Monday, March 31, 2014

7 Steps to Start Becoming a Church People Want to Commit To

People who don’t go to church, don’t want to go to church. They’re not rolling out of bed late on Sunday morning wishing they had somewhere else to be.

In fact, a growing number of people who do go to church don’t want to go, either. If we don’t give them something worth committing to, they’ll be gone soon.

As I mentioned in my last post, People Aren’t As Loyal to Their Church Anymore – Good For Them, it’s not that people are less capable of making commitments than they used to be. They just commit differently. But too many churches haven’t caught up to that reality.

So how do we get people to commit to the church we pastor? Especially when our church is small and struggling?

I don’t have all the answers, not by a long shot. But I’ve learned a handful of principles over three decades of ministry that have helped our church become a place people are excited to be committed to.
These steps won’t cost you any extra money and very little extra time – the extra time because of the learning curve. It’s not about adding to your already limited schedule and overtaxed budget. It’s not about doing things bigger. It’s about focusing on doing church better. Working smarter, not harder. Keep reading

Nullifying the grace of God

I do not nullify the grace of God. Galatians 2:21

“What eloquence is able sufficiently to set forth these words: ‘to nullify grace,’ ‘the grace of God,’ also that ‘Christ died for no purpose’? The horribleness of it is such that all the eloquence in the world is not able to express it. It is a small matter to say that any man died for no purpose. But to say that Christ died for no purpose is to take him quite away.”

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, on Galatians 2:21.

Paul asserted that he did not nullify the grace of God. By implication, Peter was nullifying the grace of God when his conduct was “not in step with the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14). How on earth did Peter do that, and is there any chance we could do that again today?

With Paul, Peter believed the gospel at the level of doctrine. Speaking for Peter and himself, Paul writes, “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16). Peter’s theology was right. He nullified the grace of God by conduct – not doctrine, but conduct – that was not in step with the truth of the gospel. Keep reading

Moving to Missional Part II: Why Structure is Essential

Previously, we talked about the three steps needed to develop a missional culture. But that is not all you need. Culture can be a motivating factor, but if the structure you have in place doesn't affirm and encourage your culture, you may be stuck trying to restart the culture again down the road.

I've written before about how church planting movements benefit from a simple structure that encourages reproducibility. This follows in the structural model Paul set up for the churches he planted. The goal and culture of church planting is one of reproducing the next generation of churches, pastors and planters. To accomplish this, churches and organizations must be intentional to establish structures that mesh with the culture.

The structure you have in place should be an aid to the culture you are trying to produce, not a hindrance. So, how can that happen in your church? How can you implement a structure that affirms the missional culture you want to establish? Look to provide a simple way for people to progress to the next step of service. Keep reading

Your VBS Planning Checklist

Start planning now for VBS this summer.

Two to Three Months Before VBS

1. Order and distribute VBS curriculum.

2. Plan the VBS schedule.

3. Conduct first planning meeting.

4. Lead workers to attend the VBS training.

5. If you choose, begin VBS musical practice for church kids and their friends.

6. Give leaders their supply request forms and a deadline for returning requests.'

7. Begin promotion efforts.

8. Plan Preparation Day.

9. Plan Family Night/Day activities.

10. Plan decorations for the church's common areas. Keep reading

Evangelist: Church Failing Millennials by Not Giving Them a 'Cause'

Millennials are leaving the Church because they not being given a "cause," said youth ministry leader Greg Stier.

"I feel like one of the reasons why Millennials are leaving the church is because Millennials are causal. They want a cause," said Stier, who's leading the "Reverse" conference tour. "Generally speaking, the Church has failed to give them a cause. Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 says 'Go and make disciples of all nations;' 'I'll give you a cause.'"

Stier, head of Dare 2 Share Ministries, is currently touring the country to equip thousands of youth to preach the Gospel. His latest stop was in the Washington, D.C. area, where he spoke to The Christian Post about Millennials. Keep reading

See also
Thousands of Youth Gather for 'Reverse' Evangelism Event in DC Area

Ministry Monday: the next Church Society conference

Ministry Monday today is all about the ministry of the next Church Society conference! Yes, it’s that time of year again. This year our AGM and conference will be spread over two days, at Oak Hill Theological College in London. The conference is entitled ‘Positively Anglican’. As we seek a way forward in a time of confusion and change, now is the moment to reassert a positive evangelical vision for the future, as we re-imagine what it means for us to be committed to the Church of England. Keep reading

The Ugley Vicar - with the Lord

Church Society director Lee Gatiss posted on Facebook that John Richardson who blogged as The Ugley Vicar died this morning after a recent illness. John was a member of the Church Society Council and one of the founders of the Junior Anglican Evangelical Conference (JAEC).  He wrote a number of articles for Church Society publications. John is survived by his wife Alison for whom your prayers are asked in this particularly sad time. His untimely death is a huge loss to conservative evangelicals and conservative evangelicalism in the Church of England.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dimming the Gospel Light: 1. Can we still be Protestant 500 years on from Luther?

Today I watched a good friend — of more than twenty years standing — consecrated as a bishop in the church of God. It was a magnificent occasion in which we were able to celebrate God's continued goodness to his people by his provision of godly, faithful and courageous Christian leadership. The sermon was one of the most inspiring challenges I have heard to put first things first and not to flinch when the pressure is on to do what others would be pleased to see us do. Taking his cue from Acts 6, the preacher (Simon Manchester) reminded us of the apostolic commitment to prayer and the ministry of the word.

And then there were the promises my friend made:

Will you instruct the people committed to your care from the Scriptures, and teach nothing (as required of necessity for eternal salvation) except what you are convinced may be proved by the Scriptures?

Are you ready to drive away all false and strange doctrine which is contrary to God's word; and privately and publicly to call upon and encourage others to do likewise?

Add to these the hymns that were sung. I was struck by the oft-omitted fourth verse of Isaac Watts' 1707 hymn 'When I survey the wondrous cross' (perhaps precisely because it is often omitted — first by George Whitfield in 1757, I believe):

His dying crimson like a robe,
Spreads o'er his body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

The final element making this such a grand occasion was the presence in the congregation of many of the old saints who had served Christians in this city (and much further afield) so very well over such a long period of time — men and women who had borne the hostility of the world, disappointment in the churches, opposition from those who should have known better, and through it all had stayed on course, speaking the truth fearlessly and serving God's people humbly, sacrificially, and lovingly.

All of this made me ponder anew on a more general dimming of the gospel light in many churches and church organisations around the world. In some places there seems to have been a discernible neutering of genuine evangelical ministry at a time when it is needed more than ever. So I've decided over the next few months or more to prepare a series of posts on questions for which we need a clear, unambiguous, courageous and truthful answer. If we are not to be diverted from the course set for us in the Scriptures by the promises and insights of every new 'success story' that flies in from other parts, these are questions we should ask. And these are answers we must weigh against the teaching of Scripture itself. Keep reading

Becoming More Evangelistic Churches – Rainer on Leadership #048 [Podcast]

Evangelistic conversion is solely the work of the Holy Spirit. No matter what method, idea or strategy you use, it will not be successful in human power alone. Yet, depending on what metric you use, just around 1 in 20 churches are growing through conversion growth. So this week, we discussed nine ways churches can become more evangelistic. Keep reading

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:59 — 19.2MB)

How to Discover Your Calling

1. Figure out what you’re passionate about. Keep reading


Who, What, and Where

Yesterday I was talking to a good friend about his next ministry assignment and what is most compelling to him about his next step in vocational ministry. We talked about which is more important to him during this next phase of his life—the who, the what, or the where. Through my years in ministry, I have noticed people describe their commitment or calling to a specific place of ministry differently – often leading with either what, who, or where. Keep reading

How Well Should Pastors Be Paid?

Before we can answer how well pastors should be paid we first have to establish that they should be paid. The Bible is clear enough on this—see I Timothy 5:17-18 and I Corinthians 9:9-14. Having established that they ought to be paid we have already moved away from the pseudo-gnostic notion that there is something inherently sketchy about it. That is, if we are inclined to think they ought to be paid nothing, we will likely find any payment gross and obscene. Such is envy badly disguised as piety.

In principle I am persuaded that a man’s pay ought to be determined by agreement. That is, in the marketplace there are those who value my labor at x. I value my labor at y. If there is overlap, I have a job. Under such a market scenario someone cannot be overpaid. When we grumble about this athlete, that actor, or that other business executive making big dollars our real beef is with those in the market who are willing to pay so much. No need for us to get troubled when others make agreements we might not make. Remember that when God established the nation of Israel He established in the marketplace no price ceilings of price floors.

But the pastor is not entering into the marketplace, selling his services to the highest bidder. His calling is distinct from the market place. In Old Testament Israel (recognizing of course that pastors and Old Testament priests have far from a one to one correspondence) He established the Temple system which ensured provision for the Levites quite apart from what the market would bear. In like manner we who proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ do not sell this message from the pulpit, but deliver it joyfully as we have received it, without cost. Keep reading

Pastors, How Should You Respond When You Do Not Meet the Expectations of Others

I have never been able to meet the expectations of every church member. I do not know of one pastor in America or around the world that does.

The expectations many people have for leaders and pastors are absolutely out of control, and simply put, unreasonable. I could refer to case after case, whether relating to ministry, education, politics, or business. However, let me go straight to the bottom line.

As a Pastor, how should you respond when you do not meet the expectations of others?  Keep reading

Is Your Church Emergency Ready?

When it comes to the children you’re trying to reach, security should involve more than background checks on potential volunteers. Having a plan to deal with emergency situations—lockdowns or evacuations—is critical. The best way to prevent a security problem from becoming a nightmare is through adequate preparation. Here are steps you can take to put parents’ minds at ease and be ready. Keep reading

Friday, March 28, 2014

The State of the Anglican Church in North America: The First Five Years

By Robin G. Jordan

At the upcoming gatherings of the Anglican Church in North America in late June of this year outgoing Archbishop Robert “Bob” Duncan will give his last state of the denomination address. In this article I offer my own assessment of the state of the Anglican Church in North America five years after its formation.  

The governing documents of the Anglican Church in North America assign a limited role to the laity in the governance of that ecclesial body at the denominational level. While the Provincial Assembly is predominantly made up of lay delegates, the Assembly has no role in the governance of the denomination except to approve or reject changes in the constitution and canons adopted by the Provincial Council. The Assembly cannot amend these changes or propose changes to the constitution and canons of its own.

While one half of the members of the Provincial Council, the denomination’s “official” governing body,” are lay, the canons permit the co-opting of six additional members who may be clergy or lay persons. It is therefore possible for the clergy representation on the Provincial Council to exceed the lay representation.

Since the Anglican Church in North America was formed, the College of Bishops has arrogated to itself powers that the constitution and canons do not vest in the College of Bishops or recognize as being inherent in the College of Bishops. The College of Bishops has also usurped powers that these governing documents vest in the Provincial Council. Among the consequences of these actions is that the role of the laity in the denomination’s governance has been further reduced.

Another troubling development in the Anglican Church in North America is its Archbishop has expanded the powers of his office well beyond those powers that the constitution and canons vest in the office of Archbishop. He has created structures that he has no constitutional or canonical authority to create. He has also made appointments that he likewise has no authority to make. He has overall shown little respect for the provisions of the denomination’s governing documents. In supporting his actions the College of Bishops has displayed a similar propensity.

Two related developments are equally troubling. The model diocesan constitution and canons that the Governance Task Force developed for the use of groups of churches seeking to become dioceses of the Anglican Church in North America contain provisions in which the diocese in formation relinquishes to the Archbishop powers that the constitution reserve to the dioceses. These provisions not only weaken the autonomy of the diocese but also allow the Archbishop to meddle in the affairs of the diocese. It is bad enough that the disciplinary canons permit the Archbishop to overrule the bishop of a diocese and reverse his inhibition of a member of the clergy in the diocese. Under the provisions of the model diocesan governing documents the Archbishop would be able to bypass the bishop of the diocese and directly intervene in disputes between congregations and their clergy.

The disciplinary canons lack a number of basic procedural safeguards.  They contain no special procedures for the handling of child physical and sexual abuse allegations. They also enable the Archbishop to influence the outcome of certain types of hearings.

More recently the College of Bishops has adopted the conclave model as the method that it will use in selecting a new Archbishop. This is the model that the Roman Catholic Church uses in selecting a new pope.

The Governance Task Force, in drafting the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church in North America, incorporated into these governing documents two methods for the selection of a bishop for a diocese. In the canons the Governance Task Force identifies the second method as the preferred method of episcopal selection and commends it to the dioceses using the first method for the selection of their bishop. The wording of the canons is open to the interpretation that this method is the only one that dioceses that were not founding entities of the Anglican Church in North America may use to select a bishop. The application for recognition as a diocese supports this interpretation of the canons’ wording.

This particular method of episcopal selection permits the College of Bishops to select a diocesan bishop from a list of two or three candidates presented by the diocese. The College of Bishops is not prohibited from rejecting all the candidates on the list and calling for further nominations until the diocese nominates someone to its liking. Nor is the College of Bishop prohibited from nominating its own candidate in case of an impasse between the College of Bishops and the diocese. This particular method of episcopal selection enables any group or party dominating the College of Bishops to pack the College of Bishops with its own members and those friendly to that group or party.

Under the terms of the protocol with the Anglican Church of Rwanda the College the College of Bishops must first approve all candidates nominated for episcopal office in PEAR-USA. While the Rwandan House of Bishops elects the bishops of PEAR-USA, this provision gives the College of Bishops control over who is presented to the Rwandan bishops for election.

The Governance Task Force has dissuaded at least two applicants for recognition as dioceses from adopting term limits for their bishops, including a mandatory retirement age, claiming that the Provincial Council would not approve their application. The constitution and canons, however, do not prohibit the dioceses from limiting the term of office of their bishops in any way.

To date the Anglican Church in North has not shown evenhandedness in its treatment of all the conservative schools of Anglican thought represented in that ecclesial body. Rather it has given preferential treatment to one particular school of thought. This school of thought subscribes to a revisionist redefinition of Anglicanism that while making ample room for Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic doctrine and practice does not similarly make room for conservative evangelical and classical Protestant and Reformed Anglican doctrine and practice. With each successive doctrinal statement—constitution, canons, “theological lens,” proposed ordinal, trial services, proposed catechism--it has become increasingly apparent that the Anglican Church in North America does not offer the kind of environment in which conservative evangelicalism and classical Protestant and Reformed Anglicanism can flourish and prosper.

The Anglican Church in North America has yet to produce a comprehensive study of the denomination’s church planting efforts. Such a study would include the number of churches planting new churches , sponsoring new churches , and partnered with other churches in sponsoring new churches; the number of church planting networks, the size of these networks, and other details; the number of church plants each year covered by the study, the number of church plants in existence after one year, two years, and so forth, the number of failed church plants, factors contributing to their failure; geographic regions and population segments targeted; and other useful information. It would confirm whether the denomination was on the right track in church planting efforts and would identify where the denomination needed to change its strategy.

The Anglican Church in North America’s approach to training church planters and church planting teams is to sponsor regional church planting conferences. Those attending these conferences must in addition to paying for travel expenses, hotel accommodations, and conference registration fees must pay for the workshops offered at the conferences. The Anglican Church in North America does not offer free webcasts of the conferences and the workshops for those who cannot attend the conferences and workshops as do a number of organizations like Together for the Gospel. Nor do the conference organizers post videos of the conferences and the workshops on the Internet.

The Anglican Church in North America has no denomination-wide mechanism for helping churches identify mission opportunities outside their deanery and diocese. It has no mechanism for linking church plants that have a need with churches that can meet that need. It does not make full use of the resources of its churches through short term mission trips, knowledge and skills sharing, one-time financial grants, and the like. It has not produced any educational material on the nature and importance of missions and inter-church cooperation in missions. Such material is one way a denomination can keep the attention of its churches focused on mission and encourage them to work together cooperatively.

Among the purposes of the Thirty-Nine Articles is to safeguard the truth of the New Testament gospel. As the Jerusalem Declaration points to our attention, the Articles contain “the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.” As Being Faithful: The Shape of Historic Anglicanism Today further informs us, the Articles are “a faithful testimony to the teaching of Scripture, excluding erroneous beliefs and practices and giving a distinct shape to Anglican Christianity.” Acceptance of their authority “is constitutive of Anglican identity.”

In its constitution and canons the Anglican Church in North America, however, equivocates in its acceptance of the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles. Since the adoption of these governing documents the College of Bishops has endorsed a series of doctrinal statements—a “theological lens,” a proposed ordinal, trial services, and a proposed catechism—which either distort the meaning of the Articles or reject their authority. The College of Bishops has shown strong leanings toward Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic beliefs and practices that conflict with the Articles or with principles derived from the Articles. This raises the question as to whether the churches that the Anglican Church in North America is planting are churches that are genuinely centered on the gospel. The latest doctrinal statement—the proposed catechism—is nebulous about the contents of the gospel.  The proposed catechism also teaches Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic doctrine in a number of key areas or allows such teaching. This doctrine is not consistent with the understanding of the New Testament gospel articulated in the Articles. If the Anglican Church in North America is not planting gospel-centered churches, it is not fulfilling the Great Commission in its church planting efforts.

A discernible gap exists between the doctrine that the College of Bishops endorses and the doctrine that a number of congregations and their clergy believe. As the College of Bishops closes this gap, a decline in the number of gospel-centered churches and church plants in the Anglican Church in North America is inevitable. 

7 Practices Of Growing Churches

I have been involved in a number of conversations lately about church growth. What should growth look like? How does it look different for various sizes of church? Should you add services or multi-site? Are the measurements for success primarily attendance and budget? Can you be successful without numerical growth? If not, what is a healthy rate of growth? What about the growth within your people and the making of disciples? And on and on and on….

In the March edition of Inc. magazine, Leigh Buchanan interviews Stanford professors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao about the practices of companies who successfully grow and scale. I found their insights quite applicable for some of the things needed for churches to grow.

While this is obviously not a fully-inclusive list, the following are 7 Practices Of Growing Churches I gleaned from the article.... Keep reading

Four Types of Friends Every Pastor Needs

Pastors may be the most well-known, loneliest men on the face of the earth. Friendship is a vital part of New Testament ministry and leadership. Without quality, biblical friendships, we are modeling a flawed Christian lifestyle for our church members. Yet, for many, the difficulties of pastoral friendships outweigh the benefits.

Most pastors find themselves in an unhealthy relationship where their wife is their only friend and counselor. If a pastor continues to project his problems onto his wife, she will grow disillusioned and desperate to leave the ministry. I believe a pastor’s wife should be his best friend, but she should not be his only friend.

In my 30 years of ministry, I have learned that every pastor needs at least four types of friends. Keep reading

40 Best Online Resources on Burnout

If what I’m seeing and hearing is representative of our wider culture, we are facing an epidemic of burnout among Christians, and especially among pastors. Here are the 40 best resources on the subject that I’ve collected over the years. Hope you don’t get burnout reading through them! Keep reading

Measuring Disciple Making

Work together to craft your church’s own succinct definition of what it means to be a disciple. Simplify it. Then create the metrics to measure it.

Most church planters and church leaders I meet work very hard—in many cases, probably too hard. The majority of them are well prepared both theologically and practically for ministry. But here’s the problem: Most church leaders—wherever they are in the planting process—don’t understand how they can know for sure their church is advancing the cause of Christ. They just don’t know how to keep score. In fact, for many, the idea of keeping score is a mystery.

I hear more and more pastors questioning, “Is just keeping track of attendance and offering enough?” It seems like there should be more or different measurements. What about community transformation? Justice issues? Sending missionaries? Should church planting count? Should I stop keeping track of attendance? Do I dare not keep track of finances? Ultimately, how do we know if we are accomplishing Jesus’ core mission to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10)—making disciples who make disciples?

Sometimes in our frantic hurry of ministry, we get disoriented. We try to do the stuff that makes an impact, but one look at the scoreboard tells us we’re falling further behind.

I’ll be the first to say that faithfulness is the sole measure of winning. But that begs the question, “Faithful at being and doing what?”

If you’re creating a scoreboard for the first time, start with a disciple-making measurement. It may take you several months or even a couple of years to develop an accurate gauge. Get this first measurement correct and you set yourself up for future wins. Keep reading

New Church Society website and blog

Church Society in the UK have just re-launched their website.

“Over the past few months, Church Society has been through a process of rebranding which has gone to the heart of who we are and what we do.”

As well as a new look, there’s now a blog with weekly features – the first one is Formulary Friday (“Every Friday, we consider an aspect of the formularies of the Church of England: that is, the 39 Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.”).

As Church Society Director Lee Gatiss says, the need for theological clarity in the Church of England has never been greater.

See it all here, and you can also subscribe to their RSS feed.
Originally posted on the Anglican Church League website.

Study Analysis: 6 Reasons Why Only 2 in 10 Millennials Believe Church Attendance Is Important

Millennials are a different breed when it comes to priorities, a Biola University dean said when a study released this week showed that only two in 10 people under 30 years of age believe church attendance is important. More than one-third of Millennial young adults (35 percent) take an anti-church stance.

"Millennials have more life disruptions than people of other stages of life," Todd Pickett, dean of Spiritual Development and professor of spiritual formation at Biola, told The Christian Post. "They are moving around a lot, they are changing relational networks. The highly mobile nature of the Millennial makes it hard for them to settle down into churches, it makes it hard to settle into patterns of life anyway."

Pickett gave at least a half dozen reasons he believes this age bracket was least likely to put an emphasis on church attendance as found in the Barna Group study.

The study overall found that although church involvement was once a cornerstone of American life, U.S. adults today are evenly divided on the importance of attending church. Half (49 percent) say it is "somewhat" or "very" important and the other 51 percent say it is "not too" or "not at all" important.

However, perhaps the most significant finding is that while one tries to predict whether Millennials will attend or return to church, the fact is that they are starting at a lower baseline for church participation and commitment than previous generations of young adults. Keep reading

Photo: Intervarsity Today/Barry Sherbeck

Kenyan Christian leaders oppose polygamy bill

Christian leaders are appealing to President Uhuru Kenyatta not to sign into law a proposed new marriage bill that legalizes polygamy.

Legislators passed the law last week after an intense debate that saw women members of Parliament storm out in protest. The bill’s passage followed an amendment to the existing marriage legislation to allow men to marry as many women as they want. It awaits Kenyatta’s signature to become law.

But the National Council of Churches of Kenya, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, have rejected it, saying the law will undermine Christian principles of marriage and family.

The Rev. Peter Karanja, general secretary the Kenyan church council, said the bill demeans women and fails to respect the principle of spouses’ equality in marriage.

“We urge the president not to sign it until the offensive clauses are removed,” Karanja told a news conference on Wednesday (March 26). Keep reading

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"All Nations" and Church Planting

How does church planting relate to the Great Commission and Jesus' call to reach the nations?

The Great Commission. Neither the words "great" nor "commission" are in the text, but the descriptor fits. This "authoritative order, charge, or direction" is "unusually large, extreme, and notable" (borrowing phrases from textbook definitions of both words). But why?

The sheer scope of the assignment is embodied in the two little words: all nations. This phrase is translated from the Greek panta ta ethnÄ“. It is often the subject of significant discussion. When many people hearethnÄ“, or "nations," they think of countries. But when Jesus spoke those words, there were no countries as we understand them today. The nation-state is an invention of the modern era. In Jesus' day, there were groups of people, and there were empires. So, Jesus spoke of peoples—all peoples.
When Jesus said "to all nations," He did not mean exactly what missiologists like me want to read into the text—as if He was speaking of the eleven thousand ethnolinguistic people groups in the world today. However, He meant to identify more than simply the non-Jews or Gentiles. He spoke to a Jewish people who knew that God created the nations at Babel (Gen. 11:9), called the nations "up to Jerusalem" (Isa. 2), displayed the tongues of the nations at Pentecost (Acts 2), and will be worshiped by men and women from every tongue, tribe, and nation forever (Rev. 7).

In other words, when Jesus spoke of going to the nations, the hearers of His day knew the immensity of this remarkable task. The idea of "the nations" was not new to them—though Jesus was changing how the people of God engaged them.

In speaking of the nations, Jesus reversed the direction of mission. It was no longer that the nations were to go up to Jerusalem (Isa. 2), but that the disciples were now to go out from Jerusalem (Acts 1:8). Keep reading

What is Good News for the Poor?

If Christ and his kingdom are all that matters, we find money and material possessions put in their proper place. They are not rejected as evil, of course, but they find their orbit around Christ as the true treasure. This kingdom framework helps us in understanding the challenging things Jesus says about wealth and also about caring for the poor.

In Luke’s reproduction of the Beatitudes, we learn that Jesus had alternate versions to the clause on poverty. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). Matthew’s Gospel, written primarily for a Jewish audience, focuses on a poverty of a different kind (Matthew 5:3), but Luke, writing primarily for Gentiles, wants us to know that the kingdom’s coming has real implications for the materially poor too. And yet, the gospel for the poor is still not money.

As we’ve seen, there is plenty in the Scriptures to commend the need for social justice initiatives as implications of the gospel, but almost nothing to commend them as the gospel itself. The gospel for the materially poor is not financial justice, although that is a valid implication of the kingdom’s coming to bear in the world, but instead the same gospel to the poor in spirit—eternal life in Christ Jesus. Why must we hold this distinction between gospel content and gospel entailments as it relates to poverty? Here are nine reasons.... Keep reading

Is Your Worship Music Driven by Complaints or Mission in Context?

The motivation behind having different worship services is key. 

Having multiple services with different musical expressions has become the accepted norm for many churches. Signs and websites routinely advertise "contemporary, traditional and blended services." Lask week, at the Momentum Conference in Ohio, I mixed it up a bit with Derwin Gray of Transformation Church, who thinks it is a bad idea. Tullian Tchvidjian has expressed similar thoughts when they did away with their traditional and contemporary services.

But, I'm of a slighty different view than my two friends—not a LOT different, but I think the motivation for such an approach matters.

In other words, whether or not having multiple service styles is appropriate depends heavily on the motivation behind the services. Are they driven by a consumerist mindset, seeking to cater to the preferences of the audience, or are they fueled by a desire to worship in a way that matches the context(s) of the congregation and surrounding community?

Has the church added worship services as a response to complaints from members or the context in which God has placed them? Keep reading

What happened to the Moravians? The importance of teaching Biblical doctrine to succeeding generations

Church planting is hot. Few things inspire me more than young adults called to vocational ministry who want to take the Gospel to the hard to reach. The tougher the city to reach, the more they want to go. The harder to reach the people group, the more willing they are to pay the price to take the Gospel to them.

Yet in preparing for our church's annual global ministries week when we bring in some of the partners we work with around the globe, I gained some new insights about the Moravians, a pietistic Christian sect that made frequent evangelistic visits to America and other nations during the colonial period. Most Christians only know about the Moravians as being instrumental in the conversion of John Wesley when he was returning from America to England as a failed Anglican missionary. The big reason for Wesley's failure is that even though he was an ordained Anglican clergyman, he was not truly saved.

On the ship home, a terrible storm came upon the Moravians and Wesley. Fearing for his life, he was struck by their calm faith. He knew the Moravians had something he didn't. Under great conviction, he soon came to personally trust Christ as his Savior and Lord during that famous Bible study on Romans on Aldersgate Street in London.

But what most don't know is how the Moravians were such a dynamic missionary force in the 1700s and early 1800s. They were bold and courageous. Their zeal and passion for spreading the Gospel was the driving force behind their movement. I got to thinking. What happened? What happened to the Moravians?

So I began to do some research and found there are just over 800,000 Moravians today. How could this dynamic missionary force be so small now? Was it a classic case of embracing liberal theology that killed the missionary zeal? No, it was not. Keep reading

Exponential Will Offer Free Live Webcast to Thousands of Leaders

To help as many as possible church leaders “rethink” evangelism, Exponential has announced plans for a high-quality live webcast from the upcoming Exponential East 2014 conference in Orlando. The webcast is free to anyone who registers for it.

Featuring 25 leading voices in the Church today, the live webcast will include 10 sessions streamed live over three days from Tuesday, April 29, to Thursday, May 1.

Exponential is continuing last year’s discipleship conversation, this year focusing on what Jesus said was His core mission on earth: “…to seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10)—and how we as Jesus’ disciples can look to His example to join Him in that mission. The webcast’s sessions will focus on five key areas: ReThinking Evangelism; ReThinking Outreach; ReThinking Witness; ReThinking Preaching; and ReThinking the Commission.

“This webcast offers leaders who can’t make it to Orlando, or are leaving a spouse or team members at home, a solid solution for encouraging and equipping them through what we believe are critical conversations for the church as we focus on helping awaken an evangelistic impulse,” says Exponential Director Todd Wilson. “It’s the second best thing to being onsite.” Learn more

4 Reasons Why Churches Need Good Directional Signage

We know our church facility and so do most of those who attend our church. We know where to park. We know where to drop off the kids. We know where to find the restrooms. Because of this familiarity, it is easy to forget that not everyone is as acquainted with the campus as we are. It is easy to forget that not everyone feels the same level of comfort that we do.

This is especially true for guests. Good directional signage is an often overlooked but important part of the church facility. Here are some thoughts on what good church signage does for a church... Keep reading


Communications on the Cheap

Joe Porter is communications director at Whitewater Crossing in Cincinnati. Speaking from experience, he shares how to keep your church communications effective on a limited budget.  Keep reading

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Midweek Special Edition: March 26, 2014

In this midweek special edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Is It True That Natural Man Cannot Do Any Good?

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10-12)

Is it true that the natural man cannot do any good at all? Is this not something of an overstatement? The Westminster Confession of Faith, for example, reflects this point of view when it asserts:
From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
Are there not occasions when unbelievers show acts of kindness and self-sacrifice? Imagine, for a moment, writing a letter to one of the national newspapers in which you say, “Non-Christians have never done anything good.” It would not be difficult to imagine the opprobrium that would result from such a statement. What, then, do Paul and the Westminster Confession mean when they collectively assert such a position? Keep reading
Excerpt from How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home by Derek Thomas. Download the eBook free through March 31, 2014.

Why You Must Pursue Church Unity

Ice cubes have come a long way. A century ago, they were delivered in one enormous block. During childhood, my family used ice cube trays. Today, it is even simpler. If you fill a beverage cooler before a picnic or ball game, you need not even touch a tray. Simply position your container before a refrigerator with an ice dispenser, push the button, and watch the cubes roll out the door.

As the ice cube has gone, so has the evangelical Protestant movement. At least in Western culture religious identity is no longer defined by the block (the Catholic Church) or the tray (a denomination in which there's a shared ecclesial structure). Instead, evangelicals often operate as individuals who roll out the door with little-to-no commitment to church membership. Here is how pastor Josh Moody of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, describes the change:
We, in conservative Christian circles, have vigorously maintained the message of the gospel but, at least in some areas and among some movements, have begun to lose any profound grasp of the community of Christ. We have rightly said that a relationship with God is a personal matter. In our context, though, it has become but a step, and a step many of us have unthinkingly taken, to acquiesce that a relationship with God is a purely individual matter. This is practical heterodoxy. Jesus said you can identify his disciples by the kind of relationship they have with one another, by the "love" they have for one another.
Keep reading

The 10 People in Every Church

I have served as a leader in numerous churches. One of the interesting factors that I’ve noticed is that certain people appear in every church family. For the most part, I don’t think they are malicious but they are often misled. Here are 10 people that I think are in almost every church. Keep reading

Photo: QuickMeme

The Art of Loving Unlovable People

12 steps to help you deal with difficult people

Life is full of people who rub us the wrong way. Whether it's within our family, workplace, church, or community, we've all encountered at least one person who drives us absolutely crazy. Maybe they say sly insults, tell bad jokes, or invade our personal space. Whatever their annoying or hurtful habits are, our spirits are dampened and flustered by their presence in our lives.

As Christians, how do we cope with difficult people? Christ calls us to love selflessly and ceaselessly. So are we just supposed to force a smile and fake a laugh, while inside we're cringing or crying or wanting to flee? How can we possibly be genuine with all these negative emotions broiling just beneath the surface?

We can't do it on our own. Our broken, sinful hearts aren't capable of scraping together nearly enough love to cover the foibles and flaws of our fellow humans. We occasionally have trouble loving even those who are dearest to us. So often, our feeble, fleeting attempts at love fall flat and our patience runs dry.

The only true source of compassion, strength, and love is God. If we embrace and rely completely on God's love and forgiveness for us, we can then draw from his infinite provision and begin to love others more fervently and sincerely.

I've found that there are 12 key steps we take to help us build greater compassion, empathy, and love for our neighbors—even the ones who have caused us pain, anger, or frustration. It is critical, though, to understand that these tools are best used in the hands of those who have deeply acknowledged their own sin and their need for Christ's grace and direction in their lives. Keep reading

The Friendless Pastor

How to address our perennial problem.

It's ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least. Our days and nights are filled with calls, meetings, and interactions with people. But despite lots of people contact, we have few trusted peers. We have too many relationships and too few friends.

Many pastors don't recognize their isolation. On the contrary, many struggle with relationship overload and feel more of a need to be by themselves when they have discretionary time. But at the same time, their experience of genuine community is limited.

I've been a pastor for almost 20 years, a recovery counselor for five years, and for the past five years have led pastor coaching groups in three states. I know that pastors, myself included, have an alarming tendency to be emotionally and spiritually isolated. For me, it wasn't until I hit the proverbial wall, struggling with burnout and addiction, that I realized how isolated I was. I had gotten really good at relating to people with warmth but not honest transparency. Sometimes there are things we can't share with people in our churches. But it went beyond that. I didn't have any real friends outside of my church either, so I wound up not sharing my struggles with anybody. What I needed was genuine community.

Isolated leaders are a danger to themselves and their churches. I've identified five specific dangers:

1. Isolated leaders are more susceptible to feelings of sadness and loneliness. Friends bring joy and energy.

2. Isolated leaders are more susceptible to anxiety and stress. When our world consists entirely of church relationships and when there is conflict or anxiety in that relational system, our stress gets multiplied. Having a friend outside of that system helps us keep perspective and lowers our anxiety.

3. Isolated leaders are more susceptible to discouragement. Without the chance to talk about our frustrations and discouragements, we lose a sense of context. Sharing these with people in the church is often unwise and unhelpful, so we keep them to ourselves.

4. Isolated leaders are more susceptible to temptation. Isolation is a key factor in vulnerability to addiction and any kind of sinful habit. Friends offer accountability and support.

5. Isolated leaders are more susceptible to doing stupid things. We tend to over-react or make decisions without thinking things through. Sometimes friends can help us by asking, "Are you sure you want to do that?" Keep reading

5 Suggestions to Recover after You’ve Made a Leadership Mistake

You know you made a mistake. It’s just a matter of time before someone finds out.

What do you do now?

I have often watched leaders struggle to recover from a mistake made that probably didn’t have to be as personally or professionally damaging to them as it was. They simply didn’t respond well enough and it cost them more than it should have.

Like the time a college pastor way over committed to a conference. He secured too many slots and not enough people signed up, so the church lost a lot of money. Or the time the worship pastor booked a concert in the auditorium, committed the church financially and with volunteers, and then found out the artist was hugely polarizing to the congregation. Or when a pastor signed a contract for services to the church, only to find out a key volunteer (and influencer) in the church offered the same services and was offended not being able to at least offer a bid on the services.

And, the list goes on…

I’m not addressing necessarily about moral issues or major failures. (I wrote about addressing them in THIS POST and THIS POST.) I’m primarily writing about mistakes that all leaders make. We make them frequently. It’s part of being human and being a leader. Although both lists are very similar.
(By the way, these are fabricated scenarios in that they aren’t specific situations I’m using as examples, but these type mistakes are frequent in leadership.)

Chances are you’ve made similar mistakes. We all have. You’ve seen others make them. They look different every time and there are different characters in each story, but the outcomes are similar. And, the damage is just as damaging if not addressed properly.

Because a leadership principle we can never escape is:

The way you respond after a mistake always determines the quality of recovery.

So, when you’ve made the mistake — and admitting it to yourself is the first step — what do you do now? Keep reading

Two Ways Leaders Reduce Stress & Increase Effectiveness

Tuesday’s here again! You’re a few days away from preaching your last message, you’re five days from doing it all over again. Your leadership team wants time with you to go over Easter plans and you realize you’re speaking at a memorial on Thursday. That’s the regular cycle of ministry in full swing. Next thing you know, it will be Christmas. Oh my!

With this kind of schedule, it’s easy to get worn down quickly, experience debilitating fatigue, become desensitized, even dull. That kind of weekly grind can decrease your passion, negatively affect your decision making, cloud your vision and reduce the fruit of your ministry. And that’s just you. Your staff is feeling it as well.

How can you reduce your stress and increase your effectiveness in ministry? Practice these two habits: Number one, sharpen your skills. Take the time to hone your skills. Get better at the things you do. And number two, sharpen their skills. Invest in the skill development of the team around you. When you increase their effectiveness your effectiveness increases. Keep reading

Photo: -

What You Miss If You Quit

“I’ve experienced God and his grace in ways that far exceed any expectation that I had. It just didn’t come easily.”

Q: It seems that a lot of people who once chose to give their lives to vocational ministry are now choosing to leave it. To be honest, I’m battling the idea myself. What do you see as the problem? How have you overcome it and remained motivated and passionate for so long?

A: There’s no one clear or simple answer to your first question. Every person and circumstance is different. But from my experience, there’s one consistent element: We enter ministry with distorted expectations.

I know I did. Jesus had so changed my life that I couldn’t think of anything grander than helping other people experience the same thing. So I devoted my life to ministry. But my expectations were idealized.

I believed.... Keep reading

Defining Expectations with Your Supervisor

For a season I facilitated coaching networks for executive pastors—leaders who serve under the leadership of a senior pastor and are often responsible for the daily operations, the staff, and other large buckets of work. One of the most consistent lines of questioning I received from these leaders pertained to role clarity regarding decision-making and execution. What decisions should I be making without my leader’s involvement? What should I be bringing to his attention? What should I just be executing?

These are wise questions, and if you work for a senior leader, you should be asking them too. But there is not an answer that universally applies because each supervisor and each situation is different. What is consistent, however, is the need for clarity. Without clarity as to who is deciding what and who is implementing what, frustration and confusion will be rampant.

I encourage leaders and their supervisors to have open and continual discussion about the expectations around decision-making and execution. Below is a framework I have used to help leaders work with their supervisors to define who is responsible for what. I encourage them to discuss what types of decisions should go in each bucket. The below framework is designed for a leader to have a discussion with his/her supervisor. So the “You” is the supervisor and the “I” is the leader who reports to the supervisor. Keep reading

See also
3 Questions to Help You Manage Your Boss

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Preachers

I sometimes listen to preachers with amazement, if not awe. So many of them are incredibly effective in communicating God’s Word, so much more effective than I ever was or will be. I certainly understand that assessing effectiveness is a very subjective assignment. But, simply put, a number of preachers I have observed are incredible in explaining and applying the Word. As a consequence, God changes lives and saves people.

The best I can do is to be a student of these preachers, and to share with you seven key habits I have observed in most of them. I regularly ask these preachers about the way they go about preparing, preaching, and evaluating their messages. My list is fallible, but I do hope it’s helpful. Keep reading

How to Preach Books of the Bible You Don't Like [Video]

How do you preach a passage you don't particularly like? Many pastors, of course, would just find a different one. But for those committed to expository preaching, sometimes the text staring you in the face isn't one you would've picked.

"If I don't like a passage it's usually because I either don't understand it or don't see how I'm going to preach it," Mike McKinley explains in a new roundtable video with Bryan Chapell and J. D. Greear. Yet time and again, the pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in northern Virginia observes, "I've learned God is pleased to use things that don't impress me."

"If I understand what the Lord is saying but just don't like it, I have to learn to love it," says Chapell, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, and former president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. "I've got to try to figure out the reason God put it there and then fall in love with that reason."

"I look back on my early years and am embarrassed by how little confidence I had in the Word of God," admits Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina. "But though there have been books of the Bible I didn't think I would like, I can honestly say I've never preached one that didn't prove to be profound and life-changing."

Watch the full nine-minute video to see these pastors discuss Monday morning terror, why Chapell bowed out before finishing Daniel, when application unburdens, and more. Watch now

Teach Your Team for a Change

The Apostle Paul provided a succinct summary of the roles of church leaders. In Ephesians 4:12, he said church leaders exist “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Equip can also be translated train, teach, or prepare. When we stop to consider Paul’s instructions, we recognize our need to rethink our approach to teaching adults. Preparing them for ministry isn’t the same as inviting them to classes.

You don’t need me to tell you that adults are busy. Their brains are bombarded with thousands of messages every day. Deep inside their brains is a filter that separates the needed information from the unneeded information. Needed information is usually connected to real life. Advertisers understand this principle. That’s why most advertisements deal with the consumer’s “need” for the product.

The “need filter” is unconsciously applied to every received message—even the Bible. This isn’t a sign of a person’s disrespect for God’s Word. It is a blatant reality that many church leaders have forgotten or ignored. Take another look at Ephesians 4:12.“Works of service” are personal manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s work in an individual’s life. It’s not our job to train them to do what we want them to do; it is our job to equip them to do what God prompts them to do. This is a huge shift in thinking for most church leaders. Keep reading

Center Your Student Ministry on the Gospel [Video]

The largest, most-educated generation in history is rising. The Milennials are the future leaders of our organizations and churches and the shapers of culture. For some this might be scary. But isn’t it an opportunity? Imagine if this powerful, passionate, cause-oriented generation was transformed by the gospel of Jesus. Jason Gaston, student pastor at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, talks about the importance of centering student ministry on the gospel and creating a plan to do it well. Watch now

Check out more church leadership videos at

5 Seriously Wrong Questions about Small Group Ministry

I love a great question. I actually look for them and even write them down when I hear them or copy them when I read them. See also, Quotebook: Never Stop Questioning

But there are some questions that are absolutely the wrong question and they lead to the wrong answer. See also, The Right Answer to the Wrong Question.

Here are a few of my favorite frequently asked wrong questions.... Keep reading

Free Ebook – The Great Commission and the Rest of Creation

Most people hope that they can help make the world a better place, and many think they can accomplish that by saving something—rain forests, wild life, gray whales or even the whole planet. The ecological undercurrent rightly attributes value to every living thing, and believes that humanity is responsible for right actions towards the earth. Its value system, however, does not comprehend a Creator who has a comprehensive saving plan for everything He created. In this FREE resource, church planting veteran Linda Bergquist offers a new perspective for understanding Scripture in more whole, ecological ways. She provides practical suggestions for helping people who really care about the world to better understand and connect with God’s plans and purposes. The Great Commission and the Rest of Creation encourages leaders in a relationship with Christ that empowers them towards more saving activity than they could ever imagine in their own strength. Keep reading

Download from Exponential

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Is It Wrong If I Don’t Want My Church to Grow?

One of the foundational beliefs of the church growth movement is that every church should desire to grow. And if you don’t want your church to grow, there’s something wrong. Probably something wrong with you.

So let me get right to it and answer the question in today’s title.

Is it wrong if I don’t want my church to grow? YES.

Always. Without reservation. No excuses allowed. No “buts” added.

It is always wrong when a follower of Jesus, and especially a church leader, doesn’t want their church to grow.

People need Jesus. As long as there is one person in our community that doesn’t know Jesus, one child in poverty, one scared, pregnant teenager, or one person anywhere with a need that Jesus wants us to meet, we need to reach out to them.

Any follower of Jesus who does anything less than their best to reach people because they want their church to stay small, familiar and comfortable is selfish, settling or worse. It is burying your talent. If you think that language is too harsh, Jesus was harsher. He called such a bury-your-talent-and-sit-on-what-we-have attitude, “wicked and lazy.

So, if you are intentionally or unintentionally putting up roadblocks that are hindering your church from growing, that needs to stop. Now. Remove those obstacles. Stop being the obstacle. And start being the church – vibrant, outward-reaching, innovative, healthy and growing. Keep reading

How to Get the Most Growth Out of Your ‘Big Days’

Last week, I wrote about the 9 reasons why your church should make the most of ‘big days’ for growth. And I told you that ‘big days’ have been very instrumental in Saddleback’s growth over the last 34 years. We’ve learned the art of pyramiding growth through special days.

But how? How do we maximize those big days for all they’re worth? Here are nine ways. Keep reading

3 Assumptions of Systematic Theology

Systematic theology is based on certain assumptions.

The first assumption is that God has revealed Himself not only in nature but also through the writings of the prophets and the Apostles, and that the Bible is the Word of God. It is theology par excellence. It is the full logos of the theos.

The second assumption is that when God reveals Himself, He does so according to His own character and nature. Scripture tells us that God created an orderly cosmos. He is not the author of confusion because He is never confused. He thinks clearly and speaks in an intelligible way that is meant to be understood. Keep reading

See also
Get “Everyone’s a Theologian” for a Gift of Any Amount