Monday, July 31, 2017

Seven Common Reasons Churches Have a Dramatic Decline in Attendance

A business executive asked that question when she returned to her church after some extended international travels. In the four weeks she was out, the attendance at the church had declined from nearly 600 to under 400. The attendance had plummeted in that short time by 35 percent!

To be clear, such rapid declines are aberrations. Most declining churches go through incremental, not dramatic, reductions.

We consider a church to be in dramatic decline when the average worship attendance drops by 20 percent or more in three months or less. What causes such unusual declines? Here are seven common reasons... Read More

The Worst Ways To Evaluate Your Church (And The Best One)

When you attend a church, how do you evaluate what you’re experiencing?

Before you say “I don’t evaluate anything. I’m just there to worship God,” hang on a second.

We all evaluate what’s happening in church. Every one of us does. Whether you’re a first time guest or a lifelong attender, you evaluate your experience. You do the same thing every time you go to a coffee shop, store or restaurant. Frankly, you’re doing it now, trying to decide whether clicking on this article was worth it and whether you’re going to bother to skim through it, read to the end or abandon things.

To evaluate is human. How you evaluate something is the difference between being harmful and helpful.

Evaluate things one way, and you become a critic. Soon, you may become a professional critic. Nothing is ever good enough.

Evaluate things another way, and you become a contributor—you build a better future. Read More

Five Reasons That Program or Ministry Won't Work in Your Church

You come up with a great ministry or event idea. You know it’s working at a church you respect and you’re sure it will work in your church. You pray about it and talk to several others, and everyone senses a green light.

So you launch it, but then it never gets traction.

It never catches on.

You’re left to choose between two bad options – letting it coast even though it’s not effective or changing course and losing some of your leadership capital. Maybe you’ve tried to start something and it didn’t work. Or maybe you want to avoid the mistakes so many others have made. In areas like...
  • Launching small groups 
  • Starting a men’s or women’s ministry 
  • Organizing an outreach event 
  • Raising money during a capital campaign
Whether it’s a new program, ministry, idea, initiative, or campaign, here are several reasons it (whatever it is) might not work in your church. Read More

Backyard BBQ Evangelism: A New, True Parable Of Outside-The-Church-Walls Ministry

Don't force people to do ministry your way. Help them with the ministry they're already passionate about.

We have to start letting go of some of our long-held ideas about church and ministry. Especially when it comes to evangelism and outreach.

But it’s not always easy.

Here’s a true story that illustrates that reality. (I’ve kept some details vague, and adjusted others slightly to protect the identity of the pastor and church in question.) Read More

Monday's Catch: "The Holy Spirit Is Not an 'It'" and Much More

The Holy Spirit Is Not an "It"

There are times when precision is needed and there are other times when it is not. When we are talking about God then we must always be in the first category. This is because God is the being who is worthy of the highest regard. He is infinitely more valuable than anything we give careful attention to. What's more, he has revealed himself with precision in the Scriptures. There are certain aspects of God that we don’t fully understand but the limits of our knowledge aren’t excuses for carelessness with what he’s clearly revealed. Read More

5 Ways to Lead in Ministry When Your Leader Is Not Leading

To be clear up front, this post is not prompted by my context or personal experience as I am honored to serve under great leaders. However, I am commonly asked questions around the theme of “Help, my leader is not really leading.” Read More

'Pastor, Please Preach on This...'

These seven preaching ideas have kept me focused and away from my need to please or perform for approval. Read More

What to Do If You're Bored by the Bible [Video; Transcript]

The same God you see speaking and acting in the pages of Scripture is the God who wants to work in your life today. Watch Now

Ministry to Women When There’s No “Women’s Ministry”

Is a formal women’s ministry necessary to effectively minister to women? Read More

What Does It Mean to Succeed?

According to Jesus, it is possible to gain the whole world—to succeed against almost every human yardstick—and still fail at life because you lose your soul in the process (Matt. 16:26). At the same time, Jesus declares that it is possible to lose all your possessions, relationships, and status, and yet succeed in what really matters—in your relationship with God (Mark 10:28–30). Read More

How Dinner with a Jihadi Changed My View of Missions

Growing up in post 9/11 America, I believed no greater enemy existed than a terrorist waging war on the Western world. So you might imagine how, um, surprised and paralyzed I felt when I found myself in South Asia eating dinner with a jihadi. Well, he used to be. During our group’s light dinner conversation, Joseph*, a Christian from a Muslim family and strong partner in local ministry, casually let out a sentence that started with, “When I was training for jihad . . . .” I froze mid-chew, convinced I misunderstood him due to my weak comprehension of the Hindi language he spoke. Sensing my bewilderment, he chuckled and started in on his story. Read More

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Big Churches And Small Churches: Contrast Without Criticism

Church leaders need to understand the differences between churches of various sizes. So we can work together, not tear ourselves apart.

Big churches and small churches are very different.

Not in their mission, their doctrine or their value to the kingdom of God, but in many of the ways they fulfill that mission.

They're pastored differently, they utilize people's gifts differently, they reach their communities differently. And so much more.

So, if we're going to encourage, support and resource churches of all sizes, we need to talk about those differences. Otherwise, pastors of one size church will try to do ministry in ways that are suited to churches of another size. Read More

Rural Multisite: Overcoming All The Odds To Create Vibrant Churches In Small Towns And Villages With Chad Merrell, Paul Smith And Philip Thurman [Podcast]

Ten years ago, most people would have said multisite only works in large suburban centers. Chad Merrell, Paul Smith and Philip Thurman have proved the experts wrong and built thriving mutisite churches in villages as small as 2000 people.

In this honest interview, they share how they overcame the odds and isolate the principles to help other leaders do it too. Listen Now
Check out the three insights about rural ministry from this podcast.

David Fitch Turned His Daily McDonald's Run into His Ministry [Podcast; Transcript]

Planting a church takes time—but it all starts with just being present.

David Fitch is a man of many titles: pastor, writer, seminary professor, theologian, podcast host—the list is almost too long to count. In his eyes, though, his most important work hasn’t taken place in a church, office, or lecture hall, but over countless cups of McDonald’s coffee or on a stool at a bar in his Chicagoland neighborhood of Westmont.

Fitch’s estimation of his work may strike some as strange, especially for a pastor. But as he makes clear in his 2016 book Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission, he’s all about championing the importance of just “being there.” According to him, few spiritual practices are as vital to successful ministry as that of setting aside time to be reliably present in the community one aims to serve—and sometimes, that means eating fast food or setting up shop in the local pub.

On today’s episode of The Calling, CT managing editor Richard Clark catches up with Fitch to find out more about his approach to church-planting, his commitment to his community, and why he thinks it’s sometimes okay to set sermon prep aside to listen to a neighbor’s latest conspiracy theory.... Listen Now

8 Essential Characteristics Your Church Needs

If you want your church to have the impact of the early church, the New Testament shows us eight essential characteristics we need in our congregations. Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: "8 Questions for Churches at a Crossroads" and Much More

8 Questions for Churches at a Crossroads

As I look at the landscape of stable or slightly declining existing churches that are fighting hard to stay afloat in the current of a rapidly changing culture, I see some common factors that must be addressed by church leaders. Here are some tough questions I believe every church ought to honestly ask.... Read More

Do Visitors to Your Church Really Feel Welcome?

I don’t know of any church leader who wants visitors to their services to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. And yet it still surprises me that many churches still don’t think through some of the ways, both obvious and subtle, that work against making visitors feel “at home” with the congregation. If you’re a church leader who cares about the experience of hospitality for those who visit your church services, I hope you will work through the following questions with eyes open to the impression your church may be leaving visitors. Read More

How Much Should You Pay Your Pastors?

This article offers some brief perspectives on pastoral compensation decisions based on my three-year service as deacon of budget at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. First, I will comment on how healthy churches tend to generate healthy pastoral compensation decisions. Second, I will mention two biblical principles that are important for determining how much churches should pay their pastors. My prayer is that these perspectives will be of help to local churches as they undertake their annual compensation review process. Read More

Building a Theological Library, Part 3: Tips on Building a Digital Library

We live in exciting times. At no point in human history has it been easier to collect and maintain a ministerial library if one chooses the route of a digital books. Read More
I have built my own digital library from older works from Internet Archive, New Scriptorium, Google Books, Project Gutenberg, Justus Anglican, and other websites
Why Sermon Preparation is Not Devotional Time

Sermon preparation is not—and should not—be used as devotion time. Sermon writing is devotional to an extent. Both involve prayer. Both elevate Scripture. Both require the work of the Holy Spirit. But they are different. Read More

Asking the Right Questions

When it comes to helping others apply the Bible, we should begin by asking the questions for the four aspects of application. But there are two additional categories to think through when seeking to apply the Bible to the lives of others. Read More

A Brief History of the Altar Call

By the mid-20th century, altar calls had become a staple of evangelical and Baptist life in America, especially in the South. Many evangelical and Reformed-leaning churches in recent years have stopped doing altar calls, for a variety of reasons. Critics of altar calls have pointed out that they have no strong biblical basis, and that they were part of the “New Measures” introduced by Charles Finney in the later stages of the Second Great Awakening. Read More

Who Were the Galatians?

If someone was to ask you who Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians to, how would you respond? If you’re like most people, you’d probably answer that it was written to the church at Galatia, and—technically—you’d be right. But did you know that there’s actually quite a bit of discussion around whether Paul’s letter was written to those in northern or southern Galatia? Does knowing who Paul was writing to affect how we read it? Not necessarily, but it does change the way we look at the book of Galatians in regards to Acts. Read More

4 Things I Learned Serving in Kids Ministry

A few Sundays back, I found myself in a unique situation. Pastor Shane was slated to preach, a group of other folks from the church were leading the music, and my only in-service responsibility was to do the welcome prior to the sermon. I’m not entirely sure where the idea came from—maybe it was the Father’s Day mojo?—but I decided to volunteer in our children’s ministry for both services. Here are four things that I’ve been thinking about since Sunday. Read More

6 Ways to Teach Your Kids the Bible

Here are six tips my wife and I have found helpful in our rhythm of Bible reading with our young kids (currently 6, 5, and 3). Read More

Legalism and Consistent Spiritual Habits: Not the Same

I believe many followers of Jesus mistakenly lump a commitment to consistent spiritual disciplines into the pejorative pool of legalism. Unfortunately, dismissing these proven habits as “legalistic” causes these believers to unwittingly miss out on significant spiritual growth. I believe a right-sized understanding of legalism, accompanied by a proper motivation to embrace the habits for spiritual growth, can produce a harvest of spiritual revitalization.Read More

Societas 2017 ‘always being reformed’

The College’s annual student magazine publication, Societas (2017), is now available. Societas provides a snapshot of life at Moore College through the eyes of the student body and highlights the activities and achievements of the year. This year has been one of celebration, as the College has been marking the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. This year’s issue grapples with the weighty Reformation theme and its relevance today with feature articles on different aspects of the topic. Learn More

Young, Female, and Pro-Trump

How white evangelical millennials are defying political prediction. Read More

'How Can Christians Support Donald Trump?' Is the Wrong Question

Is "easy believism" a factor behind white evangelical support of Donald Trump? Zack Hunt believes that it is. Read More
Whatever you may think of Hunt's contention, "easy believism" has been a problem besetting North American evangelicalism since the early days of revivalism. See Thomas Kidd's article, "A Brief History of the Altar Call."

Friday, July 28, 2017

What an Acts 1:8 Mission Strategy Can Do for Your Church

When it comes to missions, unfortunately, many churches practice without strategy. Even scarier than not having a strategy is not having the right strategy. There are many possible strategies, some healthy and some not. Warren Wiersbe says, “Ministry is not done by imitation but by incarnation” (Philippians 1:6). The best strategy would obviously be a biblical strategy, and I love using Acts 1:8 as ours for Cross Church. It says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

As a pastor, when you are setting a missions strategy, you should ask yourself, “What is God doing in and through me as pastor, and our church, to fulfill Acts 1:8?”

Here are four things an Acts 1:8 missions strategy can do for your church. Read More

8 Characteristics of Believers Who Don't Give Up in the Battle

Living for Christ is hard – sometimes so hard that we’re tempted to wonder if it’s worth the sacrifice. It is, of course, but difficulties sometimes cloud that truth. Based on my years of studying spiritual warfare, here are characteristics of believers who don’t give up in the battle.... Read More

What Is the Unforgivable Sin? [Video; Transcript]

Many Christians struggle with, what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? What is the unforgivable sin? Have I committed it? Many Christians feel tortured about this, even, and it can torment them.

I think a helpful way to think about it is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the unforgivable sin, I think it’s the same sin as mortal sin in 1 John 5, the sin unto death. I think it’s the same sin as what we find in the warning passages in Hebrews, crucifying Christ again, trampling him under foot is the expression used. Outraging the Spirit, right? Insulting the Spirit of grace.

There’s a variety of ways that Scripture talks about what this sin is. In the historical context of the gospels, when Jesus talks about the blasphemy against the Spirit, who’s committed that sin? It’s the Pharisees. How have they committed that sin? They have attributed to the devil what Jesus Christ has done. Watch Now

The Pastor as a Church Member

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me...Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent help for my needs once and again.” - Philippians 4:10,14-16

One of the greatest gifts a congregation can give to a pastor is allowing him and his family to be members of the church. That's right. The pastor and his family are church members. Too many pastors have been crushed by the weight of a congregation unable see the sheep inside the under-shepherd. And too many congregations have been robbed by pastors who refuse to seem themselves as sheep. Read More

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12 Pastoral Commitments (or, How to Pray for Your Pastor)

How to Increase the Spiritual Return on a Sermon

Every Sunday something happens over 400,000 times in North America: A pastor preaches a sermon. Have you ever wondered, though, how much impact sermons really make? Consider these shocking statistics. Read More

The Key to the Christian’s Joy

The word joy appears over and over again in the Scriptures. For instance, the Psalms are filled with references to joy. The psalmists write, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5b) and “Shout for joy to God, all the earth” (Ps. 66:1). Likewise, in the New Testament, we read that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), which means that it is a Christian virtue. Given this biblical emphasis, we need to understand what joy is and pursue it.

Sometimes we struggle to grasp the biblical view of joy because of the way it is defined and described in Western culture today. In particular, we often confuse joy with happiness.... Read More

Facebook, You Are Not My Church

This is not an anti-Facebook post.

It’s not an anti-social media post or an anti-Internet post either.

This is a pro-church post.

It’s an I-can’t-live-without-my-local church kind of post.

And a neither-should-you kind of post.

Before we can stand up and cheer for the global Church or the local church I hope you’ll run to next Sunday, let’s consider Facebook for a few. Read More

Dealing with Rejection: How to Move Past the “No, Thanks” to Continue Sharing the Gospel

God tends to our hurting hearts.

I was recently on a long car ride with my husband and two kids from Illinois to the northern woods of Minnesota. Anyone who has traveled that kind of distance with younger children before knows it can be rather challenging to find fun ways to break up the ride, without extending the road time.

I had recently learned an idea from another mom that I was eager to try. I had wrapped some coloring books, crayons, sticker books, toys, and foam airplane kits, and handed them out to my two boys along the way. They quickly became newfound treasures.

As my 4-year-old graciously shared one of these treasures with his 2-year-old brother, I unfortunately (or not) had the opportunity to teach them about Ephesians 4:26 (“Be angry and do not sin”) and Ephesians 4:32 (“Forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”) as his younger brother tore his treasured foam airplane in half right before his eyes.

Of course, my 2-year-old did not do this maliciously—it was an accident—but nevertheless, the tears welled up and overflowed as my eldest son took in the sight of his treasure being destroyed. My mommy heart broke for him. He had entrusted something he treasured with someone he loved, and instead of this treasured gift (and trust) returning to him in the same condition he had shared it in, it was destroyed.

I can’t help but think that God feels the same way when believers share our “treasured” truth of Jesus’ love with others, and sometimes it doesn’t return to us in the same way. Read More

Russell Moore: Was America Founded as a ‘Christian Nation’?

In an interview with The Gospel Coalition, Russell Moore—president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention—answered the question, “Was American founded as a Christian nation?”

If the definition of “Christian nation” is a country in which a majority of people profess to be Christians, Moore says, then the U.S. is indeed a Christian nation.

“That’s not what most people mean, though, when they say ‘Christian nation,'” Moore says. “What they mean is the idea that God was in covenant with the United States of America in order to bless the United States of America as a special people, as a new Israel, as a group of people covenanted under Christianity. And the answer to that is clearly, ‘No.'”

Moore affirms that while the Founding Fathers were influenced by Christian ideas that emerged during the Enlightenment and Protestant Reformation, they did not found the U.S. as a Christian nation and created a clear separation of church and state. Listen Now
The belief that the United States is God's chosen nation with a special mission to the world has its origin in the second half of the nineteenth century, in the doctrine of manifest destiny - a geopolitical doctrine that I studied both in high school and university over 40 years ago. This doctrine was used to justify the territorial ambitions of US expansionists in the nineteenth century and has influenced our thinking ever since. It was a geopolitical theory whose adherents adopted a particular interpretation of the Bible to provide a rationale for their expansionism. They were not the first nor will they be the last to use passages from the Bible to rationalize and justify a political agenda.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Value of Church Planter Assessment and Boot Camps

We identified seven challenges faced by most church planters.

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

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

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

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

How to Pray for Your Pastor

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

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

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

6 Keys to Fact Checking Your Own Sermons

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

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

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

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

Related Article:
The Social Solitude of Preaching

Five Reasons to Consider Online Registration for Guests

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

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Church in Europe

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

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

5 Ways to Destroy Ministry Silos

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

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

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

It All Begins with You

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

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

Do the Work of an Evangelist

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

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

The Top Ten Surprises New Pastors Have

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

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

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

5 Big Challenges Facing Children's Ministry

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

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

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Why We Sing With The Lights On

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

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

Most White Evangelicals Don’t Believe Muslims Belong in America

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Anglican Church in North America - A Botched Omelet?

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

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

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

Kick-Starting the Plateaued and Declining Church: Part 4

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

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

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

7 Reasons to Think as a Missionary to Evangelize North America

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

7 Internal Barriers to Growth in a Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Good Questions to Evaluate Your Church

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

But evaluation is how you get better.

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

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

The 4-point plan to get better:

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

 It starts with asking the right questions. Read More

Small Church, Big Ministry

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

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

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

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

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From the Small

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

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

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

The Roller Coaster Effect of Ministry

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

Building A Great Usher Team

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

College Ministry: 3 Tips for Helping Students Find Financial Freedom

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

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

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

Three Ways to Engage Culture

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

3 Reasons Evangelists Still Exist

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

Pew: What Christians Worry About Most

How five religious groups rank seven bad scenarios. Read More

Progressivism’s Peak Lunacy

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

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

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

Sources of Church Growth: Your Church's Evaluation

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

God Still Uses Clay Pots

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

Seven Dangers in the Last Few Years of Your Ministry

I am writing this article on my 62nd birthday.

Yeah, I’m a real party animal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does anyone else see the irony here?

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

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

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

Why Start a Weekly Secondary Service?

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


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

Why Evangelism Requires Both Logic and Loveliness

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

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

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

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

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition, Quantified

Pew examines who loves God and guns.

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

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

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

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

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

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