Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Value of Church Planter Assessment and Boot Camps

We identified seven challenges faced by most church planters.

Planting a church is hard enough. It is more difficult when the planter doesn’t have solid support and resources. And we’re not talking about money here. Church planter development is a crucial element to giving new churches a real chance to succeed.

I’m a big believer in facts and figures, not because they tell the whole story, but because they help the story make sense. Several years ago, I did a study to find out what successful church planters had in common. I surveyed over 600 seminary graduates who went on to plant churches. One of the most interesting things I found in this study had to do with the success rate among those who had extended training beyond seminary.

Everyone in my studt had finished a three-year 90-credit hour Masters in Divinity. At the end of that, they could either participate in a three-day boot camp or not. About half did, and half did not. Four years later, those who did were leading churches that were substantially larger than those who did not.

So, yes, three days of church planting training made a huge difference after three years of seminary training. Read More

How to Pray for Your Pastor

When Roman legions invaded Caledonia (modern-day Scotland) in the late first century AD, it was said by the historian Tacitus that the powerful Celtic chieftain Calgacus emerged and rallied his tribes against the might of Rome, famously declaring, “They make a desert, and they call it peace.”

Today’s Christian pastor is likewise making similar stands for biblical Christianity in the midst of a secular desert created by an anti-Christian culture. The Bible describes a faithful pastor as an elder who oversees the flock and the household of God. According to Paul, pastor/elders rule the church (Titus 1:5) and guard the treasures of Christ (v. 9). Additionally, they minister to the people by teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).

If ever there was an era in Christian history that believers should be committed to praying for their pastors, it is now. James rebukes our prayerlessness when he says, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). And what prayers are we offering up to God on behalf of our pastors? Let me suggest several. Read More

6 Keys to Fact Checking Your Own Sermons

The advent of the Internet and smartphones have made it essential to ensure what we say from the pulpit is factual. Preachers should always have worked hard to be truthful and accurate, but with some people fact checking us while we yet sermonize, it is more important than ever to make sure we do not blithely repeat an urban legend, a disproved theory, or an outright fabrication.

We are beyond the time that any old “preacher story” can pass for a legitimate illustration. For instance, NASA researchers did not find the Joshua’s famous “missing day” regardless of how many emails say they did.

In America, at least, many people are on the lookout for “fake news,” and pastors dare not be culpable in passing it along in their sermons. Every erroneous story, invented illustration, or fiction-as-fact example we use opens the door to someone questioning the gospel message we preach. If we would not say “the Easter Bunny is real” we should not say “Charles Darwin recanted his theory on his deathbed.” Both are equally false.

Because we worship a Savior who is himself “the truth” and because he is “filled with grace and truth” and because Satan is the “father of lies,” we should be on the side of truth. Toward that end, here are three warnings and three suggestions to keep in mind about fact-checking your own sermons. Read More

Related Article:
The Social Solitude of Preaching

Five Reasons to Consider Online Registration for Guests

We are routinely asked about the most effective ways to get guests to fill out communication cards or to turn them in. What if your church could get information on guests before they even set foot on campus? With an online registration form on your website, you can.

Whether you utilize this on a “Plan Your Visit” page, the home page, or the kids ministry page on your website, by offering an online guest registration form you are already ahead of the game when it comes to making a good first impression with a guest. Other than that, here are five reasons you should consider using online guest registration forms. Read More

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Why I’m Not Worried About The Future Of The Church – Or The Church Of The Future

Churches that adapt their methods to advance Jesus’ mission will struggle, but survive and thrive.

There’s a lot of upheaval going on in the church right now. And it’s not even close to being over.

There will be a great many local congregations and denominations that will not survive into the next generation or two. But that doesn't mean the church is dying. Or even in trouble. It’s just changing.

The church of the next generation will not look like it does today. Or like it has for generations.

I have no idea what the church of the future will look like. But I’m okay with not knowing. Because it’s not my church. It belongs to Jesus. And he knows what he’s doing. Read More

The Church in Europe

Prague, Czech Republic
Europe was the birthplace of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Schlosskirche—the Castle Church—in Wittenberg, Germany. In God’s providence, this became a catalyst for the Reformation that God had been preparing, the Reformation that changed the world.

Kiev, Ukraine 
For a long time, Europe was the center of Christian strength and influence. However, over the past two centuries, Christianity has seen a decline in Europe as the continent has moved into a post-Christian phase. The year 2017 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. So, let’s take an on-the-ground look at the church in Europe today. Read More

5 Ways to Destroy Ministry Silos

Patrick Lencioni brought the concept of silos into the leadership conversation with his great book Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars. Silos occur in churches when leaders act like their ministry or team is the only one that matters.

A silo attitude results in that leader or team only supporting, giving or attending functions that pertain to them. It can be kill a ministry and result in many problems.

What problems do ministry silos cause? Here are a few. Read More

It All Begins with You

Admit it. Some of you don’t like your congregations. You may love them, because you have a biblical command to do so, but you don’t like them. You don’t like the way they worship or perhaps they don’t share their faith enough, or…. I could go on but you get the picture.

Tenure is not the issue. It doesn’t matter if you have been their pastor for ten months or ten years. They are just not the people you want them to be. The question is, what do you do about it. How do you lead your congregation to be a people that reflect the Gospel? The answer is simple: be a person that reflects the Gospel. Be the person you want your congregation to become. Here are a few steps to get you started. Read More

Do the Work of an Evangelist

In his final letter, Paul charges Timothy, his son in the faith, to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). By these words, the aged Apostle establishes the timeless standard for pastoral ministry, not only for young Timothy but for all pastors in every generation and in every place.

With Apostolic authority, this imperative command comes with binding force. All pastors must do the work of an evangelist. They must earnestly proclaim the gospel message, urging people to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. So, where should this pastoral evangelism begin? Read More

The Top Ten Surprises New Pastors Have

I love pastors. I love their hearts. I love their commitment to God and to the churches they serve.

I also love new pastors. It is fascinating to hear their thoughts after they have served as a pastor for a year or two. I have assembled some of those thoughts in the form of direct quotes from new pastors via social media, my blog, my podcast, and Church Answers.

Here, then, are the top ten surprises new pastors have. I offer them as direct quotes with brief comments. Read More

5 Big Challenges Facing Children's Ministry

We live in a day of unprecedented challenges for children's ministries. Challenges we must navigate if we are to continue building thriving ministries that effectively reach and disciple kids and families.

Let's take a look at the 5 of the biggest challenges we are facing. Read More

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3 Ways for New Churches to Have a Productive Vacation Bible School
Should We Memorize Catechisms or Scripture?

Why We Sing With The Lights On

I’m a pastor at a church plant primarily comprised of Millenials in an up-and-coming city. Our church is a prime candidate for loud, attractive music sung in a dimly lit room with an impressive worship team. Yet the music sung in our service isn’t loud, not necessarily attractive, and though it is extremely impressive to us, it wouldn’t be so to many outside our congregation. Furthermore, we sing in a completely lit room; no lasers, no candles, no dimmed lights, or anything of the sort.

While this might sound strange to some who find themselves in the same age bracket as our congregants, we do it on purpose – out of conviction. So then, why do we sing with the lights on and why would I consider this important enough to be the topic of this article? Here are a few reasons.... Read More

Most White Evangelicals Don’t Believe Muslims Belong in America

Pew updates its comprehensive survey of what US Muslims believe and do, and how their neighbors feel about them.

As much of American society undergoes a secular shift, most Muslims and Christians continue to attend worship, adhere to tenets of their traditions, and proudly identify with their faiths.

But despite this shared sense of religious devotion, as detailed in a new Pew Research Center report on what US Muslims believe and practice, survey data also show a huge gap in their perceptions of each other.

While Americans overall have warmed up to Muslims (but not evangelicals) in recent years, white evangelicals express more concerns about Muslims in America than any other religious group. Two-thirds of white evangelicals believe Islam is not part of mainstream American society, Pew found. Read More

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Anglican Church in North America - A Botched Omelet?

The Australian Church Record has, in its June 2017 issue, published a report on the Anglican Connection Conference, held on June 13-15, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. The report was written by Stephen Tong who attended the conference and was one of its key note speakers. What immediately caught my attention was this statement which appears in the very first paragraph of the report.
“‘A dog’s breakfast’. During a recent conversation in the UK, a casual observer used that phrase to describe to me the Anglican Church in the United States of America. The fracture in the global Anglican Communion is most acute in the States, where the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) has been set up as a parallel Anglican province, bringing together the various Anglican groups that have been forming over the last twenty years or so – such as the Nigerian based, Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). However, the gospel clarity of the 16th century English Reformers – expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1552 Prayer Book – is not yet found in North American Anglican structures. This is why the formation of the Anglican Connection is important.”
For readers who are unfamiliar with the expression ,“a dog’s breakfast,” it is chiefly a British expression and refers to a “confused mess or mixture.” Here is what has to say about this expression. 
"dog's breakfast," which has been British slang for "a complete mess" since at least the 1930s. While no one took the time to write down the exact origin of the phrase, the allusion involved seems to be to a failed culinary effort, perhaps a burned or botched omelet, fit only for consumption by the mouth of last resort, Fido. As a vivid figure of speech meaning something so fouled up as to be utterly useless, "dog's breakfast" can cover anything from a play plagued by collapsing scenery to a space mission ruined by a mathematical error. "Dog's dinner," which seems to have appeared around the same time, means exactly the same sort of disaster, but has the advantage of being attractively alliterative. Both phrases are heard occasionally in the U.S., but are more common in the U.K. and Commonwealth countries.
Synonyms include “mess, disaster, catastrophe, failure, dump."

While I believe that "a dog's breakfast" may be an apt description of the Anglican Church in North America, what is far more important is the acknowledgment in the same statement that “the gospel clarity of the 16th century English Reformers – expressed in the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1552 Prayer Book – is not yet found in North American Anglican structures.” This acknowledgment may be described as something of an understatement. In its fundamental declarations the Anglican Church in North America equivocates in its affirmation of the doctrinal and worship principles laid out in the historic Anglican formularies—the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. In its Catechism and its proposed Prayer Book and Ordinal, it clearly departs from these principles.

The full report may be read here. Audio recordings of the various addresses may be found here. I definitely recommend that readers take time to read the report and to listen to the addresses.

Kick-Starting the Plateaued and Declining Church: Part 4

Part 4: Challenge People to Face Reality and Join the Team

After assessing the situation, it’s time to start facing reality and helping people start making some changes. Obviously, this is where it can get really tough because there’s a need to say some hard things firmly, while being gracious. In addition, you’re going to ask demoralized people to reengage who may feel like losers, even if they’re trying to put a good face on it. This is how Nehemiah approached things after his assessment.... Read More

Related Articles:
Kick-Starting the Plateaued and Declining Church
Kick-Starting the Plateaued & Declining Church: Part 2
Kick-Starting the Plateaued and Declining Church: Part 3

7 Reasons to Think as a Missionary to Evangelize North America

I realize that not everyone has a “call” to serve internationally as a missionary, but I do think we must all think as missionaries if we’re going to reach North America. Here are some reasons why.... Read More

7 Internal Barriers to Growth in a Church

There is rarely a simple explanation for the decline of a church. It is often a complex mix of cultural, theological, attitudinal, and internal issues. In this article, I address the latter issue.

Internal barriers refer to those obstacles that are inherent in the organization and the facilities of the church. They are also called structural barriers. Stated simply, these barriers are self-imposed or self-inflicted.

Some of these barriers are long-standing and difficult to remove. Others, such as a redesigned website, can be accomplished with little pain. Let’s look at the six most common internal barriers in churches. Read More

Related Article:
One Key Reason Most Churches Do not Exceed 350 in Average Attendance
This article originally appeared on Thom Rainer's blog on August 31, 2015. I posted it on Anglicans Ablaze on that date or shortly thereafter. I am reposting it since church leaders who prompted by the article may have taken a look at the internal barriers to growth in their church may wish to take a second look two years later. They may wish to ask themselves these questions: Have the barriers that were identified two years ago been reduced or eliminated? If they persist or have grown worse, why? Here we need to be objective in our assessment and to avoid playing the blame-game. What additional steps can we take to reduce or eliminate these barriers?

Seven Personalities of Sick Churches - Rainer on Leadership # 348 [Podcast]

In churches who are dying, you often hear statements like the ones we cover today. Today we explain how to identify the personalities of sick churches. Listen Now

Related Articles:
Seven Personality Types of Sick Churches
10 Roadblocks to Church Revitalization

8 Good Questions to Evaluate Your Church

It’s easy to get so busy doing ministry that you don’t take the time to evaluate your ministry.

But evaluation is how you get better.

It’s like your annual physical. No one wants to get a check-up, blood work, and maybe a test or two, but that’s how you learn what you need to know.

Then, of course, you need to act on what you learn.

The 4-point plan to get better:

  •  Ask the right questions. 
  • Give honest answers in a group process. 
  • Determine the best-prioritized plan for improvement. 
  • Take action. 

 It starts with asking the right questions. Read More

Small Church, Big Ministry

God is using 124 people from this historic congregation to feed 145,000.

“When your income is not that great, and prices are going up, how are people supposed to survive?”

For the last year, Charles Johnson and his family of five have been caught in an insecure no man’s land. Their family’s low income can’t always stretch to cover everything they need, yet they don’t qualify for public assistance in Georgia. So in his words, “We’re trying to look for any kind of help we can get.”

That’s where Hillside Presbyterian Church comes through. Whoever said small churches can’t do big things? Read More

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From the Small

Tuesday's Catch: "4 Reasons Every Christian Needs to Be Part of a Local Church" and Much More

4 Reasons Every Christian Needs to Be Part of a Local Church

Redemption has always been God’s purpose, and he appointed the church to carry out that purpose. Read More

The Roller Coaster Effect of Ministry

Listening to this seasoned pastor talk about the ups and downs of ministry—so far into his own ministerial experience—also reminded me of the inevitability of the roller coaster ride of ministry. The roller coaster effect is true in a heightened sense for those who are called to parachute plant or plant in an extremely spiritually difficult part of the world, but it is equally true for all ministers of the Gospel who are seeking to carry out a God-honoring ministry of the word. Here are some of the things that ministers should keep in mind while persevering on the roller coaster ride of ministry.... Read More

Building A Great Usher Team

Your ushers can make or break your worship service. Read More

College Ministry: 3 Tips for Helping Students Find Financial Freedom

The Bible talks a lot about money, and it consistently communicates that less debt is better than more debt. We should, too. Read More

Communication in Small- and Medium-sized Churches, Featuring Kelly Adkins—Pastor Talk, Episode 18 [Podcast]

Kelly Adkins from Grace Church joins Pastor Talk host Marty Duren to discuss communication in small- and medium-sized churches. Listen Now

Three Ways to Engage Culture

We are in a bit of an awkward cultural moment. That means our approach to engaging culture is a needed discussion. It’s so important I’m releasing five videos for Stetzer Coaching Class this month on engaging culture on the big issues. To whet your appetite, here are three ways I believe Christians will approach culture in the years to come. Read More

3 Reasons Evangelists Still Exist

Some challenge the existence of the evangelist, and therefore, the legitimacy of their ministry today. But this minimization seems to be more from prejudice or misinformation than anything substantive. Let’s consider three reasons the gift of the evangelist still exists today. Read More

Pew: What Christians Worry About Most

How five religious groups rank seven bad scenarios. Read More

Progressivism’s Peak Lunacy

So the week before last it was all, “Gender is meaningless – it mustn’t even be mentioned; it is the distinction that knows no name,” as London Underground instructed staff not to use the phrase ladies and gentlemen. But last week it was all, “Gender is everything – it must be relentlessly focussed on,” as the fact that there are more highly paid men at the BBC than women has caused sputtering outrage. Read More

Caste Aside: India’s New President Has ‘No Room for Christians

Church leaders believe Hindu nationalism will outweigh the Dalit leader’s lower-caste loyalties. Read More

Monday, July 24, 2017

8 Strategic Decisions a Church Needs to Make to Reach the Unchurched

At the church I pastor, Mecklenburg Community Church (Meck), our mission is clear: to help spiritual explorers become fully devoted followers of Christ. In our culture, we’ve observed that the “nones”—those with no religious affiliation—are on the rise and, as a direct result of this, Generation Z is proving to be the first truly post-Christian generation.

In order for Meck to be effective at not only reaching the unchurched, but unchurched nones and (specifically) Generation Z, we realized that we had to make some decisions. Eight decisions, to be precise, that have proven to be strategic in serving our mission. Read More

Related Articles:
Meet Generation Z
Warming Up to Non-Christians

Sources of Church Growth: Your Church's Evaluation

You may not be a fan of the Church Growth Movement, but the early proponents of these ideas rightly challenged church leaders to consider numbers as one means to evaluate the health of the church. Using some of their terms, and adding some of my own, I offer you this means to evaluate the sources of any growth your church might be experiencing.... Read More

God Still Uses Clay Pots

The New Testament was not written by the elite of Egypt. It was not written by the elite of Greece, Rome, or even Israel. The greatest scholars in the world at that time were down at Egypt; they were in the greatest library of antiquity at Alexandria. The most distinguished philosophers were in Athens; the most powerful leaders of men were in Rome; and the religious geniuses were in Israel’s temple. But God never used any of them! He just used clay pots. He passed by Herodotus, the historian; Socrates, the philosopher; Hippocrates, the father of medicine; Euclid, the mathematician; Archimedes, the father of mechanics; Hipparchus, the astronomer; Cicero, the orator; and Virgil, the poet. He passed by them all. Why? Clay pots served His purposes better. From a human viewpoint (and perhaps in their own minds), all those prominent people were magnificent vessels. But someone deeply impressed with his own value isn’t going to see value in the gospel. So God chose peasants, fishermen, smelly guys, and tax collectors—clay pots chosen to carry, proclaim, and write the priceless treasure we call the gospel. Read More

Seven Dangers in the Last Few Years of Your Ministry

I am writing this article on my 62nd birthday.

Yeah, I’m a real party animal.

Let me shoot straight. I have so much for which to be thankful. God has blessed me immeasurably, none of which I deserve. If my ministry were to end today through death or disability, I could only praise Him for the life and ministry He gave me.

But I am assuming I have a few more years left in ministry. And this point in my life is both a time of reflection and looking forward. I want this fourth quarter of my ministry to make a difference for His glory. To be clear, I want to avoid seven dangers in my last years of ministry. And I know I can succumb to any and all of these dangers without His strength, His mercy, and His plan. Read More

Pastors, We Need To Stop Expecting Worship Leaders To Do Our Job For Us

If the theology being presented in our churches isn't deep enough, it's not the worship leader's responsibility to make it deeper.

There are two interesting, but conflicting conversations happening among church leaders right now. Especially, but not exclusively, on social media.

On the one hand, people are decrying the supposed shallowness of today's worship songs.

On the other hand, there's a push to keep sermons under 20 minutes long.

It's not always the same people holding both of those opinions, but I have noticed a surprising amount of overlap.

Does anyone else see the irony here?

At the same time that many are encouraging shorter sermons, we're also wanting deep theology from three-minute songs.

Pastors, if the theology being presented in our churches isn't deep enough, it's not the worship leader's responsibility to make it deeper. That's our job, our calling and our mandate.

A mandate that can't always be done in 20 minutes or less. Read More

Why Start a Weekly Secondary Service?

I’m sharing this internal NEHBC document with other pastors who may be interested in starting a secondary weekly worship service at their church. This document explains how we do it at NEHBC. If you have more questions, feel free to email me.


Wednesday nights, 7-8 p.m., Jan – Thanksgiving each year. Read More

Why Evangelism Requires Both Logic and Loveliness

An apologist argues that beauty and imagination are key to faith formation.

Paradoxically, we live in an age of both unprecedented information access and widespread religious illiteracy. Never has there been more material available on the rational and historical grounds for Christian faith, yet our Western culture is becoming ever more secularized. Increasing numbers of people feel comfortable embracing agnosticism or atheism, and every day we see evidence of hostility to Christianity, especially on topics related to sexual ethics. How are we to approach evangelism and discipleship in this strange, new, “post-truth” world, with its ever-deepening cultural and political divisions?

The classic rational arguments for Christian faith—based on evidence, philosophy, and history—are as sound as ever, but they are effective only when people are interested in the questions and find our words and ideas meaningful. Today, we cannot count on our listeners to be either interested or informed. Here, we see the need for a new approach—or rather, the return to an older, more integrated approach to apologetics that engages the whole human person. Many contemporary apologists—myself included—look to both reason and imagination to help us lead people to know about, follow, and love our Lord Jesus Christ.

As an apologist, I appreciate the value of the imagination in no small part because of the role it played in helping me come to Christian faith. I was once an atheist, and a hostile one, who agreed with the New Atheists that Christianity was not just false but irrational and harmful. Read More

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition, Quantified

Pew examines who loves God and guns.

One of past President Barack Obama’s most infamous quotes was his 2008 campaign trail comment on small-town citizens that “cling to guns or religion.” New research identifies how many Americans actually favor both.

Two out of five self-identified white evangelicals own a gun, higher than any other religious group, according to a recent study from the Pew Research Center. Four out of five have fired one.

But only a quarter of white evangelical gun owners are members of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and more white evangelicals actually want US gun laws to be more strict than less strict. (A plurality are satisfied with the status quo.) Read More
For those who may be curious in regards to the origin of the phrase "praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, I am providing links to a relevant article and video.

The two photo show black-powder enthusiasts who reenact the Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg. It was originally fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland and Antietam Creek as part of the Maryland Campaign. It was the first field army-level engagement in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War. It took place on Union soil and was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. A total of 22,717 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing in action.

Approximately one in four soldiers who fought in the American Civil War never returned home. Casualties on the battlefield were high in a war that combined new military technology with old-fashioned tactical doctrine and were unprecedented in American history.

Most casualties and deaths in the Civil War were the result of disease that was unrelated to combat. For every three soldiers killed in battle, five more died of disease. See Civil War Casualties for further details. 
 Major Civil War diseases were Dysentery, Typhoid, Pneumonia, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and Measles. About 1 in 20 people who came down with the Measles died from it.

The Church of England's Nietzschean Proposal

In a world of change and flux, it is reassuring to know that some things remain the same. Take, for example, the motion passed by the Church of England General Synod, calling for a liturgy to help transgender people celebrate their transitions. This motion is consistent with liberal Protestantism’s age-old calling, that of baptizing the moral norms du jour of the respectable chattering classes, presumably in hopes of enhancing the appeal of religion to its cultured despisers. Transgenderism was bound for liturgical acceptance.

By now, experience should have taught even the moderately self-aware that, where religion is concerned, cultural relevance is a cruel mistress, always promising the Church a place at her table but never quite delivering. Alas, self-awareness has never been the strong suit of those liberal Protestants who have perfected the art of always being belatedly in support of whatever nonsense the sexual revolution is now declaring a self-evident truth that only a hate-filled bigot would deny. And so we have this liturgical proposal which, as with all liturgies, tells us a lot about the General Synod’s understanding of its church’s purpose. It points toward a view of the Church as offering a religious idiom for the therapeutic concerns of modern Western society. So far, so conventional. Read More

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Rural Matters: Placing Rural Church Planting Back on the Map

Small town pastors are doing big things for God’s Kingdom.

I recently introduced my daughter to the 2006 Pixar movie Cars. Sorry, if I’m ruining the movie for anyone, but it has been out since 2006, so tough. The movie follows a race car named Lightning McQueen who ends up stranded in a small town off Route 66 called Radiator Springs. It wasn’t until I was watching the movie, for what seemed like the thousandth time, that I noticed the great work Pixar put into showing how society sees these towns and how special these rural towns once were and can still be today.

The town of Radiator Springs represents the state of many rural towns today - on the verge of being a forgotten ghost town. Once a booming stop along a famous highway that connected the east to the west, now very little traffic drives through these towns due to new interstates that bypass the town or big industries moving out to larger, more central, cities.

The main character in the movie, while stuck in the small town performing community service, spends half the movie complaining about his talents being wasted working in the town, while neglecting to see the importance of doing anything to transform or restore the small, rural community.

I believe this has been the attitude of many pursuing vocational ministry. We treat rural areas like a place to get gas as we drive through, rather than a place to call home. Growing up outside Tulsa, Oklahoma, I spent most of my life church planting in smaller rural communities with my family. I can remember driving the old Route 66 highway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, passing through run-down forgotten downtowns where people use to gather, seeing collapsing houses that once brought life into the community, and stopping at the few remaining gas stations that have survived generations of change.

While spending time living and ministering in these communities, I had the privilege of seeing how new churches, passionate about demonstrating and proclaiming the gospel, could breathe life back into a community and restore the hearts of those calling rural towns home. Read More

Related Articles:
Remembering the Rural: Do Modern Church Plants Focus too Much on the City?
Does Jeremiah 29 call us to seek the welfare of the city?
The Arrogance of the Urban
The Arrogance of the Urban: Part 2
Rural Ministry is Not Second Rate

Saturday Lagniappe: "The 3 Biggest Problems With An 'Every Number Is A Person' Approach To Ministry" and Much More

The 3 Biggest Problems With An 'Every Number Is A Person' Approach To Ministry

Record-keeping and statistical analysis are helpful ministry tools. But we need to know their limitations. Read More

You’re Bored with Jesus; Here’s Why

Many Christians are bored with Jesus. There’s no passion in their lives. They go through the motions, but they don’t want to read the Bible and pray on their own. They don’t really feel anything when they worship. How do we get to a point like this? More importantly, how do we fix it? Read More

Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense

The trend is practically universal: fewer people are attending church every year. You might have even asked the question yourself. Why bother? Read More

Passive Christianity Is Dead Christianity

We may say what sounds orthodox, but we do what we really believe. We may say what sounds loving, but we do what we love. We may say what sounds like gospel, but we do what is our gospel. We may say what sounds like a disciple, but we do what our Master demands. Read More

8 Ways to Respond to Spiritual Attack

Earlier this week I posted on the topic, “10 Signs of Spiritual Attack.” Many of us must be facing attacks, for that post quickly spread. In response to requests for a follow-up post, here are some ways to respond to spiritual attack. Read More

5 Words of Advice for Young Seminarians

For those starting college or seminary education, I know it can sometimes be intimidating or overwhelming. And for those who don’t feel a little intimidated or overwhelmed, you may need to prepare yourselves, lest you get caught off-guard by the challenges of your studies and the seminary culture. Maybe the following few words can serve in this regard. Read More

Do You Know How to Rebuke?

When was the last time someone sat you down to tell you that you were wrong? Read More

The 5 Cs of Preaching

What are the basic elements of biblical preaching? How do you know you’re preaching a Christian sermon and not simply giving a religious or spiritual lecture? Read More

A Plea to Preachers

We must never offer the benefits of the gospel without the Benefactor Himself. For many preachers, however, it is much easier to deal with the pragmatic things, to answer “how to” questions, and even to expose and denounce sin than it is to give an adequate explanation of the source of the forgiveness, acceptance, and power we need. Read More

4 Ways to Multiply the Impact of Your VBS

Use this one-week event to ignite year-long discipleship. Read More

5 Common Myths about Mobile Giving

A myth is a widely held but false belief or idea. Of course, myths can be based on some semblance of truth or have roots based in truth, but at the end of the day, a myth is still a false belief or idea. With that in mind, we thought we’d turn the light on a few myths that we hear commonly when it comes to mobile giving. Sound good? Ok, on with it.... Read More

How To Respond To A Culture You Don’t Like Anymore

You can debate when the collapse of Christendom in the West began, but there is little doubt we are witnessing a massive shift away from the cultural consensus that existed even a few generations ago.o as a church leader – as views on sexuality, family, parenting, drugs, finance and other values change – how do you respond? What do you do when the world for which you trained—maybe even the world where your approach was once effective—is disappearing before your eyes? Read More

What Andrew Jackson Could Teach Donald Trump about Religion

Certain Evangelical leaders friendly to Donald Trump recently prayed over the president....Hanging over the praying ministers was a portrait of the president Trump claims to admire most: Andrew Jackson. Perhaps unbeknownst to those in the room, Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) had been offered a similar religious blessing by Christian leaders. Jackson, however, consciously refused to claim God’s protection on his presidency. He believed that it was presumptuous and inappropriate to claim any special favor from God in his presidency, a caution not shared by his successor in 2017.Read More

Friday, July 21, 2017

6 Ways to Know If You’ve Been Called By God

How do you know?

How about you? How do you know if you’ve been called by God? The first thing I had to recognize was that we’re all called by God. Paul writes, encouraging everyone: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph. 4:1). We are all called. I could run, but I couldn’t hide from that call.

Beyond that, I had the example of God calling people in Scripture. The conversation between Paul and Jesus as recounted in Acts was especially helpful. Paul shares the story with King Agrippa. He says, Jesus told me this: “I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you” (Acts 26:16).

It’s a simple sentence, but it has a lot to teach us about the calling of God. Specifically, we can see six aspects of a call that apply to us. Read More

The Need For External Confirmation

Do Others Agree With Your Calling?

When it comes to evaluating the call to pastoral ministry, a personal sense of calling isn’t enough. The subjective sense of calling must be objectively validated by others. External assessment is an essential cord that tethers you, and your church, to safety. Read More

5 Signs of Spirit-Filled Preaching

Pastors are called to feed, lead and intercede for the church. When we have the privilege to stand before the people of God and share biblical truth with them, we must do so with the greatest skill entrusted to us by the Lord.

This requires from each preacher due diligence in his study, spiritual preparation in his life and total commitment from him through his delivery. When the Bible has been proclaimed faithfully and the people of God have been fed spiritually, there is a healthy spiritual satisfaction that rests upon the preacher.

The challenge of preaching is to communicate to the varied levels of maturity from those who hear us proclaim the Word. If all were on the same level, the preacher’s challenges would not be as great as they are.

In the public worship services in our churches, it is our desire to have the services filled with those who are mature, those who are not as mature as they should be and those that are absolutely there in search of God. Though it is a challenge to speak to these various levels of where people are with God, we know that every person can always benefit from hearing the Bible taught and applied to their life.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as we speak to those who need to be filled. Read More

Why I Love the Evening Service (and You Can Too)

When I came to University Reformed Church in 2004 the long-standing tradition of evening services had just about disappeared. I don't think the interim pastor had much interest in them, and the attendance had dwindled to a few dozen. I told the search committee that I wanted to resurrect the evening service. Over the years, the service grew to a strong core of committed folks, about one-fourth of our Sunday morning attendance.

Now as the pastor at Christ Covenant, I’m eager to pour into Sunday evening and, by God’s grace, see that service flourish.

Every church I've ever been a part of has had a Sunday evening service. I've always gone. It's what I grew up with. It's part of my rhythm as a Christian, and I am immensely grateful for it. It can be a chore to get the whole family back for the evening, and at times with young children my wife hasn’t been able to make it. But we hope to instill in our family the same habits that have served us so well. Read More

Six Evangelism Killers in a Church - Rainer on Leadership #347 [Podcast]

We have discussed evangelism a lot over the past few weeks and even launched a new site focused on it at Today we discuss six statements that can kill evangelism in your church.

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

A Case for Persuasion in Evangelism

Persuasion gets a bad rap, especially when it comes to evangelism.

Sure, we all know those types who take it to far. We've all felt that holy cringe when we've seen pointed fingers and heard "repent" reverberating from a bullhorn on the street corner. But I think we can all agree that this style of "evangelism" is more coercion than it is persuasion.

The English word for persuasion smacks of the used car salesmen stereotypes of evangelism that ask "what can I do to get you to buy into Christianity today?" to a hurried, harried and harrassed customer. But the Greek word for evangelism ("Peitho") is a whole different story.

Peitho means "to gently win someone over, to lovingly convince, to make a friend." And that's exactly what we want to do in evangelism. We want to gently win others over to Christ. We want to lovingly convince them to believe. We want to make them a friend to us and to Jesus. Read More

The Rise of the Nons: Protestants Keep Ditching Denominations

Nondenominational identity has doubled in the US since 2000, Gallup finds.

Ask an American Christian what type of church they belong to, and you’re more likely than ever to hear the label nondenominational.

The proportion of Protestants in the United States who don’t identify with a specific denomination doubled between 2000 and 2016, according to a Gallup poll released this week. Now, about 1 in 6 Americans are nondenominational Christians.

The growing popularity of nondenominational identity is the result of two trends: the decline in the number of Protestants overall, as more Americans eschew any religious affiliation (becoming “the nones”), and shrinking denominations themselves.

Not only are the major mainline churches continuing to see their numbers fall, the country’s largest Protestant denomination—the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)—has lost a million members in the past 15 years.

Prior to 2000, half of all Americans belonged to a specific Protestant denomination. Now, just 30. Read More

The Church of England: Fundamental shifts in the General Synod

The decisions taken in the February and July 2017 sessions of the General Synod crossed a line never before reached. Its failure to take note of the definition of marriage as that between ‘one man and one woman in lifelong commitment’, and its embrace of key LGBT agenda (banning so-called ‘conversion therapy’ for unwanted same-sex attraction, liturgy to mark a person’s gender transition) has caused serious consternation, anger and anxiety in the Church of England, and beyond. It was the scale of defeat of orthodoxy in the July sessions that is most shocking. The following is my reflection on some of the significant shifts in the character and workings of the General Synod over my last 12 years as a member of General Synod.... Read More

Thursday, July 20, 2017

11 Advantages Of Having 50 Churches Of 100 Instead Of 1 Church Of 5,000

Big churches are great. But they’re very rare. And they’re not the only way to see the kingdom of God move forward.

Church planters are some of the great heroes of the faith. Especially when you realize how many church plants fail within the first few years.

But I wonder, how many failed churches might still be alive and well today if we didn’t pressure them to reach numerical goals that most churches, even after decades of existence, fail to achieve?

What would happen if, instead of sending one church planter to start a church, hoping for it to reach (to pick an arbitrary number) 5,000 attendees, we sent out 50 church planters, and resourced them with the tools to grow to 100 on average?

Not that every church will reach 100. Some will be bigger, some will be smaller. But if the expectation was 50 churches of 100, instead of one church of 5,000, how would it change the way we plant, resource and encourage churches?

And what if we applied that same logic to our existing churches?

Big churches are great. But they’re very rare. And they’re not the only way to see the kingdom of God move forward.

After all, if 5,000 people come to Christ, why do we care if they attend one big healthy church of 5,000, or 50 small healthy churches of 100? Or even 100 healthy churches of 50

I know there are church planting organizations that do this. But if your group, denomination or missions organization hasn't caught this as part of their vision, I encourage you to think about it seriously

If we made this shift in strategy, here are a few positive changes we might see. Read More

Thursday's Catch: "A Kairos Moment for Small Town America" and Much More

A Kairos Moment for Small Town America

Over 30 million people still live in rural areas. Read More

7 Business Principles That Lead to a Flourishing Church

My background was business, so I took those principles that I knew and applied them to building the new church. Read More

What Was the Reformation and Why Does It Matter? [Video]

A sermon from St Helen's Bishopsgate, a church located in the heart of the City of London. Watch Now

The English Reformers’ Teaching on Salvation [Audio]

A talk by Donald Allister on the English Reformers’ teaching on salvation at the Church Society Conference 1991. Listen Now

3 Common Ways Leaders Miscommunicate

Leadership mistakes are often synonymous with communication mistakes. Execution problems are often synonymous with lapses in communication. Here are three major communication struggles leaders should seek to avoid.... Read More

Preacher’s Toolkit: What Book Do I Preach First?

Sean Michael Lucas shares with us the three "precommitments" that directed his answer to that question. Read More

A Wake-Up Call to the Church

It’s time to wake up our churches to the need for revival and spiritual awakening. It’s time to answer the Holy Spirit’s wake-up call! Read More

Evangelism and Pastoral Care: The Best of Friends

How can we keep together what the church so often puts asunder? What would truly pastoral evangelism look like? Perhaps Peter can show us the way. Read More

Why Not Just Invite the Dropout Believer to Church? Arrows of Truth No. 3

Generally speaking, you are not going to get most dropouts back into church just by asking them. Read More

10 Outreach Ideas for Your Church This Fall

These ten outreach ideas will allow your church to be noticed in your community and, most importantly, provide your members with several opportunities for gospel conversations. Read More

Politics and What It Means to Be an Evangelical

The election of Donald Trump has elicited a great deal of frustration and dismay among non-Trumpian evangelicals. Some have suggested that the “court evangelicals” who unapologetically support Trump will drive many anti-Trump evangelicals into the fold of the mainline churches or other traditions. Trump’s election, in this line of thinking, has created in some “a desire to leave their evangelical churches in search of a more authentic form of Christianity.” Read More

UK Foreign Office Agency Says Evangelical Christians in the Global South Should “Reinterpret” the Bible

A report produced by an executive agency of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has argued that Evangelical Christians in the Global South should be expected to “reinterpret” the Bible to make it compatible with LGBT ideology. The recommendations, if implemented, would massively reverse freedom of religion across the globe. Read More

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Seven Reasons Why Some Churches Should Consider Being Acquired

“I have been involved in 17 church closures where we sold the properties to a secular company.”
Those words grieved me in two ways. First, I grieved that the ministry and mission presence of those 17 churches were no longer realities in their respective communities. Second, I grieved that the properties were no longer being used for local church ministries.

This post is not about a pleasant topic. It’s about churches that have declined to the point where their near term future is in doubt. And it’s about churches seriously considering allowing another church to takeover their property. It’s about churches going down the difficult but noble path of being acquired by another church. Allow me to elaborate with seven reasons why churches should consider this option. Read More

10 Essentials for a Successful Outdoor Event

Don’t let weather, logistics, or Egyptian plagues keep you from taking your service outside.

You are planning an outdoor service or event for your church. It sounds so quaint. So rustic-nouveau. So ... vulnerable to a meteorological and logistical disaster.

I know what it’s like to take church services to the great outdoors. From intimate baptism services for a few people at a lake, to renting out the local Triple-A ballpark for a 12,000-person event, we’ve seen, done, and experienced it all. The end result of an outside event feels like the Israelite Exodus: either you just entered the Promised Land, or you barely survived a modern-day version of the Egyptian plagues. There’s rarely anything in between.

Why would anyone risk clouds of insects, impending darkness, hail bombardment, or hordes of frogs? (Okay, that last one might be less likely than the others.) Read More

Why Christians Should Stop Caring About So Many Causes

True transformation takes focus, not capricious compassion.

“Many people come here and take pictures,” the elder told me as he leaned on his walking stick, his slender frame swathed in heavy cloth despite the heat. “Then they go away and never help.”

This is the moment that haunts me from my recent visit to Turkana, a region in northwestern Kenya crippled by drought and sliding inexorably into widespread hunger.

I’d stepped out of a small plane into a sweltering landscape of dry riverbeds and desiccated animal bones jutting out of the earth—a place so quiet without traffic and technology that a child’s plaintive wail seemed to carry for miles. A month later, as I recall this sobering scene, the elder’s words play over it like a soundtrack, telegraphing doubt that my visit would mean anything more than a photo op.

It’s not surprising that Westerners have a reputation here for capricious compassion. But it pains me that Christians would. Read More

4 Reasons God Uses Us Fools to Shame the Wise

In the news coverage of the May 22 terrorist bombing in Manchester, England, perhaps you saw a small item about a homeless man named Stephen Jones. He had been sleeping on the street outside the arena when the blast occurred. As soon as he saw the wounded survivors—most of them children—he rushed in to help, pulling nails from the homemade bomb out of their skin.

Stephen, a former bricklayer with no medical experience, was a highly unlikely first responder. But that didn’t stop him. Later hailed as a hero, he shrugged it off. “I class myself as a normal citizen that would’ve done the same as anybody else would’ve done,” he said.

Stories like this remind me of how God uses ordinary people in powerful ways. Sometimes the greatest impact comes from the very last person we’d expect, challenging our conviction that certain qualifications and skills are necessary to be useful to society. Read More

Those Who Are Truly Forgiven, Truly Forgive

We need daily pardon and daily protection as well as daily provision. So after Jesus taught us to pray, “give us today our daily bread,” He also taught us to pray, “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:12–13).

These petitions are for fallen sinners — for people who are often tempted to sin, and sometimes give in. Even before we face these temptations, we should ask God to keep us safe from what John Calvin called in his Institutes “the violent assaults of Satan.” In asking not to be led into temptation, we are not requesting that we will never be tempted at all, but that when we are tempted God will deliver us from Satan’s deadly attacks.

But what about the times when we do sin and fall into spiritual debt? How should we pray then? Read More

How to Preach Well According to Martin Luther

Early in his ministry, Martin Luther sarcastically described his “lazy” life of ministry in Wittenberg:

“All day long I do nothing but write letters… I preach at the monastery, I am a lector during mealtimes, I am asked daily to preach in the city church, I have to supervise the program of study… I lecture on Paul and I am still collecting material on the Psalms… See what a lazy man I am!”1

On top of his many other responsibilities, Luther was a preaching machine. He preached an estimated 4,000 sermons in his lifetime, of which we have approximately 2,300 of those sermons preserved today.

On average, Luther preached 120 sermons per year. That equates to roughly one sermon every three days.2 And most pastors today preach only one sermon a week and think the weight of their preaching load is heavy!

Ironically, Luther never desired to preach. Luther was ordained as a priest in 1507, but being a priest did not always mean being a preacher. In 1530, Luther wrote a letter to encourage another preacher in which he described his reluctance to accept the call to preach:

“I feared the pulpit perhaps as greatly as you do; yet I had to do it; I was forced to preach. Ah, how I feared the pulpit! Under this pear tree I advanced fifteen arguments to Dr. Staupitz; with them I declined my call. But they did me no good.”3

Despite his fear of preaching and a thorough attempt to decline, Luther reluctantly succumbed to the calling. This defining moment would begin a ministry that changed the course of preaching in the church, greatly impacting the way many pastors preach today.

For the sake of this article, we will examine only three hallmarks of Luther’s preaching that have heavily influenced the church today:

Preaching should be:

1.central to the church worship service,
2. founded on God’s Word,
3. and spoken in the simple language of ordinary people. Read More