Saturday, February 28, 2015

Evangelion 2015: Evangelical Identity in the Episcopal Church

What is the history of the Evangelical movement in the Episcopal Church?

Who were its leaders?

What does it mean to be an Evangelical Episcopalian today?

Where: St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Delmar NY
            16 Elsmere Avenue
            Delmar, NY 12054

When: April 24-26, 2015

Featured Speakers: Rev. Lee Gatiss, Rev. Philip Wainwright; Mr. Thomas Isham

Learn More

Three Critical Changes the Growing Church Must Make

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges leaders in growing churches face is the sense of failing to meet expectations, particularly of some who were in the church when the church was not as large as she currently is....

How do we make sense of the difference in perspective? A wise pastor once told me that for many people “in their minds, the church is always the size it was when they first joined.” In other words, in the minds of many people, the church should still function like the church did when they joined.

The reality is that a growing church must change some ways in which she functions. And if she doesn’t, her growth will be hampered.

A church should not change or evolve doctrinally, as a church should stand on the “faith delivered once for all to the saints.” Nor must a church change her ministry philosophy and mission in her local community. I am simply suggesting that as a church grows, if a church grows, how she functions in at least these three areas will need to change. Keep reading

Photo credit:

4 Ways Pastors Enable Dysfunction in their Churches

The role of pastors is clear in Scripture: “Equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” (Ephesians 4:12) But unfortunately, some pastors confuse equipping for enablement.

Primarily, this is caused by fear on the part of the pastor. Proverbs 29:25 warns us that “the fear of man is a snare." But often, that fear doesn’t look like fear. Sometimes it looks quite courageous. Sometimes it appears as though the pastor is working himself to death in service to the church, when in reality he is doing all the work because he fears a lack of control. Sometimes it appears the Word is proclaimed in an uncompromising way, when in reality the pastor is just trashing people not in the room to make those who are in the room feel as though they have no sin from which to repent. What follows are some ways I’ve seen pastors enable dysfunction in their churches. Keep reading

3 Ways Social Media Benefits Church Leaders

Social media is a helpful tool church leaders need to understand and use in their local churches.

Every time a new form of media emerges, there are early adopters and rejecters.

I wouldn’t throw my whole lot in with either camp. Some things are certainly fads, and it doesn’t make sense to invest much effort in them. Other things are solid, and we can resist them to our own insignificance.

Wisdom is knowing which is which. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

5 Awesome Ways to Quickly Improve Your Church’s Website

We need a new church website! I hear that battle cry often from churches who are frustrated with the current state of their website. I don’t blame them, building and maintaining a church website can be a difficult process.

However, there are some small steps that you can use on your website that won’t require a complete overhaul. Instead these small steps can give your visitors a better user experience and give your website some clear direction. These steps will also ensure that your visitors know what you want from them and it will increase the chance that your visitors will respond. Here they are.... Keep reading

30 Ideas for Easter Outreach

Churches shared out-of-the-box thinking for communicating the transformational message of the cross. Here are their ideas.... Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domian

Austrian reform singles out Muslims for harsh new requirements

The law requires imams to preach in German, closes mosques of fewer than 300 people, and bars foreign funding of Muslim organizations. The government says it will give Islam an 'Austrian character,' but many say it is anti-Islam.

The Austrian parliament Wednesday singled out Islam as a faith by passing a law that restricts its adherents' religious activities. The new “Law on Islam” bars outside funding of Islamic religious communities, forces small mosques to close within a year, and requires imams to preach in German.

Analysts say the law, which the parliament passed overwhelmingly, is an attempt to “Austrianize” Islam and bring more official oversight of the faith at a time when fears of radicalization are rife in Europe.

The law lays down regulation that aren't required of faiths like Christianity and Judaism. It amends a 1912 law, considered progressive at the time, that recognized Islam as an official faith. Keep reading
In the first paragraph, this articles makes a reference to "many" who say the new law is "anti-Islam." One does not find out until the sixth paragraph who the "many" are--small Muslim groups most affected by the new law and "Muslim nations and a variety of prominent Islamic figures" who can be expected to object to any restrictions upon Islam. A number of these countries such Saudi Arabia do not permit any other religion beside Islam or turn a blind eye to the Muslim persecution of religious minorities.
Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

ISIS and Radical Islam: Three Articles

ISIS Executes 3 Women, Arrests 13 Others for Refusing to Marry Fighters

The Islamic State terrorist group executed three women and arrested 13 other females in the group's Iraqi stronghold of Mosul on Sunday, after the women refused to get married to ISIS militants.

A Kurdistan Democratic Party official from Mosul, Saed Mamuzini, informed the Kurdish news site on Monday that ISIS continues to kidnap and kill women within its strongholds who refuse to marry fighters.

"On sunday, IS (another name for ISIS) militants arrested 13 women in Mosul and later held them in unknown locations," Mamuzini explained. "The woman were kidnapped because they refused nikah (Muslim marriage) with the jihadists."

Mamuzini also disclosed that three other women were executed at the ISIS base of Ghazlan, in the southwest region of the city, because of their refusal of marriage. Keep reading

Why children of the west are drawn to ISIS

As Islamic State militants have strengthened their hold on Iraq and Syria, a number of young westerners have travelled to the front lines to join their ranks.

Many of these men and women appear to have grown up with ordinary backgrounds. So what is it that drives children of the west to take up arms with a ruthless group of extremists? Keep reading

If Islamic Terrorists Are Devout Muslims, Why Are They Hooked on Porn?

Most radical Islamic jihadis claim to be devout Muslims who promote the spread of strict conservative Islamic societal principles, yet it has been continuously documented through the years that many of those Muslim extremists are chronically addicted to sex and pornography.

Jihadis' obsession with porn and sex is not a new phenomenon that is only being seen today through the "brutal" and "instinctive" sex drive of the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria. Even the late Osama Bin Laden, the world-famous leader of Al Qaeda, had a huge collection of porn that was found by Navy Seals who searched his compound when he was killed. Additionally, police raids of terrorist cells in the Europe since 9/11 have revealed "countless" images of child porn, The New York Post reported.

Islamic terrorists being addicted to porn exposes a double standard, especially for those jihadis who blame America and the West for polluting the world with sexual desire, filth and sin.

A number of theories have been proposed as to why pornagraphy use is so prevalent among these "conservative" radical extremists. Keep reading

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Extreme Sport of Raising Money for a New Church Plant

Where do you find enough money to start a church during a global recession? Starting a church in good economic times is daunting enough, but starting one now borders on insanity. Insanity or not, church planting has never been a sport for the faint-hearted. In fact, I have always called it the extreme sport of ministry.

But raising money for a church plant may be THE most extreme part of this extreme sport because it takes vision – plain and simple – and a clear way to communicate that vision. Josh Husmann, Lead Pastor of a new church plant called Mercy Road in Indianapolis, raised more money in one day than the average church planter does in a year. How? He clearly communicated his vision at the recent Next Nuts & Bolts Church Planting conference in Ocala, Florida. And left with a $20,000 check.

All conference attendees had the opportunity to enter their Church Master Plans and compete through a series of interviews with church planting experts. In difficult financial times, Josh brought the key elements that unlock finances for a successful church plant.

This equation determines a church plant’s funding capacity.... Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

9 Things that Won’t Make Us Better Pastors – And 4 That Will

I want to be a better pastor.

I’m always doing everything I can to put more tools in my pastoral tool belt. I read the best books I can find, I seek out wise counsel, I take classes and go to seminars. All of these practices have helped me become a better pastor – some more than others.

But, along the way, I’ve discovered that there are a handful of things many of us strive for that will do nothing to make us better pastors.

I’ve also discovered a list of things that we all know, but sometimes overlook, that will always make us better pastors – and people.

The first list is not exhaustive – it never will be. But I think the second one is. I offer both of them in simple lists because each one stands on its own. Keep reading

The Word-less “Church”

Many American churches are in a mess. Theologically they are indifferent, confused, or dangerously wrong. Liturgically they are the captives of superficial fads. Morally they live lives indistinguishable from the world. They often have a lot of people, money, and activities. But are they really churches, or have they degenerated into peculiar clubs?

What has gone wrong? At the heart of the mess is a simple phenomenon: the churches seem to have lost a love for and confidence in the Word of God. They still carry Bibles and declare the authority of the Scriptures. They still have sermons based on Bible verses and still have Bible study classes. But not much of the Bible is actually read in their services. Their sermons and studies usually do not examine the Bible to see what it thinks is important for the people of God. Increasingly they treat the Bible as tidbits of poetic inspiration, of pop psychology, and of self-help advice. Congregations where the Bible is ignored or abused are in the gravest peril. Churches that depart from the Word will soon find that God has departed from them. Keep reading

Who Turned the Lights Out?

A while back Brad sent me this question:
We seem to be developing a debate at our church in regards to turning down the house lights to “set the mood” for better worship. What is your take on that?
Later I received this from Jeremy:
I was wondering if you could offer any commentary regarding the use of lights at any of the WorshipGod conferences. I have memories going back to the “Psalms” conference [in 2008]. In each of the conference settings, it has struck me that the lights in the house are left active during the music-worship time of gatherings. Is that intentional? Is that unintentional? Is it because no one is available to run a lights scheme? :-)
Glad you asked. Yes, we do have someone available to run a lights scheme and yes, leaving the lights up is intentional. Keep reading

Photo credit: Northpoint Community Church

Are You Scaring Off First-Time Guests?

I visited a small, rural church in west Texas a few weeks ago, and there came a place in the service where guests were welcomed. For a brief second, I held my breath thinking, “Surely, they aren’t going to make me stand up and be welcomed.” I thought this because prior to the official “WELCOME OF THE GUESTS” portion of the service, no one had welcomed me in any way. Much to my relief I did not have to stand up, but it made me wonder about the anxiety your first time guests have.

Your guest experience plays a significant role in developing your church brand and church communications strategy. It is critical Church Communications Leaders participate in the shaping of each church experience to ensure the desired brand is being reinforced by experiences. Use the following advice to avoid three common mistakes churches make with guest experiences. Keep reading

ISIS: Christians Worse Than Murderers

ISIS is using a harsh interpretation of a verse in the Quran to justify its attacks on Christians.

This week’s alleged kidnapping of 90 Syrian Christians sent shock waves around the world, but the young men of the Islamic State have been flagging for months now a simple idea: They follow an interpretation of Islam that blesses a 7th-century Quranic war strategy (9:5) to “capture and besiege” anyone who is a mushrikun, or “polytheist,” and Christians, in the world view of the Islamic State, fall into that category.

In gruesome video of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians released last week, Arabic writing flashes over the image of the Christians in captivity (in 3:28 — 3:40 of the video), reading, “They call upon their God and die as al-mushrikun.”

The English translation by the Islamic State says: “They supplicate what they worship and die upon their paganism.” The Islamic State translates the al-mushrikun status of the Egyptian Christians as “paganism.” Keep reading

Also see
ISIS Destroys Second Largest Museum in Iraq

Thursday, February 26, 2015

5 Change Killers in Your Church

The very fact that we’re leaders means we have to chart the course and make bold steps toward the destiny God has designed for us.

The problem is … it doesn’t always work. Change is a scary proposition for most people, and so it’s not always received with the enthusiasm we envision.

Today I’m going to clarify why change is so hard for churches, and a few things we can do to make it easier.... Keep reading

Also see
Leading Change in Hostile Territory

10 Ways to Read Your Community

I have the privilege of hanging out with missionaries, men and women who have learned how to exegete their communities in order to proclaim the gospel in contextualized and relevant ways. I also hang out with local church leaders, though, who often know far too little about the communities they serve. Here are ten ways to “read” your community.... Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Ligonier Ministries' After Darkness, Light Conference Talks Online

From the revival in Judah under the reign of King Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29) to the Protestant Reformation that returned the church to the biblical gospel after its eclipse in the medieval era, we see that God is often pleased to shine His light when the darkness seems overwhelming. In every case, the faithful who lived in dark times called out for the Lord to revive them, and God answered their prayers by shining the light of His truth in this dark world. We live in a day of darkness, when the gospel and the church are under attack on every front. Yet we do not live in a day without hope, for God’s kingdom cannot ultimately be conquered. As such, we have confidence that as we cry out to the Lord, He will revive us that we might rejoice in Him and His truth again (Ps. 85:6). God’s people must cry out for His revival and a restoration of the light.

On February 19-21, 2015, Ligonier Ministries hosted its 28th annual National Conference to call out for the Lord to revive the light of His truth in our churches and culture. Alistair Begg, Rosaria Butterfield, Tim Challies, Kevin DeYoung, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey, Peter Jones, Steven Lawson, Russell Moore, Stephen Nichols, and R.C. Sproul Jr. joined R.C. Sproul in considering the theme, “After Darkness, Light.” Together, they explored our need to be revived and restored to a high view of God, His law, His people, and His plan for the world. Watch Messages in this Conference

Also see
2015 National Conference: Audio and Video Now Available

6 Signs That Your Team Chemistry is Crumbling

How healthy is your team . . . really?

I enjoyed an unusually close relationship with my pastor for 12 years. Unfortunately, it completely severed and we didn’t talk for several years despite being close friends.

My former pastor and I later reconciled. I’m so grateful because I love this man. In retrospect, we both agreed that there were warning signs we missed that indicated our chemistry was declining. (That broken relationship and my struggle to forgive, led me to write STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How.)

As you evaluate your team, here are 6 warning signs that your team chemistry is crumbling. Keep reading

Also see
Ten Joy Stealers in Ministry (and How to Get It Back)

Photo credit: Pixaby, public domain

Issues in Church Leadership: Six Articles

Paul (and The Godfather) on Leading at Home

The Godfather trilogy gives us a glimpse of two very different husbands and fathers from the same family. Don (Vito) Corleone was married to the same woman and had children that adored him. Michael, his son, struggled in his marriage and with his family. His wife would rather have an abortion than bring another “one of his sons into the world.” Two telling scenes from The Godfather stand in contrast to one another. Keep reading

10 Leadership Statements That Often Come From A Heart Of Pride

We are all capable of pride. Some of us more than others.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years — mostly from my own personal growth and experience.... Keep reading

Tortoise and Hare Principle in Organizational Leadership

There are certainly times an organization needs to sprint. Run like a hare.

There are also times the organization needs to slow the pace down to tortoise speed. Keep reading

10 Permissions a Great Leader Grants

Does your team have permission? Keep reading

9 Thoughts on Receiving and Responding to Criticism

Let me start off with a confession. I’m a critic. I’ve always (at least in my own mind) had the ability to recognize problems and faults. It took me a while to realize that if I didn’t squelch my critical nature, I would push people away. Being critical by nature, I don’t handle criticism very well.

So, the thoughts that follow have been practices that have helped me. The thoughts below regard personal criticism as well as criticism that relates to church ministry. Criticism should not really surprise us. We’ll all experience it. We should all learn to deal with it. Addressing criticism well is an important aspect for successful Christian ministry. Keep reading

3 Reasons a Leader Should Never Respond to Criticism in Anger 

Over the years in leadership, I have experienced my fair amount of criticism. When I was in business, it could come from employees, former employee, customer, supplier, or the public. When I served in political office, every vote seemed to bring critics from the opposing side. Now, after being in ministry for over a decade, I have learned that criticism comes from outside and inside the church.... I’ve watched as the way a leader receives criticism begins to shape the leader. I know young pastors, for example, who give up on a church because of a few very vocal critics. I know some politicians who grew so tired of the criticism that it just wasn’t worth it anymore. In fact, in my opinion, some of the best people never run because they don’t want to face the critics. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Does Your Youth Ministry Mess with Christ's Bride

Much ink has been spilled and many words have been typed about shallow approaches to youth ministry and their damaging effect on young people’s engagement with Christ and the local church as they enter adulthood. There are valuable critiques; I’ve issued many of them. Youth pastors, directors, and workers need to be constantly called back to a focus on substantive, biblical, and gospel-centered ministry to young people, so that they do not fall prey to the gleam of a thriving and fun youth ministry that does not contribute to lasting kingdom fruit.

A strong and drastic reaction against youth ministry, by some, has been to eliminate it completely—to entirely integrate the younger generations of believers into the life of the church. There’s warrant in this move . . . when it actually works. The problem is that it can sometimes cut out a key season of ministry for both students and leaders, a time that God can use in powerful ways in spiritual development and relational growth in Christian community. Keep reading

Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain

Christian media's reach surveyed by LifeWay Research

Christian broadcasters have a devoted following, with about two-thirds of weekly churchgoers and evangelicals saying they tune in to Christian radio and television on a regular basis.

Christian books have a reach among churchgoers and evangelicals, and Christian movies remain popular, with about four in 10 Americans having seen one in the last year.

But many Americans never connect to Christian media. Keep reading

Also see
Who’s watching all that Christian media? Christians, but not many others
If one conclusion can be drawn from this research, it is that if Christians have any hope of reaching and engaging the unchurched, they must take a missional approach and meet these folks on their own grounds and invest in relationships with them. Christian media is no substitute for personal evangelism and disciple-making. 

Islamic jihad, in many forms, 'gaining ground'

Many in western democracies are blind to radical Islam's threat to their security and cultural values, speakers said at a day-long discussion of Islam during the National Religious Broadcasters International Christian Media Convention.

"The majority of Muslims are peaceful and good citizens," Robert Edmiston, a member of Britain's House of Lords from the Conservative Party, said at the Feb. 24 event in Nashville. "But there are some that are extremists, and they are gaining ground."

The threat Islam poses stems not merely from a radical fringe but from central doctrines of the Muslim faith, some of the speakers said.

"Moderate Islam is to Islam what nominal Christianity, cultural Christianity is to Christianity," said William Lane Craig, a professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University who has studied Islam for 30 years. "It is a mere cultural set of mores that one has adopted, but it isn't representative in either case of the fundamental teaching of the original book of that religion, whether the Quran or the Bible." Keep reading

Photo credit: John A Gillis, The (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) Daily News Journal

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Anglicans Ablaze Midweek Special Edition: February 25, 2014

In this midweek special edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Idea Shaping: From Brainstorm to Reality

“Too many people take their dreams to the graveyard. Under the rectangular pieces of sod are songs yet unsung, books left unwritten and masterpieces that were never painted. If I could mine the potential out of one graveyard, I’d be the richest person on earth!”

I once heard Wayne Cordeiro, best-selling author and founding pastor of New Hope Fellowship Church in Hawaii, make this observation. It has stuck with me. As someone who believes that ideas can and have changed our world, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to bring about impact. I’m not alone. Words like “ideation” and “innovation” have become buzzwords for our culture, including our churches. But a new—and much needed—conversation is starting that gives hope to actualizing our dreams. A growing number of leaders and experts are examining and talking about what it takes to move ideas forward and make them happen.

In the realm of ideas, there’s no shortage of passion, but passion without an actionable plan will eventually end up in the grave, sometimes literally. Far too many ideas experience premature death because they lack intentional strategy, a sustainable and scalable process, and a viable network. Idea execution requires an organized process. Think about it. What great idea of yours still lies untouched in a half-written Google doc? Of all the good ideas that have come out of one of your staff or committee meetings, have any seen the light of the day?

The good news is that there are proven ways to help concepts become reality. We talked to some ideators with notable track records who freely shared their insights for what it takes to move an idea forward. Out of those conversations, specific principles and truths emerged.

Let the idea making begin. Keep reading

Photo credit:

Steeplejacking: Taking over Dying Churches

I’ve been talking with leaders of once-sizable churches. Every week they face the painful picture of a shrinking flock amongst the sea of empty seats.

Thousands of churches today are declining to the point of unviability. Many will be forced to close their doors in the near future.

For the faithful members and staff, this attrition feels like a vague terminal illness. They’re not certain of the cause or the prognosis. Often, I’ve heard a wistful member ask, “What will we do when the endowment runs out?”

At the same time, a new “ministry strategy” has emerged among the younger churches in town. Some call it “steeplejacking.” National ministry organizations advise local pastors to target declining congregations and overtake their properties. It’s like a churchified foreclosure and eviction process as the ambitious ones attempt to acquire buildings at little or no cost. “All for the sake of the Kingdom,” they say.

Once in awhile, all ends well. Both the overtaking and the undertaking congregations find ways to meet their challenges and simultaneously serve their communities and honor God. They find win-win solutions. Both see their years of faithfulness, hard work, and sacrifice developing into something valuable and durable.

But sometimes steeplejacking becomes an unnecessarily divisive and destructive exercise. This usually comes about when raw pride and hubris enter the scene. I’ve seen leaders of a young church communicate coldly with a struggling church, boast of their attendance numbers, and tout their plans to establish multi-site locations all over the landscape. They attempted to intimidate the shrinking church into surrendering their keys or “face the possibility of closure.” Keep reading

Best 400+ Online Resources For Pastoral Ministry

These are the most useful online resources on pastoral ministry that I’ve found on the web over the last 5-6 years. They are organized into categories in alphabetical order and cover subjects such as.... Keep reading

8 Reasons Every Christian Should Sing Hymns

Not that long ago, hymn-singing was an inextricable part of corporate worship in essentially every Christian faith tradition. Fast forward a few decades to 2015, and vibrant hymn-singing is all but lost in most evangelical circles, and has a diminished presence in desperate mainline denominations. And make no mistake, our churches, people, and faith are all the poorer for it. There are many reasons to not neglect the long, ongoing tradition of hymnody in our churches. Here are just a few of them. Keep reading

How Can You Know the Bible Is True?

How can average people, with no scholarly training, and little time to invest in historical studies, know for sure that God has spoken in the Bible?

Historically and biblically, one answer that has been given is: “the internal testimony of the Spirit.” What is it? Let’s consider John Calvin’s use of the term, and the Westminster Confession of Faith, and then test these thoughts with the Scriptures themselves. Keep reading

By the Book: How Well Do You Know Your Bible?

How well do you know your Bible? Now that is a scary question, even if you have been a Christian for a long time. Between church events, little league games, and a full-time job, finding time to read and study Scripture is a herculean task. To make matters worse, when you finally do escape to read the Bible you struggle to understand what it means. At times you can relate with the Ethiopian eunuch who said to Philip when asked if he understood what he was reading, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”

The latest issue of Credo Magazine offers helpful tools to better understand the Bible. Click here to learn more, to read the magazine, and to download it in PDF format.

How to Memorize (Almost) Anything

You say you can’t remember your own phone number? I can’t either. But we don’t need to know those strings of digits; remembering phone numbers is a job for our smartphones.

You don’t have to have a “good memory” (whatever that means) to fill your imagination with Scripture and knowledge about the Bible. By the time you finish this series you’ll have learned how to memorize lists (e.g., the Ten Commandments) and almost every key event that occurs in Genesis (that’s the first step in memorizing the entire narrative structure of the Bible, including details about hundreds of persons and events mentioned in the 66 books). But before you accomplish those amazing feats I have to convince you that the memory God gave you is sufficient for the task. Keep reading

Also see
How Memorization Feeds Your Imagination

Take Advantage of an Early Easter to Launch Small Groups

I’ve been thinking about the rhythms of connecting people and wanted to share an idea that you might want to consider. With Easter, 2015 just about as early as it can possibly be (April 5th), there is still plenty of spring left before summer and it makes a lot of sense to launch another wave of small groups.

There are three steps to the idea. Keep reading

The Church & Social Media

I've worked in social media on a church staff for nearly two years and am having a lot of fun. The more time I spend with our staff and other churches, the more I get excited about the future.

Over these last two years, my opinions and assumptions have changed about social media. What hasn't changed is my belief that the church can be a force for good on social media. I think the church is in a position for God to use social networking for some amazing things.

Here are some additional beliefs, opinions and observations.... Keep reading

ISIS Burns 8000 Rare Books and Manuscripts in Mosul

While the world was watching the Academy Awards ceremony, the people of Mosul were watching a different show. They were horrified to see ISIS members burn the Mosul public library. Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned. Keep reading

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Six Keys for Reaching Millennials in Established Churches – Rainer on Leadership #101 [Podcast]

We get questions from listeners every day for advice and with suggested podcast topics. Recently, a question about Millennials stood out so we used it to jump into our discussion in this episode about reaching Millennials. Doug asked:
What is being done or what should be done to broaden the scope of age to bring younger leaders to the table and therefore inspire them to invest more, be devoted and committed to promoting initiatives that we say we believe will change the world for Christ?
Some highlights from the episode include.... Keep reading

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 21:46 — 19.9MB)

The 6 Types Of Small Church Pastors (Descriptions & Cautions)

There are so many types of Small Churches in the world! The variety is staggering.

Correspondingly, there are a great variety of Small Church pastors, too. But as I talk with more of them (us), I’ve found that there are some patterns that keep repeating themselves.

Specifically, I’ve discovered that Small Church pastors tend to fall into one of six categories. Or some hybrid of two or more.

If you’re a Small Church pastor who doesn’t fit into any of these categories, that’s fine. Maybe there’s a seventh or eighth one I haven’t run across yet.

But I offer these six to you for three reasons:

First, to let you know you’re not alone. There are others who feel what you feel and know the challenges you struggle with.

Second, as a way of supporting each other. Once we know there are others like us, we can reach out and help each other.

Third, each type comes with areas of caution to be aware of. I offer those cautions today as well.

So here they are. You might be a Small Church pastor.... Keep reading

Authority, Authoritarianism, and the Millennial Generation

Having been born in 1983, I am of the Millennial generation, or Generation Y, so it is interesting to see various statements propagated regarding Millennials. One of these that has struck a dissonant chord with me is this: “Millennials don’t respect authority” (or some variation of that). While I can see why various commentators might say that, I think it is untrue. Maybe my disagreement is a disrespect of their authority, though. Oh well, here goes. Keep reading

Make New Friends, Keep Texting the Old

Technology does too good a job at sustaining our distant friendships.

Technology presents a Faustian bargain.... While we gain the ability to keep long-distance friends close through emailing, texting, and social media—a more immediate, constant form of connection than the letters and phone calls earlier generations relied on—we can easily miss out on other forms of community. Keep reading
This article is classified "registered/limited access." You may have to register in order to read it. The phenomenon Liuan Huska describes in her article also helps to explain why churches are less evangelistic today than they were fifty years ago. Old friendships were much more difficult to maintain then and people were more likely seek and make new friends. This included new friends who were unchurched.

Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right.

Frank Schembari loves books — printed books. He loves how they smell. He loves scribbling in the margins, underlining interesting sentences, folding a page corner to mark his place.

Schembari is not a retiree who sips tea at Politics and Prose or some other bookstore. He is 20, a junior at American University, and paging through a thick history of Israel between classes, he is evidence of a peculiar irony of the Internet age: Digital natives prefer reading in print.

“I like the feeling of it,” Schembari said, reading under natural light in a campus atrium, his smartphone next to him. “I like holding it. It’s not going off. It’s not making sounds.”

Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises reading experts given the same group’s proclivity to consume most other content digitally. A University of Washington pilot study of digital textbooks found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free. Keep reading
Does this mean that there may be hope for hymnals? I appreciate the advantages of multimedia projects and screens but they do not convey the message that the congregation is expected to sing. Rarely do slides show the melody line as well as the lyrics. They neither presume nor encourage even a degree of musical literacy. Hand someone a hymnal, on the other hand, and the message to that person is "you are expected to sing." Congregants can purchase their own hymnal, sing their favorite hymns and worship songs at home, read the words as poetry, and use the words as prayer. 

Updated: Islamic State 'abducts dozens of Christians in Syria'

Islamic State (IS) has abducted dozens of Assyrian Christians from villages in north-eastern Syria, activists say.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 90 men, women and children were seized in a series of dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr.

Some Assyrians managed to escape and made their way east to the largely Kurdish-controlled city of Hassakeh.

It comes as Syrian Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes continue to advance into IS-held territory.

Hassakeh province is strategically important in the fight against IS because it borders both Turkey and areas controlled by the group in Iraq. Keep reading

Also see
New: 'ISIS are threatening Christians all the time' says family member of abducted Assyrian Christian
New: Who are the Assyrian Christians?

Monday, February 23, 2015

10 Predictions About the Future Church and Shifting Attendance Patterns

Every generation sees change.

But sometimes you sense you’re in the midst of a change so radical you realize that it’s change on that scale only happens only every few centuries. Increasingly, I think we’re in an such a moment now.

Those of us in in Western culture who are over age 30 were born into a culture that could conceivably still be called Christian. Now, as David Kinnaman at the Barna Group has shown, even in America, people who are churchless (having no church affiliation) will soon eclipse the churched.

In addition, 48% of Millennials (born between 1984-2002) can be called post-Christian in their beliefs, thinking and worldview....

I think the change we’re seeing around us might one day be viewed on the same level as what happened to the church after Constantine’s conversion or after the invention of the printing press. Whatever the change looks like when it’s done, it will register as a seismic shift from what we’ve known.

So what will the future church be like? And how should you and I respond? Keep reading 

Also see
Churchless: Why And How America is Learning to Live Without the Church—An Interview with David Kinnaman [Podcast]

7 Things I’ve Learned About Successfully Leading Change

Bottom line: Every organization — whether a church, business or nonprofit– needs change in order to continue to grow and remain healthy.

But here’s the thing about change. If you’ve ever been in leadership you know this.

Change is hard. Very hard.

And, it’s especially hard for some people. In fact, in my experience, the most common reaction to change — at least initially– is rejection or rebellion.

And, that’s what makes change difficult to lead.

Learning to lead change successfully may be the single most important challenge of any leader

. I’m not an expert. But, I’ve led some change. Some successfully. Some not

. And, along the way I’ve learned a few things. Keep reading

Bivocational Pastor: The Strategic Future

A growing number of church leaders are walking in two worlds and are finding, in the process, that their bivocational status connects them to people and ministry opportunities they might never experience if they were full-time pastors.

To be sure, working as a pastor while holding down a full-time job outside the church carries plenty of challenges, including time management, lack of respect and an absence of role models and training. But it offers some advantages too, including financial and spiritual freedom, ministerial longevity and church volunteers empowered for ministry.

What role will bivocational pastors play in the Church in the future? The leader of a church planting network shares his thoughts.... Keep reading

The Necessity of Expository Preaching

According to the legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, the best thing he ever did was to discover the “fundamentalist” teacher Jack Grout, who taught him the basics that he has followed ever since. Great preachers, like great golfers, follow basic rules. The more they practice these rules, the better they become.

One such rule, put succinctly in English prose that now sounds dated, but which is as needful now as when it was first penned, comes from the Directory for the Publick Worship of God, written in 1645 by the Westminster Assembly of Divines. When raising a point from the text, the directory says, preachers are to ensure that “it be a truth contained in or grounded on that text, that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence.” In other words, preaching must enable those who hear it to understand their Bibles. Keep reading

3 Reasons We Must Not Forget the Psalms

A few weeks ago, someone asked me, “How can I be a disciple if I must endure highs and lows, faith and doubt, trust and fear? I feel like I must doing something wrong.” If someone had asked me that question a year ago, I would have responded with a solution and a relevant quote. But that day, I suggested we read the Psalms.

This was not my relationship with the Psalms twelve months ago. Before this past year, I only read the Psalms to complete my Bible reading plan. I decided that I was too left-brained to enjoy the Psalms and that maybe they were only helpful for the more creative-types.

Then, as I was reading and studying, I started to notice a recurring theme—almost everyone I admired was into the Psalms from George Muller to J. Hudson Taylor to Eugene Peterson to Tim Keller. As I was reading the gospels, I noticed Jesus was into the Psalms as well—quoting or alluding to them in hillside teachings, temple courts, and from the cross.

The same thought kept nagging at me—if I am learning to live like Jesus, how can I ignore the Psalms? I began to realize that true gospel-centered discipleship requires us to become friends with David, Asaph, Solomon, the Sons of Korah, Moses, Ethan the Ezrahite, and the dozens of other unknown Psalmists.

In response, I started reading and praying the Psalms as an integral part of my own discipleship. Before long, the Psalms influenced the way I discipled others—especially in the way the Psalms validate our emotions, shape our imaginations, and teach us to pray. Keep reading

Fifteen Reasons Our Churches Are Less Evangelistic Today

By almost any metric, the churches in our nation are much less evangelistic today than they were in the recent past. In my own denomination, we are reaching non-Christians only half as effectively as we were 50 years ago (we measure membership to annual baptisms). The trend is disturbing.

We certainly see the pattern in the early church where “every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). In too many of our churches today, the congregations are reaching no one for Christ in the course of an entire year.Keep reading

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Difference between a “Can Do” Church and a “Can’t Do” Church

Every church has an organizational culture. Some churches have a culture of optimism. You can feel the energy in worship. Others are pessimistic. You can sense the deadness when you walk into the sanctuary. A dead sanctuary should be an oxymoron, but I’ve experienced “worship” in a few zombie churches. The walking spiritually dead show up to utter a few grunts, gaze around, and shuffle back home.

Every church also faces obstacles. What is the difference between churches that approach obstacles with a “can do” attitude over others that have a “can’t do” attitude? What makes a church have a lively optimism over a dead pessimism? Keep reading
Most people, when they were a child, heard or read a story that influenced their life. The story that stuck with me was The Little Engine That Could. It emphasized the importance of a positive “can-do” attitude and persistence. The little blue engine attempted what other larger engines refused to try and successfully hauled a stranded freight train up a very steep hill. One lesson I learned from the story is that some people see insurmountable obstacles. Others see challenges that can be met and overcome. What I have noticed about a number of churches is that they often have more resources available to them than they realize. They do not recognize the resources, they do not know how they can make even minimal use of them, or they have narrow ideas of how the resources may be used. A negative “can’t do” attitude and a lack of stick-to-itiveness is sometimes at the root of this problem.

Rebranding Your Church, Ministry, or Nonprofit? Here's Five Questions To Ask First

At times, we all get frustrated or just plain tired of the way we do things. Maybe it’s repetition, maybe it’s competition, or maybe the culture or markets have changed. But chances are, as I discuss at length in my book, “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media,” you’re simply not telling your story well. In that case, a “re-brand” or “brand refresh” might be in order. But don’t just leap off the branding cliff or hire a costly agency. Before you do anything drastic, start with these five questions. They’ll help you determine if it’s really time for a re-brand, or if you just need a vacation.... Keep reading

Also see
What is Replanting?
Evangelicalism’s major turn: the need for ‘generation replant’
How to Replant a Church: Motivating People for Mission
What Is Church Replanting, New England Style?
Rebranding is often a necessary step in replanting a existing church that is not doing well or relaunching  a new church that has gotten stuck.

God’s Presence in Bedrooms and Dung Beetle Holes

Two of my three year old daughter’s favorite questions just now are “where is God?” and “where is Jesus?” These are, I guess, fairly obvious things to ask about Persons who are regularly discussed and addressed in our home but, to her way of thinking at least, never make an actual appearance. As is true with most questions she asks, she knows the answers by heart from having heard them so many times. And so I typically put the questions back to her. “Where is God?” I say. This question is one we actually put to her long before she asked it herself, as part of a well-known children’s catechism. And so she answers appropriately: “God is everywhere.” She knows the answer to “where is Jesus?” not from any particular catechism as such but from my own consistent response to her questioning. “Jesus is,” she begins, and waits for my nod of approval to continue, “at the right hand of God the Father in heaven.”

For now, at least, she’s satisfied with those answers (and even more so with her ability to produce them), and rather than try to improve upon or properly qualify them, I try to get good mileage from them at appropriate junctures in her life. So, for example, when she’s reluctant to go to bed and expressing some degree of distress, whether pretended or real, about being left alone in her room, I remind her first of all that she is never alone because God, who is everywhere, is with her. I remind her, secondly, that Christ’s high priestly work, which finds expression both in the sacrifice He made for our sins and in His ongoing intercession for us at the right hand of the Father, tells us all we need to know about the sentiments of this God towards us. I remind her, in other words, that God loves her far more deeply and richly than even her mommy or daddy ever could, which is something Christ’s cross and heavenly session abundantly demonstrate. Keep reading

EFCA Theology Conference Resources: The Doctrine of the Scriptures

The recordings of the EFCA Theology Conference and the Preconference are now available. It is a joy to share the excellent content of these great messages with you. Check out these resources

Pointers for Preachers: Three Articles

Biggest Mistakes Preachers Make – pt 3

In this series we aren’t looking to tweak at the fringes of preaching, but rather to get a big wrench to the major parts of the ministry. We’ve thought about “harvesting imperatives” and “not preaching the passage.” Here’s another.... Keep reading

Pastor, Don’t Let One Critic Control Your Preaching

Fearing man is common among pastors, but the struggle is not new; it’s been a temptation since the days of the prophets and the apostles. Paul confessed in the book of Galatians, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men?” (1:10)

Wedded in the pastor’s heart and mind as he preaches are the two desires to honor God and be helpful to his listeners. The first grows out of his divine call to the ministry (he knows he must preach to please God), the second from his shepherd’s heart (he longs to see God’s sheep grow in grace and truth). When the second desire becomes more important than the first then he is sure to lose his way. Keep reading

Partners in Preaching

Sermon prep doesn’t have to be a solo enterprise.

Other than being preachers, Jennifer Morrow and Timothy Ross don't seem to have a lot in common. They minister in different contexts, different denominations. They live hundreds of miles apart. They're not even the same gender. Yet they've formed a long-term, fruitful preaching partnership. In the following piece, they describe their unlikely partnership and challenge other preachers not to do sermon prep alone. Keep reading