Tuesday, January 31, 2017

5 Points for Building a Vision of World Missions

A shared vision for world missions is crucial in the life of the church. Why should world missions be fundamental in the ministry of the church? What do we mean by it? How do we go about it? What is your place in it? Consider these five points for building a vision of world missions in our congregations. Read More

7 False Teachers in the Church Today

The history of Christ’s church is inseparable from the history of Satan’s attempts to destroy her. While difficult challenges have arisen from outside the church, the most dangerous have always been from within. For from within arise the false teachers, the peddlers of error who masquerade as teachers of truth. False teachers take on many forms, custom-crafted to times, cultures, and contexts. Here are seven of them you will find carrying out their deceptive, destructive work in the church today. Please note that while I have followed the biblical texts in describing them in masculine terms, each of these false teachers can as easily be female. Read More

What is Biblical Preaching? The Messenger and the Message

an ongoing series on biblical preaching

In the last decade I have invested a lot of time in public speaking. With employee meetings, plenary sessions, breakouts at conferences, consulting ministry leaders, and speaking on books I have written, I have given hundreds and hundreds of leadership and ministry presentations. I have also preached weekly for the last several years as executive pastor, teaching pastor, interim pastor, and now a bi-vocational senior pastor. Preaching is different. In both the burden of responsibility and the eternal impact, preaching the Word of God to a congregation of His people far outweighs speaking on other subjects. Preaching differs from other speaking in that the message we deliver is the only message that will endure forever (Isaiah 40:8), the only message that brings someone to saving faith (Romans 10:17), and the only message that can transform the human heart (1 Peter 1:23).

So how do I define preaching—the sacred stewardship of handling the Scripture and presenting it to a group of people? Because a messenger delivers a message, I want to focus on both aspects of preaching: the messenger and the message. Read More

10 Things You Should Know about the Lord's Supper from 1 Corinthians 11:23-34

The primary biblical text on the nature and meaning of the Lord’s Supper/Table, also known as Communion or the Eucharist (from the Greek word for the giving of thanks) is 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. Here are ten brief observations on what we see in this text. Read More

Welcoming The Stranger In Our Midst: 10 Bible Verses

There can be little room for doubt about the position of the Bible when it comes to how we should treat the stranger, or "sojourner", meaning someone who resides temporarily: he or she should be welcomed, embraced, and loved.

The gospel approach is perhaps best summed up by Jesus in his discourse on the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), when he explains that he shall come again to judge all people and will look favourably on those who welcomed a stranger because in doing so, they welcomed him.

Here, then, are 10 Bible verses on the stranger. Read More

Related Articles:
Church, It’s Time to Wake up to the Plight of the ‘Other’
6 Things Your Church Can Do During the Refugee Ban

Donald Trump's Visa, Immigration, and Refugee Policy: Ramifications and Repercussions

I am posting a selection of articles from the Christian Today and Christianity Today websites related to President Trump's visa, immigration, and refugee policy. The evidence points to Steve Bannon, President Trump's controversial political strategist, the former head of the ultra-right wing Breibart News, as the driving force behind this policy. To my knowledge Bannon is not known for his adherence to Christian principles. Neither is President Trump as far as that goes.

What Arab Church Leaders Think of Trump Prioritizing Persecuted Christian Refugees
Should America’s Refugee Policy Put Persecuted Christians First?
Southern Baptist Russell Moore Warns Trump Actions Could Harm US Interests Overseas
Iraqi MPs Say Trump Muslim Ban Harms The Fight Against ISIS
Donald Trump Thinks He Is Helping Christians. But He Is Making Things Worse, Warns Top Iraq Patriarch
Bishop Angaelos Condemns Refugee Policies That Discriminate
Christian Humanitarian Charities Horrified At Trump's Refugee Ban
President Trump, Please Think Again: Evangelical Leaders Plead For Rethink On Refugee Ban
Trump's Refugee Ban vs Obama's: What Is The Difference?
Trump's Refugee Ban: Will It Do More Harm Than Good To America?
Church of England Bishops Blast Trump's Refugee Ban
Priest Defends As 'Funny' His 'Jump For Trump' Suicide Post On Social Media
Is God Hardening Donald Trump's Heart?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Five Reasons You Should Use Goal Setting for Evangelism

Churches that set lead metric goals for evangelism will actually see greater evangelistic fruit. Read More

10 ways to overcome culture shock

Going to the mission field as a newly appointed missionary, finally arriving in a new country as a “real live missionary,” is the thrill of a lifetime. At least it is until the confusing onslaught of cultural changes crashes in. New sights, smells, sounds, and customs hold it off for bit. Read More

False Teachers and Deadly Doctrines

In a new series of articles, we will consider false doctrine, sound doctrine, and how to train ourselves to distinguish between them. We will see how God calls us to respond to false and sound doctrine, as well as false and sound teachers. In this opening article, we will briefly define the term “doctrine,” examine the two different kinds of doctrine, and then suggest eight terrible consequences of false doctrine. Read More

7 Indicators It’s Time for Change in Organizational Structure

How do you know when organizational structural change is needed? Read More

7 Essential Qualities That Make You A Leader Worth Following

How do you know you’re a leader worth following? Read More

Fellow Christians, It’s Time to Speak up for Refugees

There is no more critical time than now for God’s people to turn toward the helpless, the homeless and the broken. Read More

Saturday, January 28, 2017

How to Have Comfortable Conversations about God

Former atheist wants believers to have more effective gospel conversations.

“And I pray that the sharing of your faith may promote the knowledge of all the good that is ours in Christ” (Phile. 1:6, RSV). We get to help people who are yet to know Christ to discover all the good that is ours in Christ. In short, we want to help people understand why it is so good to know Him.

Eternal life aside, there are many compelling reasons to be in a relationship with God now, in this life. He never meant that we should go through this life without Him.

Most non-believers wonder why it matters to us that we have this faith in God. What does it do for us? These are very practical and important questions. Do we have an answer for them? Read More

6 Areas Where Ministry and the Generations Collide

I was born in 1980 so I’m on the cusp of Generation X and the Millennials. On any given Sunday, our congregation has infants to people in their 90s. It is true that some churches are made up predominantly of one or two generations. For example, some older congregations are mainly the Silent (born 1920s-1940s) and Boomer generations (born 1940s to 1960s). Some newer churches may be predominantly Generation X (born 1960s to 1980s) and Millennials (born 1980s to 2000s). It appears to me that multi-generational churches are ideal and reflect the beauty of the body of Christ. As pastors and leaders, we are responsible for the spiritual care and leadership of our entire congregations. Regardless of our generational tendencies, we must minister to others who may think differently because of their age and life experiences. Read More

Four signs that ministry has become all about you

Sadly, most of us can all too easily recount stories of pastors who betrayed their congregations, who hurt the very people God had called them to love, who—in short—made their ministry all about them.

Some of these pastors may have had their own inflated sense of grandeur from day one. But more often than not, these are the same guys who entered the ministry legitimately wanting to serve others, not angling to build an empire. And yet somewhere along the way, they got a taste for glory. And instead of being the shepherds of God’s people, teaching them to have faith in God, they become stumbling blocks, impediments keeping people from considering God at all.

As a Christian leader, I don’t hear stories like that and congratulate myself. I hear them and tremble. Because the same pride that has shipwrecked countless other ministries lives in my heart. And in yours.

We need to be constantly vigilant for signs that our ministry has become all about us. Here are a few.... Read More

Four Ways to Remember to Pray for People

It’s one of the most pervasive Christian lies: “I’ll pray for you.” Sure, some of us remember, but many of us do not. I’m certain most of us have good intentions. Then we forget.

Perhaps the word “lie” is too strong for any one instance. But if we consistently tell people we’ll pray and never do, then we’re lying. I’m guilty of this lie, likely more than I realize. In the moment, my intentions are good. I want to assure the person. I want them to know I care. Then I forget. I’ve done it more than once.

Prayer is a critical spiritual discipline. Forgetting to pray demonstrates a lack of discipline, like the person who thinks about exercise but never follows through. A good thought without an action plan is unproductive. Even worse, when you forget to pray, you’re not only putting a damper on your own spiritual life, you’re potentially doing the same for someone else.

In the last couple of years, I started looking for ways to remember to pray for people. Below are four methods that help me. Read More

On Board with Waterboarding?

With the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, the issue of government sanctioned torture has been revived. From 2002-2006, military and intelligence interrogators made use of waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, in their "enhanced interrogations." Since then, torture has been banned by both executive orders and federal legislation. President Trump, however, campaigned on the reinstitution of torture and recently asserted that "torture absolutely works."

The government endorsement of torture should be seen as a watershed in our society, marking our descent into a barbarism previously unthinkable. I was raised in an Army family and well remember the revulsion against torture that permeated the American military culture. As a young officer in the 1980's, it was made clear that we were never to permit torture by our soldiers. Teaching an ethics class at West Point in the 1990's, our curriculum was uniformly opposed to torture. Well do I remember my grandfather, a World War II tank general, insisting that how America wins her wars is just as important that she wins her wars. "If we become like our enemies in order to win a war, we have in fact lost the war," he insisted. Such noble and humane sentiments seem no longer to have a place in our increasingly barbarized society.

Most alarming to me has been the support of waterboarding and other forms of torture among evangelical Christians. To my surprise and indignation, instead of applying the obvious implications of the Sixth Commandment, Christian leaders have lined up in support of waterboarding. Is this blind political loyalty, without a biblical conscience? In the 1950's and 60's, it was the liberal churches - those who denied the Bible - who took the moral high ground in the Civil Rights Movement, while Bible-believers supported racism. What a tragedy it will be if a similar situation occurs over the endorsement of waterboarding by evangelicals. Against this possibility, let me offer three arguments for the Christian rejection of waterboarding and other forms of torture.... Read More

Trump Refugee Order Dashes Hopes Of Iraqis Who Helped The U.S.


Iraqis who say their lives are in danger because they worked with the U.S. government in Iraq fear their chances of finding refuge in the United States may vanish under a new order signed on Friday by President Donald Trump.

The order temporarily suspends the United States' main refugee program and halts visas being issued to citizens of several predominantly Muslim countries, including Iraq. It is expected to affect two programs U.S. lawmakers created a few years after the 2003 invasion of Iraq to help the tens of thousands of Iraqis who risked their lives helping Americans.

Trump says the order is necessary to prevent Islamist militants from coming to the United States posing as refugees, but refugee advocacy groups say the lengthy screening of applicants by multiple U.S. agencies makes this fear unfounded. Read More
Trump has called for a strategic plan for fighting ISIS from US generals who are likely to recommend more boots on the ground. But will Iraq and Syrian civilians cooperate with these forces in the light of Trump's treatment of Iraqis who have helped the US in the past. To operate in Iraq and Syria, US forces needs translators whom they can trust and who are familiar with the area of operation and its people. The Iraqis and Syrians who cooperate with US forces to do so at high risk to themselves. They have been willing to take the risk when they were promised that they and their families would be resettled in the United States. Trump has now taken that away from them. He has also made it far more difficult for Iraqis and Syrians to cooperate with US forces, playing into the hands of extremists who accuse the US of waging war on Islam and opening cooperative Iraqis and Syrians to the accusation of betraying their faith. .

Friday, January 27, 2017

Meet Generation Z

I was born the same year as Dolly the sheep, Michael “Prince” Jackson Jr., and the McCaughey septuplets. Among the people not alive during my lifetime are Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, and Jacques Cousteau. Since I was born, Hong Kong has always been under Chinese rule, and The Lion King has always been on Broadway. Born in 1997, I’m part of the youngest generation, the newest generation, Generation Z, which is categorized as all individuals born between 1995 and 2010.

And this means I’m the subject of James Emery White’s new book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World. It’s a thoroughly researched analysis of a rising generation of globally connected, technologically savvy, strategically ambitious, passionately driven, and religiously confused individuals.

Meet my generation. Read More

What Is Sound Doctrine?

When I was young, I only thought of my future: Whom would I marry? What vocation would I pursue? Where would I live? Now that I am the father of four children, I think only of their futures.

As he approached the final days of his ministry, the Apostle Paul set his thoughts on the future well-being of Timothy, his “beloved child” in the faith (2 Tim. 1:2). He wrote to him about the things that matter most for life and ministry. Not only did Paul commend to his young protégé the glorious gospel of God (vv. 8–10) and the divinely inspired Scriptures (3:16–17), but he also instructed Timothy regarding the importance of sound doctrine: “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (1:13–14). According to Paul, doctrine is among the things that matter most for the well-being of the Christian and the church. Sound, or “healthy,” doctrine provides a pattern that, when followed, promotes healthy faith and love. Sound doctrine is a valuable heritage that is to be treasured in this generation and faithfully transmitted to the next (2:2).

What is doctrine? In its basic sense, doctrine is any sort of teaching. The Bible, for example, talks about the teachings of men (Mark 7:7–8), the teachings of demons (1 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 2:24), and the teachings of God (John 6:45; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 John 2:27). Here, we are concerned with divine teaching, the teaching of God. According to one definition, doctrine is teaching from God about God that directs us to the glory of God. This definition provides a helpful anatomy of sound doctrine, identifying doctrine’s source, object, and ultimate end. We will consider these elements of sound doctrine. Read More

Do Christians "Go to Heaven" When They Die

There is a loud chorus of voices these days denouncing, in a somewhat condescending way, the long-standing belief among evangelicals that when Christians die they go to heaven. In one sense, this outcry is good and constructive. It is an understandable and much-needed response to the unbiblical gnosticism of some “fundamentalist” Christians who denigrate material creation, diminish the reality of a future bodily resurrection, and fail to reckon with the centrality in God’s redemptive purpose of the New Heavens and especially the New Earth.

So, is my answer to the question posed in the title, No? Not quite. My answer is: Immediately, Yes. Eternally, No. Or again, to simplify, when a Christian dies he/she immediately passes into the conscious presence of Christ in heaven. But when the day of resurrection arrives, he/she will be given a new and glorified body in which all of God’s people will live and flourish on the New Earth (of Revelation 21-22).

What we’re talking about is known as the intermediate state, that period and/or experience of the individual believer between (hence, “intermediate”) the time of physical death and bodily resurrection. The biblical evidence for the intermediate state is unmistakable: see 2 Cor. 5:6-9; Phil. 1:21-24; Luke 16:19-31; Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 6:9-11 (and perhaps 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Our focus here is 2 Corinthians 5:6-9. But first, a brief word about 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 is in order. Read More

Only 1 in 7 Senior Pastors Is Under 40

Report finds passing pulpits to millennials a ‘glaring challenge.’

American pastors aren’t as young as they used to be.

As clergy live longer and stay in ministry longer, the average age of Protestant senior pastors has risen to 54—a decade older than 25 years before, when the average age was 44.

Now, just 1 in 7 pastors leading congregations is under 40, according to Barna Group’s 2017 State of Pastors project.

In the new report, Barna president David Kinnaman called the aging pastorate “one of the most glaring challenges facing the church today.”

The pulpit has been graying for decades. In the ’60s, a majority of pastors were under 45. In 2017, most are over 60. The age shift stems from evolving career expectations and difficulty passing leadership on to millennial-aged pastors, Barna reported.

The research, conducted in partnership with Pepperdine University, represents surveys and interviews with 14,000 Protestant pastors. Read More

A Plea for Pastoral Prayer

Pastoral prayer—the part of the worship service where a pastor stands before the congregation and leads them in prayer as part of the worship service—seems to have fallen on hard times.

By pastoral prayer, I mean a pastor (someone whom has been ordained, and is being paid by the congregation for pastoral ministry; 1 Tim 5:17Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) praying a deep prayer over/for/with the congregation on the Lord’s Day.

Terry Johnson—who wrote When Grace Comes Alive and When Grace Comes Home (two books about theological prayers), points out that through church history, pastoral prayers have been a mark of healthy churches, but particularly during the Reformation. They are common today because they remain embodied (if neglected) in most liturgical churches. Read More

President Trump: What Will It Take For Christians To Disown Him?

Donald Trump is wasting no time. Since becoming the 45th president of the United States on January 20 he's already set in motion some of his most extreme policy promises, gone on record with some even more far-right opinions than even his critics expected, and of course, kept on tweeting. Anyone who had hoped that Trump the president would have been a much more mellowed version of Trump the candidate has already received their answer in full.

Let's not forget – ever – that Christians put Trump in the White House. One oft-quoted New York Times statistic suggests that 81 per cent of white evangelicals voted for the man, and even if that number is slightly exaggerated (and my own recent travels in the American church suggest it isn't), that demographic is so large that it is easily powerful enough to have swung the election either way.

Some of those Christians were well aware of the shadow-side of their voting decision. They "held their noses" as many put it, because for them the key issue of abortion, on which Trump is prepared to take a conservative stance, outweighs all others. But many other American Christians weren't holding their noses at all; they marched into the voting booths and breathed deeply, inhaling the dubious smell of Trump with beaming smiles on their faces. To them, Donald Trump is 'God's man', put there by him to fight the modern evils of liberalism. Read More

Related Article:
'Donald Trump Loves God' Says Pastor Close To President
Here are 39 Biblical reasons why Christians should not be supporting Donald Trump or giving credence to Pastor Mark Burn's claim that Trump loves God and loves people. The list is not exhaustive.

Bearing good fruit

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Matthew 7:16-20, ESV

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21, ESV

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me…. Matthew 15:8, ESV

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. Matthew 15:18-19, ESV

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Luke 3:8, ESV

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…. 1 Corinthians 6:9, ESV

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21, ESV

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23, ESV

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17, ESV

But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. Revelation 21:27, ESV


He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. Psalm 24:4, ESV

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9, ESV

Trusting man rather than God

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! Psalm 40:4, ESV

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9, ESV

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. Psalm 146:3, ESV

Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips. Proverbs 25:19

Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them…. Isaiah 30:12, ESV

A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched. Proverbs 28: 25, ESV

Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. Jeremiah 17:5, ESV


You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right. Psalm 52:3, ESV

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil….Proverbs 6:16-18, ESV

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. Proverbs 12:22, ESV

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death. Proverbs 21:6, ESV

A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin. Proverbs 26:28, ESV

As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right. Isaiah 32:7, ESV

…there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Hosea 4:2, ESV

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44, ESV

Bearing False Witness

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16, ESV

“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. Exodus 23:1, ESV

“‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor…. Deuteronomy 5:20, ESV

… a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:19. ESV

Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit. Proverbs 12:17, ESV

A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies. Proverbs 14:5, ESV

A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow. Proverbs 25:18, ESV

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:5, ESV

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. Matthew 15:19, ESV

He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness…. Matthew 19:18, ESV

You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” Mark 10:19

You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” Luke 18:20, ESV

Thursday, January 26, 2017

7 Ways To Live Out The Gospel In A Post-Truth, Post-Fact Culture

Regardless of where your politics lean, many would sense that American culture is quickly becoming both post-truth and post-fact.

It’s happening right before our eyes.

Don’t like the outcome of what’s happening? Claim it never happened. Bothered by what the data says? Offer your own data, even if you have to make it up.

The rise (and influences of) fake news and the rapid polarization of opinion across every platform is staggering.

If you’re alarmed by the shift, you’re not alone.

For a whole host of reasons (I list several below), the stakes are high. Probably higher than most of us think, both personally and for the church.

The depth of the change is hard to see, but I think it’s deep and dangerous.

Whenever you’re in the middle of a passage from one phase of history to the next, you never see it clearly. It’s too easy to drink whatever color of Kool-Aid you prefer, only to later learn that you’re dying. (The people who followed Jim Jones might agree with that.)

Fortunately, the church has a unique role to play in it. Play it well, and everyone (including the culture) wins. Play it poorly, and it could end poorly for everyone—us, our kids, the church, our countries, the world.

So how did we get here? What’s changing? And most importantly, how should you respond?

I don’t claim to see it perfectly at all. I offer these words in the hope they help.

So, some thoughts that I hope might help those of us who are Christians regardless of our political leanings. Read More

Front-Load the Value: Creating a Better Experience for First-Time Church Guests

Is your church service putting your worst foot forward instead of your best? Here's a simple way to reverse that.

What does your church do well? And how long does it take a first-time guest to experience it?

Your response to those questions is a huge factor in how well your church attracts and keeps new people.

According to church leadership experts, most people will subconsciously decide whether to come back to a church within the first 7-10 minutes of driving into the parking lot.

If your church is doing everything great, keep it up. But that’s not the case for most of us. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit we do some things well, but there are other aspects of the Sunday morning service we struggle with. And some parts we’re just awful at.

What’s worse, many churches take the things we don’t do well and put them at the beginning of the service. That means our church guests have made a yes/no decision about being a part of our congregation when all they’ve seen are the things we’re not that good at.

No, a 7-10 minute window isn’t enough time for people to make a fair assessment. But it is reality. Read More

The Importance of Theology

“Systematic theology” is a label with admittedly clinical connotations. It conjures a picture of the theologian as someone who takes in hand the living Word of God only to dissect and dismember the body of biblical truth into various pieces so that he might label (often in Latin!) and arrange those pieces in categories of his own meticulous devising. Though such a connotation of systematic theology is not uncommon in popular Christian culture, it does not represent what most Christian theologians have intended by the label. Far from attempting to divide the seamless garment of biblical truth, systematic theology considers what “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) teaches on any given topic and reflects upon the divinely revealed relations between the Bible’s various topics.

In systematic theology, we not only ask, “What does the Bible teach about salvation?” or “What does the Bible teach about good works?” We also ask, “How does the Bible relate salvation and good works?” The Bible’s answer to the latter question, of course, is that salvation does not follow from good works (Eph. 2:8–9). Rather, salvation precedes good works (v. 10). That salvation precedes rather than follows good works is just as vital for understanding the nature of salvation and good works as it is for understanding salvation and good works as isolated topics. Indeed, one cannot have a biblical understanding of either topic without understanding the relationship between them.

Systematic theology thus contemplates the body of biblical teaching as a living organism, offering loving attention to its various members and tracing their organic relations to each another. Ultimately, systematic theology helps us better understand God and all things in relation to God, a relation that is encapsulated in the living bond between Jesus Christ, “the head,” and the church, “which is his body” (Eph. 1:22–23). In what follows we will consider how systematic theology may serve the church and inform the Christian life: (1) by shaping a mind characterized by wonder and (2) by directing a life characterized by worship and witness. Read More

7 Reasons God Leads Leaders into Tough Situations

I know this post may not be popular, but I think it’s an important one. Many church leaders face difficult ministry scenarios, but they know God led them there. Here are some reasons He does that.... Read More

D.B. Knox: The Authority of the Bible

From a lecture to the Evangelical Union, Sydney University, as appeared in The Australian Church Record, November 18, 1948.

The Bible is very much a modern book. Its annual sales and circulation easily outrivals its nearest competitor —not only the books in English literature, but, I suppose, the books of any foreign nation. It is a book that is in many ways remarkable. If only for its English style it deserves study. Sir Arthur Quillier Couch, late professor of English literature at Cambridge and editor of the Oxford book of English verse once described the prose style of the English Bible as a “miracle” and asked his students this question: Does it not strike you as queer that the people who set you courses of study in English literature never include the Authorised Version which not only intrinsically but historically is out and away the greatest book of English prose? Perhaps they pay you the silent compliment of supposing that you are perfectly acquainted with it . . .I wonder?

The Bible is remarkable for the length of time it was coming into being. Sixteen hundred years elapsed between the writing of the first book of our Bible and the completion of the last. Sixteen hundred years is a long time. Cast your minds back through the events and epochs which made up English history and sixteen hundred years will bring you the Roman occupation of Britain. Such was the time during which the sixty-six books which go to make up the Bible, were written.

38 authors contributed. They include men of very varied outlook, some were kings, some generals, some priests and clerics, some shepherds and some fishermen. Some of them were men of the highest educational attainments, others were men of the soil, taken from following the plow.

We can imagine how variegated would be the outlook of men from such different levels of society, and from historical epochs of which the mental climate changed with the flux of sixteen hundred years, yet it is a remarkable fact that the Bible has a uniform voice throughout its pages. All its authors hear constant witness to a God of love and righteousness. Read More

Evangelical Experts Oppose Trump’s Plan to Ban Refugees

Joseph took the infant Jesus and his mother and fled into Egypt
World Relief and other major ministries argue that compassion and security are not opposing forces.

espite previous plans to admit the highest number of refugees in decades, the United States would be shutting its doors to thousands displaced by conflict in the Middle East—at least temporarily—under an executive order President Donald Trump is expected to sign this week.

Christian aid groups responsible for resettlement mourned and criticized the impending decision to stop accepting any refugees into the United States for the next four months. A circulating draft of the order puts an indefinite ban on refugees coming from Syria and a month-long pause on anyone entering America from a handful of Muslim-majority nations.

“Our concern is that this action really does further traumatize a group of people that have already borne so much tragedy,” said Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, one of nine agencies that partner with the federal government to resettle refugees. “The human toll is really crushing.” Read More

Related Articles:
Dear Fellow Christians: It's Time to Speak Up for Refugees
Evangelical Christians Hit Out At Trump's Refugee Ban
Trump vs The Catholic Church? Bishops Lead Attack On New President's Flagship Policies
Franklin Graham Defends Trump's Ban On Refugees: 'It's Not A Bible Issue'

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

10 Reasons Churches Don’t Reach Millennials

Many people are pessimistic about millennials, but I believe this generation is poised to transform the culture (and the world) for good. For many churches and leaders, however, millennials are (to borrow a quote from Winston Churchill) “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

I would agree with Churchill’s statement on some levels, but the riddle can be solved. Once you find out what makes millennials tick, they are not that puzzling. They simply have a unique set of passions, interests and viewpoints on the culture and the world.

But the church has largely failed to take stock in this generation because millennials are different. This is a problem. A lack of knowledge breeds fear, and this is true of the church in relation to millennials. Many churches do not take the time to know the next generation, so they are stuck with stigmas (many untrue) that have been attached to them.

There are churches, however, that are thriving with millennials, and if you did some investigation I believe you would find similar results, regardless of the church locale.

So, what differentiates a church culture that attracts millennials from one that repels them? There are many factors, but I want to highlight 10 really important ones. If your church wonders why reaching the next generation is difficult, the following points might shed some light on your struggle. Read More

Six Current Trends in Land Purchases by Churches

I have noted on numerous occasions the incredible pace of change impacting churches. Another change is increasingly become more evident: how and when churches make land purchases. Here are six major shifts.... Read More

The Techniques of a Sexual Predator

I hate to bring bad news on an otherwise good day, 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. Read More

Related Article:
6 Reasons Why Sexual Predators Target Churches

Preaching Paradox and the Paradox of Preaching

Dangling questions can be more powerful than trite answers.

I have always struggled to understand God and faith and how they relate to everyday life. As a child, I remember sitting confused on a shrunken brown wooden chair, staring intently at the polished parquet floor my feet couldn't quite reach. My young, smiling Sunday school teacher never let on that she was fed up with my regular interruptions to her well-intentioned storytelling. “Who made God, miss? Is God bigger than the universe, miss? Why did God tell Abraham to kill his son? Will he tell me to hit my sister? If I do hit my sister, then isn’t God responsible, because he is in charge of the universe? Why?”

My Sunday school teacher always had an answer that, I see in hindsight, wasn't really an answer. "If we could understand God, then we would be God." Or, "God works in mysterious ways." Or, as a last resort, "Don’t be awkward—get on with your coloring.”

Years later, as a pastor, I sat in a hospital ward and once again stared at the floor, this time sanitised and off-white. I could not bring myself to look directly at the mother kneeling by the bedside, thick black lines of makeup smearing down her face. The one-year-old beside her had been babbling and bubbly just a few days earlier—gorgeously boyish. Now he was blind, crying incessantly, his body rigid. It was supposed to be a routine operation; now his screams expressed how we were all feeling. His piercing cries made audible the pain of the tragedy, the panic for the future, and the ever-present question, “Why?” Read More

8 Traits I See in Good Worship Leaders

As I visit churches in my various roles, I’m privileged to worship with many different congregations. The styles aren’t always the same, but I can tell you some of the common traits I find in worship leaders who catch my attention. I know these thoughts are just my opinion, but here are some of those things.... Read More

The Early Symptoms of Spiritual Danger

I can still recall the conversation although it took place more than three decades ago. A shocked friend asked, “Have you heard that Sarah is no longer a Christian?” What was so alarming to my friend was that Sarah had been one of the most influential, and apparently fruitful, members of her Inter-Varsity group. What would those who had been influenced by her witness to Christ say, or do? Would they be shaken to the core and now doubt their own Christian faith? After all, the person who had pointed them to Christ no longer trusted Him.

On occasion, we wonder if an individual really has been converted. And sometimes we have an inexplicable, ill-defined sense that something is missing. But we cannot read the heart. Even so, we hear of friends—whose faith we never doubted—turning away from Christ. Read More

The Christian & Culture: Three Ways to Engage with Your Neighbor

The Great Commandment and the Golden Rule make us better listeners.

One of the things I enjoy doing is following politics and public discourse. I think it’s important for all of us to stay in the loop on what is happening in the world and in American life. More than that, however, I think it’s important to engage in these things. But it’s an understatement to say that much of what happens in public discourse is less than pretty. Unfortunately, this often includes Christians.

The last several U.S. Presidential elections have revealed the division in our culture. The amount of true discussion and debate over the issues of greatest importance has taken a back seat to well-crafted one-liners delivered at just the right time for maximum rhetorical impact. A lot of time is spent talking past each other instead of listening to each other.

But this goes beyond politics. I have seen an increasing entrenchment in our views and a vilification of people with other views. When this is the case, we are not going to work together. How do we dialogue for the common good and with the goal of solutions? I don’t hear a lot of people talking about that.

Sure, Evangelicals have many problems with where culture is going, and rightly so. But we aren’t getting far with the culture in our discourse with them. Why? I think the answer is engagement. In my book, Subversive Kingdom, I argue that we shouldn’t be about control. Rather, we should be seeking to live as agents of the kingdom who are showing and sharing the love of Christ to a world that’s hurting. But how do we get to that place of engagement?

Let me list three simple and biblical ways to wisely engage with our neighbors and our culture, regardless of how difficult an issue may be. Read More

Could The Environment Be The Issue On Which Christians Break Ranks With Donald Trump?

If some people laughed when Donald Trump famously claimed that climate change is a Chinese hoax to keep American companies uncompetitive, they are not laughing now.

Just days into his presidency, Trump has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to delete all material related to climate change from its website.

"If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear," one official told Reuters soon after the order to shut down the website was sent yesterday. Read More

Will exploiting the fossil fuel reserves of Canada and the United States really make the United States energy-independent? What about future generations of North Americans? The coal, natural gas, and oil once it is extracted from the ground and used cannot be replaced. Canada and the United States do not have inexhaustible fossil fuel reserves.

Tapping these reserves is not the way to true energy independence. Developing renewable sources of energy and reducing our reliance upon coal, natural gas, and oil is. So is developing energy-efficient forms of transportation that are not fossil-fuel reliant.

Jesus taught his disciples to do to others as they would have done to them and to love their neighbor as themselves. Christians who take his teaching seriously will not support short-sighted energy policies that deplete North America’s fossil fuel reserves and which contribute to environmental pollution and greenhouse gas production. While they may not live next door, future North Americans are our neighbors. Being pro-life means not only protecting today’s unborn but the future’s unborn, protecting them from the effects of environmental pollution and climate change.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why Small Churches Are Going Multisite - Rainer on Leadership #296 [Podcast]

Multisite used to be something only large churches tried. Now, smaller churches are getting in on the strategy. Today we discuss why this is a good thing for smaller churches to consider. Listen Now

9 Ways to Pray about Church Opposition

At some point in our Christian walk, all of us face opposition from within the church. When that happens for you, here are some ways to pray.... Read More

Inside the Church Building of 2017

What's hot, what's next, and what needs to die.

In church architecture, there are important movements that church leaders should consider before embarking on a church building project, a renovation, or a remodel. We asked Marian Liautaud, director of marketing for Aspen Group, to identify the top trends. Read More

A Helpful Framework for Teaching in Ministry

When you think about presenting or teaching or delivering a message, is there a helpful framework that guides how you structure the message? Preparing content is critical, but so is preparing how you will deliver the content.

When I was serving as a student pastor and driving to seminary on my day off (long before the luxury of online education), I took a class on teaching the Bible. The text for the class was the book Creative Bible Teaching by Lawrence Richards and Gary Bredfeldt. While I am sure the whole class and the whole textbook were both informational and inspirational, what I most remember and what most impacted me in a tangible way was one sticky framework for teaching. I often think back to it when preparing for a message. Here is the one thing that helped me most in my teaching classes: Hook, Book, Look, Took. When thinking about delivering a message, I think about all four elements. Here they are.... Read More

How the Presence of God Fuels Our Mission

Churches that emphasize God’s mission in the world and urge Christians to participate in it often find many Matts or Sylvias among them. We struggle to connect what happens “in here” as a committed people of God gathered on Sunday to what happens “out there,” where Christians minister daily among the struggles and injustices of the world.

This all changes when we understand that God is always present and at work in the world, and the church—as a people—is called to be faithful to his presence through Jesus Christ. We not only gather in his presence on Sundays, we live in his presence, discern his presence and witness to his presence in the world the other six days of the week. What we do on Sunday, tending to the presence of Christ as we gather together, enables us to discern that same presence at work in the rest of our lives and in our neighborhoods. Discipleship and mission are inextricably linked. And the church is neither Matt’s emphasis nor Sylvia’s emphasis alone—but both are intricately intertwined. Read More

The Inviting Nature of Christianity

‘Albert McMakin’ is not a name familiar to many today, yet this man has significantly influenced your life. He worked on a farm in Charlotte, North Carolina, back in the 1930s—but it is not by virtue of his agricultural prowess that his influence has extended your way. The reason Albert still rates a mention in books and can be easily found via a Google search is because of what he did in 1934.

That year an evangelist was conducting a series of meetings in Charlotte, and Albert persuaded a young 16-year-old man to attend one of the gatherings. As incentive, he said that the younger man could drive his vegetable truck into town for the meeting. The teenager went and, before long, was converted. The teenager’s name was Billy Graham—the man who went on to preach the gospel to more people in-person than anyone else in human history. Albert’s simple invitation was used by God to play a key role in the conversion of this future evangelism.

Invitations are powerful things. The Australian National Church Life Survey (NCLS) once reported that two thirds of Australian Protestant newcomers first joined their church through someone inviting them. Given the simplicity of offering an invitation and the potential impact of doing so, I think more should be made of this humble activity. Read More

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Right Way to Do Church?

Let's stop looking for a one-size-fits-all way to do church. And stop insisting on it for others.

have no idea what the right way to do church is.

And I'm growing increasingly skeptical of anyone who says they know.

Sure, I write about it. But most of the time it's little more than "here's something that helps me and my church. Maybe it can help you and yours." Read More

3 Ways Some Churches Grow Without Getting Bigger

Butts-in-the-seats growth is great. But it’s not going to happen for every church. That's never a reason to give up, coast along, or offer excuses.

Do all healthy things grow?


If a church is healthy, will it grow?

Also, yes.

Will that growth always result in larger congregational attendance?

Not so fast. Read More

Seven Steps to Take If the Cartel and Bullies Run You Out of the Church

A bully-led personnel committee ran Frank out of the church. They never told the pastor why they wanted him to resign. Jan was a very active layperson in the student ministry. A cartel of jealous church members pushed her out of the church.

I wish such examples were anomalies, but they aren’t. To the contrary, such incidents seem to be gaining traction. And, of course, they are both the cause and the result of the number of unhealthy churches in American.

I have written and spoken at length about this issue, but I have not yet addressed the aftermath of such bullying from the perspective of the victim. What is he or she to do after the horrific incident? Here are seven suggestions.... Read More

Aristotle, Ministry, and a Microphone

Because speaking is both powerful and fearful, a plethora of “speaking resources” have flooded the market to help some maximize their speaking and to help others overcome their fear of it. If you type in “public speaking” at Amazon.com, nearly 25,000 books are offered. While many of these books may be helpful, the first classic work on speaking and persuasion, Aristotle’s Rhetoric, certainly is. Aristotle was a student of Plato, a mentor to Alexander the Great, and one who taught on the art of persuasion and communication. Aristotle taught that effective communicators possess ethos (credibility), pathos (passion), and logos (logic). All three are essential, and as they increase, so does the power of the presentation. Though not designed for those of us who communicate the life-giving message of Christ, the applications to us are clear. Read More

Steps toward Evangelism

Most Christians struggle with telling the gospel to anyone. In fact, many believers will never evangelize another person. If you struggle with this task, here are some simple starting points.... Read More

3 Ways to Build Trust With Someone Who Has Lost Faith in the Church

In a culture that is becoming increasingly averse to the gospel, I anticipate the ways we evangelize will continue to change. As the number of religious nones (i.e., those who have no religious ties) continues to increase, we must think through ways to better engage them.

But there remains an often-overlooked group of unreached people who desperately need the gospel. This group consists of men and women who have experienced deep levels of church hurt.

In recent years, some have pointed out low rates of transfer growth as measurements for effective evangelism. Is that the right approach, though? Is it possible that the absence of at least some transfer growth in evangelical churches points to a deeper issue? Have we ignored a group of men and women whose painful experiences have created barriers to hearing the gospel?

While attending Fuller Seminary, some of the courses I appreciated the most involved pastoral care. Those pastoral care classes, combined with my own experience in pastoral ministry, have taught me one truth: Pastors and leaders have to exegete—a fancy theological word meaning to “expound” or “interpret”—their people just as much as they have to exegete Scripture. And that means dealing with varying levels of church hurt.

Whether a person has had concerns over a church’s poor financial stewardship or experienced spiritually abusive leadership, there is a cross section of the dechurched community that suffers not from a lack of faith, but a lack of trust.

How do you rebuild that trust? How do you overcome church hurt as a barrier to evangelism? I think it can be done in three ways. Read More