Saturday, January 31, 2015

5 Places to Find Your Next Church Planter

Searching for church planters, but aren't sure of the best places to look? Here are a few.

A ChurchPlanterDepot where you could find in one place the right people for a church planting project would be nice. But alas, there is no such place. And honestly, it is probably good that we have to search for such leaders.

Actually, I think that church planters were once more readily available because there were not as many church plants. Denominations created ways that raised them up, or the planters came to denominations for opportunities, training, and other resources. There was a small but steady stream back in the day.

Today, God is still calling church planters, and more of them. But these planters are not banging down the doors of denominations. Between the flourishing of the internet and a growing number of independent networks, a church planter today can take a different route to starting a church.

Many denominations would still like to see the kingdom grow through new churches. Now, they are having to intentionally find and develop planters. Networks are doing this as well, but it's mostly denominations asking where they can find planters. Keep reading

6 Signs That Silos Exist in Your Organization

Silos exist when areas within an organization conduct their activities without the consideration of the organization’s other areas. They operate in an unhealthy vacuum. Silos can occur in almost any organization, including ministries. When they do exist, leaders will find themselves struggling to move their organization forward and experience a deteriorating staff moral.

For the trained eye (and ear), the presence of silos is relatively easy to spot. Here are 6 signs that silos exist in your organization.... Keep reading

By Grace, We Are Free in Christ

In John 8:34 Jesus underlined the bondage in which we are held by nature. On the other hand, He spoke about the freedom into which He brings sinners by grace: “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

How could the Son set them free? Because of who He was. He was the Son who has been sent into the world by the Father. He knew the Father’s plan. He had the most intimate relationship with the Father. He had heard everything the Father had said, and He came with this message of good news: “The Father has sent Me in order to set you free” (see John 8:28). Keep reading

Also see
By Nature, We Are in Spiritual Bondage

13 Ways To Sabotage Your Senior Pastor Search

Choosing a new Senior Pastor may be the most significant staffing decision a church ever has to make. Because of that, it can also be one of the most stressful processes a church ever has to experience.

We’ve walked with countless churches through the important decisions and the possible anxiety of a Senior Pastor search, and along the way, we’ve noticed a few ways that pastor search committees can be counter-productive during the Senior Pastor search process.

Here are 13 ways to sabotage your Senior Pastor search.... Keep reading

500+ Preaching Resources

These are the most useful online preaching resources I’ve found on the web over the last 5-6 years, all organized under the following headings.... Keep reading

Clunkiness and Clarity

If you believe in biblical infallibility, one of the most common objections you'll hear is that it's not the best word to use. Calling the Bible "infallible", or (heaven forbid) "inerrant", or even Unbreakable, is clunky. It unwittingly elevates an incidental property of Scripture to the highest place, and thereby demotes words with a far stronger biblical basis (like "true", "inspired" or whatever). Nitpickers and pedants talk about infallibility (unless they're American, in which case they talk about inerrancy); the rest of us talk about truth. Leave it there.

In almost every sense, I agree. I’d far rather say that the Bible is true than have to use abstruse jargonese (often followed by a plethora of qualifications, which kill the word by a thousand paper cuts) to bolster my statement. Most of the time, in fact, I do. But because we live in a world where some people are happy to say both (a) the Bible is true and (b) the exodus never happened, I know that the word “true” must mean different things to different people. So although I’d rather just say “true” and be done with it, I need words to explain that when I say “true”, I mean “correct in what it affirms”, rather than “spiritually useful and interesting, but historical cobblers.” Keep reading

3 Strategies that Launch a Wave of New Groups

Three Very Important Discoveries for Small Group Pastors Learn more

Also see
Are Small Groups the Next Bus Ministry?

Friday, January 30, 2015

10 Distractions Regarding Worship Music – Rainer on Leadership #094 [Podcast]

Having weekly posts here at the blog from Chuck Lawless has been a huge blessing to me. Not only because it takes some of the workload off of me to come up with another article for the week, but because Chuck has such a great perspective on the Church and shares some incredible insights. We’ve covered some of Chuck’s articles in the past on the podcast, and in this episode we discuss a recent post on worship music distractions. Keep reading

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 23:40 — 21.7MB)

Scott Williams: Future Faces of the Church

What comes to mind when you think about the words “future faces of the church”? For some, the phrase may inspire thoughts of church visionaries. Maybe you’re envisioning the next generation of world changers in your student ministry.

But think a little differently with me. What do the people and leaders in your congregation look like? In 93 percent of American churches today, a majority of the faces are of one race.

What do you believe or hope these faces will look like five to 10 years from now? Do you care? Or are you one of the many leaders I encounter that laugh about or downplay the fact that the vast majority of U.S. churches are racially segregated?

Nearly 50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. had the courage to address and challenge what he saw, calling 11 o’clock on Sunday morning “the most segregated hour in America.” Unfortunately, his observation still rings true today.

Rewind 2,000 years, and you find another leader even more passionate about a united kingdom. Jesus called for His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:16-20). The words “all nations” indicate that Jesus’ ministry in Israel was to be the starting point of what would later become the proclamation and sharing of the Gospel to everyone regardless of race, gender, socioeconomics or geography. Clearly, diversity is important to God. Keep reading

Issues in Church Leadership: Five Articles

Stay in Your Lane or Own the Whole?

Perhaps you have had a leader challenge you to “stay in your lane.” Whether your mind conjured up a football analogy or lanes on an interstate, you got the message. Quit trying to lead everyone else’s area, and focus on yours. And perhaps you heard a different message in a different meeting when the leader told the team, “Everyone must help shoulder this. We all must own this.”

So which one is it? Do I stay in my lane or do I own the whole? And if you are a leader, you may have wondered, Which message do I deliver?

Both. Keep reading

The Curse of Kings ~ Why Leaders Fail

Everyone has seen a political or religious leader implode, and often the failure is sexual in nature. Recent political history has many examples from men like Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer. In the Church it’s been guys like Ted Haggard and Doug Phillips. Of course, biblical examples include men like King David and his son, Solomon. It seems there is a potential curse, of sorts, on those who lead.

Tragically, I have way too many friends who have fallen as well.... Keep reading

9 Ways for a Leader to Lose Favor — And Some Advice to Guard Against It

One of the hardest losses for a leader is when they lose favor with the people they are trying to lead. It’s very hard to regain trust once it’s lost.

Sadly, the longer I serve as a leader, the easier it seems to be to lose a follower’s trust. People are more skeptical — it seems to me — of leadership these days than in days past.

I think it’s important to know what causes us to lose favor with the people we are attempting to lead. Of course, there are many things, but let share some of the more common ones I’ve observed.

Here are 9 ways to lose favor as a leader.... Keep reading

7 Good Reasons for a Leader to Learn and Use the Word NO

I hate disappointing people.

And, every time I say the word “No”, someone isn’t happy with my answer.

That’s reality.

“Can you do a wedding — this weekend?”

“Can you speak at my event?”

“Will you write a guest post for my blog?”

“Can I have an hour of your time — today?”

“Will you mentor me?”

And, so many more similar questions.

They are all legitimate questions. Usually there is nothing wrong with any of them as questions. And, many times I say yes to questions such as this. Many times.

But, sometimes I don’t say yes. I say no. And, I personally think that’s one secret to my success in ministry and leadership. Keep reading

10 Suggestions to Handle Conflict in a Healthy Way

Where life involves people — whether among family, friends or co-workers — there will be potential for conflict.

Any disagreement there?

Want to fight about it?

In fact, if relationships are normal, conflict is inevitable.

But, conflict doesn’t have to destroy relationships. It can actually be used to make relationships better. That takes intentionality, practice — and a whole lot of grace.

In an organizational sense, conflict is certainly a huge part of a leader’s life. Even in a pastor’s life.

It seems to reason that learning to deal with conflict successfully should be one of our goal as leaders.

Here are 10 suggestions to effectively handle conflict.... Keep reading

Despite Boko Haram, Gospel impacts Nigeria

As Boko Haram militants continue to attack Nigeria and threaten neighboring countries, Christian workers there say the Gospel is going forth and impacting receptive hearts.

Greg Dorsey*, a Christian worker in West Africa, said Nigerian Christians are effectively engaging many areas of the country.

"The northeastern corner of Nigeria where Boko Haram has wielded most of its activities remains a difficult area for believers to freely worship and share their faith," Dorsey said. "However, God has raised up believers who have remained steadfast and bold in the midst of applied pressures to silence them." Keep reading

Faith of Christians in Niger Grows Stronger in Face of Unprecedented Violence

Christians in Niger praise God in spite of church building gutted in attacks in Niamey. (Christi Childs courtesy of Christian Aid Mission)
Churches could see further attacks as task of rebuilding begins.

Christians in Niger are joyfully meeting in homes under police protection as they plan to rebuild church buildings and houses after attacks last weekend (Jan. 16-18) that were unprecedented in scale.

“Nothing of this magnitude has ever happened in this nation,” wrote one missionary couple in the capital, Niamey. “Nearly every church in the capital city of Niamey was burned or looted, along with some schools and orphanages and several other churches and Christian homes throughout the nation.” Keep reading

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Theological Primer: Eternal Sonship

From time to time I make new entries into this continuing series called “Theological Primer.” The idea is to present big theological concepts in under 500 words (or pretty close–what’s a couple hundred words among friends?). Today we look at the eternality of the Son of God. Keep reading

Why “Preach Like the Room Is Full!” Is Terrible Advice

“Even if only three people show up to church, preach like the room is full!”

That’s some of the worst advice I’ve ever received in ministry. And I’m not the only one who’s received it. Many of you have heard it too. Some of you may have repeated it.

If so, stop.

It’s not a good idea. In fact, it’s a very bad idea.

The only time we should preach like the room is full is when the room is actually full.

Let me explain. Keep reading

How to Make Your Sermons Easier to Remember

Almost instantaneously, sermon series have taken the preaching world by storm. Visit a handful of church websites and you’re bound to find a majority promoting their hot, new sermon series.

Despite the popularity of sermon series, many ministers still view them with suspicious glances. Are sermon series really that important?

Over the years, I’ve found sermon series to be an indispensable tool for both spiritual and numerical growth in the church. If you’re not utilizing sermon series, you could be missing out on an incredible way to teach others about the Bible.

Here are four reasons why.... Keep reading

They Just Don't Sing Like They Used To

Why Congregational Singing Has Fallen on Hard Times

Sometimes I’m asked to speak on the topic of recovering congregational singing. So I ask the question “What’s wrong?” The conversation goes like this:

“Apparently people are not singing like they used to.”


“We’re not exactly sure, but we’d sure like to have some tools to improve the situation.”

I’m all for improving congregational singing. In fact, I’m passionate about it. But rather than jumping to solutions, I’d like to dwell a little bit more on the problem. Why don’t people sing like they used to? If we spend some time considering the problem, our solutions may be better grounded.

What follows are some of my observations of why congregational singing has fallen on hard times. Keep reading
This article was written almost a decade ago but Martin Tel's observations are applicable today as they were in 2007. I posted this article because I believe that robust congregational singing is essential to the spiritual health of the local church. The New Testament Church was a singing church. We need to be identify the barriers to congregational singing in our churches and to take concrete steps to eliminate or reduce these barriers. This includes teaching not only congregations but also worship leadership teams about the place of congregational singing in the life and worship of the local church.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Seven Reasons Churches Are Too Busy

If local churches were humans, most of them would experience burnout. Many congregations are too busy to be effective. Many have a hodgepodge of seemingly unrelated activities.

As a consequence, there is no clear plan or process of discipleship in these churches. Members are often confused about what they should do and how active they should be in the disparate ministries and programs. And some members pull back their involvement altogether in a sense of frustration and often guilt.

So how did churches get so busy? How did their calendars fill up so quickly that it left no breathing room for members and staff? There seems to be seven major contributing factors. Keep reading

Seeing Singles: A Challenge for the Church

A stunning fact you may not know: According to U. S. Census data, more than one-fourth of all adults have never been married (27%). Another six percent are widowed and twelve percent divorced or separated.

Most churches minister well to those 56% of adults who are married. But, do we also acknowledge the great value and importance of that “invisible” enormous multitude of unmarried adults? Keep reading

This Is the Reason You Keep Forgetting Stuff

Just seeing or hearing something isn't going to help you remember it

A new study coming out of Penn State suggests that individuals are better at remembering details when they anticipate having to recall them in the future. Keep reading

Addressing Cultural Issues in the Pulpit

How do pastors preach on contemporary cultural issues? Or should they? This is a question every pastor faces as he contemplates both the spiritual needs of his congregation, the questions swirling in society, and the weighty commission to preach the Word of God. When I pastored, I constantly wrestled with when to address certain topics, how to address them, and in what format. I’ve also observed and watched pastors of large and small churches organize their preaching. Here are a few ways I’ve seen pastors address contemporary cultural issues.... Keep reading

Also see
Four Helpful Words Before You Preach That Awkward Word

6 Things You Need to Know about Small Group Ministry

Sometimes things seem more complicated than they really are. Small group ministry is truly one of those things. It’s just not that complicated. Keep reading

Issues in Discipleship: Three Articles

Beyond Invite and Invest: A Better Plan for Outreach

Church used to be all about the invite.

Everyone went to church whether they wanted to or not. It was a cultural expectation. All you had to do was invite someone, and there was a very good chance if your church had the right denominational sign on the building that whoever you invited would show up and get connected to the church. The invite worked…and then it didn’t. Keep reading

Disciple-making on Their Turf

Once upon a time, evangelism happened on the church’s own soil. She stood at the center of society. Most unbelieving Westerners had grown up in or around her, and felt some measure of comfort or nostalgia coming to a church building.

Occasionally, we might confront a non-believer on the street corner, or pack them into a stadium to hear Billy Graham, but in general, the work of evangelism has happened in the church’s own space. We invited them into our walls; some would agree to come. We put forward our best speaker to give his best gospel presentation. We’d even bring in a “revival” preacher from out of town. It was a restricted playing field, but it bore fruit in its time.

However, in the twenty-first century, the rules of the game are changing drastically, and fast. Increasingly, if we are to find the lost and win them to everlasting joy in Jesus, we must go find them where they are and engage them with “not only the gospel of God but also our own selves” (1 Thess. 2:8). No longer is it enough to man the church, put out an inviting sign, and wait for the lost to come streaming in. We must go meet them on their turf, out there in the world, and minister there—making, maturing, and multiplying disciples. Keep reading

Discipleship Works—What a Lot of People Miss About Our Role in Our Discipleship

God could mature his people on his own, but he has decided to bring us into the process.

This is part three in a series on scriptural discipleship. Check out the other parts below:

Maturity Is The Goal | Don’t Miss These Three Markers for Discipleship | God Involves Us in Our Own Discipleship. Why? How? Keep reading

Most Americans know 'nothing at all' about Sikhs

Almost two thirds of Americans admit they know nothing about Sikhs, a new survey has found, despite the fact that Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world.

A survey commissioned by the National Sikh Campaign (NSC) showed that 31 per cent of non-Asian Americans have never seen or interacted with someone who is Sikh, and only 11 per cent have a close friend or acquaintance who is Sikh.

When shown a photograph of a man in a turban, just 11 per cent of respondents identified him as Sikh – 20 per cent thought he was Muslim. Keep reading

Breitbart Report: Texas Islamic Tribunal Dispenses Shariah Law

A form of Islamic law has taken force in Texas, right next door to Louisiana where Gov. Bobby Jindal has warned of Muslim immigrants who refuse to adopt Western culture.

An Islamic Tribunal of four attorneys is operating in Dallas where it issues voluntary rulings on civil disputes, Breitbart Texas reported Tuesday.

Taher El-badawi, one of the lawyers who call themselves "judges," told the conservative website that the tribunal applies Shariah law to litigants who voluntarily accept their rulings on disputes involving family and business issues. Keep reading
Under Texas civil law a divorce granted by this tribunal would not be legal even if both parties agreed to the divorce. Texas is a common law state and couples who live together as man and wife are legally recognized having contracted a common law marriage. If they separate, they must obtain a divorce from a Texas civil court in order to remarry. Couples who do not obtain a divorce can be charged with bigamy if they remarry.

The creation of its own legal system based upon Sharia law by the Muslim immigrant community in Dallas does raise a host of questions. Among these questions is "Does the freedom to practice one's religion in the United States extend to creating a separate legal system?" Are we observing in Texas what Bobby Jindal has characterized as "colonization"? Jindal is not original in his use of this term. The following excerpt was taken from a Wikipedia article on colonization:

A number of scholars and analysts describe contemporary Muslim immigration to Europe as a process of colonization. Rauf Ceylan describes the Turkish communities of Germany as "ethnic colonies".[5] Robert S. Leiken describes Muslim immigrant communities in Europe as "something like a Muslim internal colony," in which the immigrant becomes "not so much a member of British society as a colonial of his clan and village".[6] Hans Magnus Enzensberger also uses the language of colonization. Christopher Caldwell writes that "'colonization' well describes the influx of the past half-century".[5] First, because of the scale of the phenomenon, and, more significantly according to Caldwell, because the "terms" of the transformation are "set by the immigrants".[5]

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rick Warren’s Surprising Video On Church Size & Attendance [Video]

“Nobody likes a big church – except pastors.”

If you hadn’t already read the title of this post, you probably wouldn’t think that quote was from Rick Warren.

But it’s just one of several similar quotes from a short video in which Rick Warren shares some very helpful thoughts on our misperceptions about church size and attendance.

The video originally appeared on Thom Schultz’s When God Left the Building YouTube page. You can scroll down a little to watch it right here.

Here’s another quote from Warren:

“I think one of the things we need to do is change what we reward in churches today, because for the last 50 years denominations and organizations have rewarded size, attendance.”

I have no idea what those “rewards” would look like – I’m guessing Rick may not either – but he’s absolutely right that we need to change our thinking in that regard.

As he says in the last quote of the video, “Big isn’t better. Small isn’t automatically better. Healthy is better.” Keep reading

Rethinking Church Plant Funding

What do you do when the well runs dry? You dig another well.

Since the turn of the century, many denominations have made a strong effort to funnel resources toward church planting. This support helps to secure facilities, execute marketing campaigns, provide equipment for ministry, and even underwrite pastoral support.

That's a good thing.

Not only have denominations created departments that financially support church planting, the church planters have the blessings of the denomination’s leadership, which often helps them gain access to established local churches to seek financial sponsorship.

In the new millennium, networks have followed a similar pattern, though to a lesser degree due to their smaller resource base. Keep reading
If the churches forming the Anglican Church in North America had a serious commitment to reaching and engaging the unchurched in North America and enfolding them into new churches, they would be devoting a major share of their resources toward church planting, not building construction. We spend our money on what we value the most. 

Five Things Church Leaders Need to Know about Ministry Finance — Rainer on Leadership #093 [Podcast]

Ministry finance is an area many pastors and church leaders lack adequate training. So today, Jonathan and I discuss five areas of finance of which every minister should be aware. Keep reading

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:54 — 19.1MB)

6 Thoughts for Pastors on Personal Finances

Because a pastor’s finances can be different from another person’s finances, I have often asked older and wiser pastors for counsel on managing personal finances. According to the apostle Paul, managing the home is no small matter for a pastor, and this includes our personal stewardship. “If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:5).

In some ways, pastors are different because we can claim a housing allowance and also opt out of paying into (and receiving benefits from) Social Security/Medicare. But in other ways, we are not any different from other believers. We are responsible to provide for our families and also challenged by the Lord to be generous in our giving. I am not a financial guru, so I would encourage you to confirm any moves with an adviser, but here are six of the best pieces of financial counsel I have received. Keep reading

Also see
13 Ways You Waste Your Money

7 Rookie Mistakes New Leaders Should Avoid

I deal with a lot of new leaders. I’ve been one myself numerous times. To some, as I approach 3 years in my position, I’m still the “new guy”. Starting as a leader is difficult regardless of the experience one has as a leader. Each time a leader is new there will be new experiences that challenge everything the leader knows or has experienced previously. It’s like you’re a rookie leader all over again.

But, just because a leader is new, doesn’t mean they have to make rookie mistakes.

I’ve watched new leaders who start strong, find success, and build a long-term healthy relationship. And, I’ve watched some new leaders shoot their proverbial foot and take years to recover — if they ever can.

What makes a new leaders beginning years successful? What are some hard lessons learned?

I seem to learn best from my mistakes and observing the mistakes of others. Let me share a few that I’ve made or seen.

Here are 7 rookie mistakes new leaders often make.... Keep reading

Dealing with Objections When You Witness

One of the more basic aspects of sharing Christ involves recognizing and dealing with objections or excuses people raise when you witness. It’s so easy for us to go into apologetics mode, which is often helpful and necessary, but we can in practice elevate this about the gospel itself. Or, we want to answer the first thing the other person brings up (which is virtually never the real reason he or she has not followed Jesus), so we lose track of sharing the gospel, which is kind of the point.

Here is a little process I teach my students from my Evangelism Handbook.... Keep reading

India: Christian villagers living in fear after Hindu nationalists burn down village church

It was just a simple structure made of bamboo and palm thatches, but it was a place of worship for the village's population of Indian Christians.

Despite action by the police and the fire department as well as members of the church, in Tadur, Telengana state, the fire destroyed everything inside the structure. These included the church's musical instruments, carpets and prized literature.

Attacks against the Christian minority in India have escalated over the past few months as the current Indian government appears sympathetic to Hindu fundamentalism. The ICC said that attacks range from actual physical attacks against Christians, to torching properties that are owned by Indians who are known to be Christians, and to allegations of forced conversions of the local population. Keep reading

Also see
India's Christians look to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for support after attacks
India's Hindu nationalists claim to have converted 27 Christians
India: Bishops urge Narendra Modi to stop Hindu mass conversions of Christians

Monday, January 26, 2015

Is the Purported Anglican Building Boom Really a Bust?

By Robin G. Jordan

Juicy Ecumenism has posted an article trumpeting what it describes as “an Anglican building boom.” A number of ACNA churches are constructing buildings at a time when other denominations are seeing a decline in building construction due to the state of the US economy. The Anglican Church in North America has highlighted this article on its website. Readers are encouraged to view this construction as a positive development.

The article prompted me to reflect upon my own experience as a member of a church building committee and the varied reasons that Episcopalians construct new buildings. I say “Episcopalians” because the clergy and congregations of the Anglican Church in North America consist largely of former Episcopalians. While they may have left the Episcopal Church, they are very much Episcopalian in their attitudes and thinking.

Episcopal clergy suffer from the strange malady known as the “edifice complex”—the proclivity to have one or more buildings constructed to satisfy their need to leave behind a legacy in brick and mortar. This is often the impetus behind a church building program. One of the results of this proclivity is that it leaves the church heavily indebted. Reducing its debt becomes the chief focus of the church instead of ministry and mission.

This debt, the financial strain that it places upon the church, and the rector’s desire to add more buildings to his legacy can lead to church splits. It happened to the Episcopal church that I helped to plant in the 1980s and where I ministered as senior lay reader for fifteen years. The rector in this particular case had persuaded one part of the congregation that the church needed a new sanctuary. Most of the vestry and another part of the congregation were not convinced. They believed that the church should reduce its debt before embarking upon a construction project of that magnitude. The split would cost the church one-third of its member households. The church which had been enjoying steady growth would plateau.

The church never fully recovered from the split. The public relations disaster of Gene Robinson’s election and consecration would greatly weaken its ability to attract new members in what was a politically and socially conservative region. The church which had been evangelical and charismatic in its early years would become liberal and Anglo-Catholic. Six years later the rector would move on and the church would lose its parish status.

Among the tendencies, both within the congregation and the vestry itself, with which a vestry embarking upon a building program must struggle is that mistaken belief that “if you build it, they will come.” This belief is sometimes referred to as “architectural evangelism.” While congregations may experience a brief growth spurt after they construct a new building, the new building will not over the long-haul ensure a steady flow of new families as is often mistakenly believed. However, this brief growth spurt is usually enough to convince vestries that they did the right thing.

Among the pressures, both from the congregation and its own members, with which the vestry must cope is the pressure to put form before function and recreate a particular architectural ambiance in the new building. The vestry that succumbs to this pressure will end up encumbering a much greater debt that it can realistically afford to pay off.

 I recall reading about a congregation that broke away from the Episcopal Church and bought a church building from another denomination. The congregation decided to buy the building due to its particular architectural ambiance: the building fit its members' notions of the ideal setting for worship. The congregation mistakenly believed that the building would also help the congregation to attract new families. The congregation, however, did not grow as anticipated. It could not keep up with the mortgage payments on the building and the bank eventually foreclosed on the mortgage. The congregation lost the building and all the money that it had invested in the building.

As Rob Smith points out in Leading Christians to Christ: Evangelizing the Church many of the people who come through the doors of Episcopal churches are drawn by their ambiance. The felt need for this ambiance is the impetus behind the kinds of buildings Continuing Anglican congregations have bought or constructed and ACNA congregations are now buying or constructing. This ambiance cannot be created in a school cafeteria or a storefront or other rented facilities and many Episcopalians and former Episcopalians cannot worship without it. They are not attracted by biblical preaching or opportunities for community, ministry, and mission.

Episcopalians and former Episcopalians show a tendency to make the mental association between being a church and having a building of their own. They do not feel that they are a “real” church without their own building. They have not fully grasped that what really matters is being a gathering of believing people who hear the proclamation of God’s Word and celebrate the sacraments of the Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This does not require a particular setting.

Clergy, congregations, and vestries also see having their own building as a measure of success—as a symbol of permanence. Constructing a building, however, does not guarantee that a church will be in existence in fifteen years. One Kentucky website I visited listed nineteen churches for sale; another Tennessee website listed eighteen churches for sale. All across North America empty churches are being sold and converted into businesses, homes, or both.

The church in which I am presently involved does not have a building of its own. It has no plans to purchase land and construct a building in the foreseeable future. Money that would be used to pay off a mortgage and to maintain a building goes to ministry and mission. The church is not only impacting the community in which it is located but also a neighboring community, a community in eastern Kentucky, and communities in northern Mississippi, Nicaragua, and South Africa.

For these reasons I am inclined to be skeptical of the inference that this “Anglican building boom” is a positive development. 

If the Lord Marks Iniquity, Who Should Stand?

The Psalmist asked the question: “If the Lord marks iniquity, who should stand?” This query is obviously rhetorical. The only answer, indeed the obvious answer is no one.

The question is stated in a conditional form. It merely considers the dire consequences that follow if the Lord marks iniquity. We breathe a sigh of relief saying, “Thank heavens the Lord does not mark iniquity!”

Such is a false hope. We have been led to believe by an endless series of lies that we have nothing to fear from God’s scorecard. We can be confident that if He is capable of judgment at all, His judgment will be gentle. If we all fail His test—no fear—He will grade on a curve. After all, it is axiomatic that to err is human and to forgive is divine. This axiom is so set in concrete that we assume that forgiveness is not merely a divine option, but a veritable prerequisite for divinity itself. We think that not only may God be forgiving, but He must be forgiving or He wouldn’t be a good God. How quick we are to forget the divine prerogative: “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” (Rom. 9:15 NKJV) Keep reading

Also see
Are You Drifting into Danger?

Three Major Trends in Sermon Length

The opinions about the “right” sermon length are varied, but they are typically intense. Several months ago, I conducted a social media poll to find out the preferred sermon length of preachers. Since that time, I have been observing pastors’ preaching on podcasts and in person. I have also been asking them directly about their sermon length.

I found three dominant schools of thought about this issue. I have also been able to see some specific parameters that were not as clear in my previous post. Allow me to list them in order of their magnitude. Keep reading

Pointing At The Same Thing From Different Angles

In his book Christ Centered Worship, Bryan Chappel suggests eight components to a “gospel structure” for corporate worship, drawing from the narrative of Isaiah 6.... Keep reading

The Techniques of a Sexual Predator

I hate to bring bad news on the best day of the week, but I think this merits attention. In his book On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Children Abuse at Church, Deepak Reju provides a look at the techniques of a sexual predator, and focuses on the way a predator will prepare or groom an entire church so that he can take advantage of its children. His words are worth reading and worth considering. Keep reading

Life on Mission – Work It – See Your Mission [Video]

Instead of looking FOR our mission field — maybe we should look AT our mission field. Watch now

Anglican Archbishop: ‘Allah’ ruling has far-reaching effects

Archbishop Datuk Bolly Lapok

The ramifications of the Federal Court’s dismissal of the Catholic Church’s application for leave to appeal on the prohibition of ‘Allah’ to refer to God in its weekly publication Herald will likely spill beyond the case.

Reacting to this decision, the Most Reverend Datuk Bolly Lapok — the Archbishop of the Anglican Province of South East Asia and Bishop of Sarawak and Brunei — said the ruling would affect more than the Catholic newspaper.

“Case resolved? I am not too sure. I hope in the process we have not mired ourselves in greater complication,” he said in a statement yesterday. Keep reading

Also see
Christian teachers raped and murdered in Burma
There’s nothing secular about Boko Haram

Photo: Borneo Post

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Anglicans Ablaze Weekend Edition: January 24, 2015

In this weekend edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

The 10 Most Influential Churches of the Last Century

There is much to learn from some key trends in the last 100 years of church history.

At some level, all Christians want their churches to be influential in carrying out the work of God. One pathway to increased influence is a road we often overlook – the one behind us.

Looking back can be good. It can give us wisdom and perspective. It can also help us look forward to what God is doing next in your churches and ours.

This helpful book looks back at ten historic spiritual shifts of the last century and identifies a church closest to the center of each one. You may not have heard of these pioneering churches and their leaders, but we suspect you have been influenced by them far more than you realize. And we strongly suspect that after reading each of their stories, you’ll be glad you did – and you’ll have a better perspective on your own church and how God is at work in and around it.

It is hard to imagine anyone more qualified to identify and describe these trends and the personalities behind them than our friend, mentor, co-author and fellow researcher Elmer Towns. Starting in the 1960s he became the nation’s leading figure in creating “top 10” lists and narratives about influential churches. Both of us have a shelf full of his books and magazine articles that we’ve underlined and dog-eared, gaining important insights about where we’ve come from and therefore where we’re headed.

His motive in this book is to help expand your impact. As he was formulating the idea for this book, emailing us with his thoughts, it was very clear that he believes the most influential churches in the last 100 years can motivate every church to become a church of greater influence. Even his title, The Ten Most Influential Churches of the Past Century, is designed to capture people’s attention and help them become more influential. Keep reading

Lasting Transformation vs. Routine Fundraiser [Video]

In my role at Water Missions International I often talk with church leaders who want to get their churches involved in our ministry, which provides safe water solutions and the Living Water message of Jesus Christ to people around the world. These groups often participate in a special event like our Water Sunday initiative and while many encounter great breakthrough and mountain top experiences, some end up disheartened with little lasting impact.

Here are a few key points that can drive your church event towards transformation and action rather than being just another fundraiser. Keep reading

Also see
3 Ways Water Sunday Can Satisfy Thirst and Change the World
Ten low-cost ways to treat water
How to Purify Water with Sunlight
SODIS Method
Sunlight Not the Solution for Clean Water -- New Study
Household solar drinking water disinfection, or SODIS, works. The problem is "getting people to consistently use the SODIS method." Here local churches may play a role, encouraging people in their community to make consistent use of this method of water purification. 

Overcoming the Danger of Ministry Silos in the Small Church

Recently I met someone who had spent many years on staff at a church of over 4,000. During his entire time at that church, he never met the pastor.

He expressed some frustration about it, because he admired the pastor and would have enjoyed learning from him over an occasional cup of coffee. But he and the pastor never crossed paths and to this day the pastor has no idea who he is.

This former staff pastor was not in a minor position. He was in charge of a department that comprised 25% of the church body – over 1,000 people! Today he trains others to do his type of ministry. He runs a well-known magazine, has written some stand-out books on the subject and is a highly sought-after speaker. But he’s still never met his former pastor.

I’m being intentionally vague about who he is and what kind of ministry he’s involved in to protect his anonymity. And it’s important to say that he’s not upset or bitter at his former pastor. He’s grateful for his time at that church and left on very good terms – he just regrets not being able to know the pastor he worked for.

That’s an example of a ministry silo. Keep reading

5 Practical Administrative Tips for a Church Leader or Planter

If God is calling you and your family to plant a Church, I just have one thing to say…it is going to be very hard, messy, and nothing like you thought it would be. I have the opportunity to talk with church planters all over the Globe. Many went into it thinking that this was going to be sexy and if they preached well then they would have 100 people at their first gathering and 1,000 a year later. However, 3 years later they actually have 50 people attending, working three jobs, taking sleeping pills as the only way to sleep, and haven’t had sex with their wife in months. Wow that sounds like a fun calling to me.

First, I would encourage church planters to have their main goal of being a Church Family committed to living life on mission in order to make disciples who make disciples. Let the Spirit build Jesus’ Church, He has a better resume than you.

One of the biggest topics that come’s up in the Church Planting world: MONEY. Here are some practical things a church planter can do as it relates to money.... Keep reading

Protect Your Church's Financial Health

Five reasons you need effective internal controls.

Church leaders should be familiar with the "fraud triangle"—the factors that typically contribute to a fraudulent activity: incentive, rationalization, opportunity.

The first two—incentive and rationalization—really can't be controlled by church leaders. An incentive, such as debt or unexpected medical bills, and the corresponding rationalization ("I'll just take a loan and repay it," or "I deserve to get paid more so this money should be mine") are on the individual.

But what church leaders can control is the third corner of that fraud triangle—opportunity. By focusing our efforts here, we can do a lot to prevent fraud. Keep reading

4 Advantages Of Offering Online Giving Options For Churches

More and more churches these days are offering online donation options on their websites. It’s true that there are many factors to consider when doing this: security, payment methods (credit/debit cards or PayPal), accepting donations via text messaging or a mobile app, and more. This is not a technical article. This is about more of the fundamental mindset behind online donations. That is: why? Should your church even provide such an option?

Even if you are a small or relatively low-tech church, I believe that you should strongly consider offering online giving. The technical aspects can be worked out once you and your church leaders have come to a decision that online can giving can benefit both your church and your congregation. Keep reading

'Do Not Be Anxious....'

Most of us know that the Bible says not to worry. Jesus put it memorably when He said, "Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34).

But often that's easier said than done. Anxiety can feel uncontrollable when finances are tight, when relationships are strained, and when there doesn't seem to be enough time to fulfill all of life's obligations.

Does the Bible provide any specific strategies for avoiding worry? Fortunately it does. Try the following next time anxiety feels unavoidable. Keep reading

8 Things Jesus Never Said

Jesus said a lot of things throughout the Bible, but there are also a lot of things he didn’t. Here are 8 things Jesus never said. Keep reading

7 Easy Ways to Ruin an Otherwise Great Sermon, Message or Talk (And How to Fix It)

If you’ve ever spoken in front a group, tried to motivate a team, or if you prepare messages almost every week like many of us do, you’ve probably wondered what makes for a great talk.

In fact, you’ve probably asked questions like these:
What’s the difference between a talk that flops and a talk that people still buzz about years later?

What’s the difference between a merely good message and incredibly great message?

What’s the difference between a sermon that changes someone’s life and one that no one can remember even as they drive out of the parking lot?
If you’re like me, those questions might even bother you.

I hope they do. They haunt me.

And yet every week gifted communicators kill the messages they bring by making at least 7 predictable, fixable mistakes.

The good news is that once you identify the mistakes, though, you can address them. Keep reading

How to Create Stronger Sermon Points

It has been my experience that books on preaching lift up the wrong kind of sermons as examples. They tend to teach you to prepare academic outlines so vague and general that they are robbed of power.

For instance, here’s an outline for a sermon based on 1 Corinthians 12, “The Corinthians and Spiritual Gifts:”

(Does that title make you want to sit up and listen?) Keep reading

Also see
William Henry Griffith Thomas
Among the books that Griffith Thomas wrote was The Principles of Theology: An Introduction to the Thirty Nine Articles. In his introduction to the seventh edition of The Principles of Theology, J. I. Packer makes this observation.
As in general terms Calvin's 1559 Institutes rounds off the forty-year Reformation era in European theology, so in general terms The Principles of Theology may be said to have rounded off a four-hundred-year era of Protestant Anglicanism, and in particular to have summed up a century of vigilant scholarship which, in the face of what looked like Rome's Trojan horse in the Church of England, had sought to vindicate historic Protestantism as authentically Anglican and the only position with more than squatter's rights within the Establishment.

Are You an Isolationist or a Curator?

As a Bible study teacher I encounter two extremes when the question of studying the Bible is raised. First is the “isolationist”, the person who believes all she needs is personal Bible study to grow in Godly wisdom. She doesn’t need hand-holding from a teacher or theologian – she just needs a journal, a pen, her Bible and the Holy Spirit. She sees any effort to systematize her reading of Scripture as an attempt to conform the wisdom of God to the wisdom of man, thereby distorting what was already pure and sufficient. In her zeal to elevate the importance of God’s Word, she misinterprets the idea of Sola Scriptura to mean that no teaching outside of Scripture is necessary for her understanding.

At the other extreme is the “curator”, the person who, for all intents and purposes, believes she can’t navigate Scripture on her own at all. She finds the Bible largely incomprehensible or boring, preferring the study of doctrine (through teaching, books, podcast or topical studies) to the study of Scripture itself, substituting learning what others say about the Bible for actually learning the Bible. While she may never have consciously intended to devalue personal study of Scripture, over time she grows increasingly content to be a curator of opinions about a Book she does not read, effectively operating under her own credo of Sola Doctrina.

Most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes, but it is important to ask ourselves honestly which of them we lean toward: are we more of an isolationist or a curator? Keep reading