how we may protect ourselves against it. Read More

What Is Biblical Preaching? Stewarding the Message

One of the best books on preaching I’ve ever read is Between Two Worlds by John Stott. In it, he shared a metaphor for preaching that has always stuck with me. He said that one of the words used in the New Testament for “preacher” is the word “steward.” A steward, Stott said, was a manager. In a family with children, the steward wasn’t a parent, but was responsible for feeding the children. The parent made the decisions, and the steward was responsible to administer them. Stott said if you’re a steward and the parent chooses the food for the child to eat and you go to the pantry and you’re going to feed the kids, you don’t just necessarily go through you know green beans, green beans, green beans, you know chips, chips, chips, spam, spam, spam. That’s not the way you would feed them. You would pull different things together and you would make a meal. Read More

Friday, February 10, 2017

10 Steps to Get an Internship Ministry Started In a Small Church

Most small churches would love to have interns. But how do you overcome that massive initial step of getting your first intern?

Interning at a church is one of the best ways to prepare for pastoral ministry. Or to determine that pastoral ministry is not your calling (a distinction that is essential to know - and the sooner, the better.)

It’s also a wonderful opportunity for a church to expand its ministry outreach by participating in training the next generation of church leaders.

As I mentioned in a recent post, 7 Reasons to Consider a Small Church Internship, a small church may be one of the best places for a lot of students to do their internship.

Since that post, I’ve received several requests from pastors to share what we’ve learned about running an internship program in a small church.

I’m blessed to have a great youth pastor, Gary Garcia, who oversees our interns. So he and I sat down and reverse-engineered what we’ve learned in our 15 years of offering internships at Cornerstone. We broke it down into two sets of challenges, worthy of two separate blog posts.

The first challenge is starting your program. Specifically, how do you get your first intern? That’s the subject of today’s post. In an upcoming second post I’ll address how to run an effective internship once you have the intern(s). Read More

The Bible’s Clarity Should Be Evident in Our Lives

God met me in the clarity of his Word—then came the hard part.

The “perspicuity” (clarity) of the Bible was real to me before I even knew what to call it. It was an experience long before it became a tenet of my faith. I started to read the New Testament just as I was about to enter college. With very few assumptions, and with no theological or spiritual commitments, I simply picked up the Bible and began to read.

I read and re-read the Gospels, and then the whole New Testament. I was without instruction in almost any of the historical, cultural, political, or theological issues of the text. I was by no means sure there was a god, nor was I sure that this text and its apparent claims were true or relevant to some possible divine being. It simply seemed to me that a literate person should be acquainted with the Bible, and so it all began.

The portraits of Jesus presented in the Gospels astonished me. The four distinct angles of vision invited me to look carefully through a set of lenses at the most important figure in the New Testament. I had feared that religion made life small and insignificant. Petty religion was repellent. I didn’t need religion to help me have a small heart or a pathetically self-interested worldview. I knew my own capacities in these areas were more than sufficient!

As I read, heard, and meditated on the witness of Scripture, I came to discover that what Jesus offered was in fact the antidote to smallness: the kingdom of God. The smallness that pervades much of our natural human enterprise, whether it is business, education, politics, or religion, was the problem of a shrunken heart and mind. By contrast, the kingdom of God—life under the reign of God’s grace and truth in Jesus Christ—expands and unleashes our heart, mind, soul, and strength for the profound purposes for which we were made.

To my utter surprise, the Bible proved itself to be clear to me, even though I knew almost nothing about it. What the Bible made plain was that I was loved, sought, convicted, called, and redeemed by the true and living God who came to save the world—including me—in Jesus Christ. The clarity of Scripture was not an abstract principle; it was an apt description. Read More

6 Markers of Especially Welcoming Churches

Insights from a church secret shopper.

I recently had lunch with a local senior pastor for whom I was doing some coaching and consulting. He asked, “Greg, what are the most common things you see as a church secret shopper?” I’ve heard this question often enough to know what he was really asking: “Where do most churches miss the mark? How can I avoid those problem areas?” Instead of focusing on the negative, I decided to share the things that make me grin ear to ear when I visit churches for the first time. Here are six markers of especially welcoming churches. Read More

Toward a National Renewal of Evangelism through the Local Church in Our Day

Americans are far more open to the gospel than you may imagine

We need the fire for evangelism to spread across the Church in our day, but will it?

As I see it, there are at least four main barriers keeping the Church from a passionate pursuit of evangelism. Read More

Editorial: Why are Christian organisations campaigning against helping Christians flee the Middle East genocide?

In the USA a terrible tragedy is happening. A nation that was founded by Christians fleeing religious persecution is tearing itself apart over its new president ordering the US refugee system to prioritise religious minorities fleeing persecution. Yet perhaps the greatest tragedy faces Christian refugees fleeing genocide in the Middle East. They now face the painful discovery that many they might have assumed would support them in their hour of need - their fellow Christians - are in fact those most vehemently opposed to this policy. Can you imagine how they feel? Read More

Related Article:
Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban

Thursday, February 09, 2017

12 Church Facility "Problem" Names

I and my Lawless Group consulting teams have visited a lot of churches with rooms named after people. Capturing that same tradition, I’ve decided to “name” some problematic church facility issues. See if your church could put up a plaque with one of these names on it. Read More

10 (More) Sure-Fire Ways to Drive Away Your Pastor

When I asked Facebook friends for ways to find disappointment in a pastor, we were swamped with responses. (Read the first 10 sure-fire ways to drive away your pastor here.) Apparently, everyone knows ways to put down the preacher.

So, here are 10 more pointers to (ahem) help readers conclude that their pastor is a loser and should exit the church so that hot shots like you can bring in a real God-called minister. (Can you tell this is tongue-in-cheek?)

“Therefore, also, we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Cor. 5:9).

That’s the preacher’s assignment. Yours, too, church member. Okay, let’s cut to the chase.... Read More

T.C. Hammond: The Value of the Old Testament

On Article 7 – From the Vault of the Australian Church Record, November 10 1955

There are three important declarations in Article Seven. (1) The Old Testament is not contrary to the New. (2) The Fathers looked for more than transitory promises. (3) The moral injunctions in the Commandments of Moses are binding on all Christian men.

Popularly, at present, the first opinion condemned, viz.: “The Old Testament is contrary to the New” finds expression in the oft-repeated declaration “That belongs to the Old Dispensation.” There is often an underlying suggestion that a change of dispensation involved somehow a change in God’s revelation. We need to be on our guard against such popular misrepresentations. In the excitement of the Reformation period old errors reared their heads again. Rogers in his work on The Articles refers to “the new Libertines” who are identified with the Anabaptists. Bollinger tells us that the Anabaptists reject the Old Testament and do not receive the testimonies which are adduced from it either for the confirmation of Christian faith or the refutation of errors and false dogmas, as they say the Old Testament is abrogated.

The Article rejects the idea that in the Old Testament we have “a covenant of works,” while in the New Testament we have “a covenant of grace.” Salvation in the time of Abraham and Moses was entirely of grace just as it is in the new revelation in fullness of Jesus Christ our Lord. St. Paul emphasises this in the Epistle to the Romans. “Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness (iv:3) “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (iv:5). Read More

Four Steps toMake Your Church Communications More Efficient

Bigger. Stronger. Faster.

It’s a mantra you hear from professional athletes and coaches all the time. Successful athletes and teams are often the ones who simply can do more than their opponents. That typically works in sports. But does it translate to other areas of life? Not always.

When it comes to business, efficiencies are often more important than being the biggest, strongest, or fastest. It doesn’t always matter if your sales are the greatest or if you have more customers. If your margins are low and your overhead is eating away your profits, efficiency can mean much more than size.

But what about churches?

More specifically, what about church communications?

I would suggest that instead of being concerned with simply communicating more, churches should be focused on communicating more efficiently and effectively. These four steps will help your church determine what efficient communications look like in your context. Read More

Seven Costs of Disciple-Making

Dietrich Bonhoeffer memorably wrote on the cost of discipleship, but he’d be the first to insist that the Christian life involves more than simply following Jesus by being his disciple. Better put, Christ’s call to discipleship (Luke 14:26–33) includes his call to disciple-making (Matthew 28:19).

And yet we live in a day in which everything else in life seems to be going in some direction other than life-on-life disciple-making. Let’s be honest, disciple-making isn’t rocket science. The vision is simple enough. Our need isn’t for more information but to do what we already know we should do, and in some ways want to do, but simply haven’t or aren’t yet. Most of us know enough; we’re just not doing it. Because we haven’t yet been willing to embrace the costs. We intuit the costs, but we haven’t embraced them.

Perhaps what might help us over our hurdles is not to hide how costly disciple-making is, but to be utterly honest and explicit about the costs, and hold them out in the light for us to see, and then find whether something in us might just rise to the peculiar glory of it all. God makes foolish the wisdom of the world, with its shortcuts and mass production, through the folly of disciple-making. As he did when his Son took a rag-tag band of uneducated peasants, invested in them at depth, and launched them out to change the world. Read More

How Can Churches Hope To Witness To Christ When They Are Left Empty For Days On End?

Churches are failing to witness effectively to Christ because they are allowed to lie empty for much of the week, along with church halls and meeting rooms.

Churches could be meeting and serving their neighbours better while also bringing in much needed finance, according to a new report.

Church buildings, halls and offices sit empty for much of the week and could be put to better use the research says. Not only could churches be making more money (an estimate says that in London, that could mean around £60,000 extra per year) but also, having more people through the doors would directly benefit the churches' mission and outreach. Read More