Thursday, August 31, 2017

7 Ways to Freshen up a Stale Church

Familiarity blindness is a malady that infects us all. It happens when we become so familiar with something that we no longer consciously see it.

In fact, the brain does this all the time so it doesn’t have to work as hard. If you drive to church or work the same route each time, you no longer pay attention to familiar buildings, signs and other landmarks along the way. Although our eyes still see them, they’ve become so familiar that the brain doesn’t pay conscious attention to them.

However, when something is out of place on your drive, a detour, for example, you immediately pay attention. Familiarity blindness is common in many churches today. In this post I give seven ways to cure it. Read More

500 Years After Reformation, Many Protestants Closer to Catholics than Martin Luther

Pew finds less than half of Protestants in many countries believe both sola fide and sola scriptura.

In 1517, Martin Luther staked his soul on two revolutionary ideas: sola fide, that salvation is dependent on faith alone; and sola scriptura, that Scripture is the only ultimate authority for Christian belief and practice and that it does not need oversight from church leadership or tradition to be read and understood.

The 95 theses Luther nailed to the door at Wittenberg served as the catalyst for one of the world’s largest religious splits, as thousands broke off from the Roman Catholic Church. His legacy, 500 years later, is 560 million Protestants across the globe, making up more than a third of the world’s Christians.

But many of them don’t actually agree with him. Read More

Why You Should Not Wear a Crucifix

Crucifixes have long been a fixture in Roman Catholic worship. But in the past few years I have begun to see more and more Protestants wearing them as well, exchanging their empty cross for one that contains an image of the suffering Savior. J.I. Packer once addressed the issue of the crucifix, and addressed it well. Read More

Yes, Leading Others to Sin Brings Greater Punishment

Is God more displeased when you cause another person to sin than when you sin yourself? Or are all sins the same? This issue arises when we think of a verse like Matthew 18:6. Jesus said:
But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea. (CSB)
Is there a greater punishment for someone who encourages and leads others to sin? Read More

Is the Bible the Word of God?

When it comes to the truth of the Bible, modern people often think like George Gershwin: “The things that you’re liable to read in the Bible, it ain’t necessarily so.” After all, says the skeptic, this book is so chock full of fanciful stories and over-the-top miracles that no reasonable person could believe it. Why should we think the Bible is actually from God?

Of course, it needs to be acknowledged that convincing the skeptic of the divine origins of Scripture is no easy task. Since “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14), it is not as simple as just presenting the facts. The Bible is a spiritual book, so the Spirit must work for us to see it for what it is.

Our arguments may not always convince the skeptics, but that does not mean our arguments are invalid. God has provided ways that we can know these books are from Him. Read More

The Paradox of the Worship Selfie

When does my desire to show others how God is using me become more about me than God? Should my role as a musician in the church affect my use of social media? If so, how? Can I promote myself/church/ministry on social media without it being about me? How do I navigate the expectations of our culture for information and the value God places on humility? Read More

Related Article:
10 Signs You’re Having an Affair with Worship Ministry

6 Marks of a Missional Church

When Ed Stetzer and I were writing the second edition of Planting Missional Churches, we wrestled with whether or not to change the title. Since the word missional has been around for a while, we were questioning whether it was still relevant to ministry today. While no one quite knows who coined the term or when it happened, we see that Francis Dubose, in his 1983 book God Who Sends, used the word in the sense that we use it today.1

In 1998, after a three-year research project to recover the church’s missional call in North America, Darrell Guder and his team published the landmark book Missional Church. Since then, some have used the word missional to refer to a specific style of ministry, in contrast to attractional models or other pet-peeve models of ministry.

For Ed and me, we decided to keep missional in the title of our book to reclaim its original meaning as ministry centered on God’s mission, focused on the kingdom, and part of the culture that we’re seeking to reach, rather than a pet-peeve style of ministry. Thus, being missional is really more of a posture than a style of ministry. Read More

Complementarians Issue New Manifesto on Gender Identity

CBMW’s Nashville Statement addresses shifting notions of sex and sexuality.

America’s top complementarian leaders have shifted their focus from gender roles to gender identity.

On Tuesday, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) released a new declaration that reasserts the significance of biological sex and traditional marriage over society’s growing LGBT acceptance.

“We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the world and of our place in it—particularly as male and female,” according to the group’s Nashville Statement. Read More

Related Articles, Podcast, and Video:
CBMW Releases Coalition Statement on Biblical Sexuality
Nashville Statement
Why the Nashville Statement now, and what about article 10?
The Pros and Cons of the #NashvilleStatement
The Briefing: Evangelical coalition releases Nashville statement, a manifesto on biblical sexuality [Podcast]
Should You Call a Transgender Person "Him" or "Her"? [Video]

US Wants Answers on Evangelical Persecution—in Mexico

Día de Muertos
Indigenous converts still facing "widespread discrimination, violence, and displacement," advocates say.

Earlier this year, nearly 50 Mexican evangelicals returned to their hometown of Buenavista Bahuitz, in Chiapas, after five years of exile. Local leaders, who had forced the families out for leaving the “traditionalist” church, agreed to let them return on the condition that they pay a fee to support the village’s annual festivals.

But while the 12 families told World Watch Monitor that they’re just happy to be back, US officials and Christian persecution groups are ratcheting up pressure on the Mexican government to better protect indigenous Mexicans who leave a syncretistic Roman Catholicism. (Traditionalist Catholics in southwestern Mexico practice a blend of Catholicism and indigenous rites, according to Morning Star News.)

“It is time that the Mexican government provides justice and protection for victims of religious persecution while dealing with local and state officials that are part of the problem,” said Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern (ICC), in a statement. “A slow wave of religious persecution has been sweeping across Mexico and the culture of corruption and lack of accountability that surrounds religious freedom cases needs to end.” Read More
Día de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, has its origins in an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, literally Lady of the Dead, one of two Aztec deities that rule over the underworld in Aztec mythology. Its modern-day observance syncretizes pagan elements with Catholic Christianity.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Missional or Attractional? The Value of Embracing a Both/And Mentality

Every Christian should be missional and every church should be attractional.

Much has been said and written to help today’s churches become more missional. Organizations, parachurch communities, and conferences abound in trying to move the Church in this direction. This emphasis is certainly justified in light of how many Evangelical churches are not missional and are either in a state of plateau or decline.

Unfortunately, many churches are not trying in any measurable way to reach the people in their community who are unchurched. Too often, churches satisfy themselves with biblical teaching, music, fellowship groups, or any number of good things. They are intoxicated with a sense of church busy-ness and therefore have a sense that they are on mission. The problem is, these things too often become subtle substitutes for the mission of God. We have to be reminded that our mission is to advance His kingdom on a daily basis, being and making disciples who worship and follow Jesus. Read More

September Is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—How Your Church Can Participate

The number of teens (and younger) being hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or attempts has doubled in the last 10 years. And recent TV shows like the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why have put the troubling issue back in the spotlight. This September, join the discussion, help those fighting suicidal thoughts, support family and friends who have lost loved ones to suicide, and raise awareness. Read More
The photo shows one of the inspirational messages on the Mapo Bridge in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the world.  Once known as the Bridge of Death, the Mapo Bridge is now known as the Bridge of Life. Learn about the Mapo Bridge here.

Thinking Like Jesus

Several years ago, I was asked to give a convocation address at a major theological seminary in America. In that address, I spoke about the critical role of logic in biblical interpretation, and I pleaded for seminaries to include courses on logic in their required curricula. In almost any seminary’s course of study, students are required to learn something of the original biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek. They are taught to look at the historical background of the text, and they learn basic principles of interpretation. These are all important and valuable skills for being good stewards of the Word of God. However, the main reason why errors in biblical interpretation occur is not because the reader lacks a knowledge of Hebrew or of the situation in which the biblical book was written. The number one cause for misunderstanding the Scriptures is making illegitimate inferences from the text. It is my firm belief that these faulty inferences would be less likely if biblical interpreters were more skilled in basic principles of logic. Read More

3 Reasons Why You Should Stop Saying “All Sin Is the Same”

Over the years as a Christian, I have continually heard different clichés repeated. Some appear on bumper stickers while others reappear in perpetuity on social media. One such falsehood that continues to be passed on from generation to generation is the idea that “all sin is equal” or “all sin is the same.” Not only is this a bad idea, it’s a very dangerous teaching. Consider the following three reasons why you should stop saying all sin is the same. Read More

Why We Must Emphasize A Pastor’s Character Over His Skill

The New Testament clearly, repeatedly, and unapologetically lays out the qualifications of a pastor. What is so remarkable yet so often overlooked is this: Pastors are called and qualified to their ministry not first through their raw talent, their finely-honed skill, or their great accomplishments, but through their godly character. Of all the many qualifications laid out in the New Testament, there is just one related to skill (he must have the ability to teach others) and one related to experience (he must not be a recent convert). The rest of the nearly 20 qualifications are based on character. What fits a man to ministry is not first accomplishment or capability but character. Read More

Related Article:
Why a Church Leader's Private Sins Matter

My 7 Most Productive Habits

Any pastor who wants to be productive needs a good plan. Last week I shared my seven least productive habits, so today I will show how I have turned those same bad habits into better ones. Read More

God's Subtle Work in Your Bible Reading

"Where did this Bible come from?"

This was the question I asked my wife last week after she cleaned out a bookshelf. With a slight glance to the stack of books around it she answered, "I'm pretty sure it's yours." She was right; it was mine.

Then I did what any bibliophile would do, I tore open the box that housed it with the eagerness of a kid on Christmas morning. Then I paused and wondered, Is this mine? I couldn't remember it. I began thumbing through the Bible and found my pencil notes and annotations throughout. I was confused and intrigued.

Let's put aside the question of a 40-year-old guy who can't remember reading through and marking up his Bible, let alone paying money to buy it. Instead, I want to focus on the subtle but persistent effect the Word of God has on us. Read More

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Five Evangelism Realities We Must Face - Rainer on Leadership #358 [Podcast]

How much growth in growing churches is due to evangelism? Not as much as we would hope. Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss effective evangelistic churches and more on this week’s episode. Listen Now

More from Thom Rainer:
5 Insights About the Unchurched That Might Surprise You
Six Traits of a Church Disrupter

Perhaps your remember the hymn, "Rescue the Perishing." Perhaps you don't. Francis "Fanny" Crosby wrote it. I don't remember when I first heard it or from whom I heard it. I might have heard it from my grandparents , the Royal Ambassadors - a Southern Baptist boy's organization whose meetings I attended as a teenager, or my middle school music teacher, an Episcopal Churchwoman. It might have been from my first grade teacher at St. Nicholas Church of England Primary School in Stevenidge, Hertfordshire, England. She played the piano for morning assembly and taught us hymns and gospel songs from the Sankey-Moody Hymnbook.

The last stanza of "Rescue the Perishing" sums up the mission of the church:

Rescue the perishing, duty demands it.
Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
back to the narrow way patiently win them,
tell the poor wanderer a Savior has died.
Rescue the perishing,
care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful,
Jesus will save.

Another hymn I learned in my youth was "Throw Out the Lifeline " - again I do not remember from whom. I suspect it might have been my grandparents. Both of them loved to sing hymns, not just at church but at home or in the car. My grandfather had been the organist at a Wesleyan Congregational Church. My grandmother was a village schoolmaster's daughter whose father took his family to "church" in the morning and "chapel" in the evening. "Throw Out the Lifeline"  emphasizes the urgency of that mission.

Throw out the life line across the dark wave;
There is a brother whom someone should save;
Somebody's brother! O who then will dare
To throw out the life line, his peril to share?
Throw out the life line! Throw out the life line!
Someone is drifting away;
Throw out the life line! Throw out the life line!
Someone is sinking today.

Real Church Growth Doesn’t Just Make Bigger Churches, It Heals Hurting Ones

It’s hard to say we love the church when we ignore, discourage or belittle its weakest members.

How did the church of Jesus grow for the first 1900+ years of its existence without any megachurches around?

That’s how long it took for the first megachurches to appear on the landscape. They’re the new kid on the church block. Until the middle of the 20th century, the relentless growth of the church moved forward, not through growing bigger churches, but almost exclusively through the multiplication of smaller congregations. And that’s where most of the growth of the church still happens today.

In spite of this truth, there are those who insist that a healthy congregation will always increase numerically and that there’s something inherently wrong with a church that stays small – no matter what the reason.

Indeed, many in the church growth movement focus almost entirely on growing individual congregations bigger. Supporting and strengthening healthy smaller congregations has taken a distant second place – if it’s considered at all.

But there have been many church movements throughout history – and many today – that foster smaller congregations, including house churches. They channel their growth with great skill and intentionality through the multiplication of more congregations, rather than bigger ones.

There are some strong stats showing that planting more small churches may be a greater tool for growing the church than building larger congregations.Read More

Five Things Small Town Church Planters Wish Their Denominational Leaders Knew

Planters in rural America feel misunderstood and ignored.

The last night of our 2 1/2 day conference was coming to an end. I was feeling pretty good that we had pulled off our first Multiply Vineyard Small Town USA church planting conference. Our two presenters did a fantastic job giving the nuts and bolts of planting and doing multisite in a rural context. It wasn’t just theory—they had done it in central Illinois and northern Wisconsin. It went well, but I wondered if it really had impacted the attendees. I would soon get my answer.

A couple in their early 40s came up to me with tears in their eyes. “Thank you so much for putting this together. This is the first church planting conference where we felt understood,” the husband said. They went on to tell me they were planters and pastors in Wisconsin.

Not long after that couple got into their van for the 10 1/2 hour drive back home, another couple from Missouri approached me. They too had tears in their eyes. “This is the first church planting training where we felt understood,” the husband said. “We went to other trainings where we were told we should take a team of 50 from our home church to plant in our town. Our home church only has 75 people and there aren’t 50 jobs in the town we’re moving to.”

Planters in rural America are often misunderstood at best and ignored at worst. Here are five things small town planters wish their denominational leaders understood. Read More

The Preacher's Craft: Some Great Tips from Cody Deevers and Matt Chandler

A Necessary Change in My Preaching

Cody Deevers shares what he has learned and is still learning about the his bad habit of using "insider language" in his sermons and the reasons that he and other preachers with the same bad habit need to take pains to break it. Read More

Matt Chandler on Sermon Prep [Video]

The editors of For the Church asked Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor of The Village Church and author of books like The Explicit Gospel and The Mingling of Souls, to describe his sermon preparation process. Watch Now

Monday, August 28, 2017

Disaster Relief Edition: What You Can Do

Hurricane Harvey & Our Response to Pray and Help

Here are some practical ways you can help right now. Read More

5 Ways to Get Involved in Disaster Relief

Here are five key things to remember when thinking about disaster relief. Read More

When Disaster Strikes, Is It Enough to Pray?

Is prayer enough in a time of disaster? Or should we as His church focus our efforts toward other methods of assistance? Read More

From the Flooded Grounds of Houston

As Hurricane Harvey continues to dump rain in the billions of gallons, I see Christlike instincts cresting and rising in our city. Read More

Houston Churches Fight Flooding After Harvey Cancels Services

Congregations take ‘all ready but not yet’ approach to Texas rains of biblical proportions. Read More

7 Terms You Need to Know to Understand the Houston Flood

Late last week Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, struck the Houston area, causing an unprecedented flood. Localized rain amounts of up to 50 inches are possible by the end of this week. The result, as the Weather Channel observes, is this may end up being one of the worst flood disasters in U.S. history.

To fully understand the problem, though, requires knowing flood-related terminology that may be foreign to most Americans. Here are seven terms you need to know to make sense of the news about the disaster in Houston. Read More

Photo Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Saturday, August 26, 2017

They Ain’t Comin’

I truly feel bad for a pastor who believes that if his church simply changes the style of its worship service, unbelievers are going to start coming on Sunday morning. For many, this has and continues to be a type of strategy to get non-Christians to church. While I am all for seeing unbelievers come to hear the gospel and just the thought of it excites me, I have never understood the logic behind efforts to attract those who are non-Christians to come to a church service.

I fear that the church is setting herself up for disappointment when this is the vision that is cast. Personally, I don’t know an unbeliever who is likely to attend a church service, with very occasional exceptions. These would be after a tragedy – when many claimed Christian faith after the events of 9/11/01 –- or on Mother’s Day, because it would “mean so much to Nana.” Unbelievers aren’t coming for any of the reasons churches think they might.

Why would an unbeliever come to church because there is free coffee? He can drive through the Starbucks line, pay $3.00, and be home within 15 minutes.

What about great branding and social media? I have some difficult news to break to you: unbelievers in your community probably aren’t following your church on social media.

The pastor is really funny? So is YouTube.

All these efforts and creative ideas are perfectly designed, unintentionally, to attract people who hop around from church to church, looking for the flavor of the month. The efforts, resources of time and money, and overall planning of the church’s outreach is often well-suited to reach the disgruntled or bored Christian next door, which is not the mission of the church of Jesus Christ. If we are going to faithfully reach the lost in our communities through the local church, we need to start by reminding ourselves the basic truth that church people go to churches, and unbelievers generally do not. Taking that into account, where I serve, we really want unbelievers to come. So we have an entire strategy built around reaching our own members. If people love their church, they will want their non-Christian friends to join them. Read More

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

If you are intentionally or unintentionally putting up roadblocks that hinder your church from growing, remove them. Now.

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

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

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

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

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

Is the Protestant Reformation Over? Can the Schism End?

According to common belief, the Protestant Reformation began five hundred years ago when, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a list of ninety-five theses to the cathedral church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This is a somewhat artificial date, as the Protestant Reformation was a long process begun a century earlier by Bohemian priest John Hus and, at least according to many Protestants, is ever ongoing. “Reformed and always reforming” was the motto of many of the Reformation’s leaders and remains a crucial ideal and challenge today.

What many contemporary Christians do not realize is that the Catholic Church of Rome also underwent a reformation in the sixteenth century and also affirms that the church of Jesus Christ on earth must always be open to reformation. Vatican II (1962–1965) is often considered by both Catholics and Protestants a reforming church council.

However, the church of Jesus Christ on earth remains divided. It has three main branches: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. Squeezed in between those three branches are several hybrid denominations. Read More

The Preacher's Craft: "Dave Stone’s 8 Principles to Great Preaching" and More

Dave Stone’s 8 Principles to Great Preaching

At the 2017 North American Christian Convention, I got to attend a preaching workshop led by Dave Stone, Senior Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Dave is a great preacher of God’s word. He’s funny, a really good story teller, and very relatable.

In the workshop, he laid out the following 8 principles to great preaching. Read More

The 10 Commandments of an Effective Sermon Introduction

What happens if you bomb the sermon introduction? Lean in. Are you ready for this? Nothing, absolutely nothing, good happens if you bomb the sermon introduction. Nothing communicates I don’t care much for what I’m about to say so you can just take a nap like bombing on the first couple minutes of your sermon. And yes, I do mean to be dramatic about this.

If you haven’t grasped this yet, your sermon introduction is vitally important. But what does it look like to knock the introduction out of the park? What are some things to avoid? What are some things to ensure are a part of it? Let’s dive into the 10 commandments of an effective sermon introduction! Read More

Preacher! Please Expand Your Illustration Pool

I remember walking into the church office one day and one of our pastorss [sic] was visibly frustrated. She looked at me and said, “If I read one more sports illustration in this book, I’m going to lose my mind.” (She was reading a popular book on leadership.) Lately, I’ve been listening to a very well known preacher and enjoying the way he unfolds Scripture. As I’ve listened, I’ve begun to realize that his illustration default is C.S. Lewis. He can quote him 3-4 times in one message. (Can I still go to heaven if I’m not a great lover of Narnia?) Another pastor whose church I often visit while on vacation has personal illustrations as his “go to”. These are not criticisms just observations.

Sermon illustrations are windows in a message and for me the more windows the better. Just like it is important to have more than just one move on the basketball court it’s important to have more than just one move with your illustrations. If not, you limit your ability to reach your audience. For instance, I love history and I need to be careful not to get caught in the weeds with Biblical archeology/history in my messages. Otherwise, what can add seasoning to a message will actually ruin it. Read More
I added the [sic] after "pastorss." It was obviously a typographic error but since I did not know how it should be corrected, I added the [sic]. it may have been "pastors" but I was not certain.
How Can I Better Study a Bible Passage?

Arcing is a way of taking a paragraph of Scripture, a unit of Scripture, let’s just say a paragraph, breaking it down into individual statements, and seeing how each of those statements relate to each other logically.

Is one the cause of the other? Is one the result of the other? Does one explain the other? Seeing the relationships, and then putting all those statements together, according to those relationships, so that we can see the one main thing that the paragraph is saying, and how each of those individual parts of the paragraph, those statements, work to support it and explain it. Read More

3 Reasons Good Preaching is as Important as Ever

People love to tell you that preaching is irrelevant in this day and age. “People just do not submit to that kind of authority anymore” or “no one has that kind of attention span anymore” or “that just is not the best way to communicate in this day and age” are common protests I hear against the traditional form of preaching.

But contrary to the above thinking good preaching does remain important. In fact preaching remains as important as it has ever been.

Here are three reasons why... Read More

Three Types of Bad Preaching (And Their Remedies)

What if there was a way to identify bad preaching? Having grown up in church, I have probably listened to over 1,000 sermons in my lifetime. In all my time listening to (and now delivering) sermons, I have heard three types of bad preaching.... Read More

Worship as the Ultimate Act

Worship is one of those fascinating topics that can both unite and divide the church. I’ve heard it said that “worship matters most”—seemingly a bit of a strong statement, but the question is: Is it true? Read More

Related Articles:
4 Behaviors of a Thriving Worship Ministry
When a Worship Leader is a Control Freak

Saturday Lagniappe: "The Current American Tension and 4 Opportunities for the Church" and Much More

The Current American Tension and 4 Opportunities for the Church

Here are four ways Christians and the church can bring hope to the increasingly fragile culture around us. Read More

Why I Preach about Racism

Daniel Hyun shares a few of the reasons why he regularly incorporate the theme of racism in his preaching. Read More

12 Principles on How to Disagree with Other Christians

The consciences of Christians are remarkably similar, since we all have the same Word and the same Spirit. But on the edges of conscience, God has always allowed Christians a surprising degree of latitude in personal scruples. Read More

5 Questions to Ask When Picking Your Battles

Based on the disclaimers listed, here are five questions to help you pick your battles.... Read More

You Can Make it Worse!

Whenever these conflicts happen, the mature leader works for resolution as quickly as possible. But, often our responses can make it worse. Read More

Five Surprising Insights about Growing Churches - Rainer on Leadership #357 [Podcast]

Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe continue their focus on evangelism and churches by revealing five surprising insights that were found in the research on effective evangelistic churches. Listen Now

How to Survive the “Pastors Graveyard” of New England

If you’re thinking about ministry in this part of the world or in some other difficult soil, here’s three things God has taught me along the way. Read More

3 Overlooked Qualities of a Successful Church Planter

There are some qualities that are in the job description of church planting. The church planter should be a qualified minister and have an entrepreneurial mindset. There are also overlooked qualities that are mentioned less often but are very important to becoming a successful church planter. Read More

3 Reasons We Shouldn’t Copy Someone Else’s Vision

Too many people and organizations today are getting their visions from someone else’s website, blog, tweets, marketing materials, or conferences. There are lots of reasons we should not go down this path. Here are my top three.... Read More

Think You Joined the Wrong Church?

Many Christians’ broken relationships with their churches resemble patterns of the divorce culture and its attendant assumptions about authority, love, and compatibility. Read More

Six Reasons to Sit in a Different Seat at Church This Weekend

I know some readers won’t like this post. Most of us have a habit of sitting in the same place in church on Sunday, and I realize that nobody else is calling for changing this pattern. Nevertheless, I press on with my reasons that you and I should sit in a different place at church this weekend. Read More

The Secret of John Calvin’s Greatness

Calvin’s greatness was not in his service to himself but in his surrender to God.... Read More

5 Reasons Why Pastors Avoid Church Member Giving Records

While some pastors do have access to giving records, primarily for discipleship and leadership selection, many pastors shy away from viewing church members’ giving records. Here are a few reasons why.... Read More

Chucking Seeds, Training Farmers and Building Greenhouses

For decades youth leaders have been like farmers. They chuck the seeds of the Gospel in youth group, during outreach meetings and at camps, retreats and mission trips. This is the way it has been since youth ministry sprung into being... But there is a better way. Read More

How to Talk About Race with Your Kids

Children naturally notice differences—and that is a good thing. Read More

Why People Oppose Change

In order to lead a team of staff and volunteers in the church, you must have an understanding of change and what causes people to buck when you’re initiating it. Read More

10 Lessons I Have Learned After Writing Exactly 1,000 Blog Posts

Fellow blogger Jeremy Roberts offers some good advice to bloggers in this post. Read More

The Rise of Digital Technologies and the Decline of Reading

Tim Challies offers a few thoughts on the rise of digital technologies and the decline of reading. Read More

3 Reasons We’re Addicted to Digital Distraction

Yep, there's an app for that. Read More

How to Give an Effective Missions Testimony

How do we stay focused and give effective testimonies briefly—to allow others to share as well—and powerfully? Read More

A.R. Bernard Resigns from Trump’s Board of Evangelicals

From the moment President Trump became a political candidate, he’s been a divisive figure to evangelicals. This past Tuesday, that divisiveness extended to his own evangelical advisory board with the resignation of Brooklyn megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard. Read More

Friday, August 25, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Is Here. Time for Christians to Practice What We’ve Learned Since Katrina.

Advice for US churches from a disaster researcher who lived through Katrina.

If current projections hold true, Hurricane Harvey will be one of the biggest hurricanes to strike the United States since Katrina hit in 2005.

A decade ago, maybe your church volunteered, planned a short-term mission trip, gave money, or helped rebuild Gulf Coast communities beaten down by one of America’s most deadly and destructive disasters.

Harvey offers Christians a chance to be even more helpful—to show God’s grace and mercy to a disaster-filled world. But it means we have to be willing to learn from experiences like Katrina. Read More
I rode out Hurricane Katrina at my aunt’s house in Angie, Louisiana in 2005. My aunt and my mother, her older sister, who lived with my aunt, refused to evacuate. My cousin’s wife who also lived in Angie did not want to leave her mother-in-law. She also had nowhere to go. My cousin who had been offshore had been evacuated from the oil rig on which he worked but had been unable to return home due to the traffic congestion caused by the people fleeing the storm. Since my aunt and my mother refused to budge, I stayed with them. They both were elderly. My mother was 92 when she died in 2013, eight years after Hurricane Katrina.

We were on the “good” side of the hurricane, the side that had the weakest winds and did not receive the full brunt of the storm. The winds on the “good” side of the hurricane were strong enough to uproot and overturn the pecan trees that lined both sides of the street on which my aunt lived so that it was impossible to drive down the street. When the storm was at its height, the rain was falling sideways, parallel to the ground, and the air was filled with flying debris. Rain water poured through a roof leak in the kitchen and the wind at one point lifted up the roof and almost tore it off the building. The oak tree that overhung my aunt’s driveway split apart and a fork of the tree came crashing down onto her truck. Miraculously the truck was spared any damage, a fact that we did not discover until the next day. We had running water but no electricity and a limited supply of food.

My aunt clung to the belief that we had nothing to worry about and that it would be just a matter of time before rescuers would be knocking at the door. All we needed to do was sit and wait for them to arrive. When I worked for the State of Louisiana, I had been trained as an emergency responder in the event of a hurricane, flood, tornado, or other natural disaster and did not share her optimistic view. I made several forays out of the house on foot to the center of the town where the Red Cross had set up a food and water distribution point and brought back supplies to the house. After the town workers had removed the fallen trees from the street, I drove to the only gas station that was operating. Cars were lined up down the street and the operator of the gas station was carrying a rifle. People had filled up cans of gas at a gas station in Bogalousa only to have them stolen from their cars or trucks. Due to the shortage of gas we were not allowed to fill our tanks. I would pick up supplies from the distribution point that had been opened at the minimum security prison in the area after the area’s highways had been reopened. The prisoners were doing their part, unloading supplies from the trucks and distributing them to those who needed them.

Several days after the storm a team of church volunteers from Baton Rouge equipped with a mobile kitchen arrived in Angie. With the help of members of the local Baptist church they brought hot meals to the older residents of the town who had not evacuated and whose electricity had not been restored. These folks my aunt saw as the rescuers that she believed would eventually show up at her door. While the hot meals were welcomed and appreciated, these folks were really a part of a later stage of the hurricane relief effort. The folks who cleared the highways and streets, brought in box loads of MREs, bottled water, and batteries, and handed out these supplies; and opened their gas stations, ran electric generators, and pumped gas, were the real “rescuers.”

As well as serving as an emergency shelter during the hurricane itself, what was then my church, Hope Church in Waldheim, Louisiana, a rural church that met in a former café converted into a worship center, housed in its building teams of disaster relief volunteers from all over the country, who cleared away fallen trees and debris and put temporary “blue roofs” on storm-damaged houses and trailers; and prepared in its commercial kitchen hot meals for these teams, as well as distributed emergency supplies to community residents and fed hot meals to them.

Churches both in and outside the area hit by a hurricane can do a lot to help the people in the area impacted by the storm.

7 Marks of a Healthy Church Planter

The history of the United States is comprised of a rugged individualism, spirit of independence, and self-support. The lone ranger is seen as a hero—the one who is able to get the job done on his or her own, answering to no one. Dependence on those outside of ourselves is thought to be a limitation and a challenge to greatness. But the kingdom of God relies on a different value, one that places a great emphasis on partnership and community.

Ministry has always been a team sport. While we do find examples in the Bible of individuals serving the Lord on their own (such as Elijah in 1 Kings 17–19 or Philip in Acts 8), the model of people co-laboring takes priority. This is most evident in the disciple-making and church-planting efforts of the apostolic church. In the Gospels we read that Jesus sent out the seventy-two in teams (Luke 10:1), and the first missionaries from Antioch were the team of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2–3). In God’s economy, the missionary team is vital to the propagation of the gospel and the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches.

Resources abound on the topics of team formation and development, team leadership, and the strengths and limitations of teams. However, I want to focus on seven essential characteristics of church-planting team members, as seen in the life of Barnabas. Healthy manifestations of these practices should be present for each team member, regardless of their personal gifts.

A team member who demonstrates Barnabas’s characteristics is someone who.... Read More

Four Questions You Should Ask Every Time You Read the Bible

When it comes to reading the Bible, asking good questions is essential. In a very real sense the quality of the questions you ask determines what you get out of the text and your ability to apply it to your life. But we need to make sure we are asking the right kinds of questions.

So what kind of questions is the Bible intended to answer? The Bible is first and foremost a story about God displaying his glory through the creation and redemption of humanity. It makes sense, then, that the Bible is designed to answer questions connected to this central theme. Jesus confirms this dual focus on God and humanity. When asked what the greatest commandment was, he replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). But Jesus wasn’t done. He continued, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). Love God. Love others. This is the heart of what God wants from his people.

The challenge, then, is to ask questions that help us see these realities when we read the Bible. If that seems overwhelming, don’t worry! By asking four foundational questions, we can make sure we are asking the kind of questions that God designed the Bible to answer. Read More

More from Matt Harmon
Author Interview: Matt Harmon on Asking the Right Questions in Bible Study [Video]
You Don't Need a Degree to Read (and Understand) the Bible [Video]

5 Ways to Pray Without Ceasing

Paul told us that we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). That text doesn’t mean that we continuously pray and do nothing else, but it surely means more than simply having an attitude of prayer throughout the day. Here are some simple ways to pray continually.... Read More

20 Practical Ways To Kill Sin Every Day

Sin perplexes us. We love it, and we hate it. We embrace it, and we war against it. We act on it, yet we don’t always understand why. Sin is alluring and confusing, pleasurable and destructive. The redeemed heart has been set free from sin’s power, yet still wars with sin’s presence—and sin distances us from the God who willingly came to rescue us from it.

When I asked friends, “What are some sins and areas of temptation we must fight every day?” the response was overwhelming: jealousy, laziness, discontentment, control, discouragement, pride, a sharp tongue, vanity, slander, inadequacy, anxiety, fear, selfish gain, impatience, anger, disobedience, lust, fear of man, and critical judgment of other Christians.

Which of these resonate with you? Do others come to your mind? Read More

3 ABNY Social Realities Shaping North American Missions

The New Testament Church was birthed in the messiness of a religiously pluralistic society.

“Already but not yet” (ABNY) is a phrase which arises out of a system of Christian thought called kingdom theology. It captures the notion that God’s kingdom was inaugurated in Jesus’ death and resurrection and that this kingdom is already here on earth, but not yet in its fullness.

Likewise, in North America, we’re experiencing social realities that are ABNY. These sociological phenomena are at the cusp of fully breaking through. Now, even in their early stages, they’re already changing the conditions in which we think and do North American missiology. But when they’re in full bloom, missions in North America will never be the same.

If the North American Church of today can thoughtfully take into consideration these three social realities, we might not only catch up to how fast culture is changing, but we’ll also play a role in leading some of the change. Read More

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Is C. S.Lewis Right about Hell?

One of the most influential writers on Christianity in the 20th century was an Oxford English professor who experienced a remarkable conversion from atheism: C. S. Lewis. He is perhaps best known for his books for children The Chronicles of Narnia, but he also wrote profound and influential books like Mere Christianity, in which he deploys his masterful understanding of language and ideas to make perceptive and persuasive points. Read More

3 Ways Pastors Struggle with Personal Application

One month ago, the evangelical preaching world lost a giant when Dr. Haddon Robinson finished his earthly race. I don’t know of a single preacher in my generation who finished seminary without being exposed to Robinson’s influence. His emphases on faithful Biblical exposition, respect for authorial intent, and a commitment to text-driven sermons have been a blessing to churches across the country, most filled with people who have never heard his name.

One of Robinson’s more well-known claims was that “most heresy tends to take place at the point of application.” By this he meant that many preachers make the mistake of preaching true and useful things which may not be grounded in the authority of the text they are using to teach those principles. At that point, the preacher presumes to anchor an otherwise helpful principle in a way that usurps the authority of the divinely inspired author. Simply put, a subversive sort of heresy has taken place.

These and other principles from Haddon Robinson have helped a generation of preachers avoid the error of wrongful application in their pulpits. But in my own life, I’ve found I don’t make this mistake so much when standing in front of my people as I do in my own heart. I forget that as shepherd to a congregation of God’s people, His desire is that His Word transform me before it begins to touch my people.

For my part, I’ve discovered that the three biggest barriers to more powerful and transformative preaching all relate to how I have personally applied God’s Word in my own soul. It’s a subversive sort of heresy that creeps into my own relationship with God. Out of that experience, I want to issue three challenges—three things I think we should all stop doing immediately. Read More

Preacher’s Toolkit: How Should I Preach Ecclesiastes?

Ecclesiastes situates us long after the start and long before the end of the story. Taken by itself, it can seem an odd book. So how are we to preach it?

Hopefully, these six hints can get you started. Read More

Why Are There So Many Interpretations of the Bible? [Video]

"Why are there so many interpretations of the Bible? Why can't Christians agree on the Bible?" Dr. Robert Plummer answers in Honest Answers.... Watch Now

Seven Qualities of an Effective Church Communications Coordinator

Church communications is a burgeoning field. And the position of church communications director/manager/coordinator has become ubiquitous in many large churches. But it’s not just the large churches that are looking to fill this role. Mid-size and small churches are realizing the importance of having a singular person responsible for their church’s communications and social media.

So what should a church look for when finding a full-time, part-time, or volunteer communications coordinator? These seven qualities should be evident in that person.... Read More

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday Evening Late Edition: "Don’t Despise Small Town Living: Jesus Didn’t" and Much More

Don’t Despise Small Town Living: Jesus Didn’t

Capernaum was home to about 1,500 people. Read More

Church Turnarounds Are About Direction And Consistency, Not Speed Or Size

It's called a turnaround for a reason. It's more about the direction you’re heading than the speed you’re going. Read More

Challenges to Becoming a Multicultural Church

Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America. Read More

8 More Ways to Get Your "Church Sitters" Out of the Pews

I’ve written in the past about how to get church members involved. All of our churches, though, still have them – members who attend regularly, but who don’t get involved. If you want to get them involved, though, try some of these additional ideas.... Read More

What “One Little Word” Will Fell Satan?

What is that “one little word” that will fell Satan? Read More

What Good Can a Heretic Bring?

...downgrade, as Spurgeon called it, is an insidious assault by the enemy, but like all the enemy’s work God will use it for good. Read More

10 Lessons for (Not Just) Younger Church Leaders

If we desire personal growth, we have to get around people who are or have already been where we wish to go. Read More

My 7 Least Productive Habits

Today I want to share seven of my least productive habits, because failures are much more fun to read about. Read More

Before You Fire Your Pastor

...too many pastors are getting fired. It feels like an epidemic. Read More

4 Key Ingredients in a Devotional Reading of Scripture is a fourfold pattern of Scripture intake to help us avoid treating Scripture as an object, so that we can receive it as the living Word of a living Lord. Read More

4 Super Effective Ways to Motivate Spiritually Apathetic Teenagers

Over the last 26 years of ministering to teenagers I have discovered 4 super effective ways to motivate spiritually apathetic teenagers.... Read More

Learning from Paul to Leverage Networking for Missions

The ‘Apostle to the Gentiles’ had an entrepreneurial spirit that helped him spread the Gospel. Read More

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

6 Reasons Why the Church Is Not Singing

One of the great benefits of attending a Christian conference is undoubtedly the singing. Each year during the G3 Conference, I try to record some of the congregational singing just to file away and remember. This week as I listen through livestream to the T4G conference, it’s impressive to hear 10k people, mostly men, singing hymns of truth with passion and boldness. This past November, I attended the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, and as the gathered church lifted voices of praise through a hymn to the Lord, it was impressive. There were no fancy lights, smoke machines, and minimal use of technology in the room. It was simply people singing praises to our God for the salvation that’s ours through the blood of His Son. So, why is the church not singing on Sunday?

One of the most important things a church does is sing the gospel. David penned these words in Psalm 9:11, “Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!” Certainly David understood the importance, but sadly the church today doesn’t understand the importance of singing praise to the Lord of glory. At least that seems to be the case since the majority of evangelical church sanctuaries are quiet on the Lord’s day. Below I’ve suggested 6 reasons why the church is not singing. Read More
"Thanks for the good observations, particularly the emphasis on discipleship and historical home life practices. However, the section on repetition (7-11) is theologically uninformed. In many traditions repetition is intentional as a liturgical practice. In a Taize prayer service the repetition of the simple prayers, scriptures or liturgical songs serves a very specific purpose – to center the worshipper and allow her/him to become open to the work of the Holy Spirit in the moment. Likewise, praise choruses evolved from the Charismatic tradition of worship where the repetition is intentional, almost sacramental, as a way to usher in the presence and works of the Holy Spirit as an active part of worship. The real reason many congregations become distracted by the repeated choruses is because we have mixed our theologies with musical practices. No wonder it is confusing. Churches that do not share the theological positions of the charismatic tradition should be selective in the use of repetition. Most Protestants do not consider repetitive choruses as a preparatory means for the work of the Spirit in worship. Musical selection must be congruent with the theology being practiced." - John White

Repetition is a characteristic of many indigenous hymns and worship songs from around the world. Refrains or repetitive elements of a hymn or worship song also permit young children and other pre-literate individuals to participate in the singing. One of the earliest methods of singing the Psalms was responsorially: a cantor sung the verses of the Psalm and the congregation sung an antiphon or refrain after each verse or portion of verses.

10 Eclipses in the Church

Yesterday, we saw the solar eclipse, an event that media talked about for weeks. People traveled from around the world in order to see it. All of this publicity has made me think about “eclipses” in the church – that is, those things that seem to block the Son in the church. Here are some that come to mind.... Read More

Photo Credit: Pexel

Why I Love the Rural Church

Growing up in the mountains of northeast Alabama, I was never really aware that I was from a small town. Sure, I knew Birmingham and Huntsville had more people than my hometown of Boaz, but I never thought I was any different because I was from a rural community. I also wasn’t aware that I attended a small church. Read More

Is the Label ‘Evangelical’ Worth Keeping? [Video; Podcast]

The term “evangelical” means different things to different people. In our day many people assume it describes a political identity rather than a theological one. So is the term “evangelical” worth keeping?

The key to answering the question depends not only on definition, but also context. In this new video, Kevin DeYoung, Russell Moore, and Mika Edmondson discuss. Watch Video Listen to Podcast

10 Keys to Creating Passionate Volunteers - Rainer on Leadership #356 [Podcast]

Ministries run on the backs of volunteers. Here are ten ways you can invest in your volunteers to create passionate servants in your ministry. Listen Now

Top 10 Church Finance Mistakes

The intersection of faith and finance is never easy to navigate as a local church leader.

The topic of money is inescapable for anyone who leads a church, so while many of us would rather lead people toward Jesus, we must also embrace the truth that the functions of a local church do not operate for free.

In this post, I’ve listed ten big mistakes to avoid on the subject of finance. There are many more detailed issues involving numbers and percentages, but that’s for another post. Read More

More from Dan Reiland:
8 Questions to Evaluate the Health of Your Church
The Top 7 Reasons Guests Return To Your Church

A Time for Confidence

Paul was likely one of the most intelligent people to have ever lived. He certainly is one of the best writers. He was extremely ambitious. He knew adversity, yet he persevered. If anyone “thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh,” Paul tells us, “I have more” (Phil. 3:4).

Yet, Paul realizes that “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (v. 7). He counts all his accomplishments, all his strivings aft er righteousness, as “rubbish,” a polite word for “dung.” All of Paul’s abilities and accomplishments simply serve to underscore his utter inability to achieve righteousness.

Instead of putting his confidence in the flesh, Paul learned to put his confidence in Christ and in the gospel. Paul wanted to be found in Christ. He writes, “That I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (v. 9). Read More

Three Reasons to Keep Going in Ministry

All throughout life and ministry, we face moments that make us think “Why bother?” You take a stand in your world, and it seems to have no effect. You pray for an unsaved or wayward loved one, but there is no change. You spend a lot of time and effort investing in someone who turns against you. You pray and labor but there seems to be no increase in your ministry.

You are tempted to quit. Read More

One Way To Make Sure You’re Preaching a Sermon, Not Leading a Bible Study

I love Bible studies. I love sermons. Both have their place and both can be tremendously beneficial in the life of the church and the spiritual diet of the believer. But I’ve observed that some sermons are actually Bible studies and some Bible studies are actually sermons. Though I will grant there can be a fine line between the two, I find it helpful to force myself to distinguish between them, especially when I am asked to lead one or the other.

In general, a Bible study is teaching while a sermon is preaching; a Bible study is aimed at the head while a sermon is aimed at the heart; a Bible study is meant to increase knowledge while a sermon is meant to increase holiness; a Bible study is helping people to know what a passage says while preaching is appealing to people to live what a passage says. Read More

Preaching on Racism

Have your preached on racism recently? It is a touchy subject, especially in the reality of events in Charlottesville and many other tragic displays of racism and hatred. In his recent publication, Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism, Bishop Will Willimon has several helpful suggestions for speaking about race in the church. Here are some of his suggestions.... Read More

Do You Read the Bible Like a Nonbeliever?

The most basic prayer we can pray about reading the Bible is that God would give us the desire to read this book. Not just the will — that would be next best — but the desire.

That is what the apostle Peter said we should have: “Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2). Similarly, the psalmist said that the righteous person delights in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2). And why wouldn’t we, since God’s words are “more to be desired than gold” and “sweeter than honey and drippings from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10)? Why wouldn’t we? Because our hearts tend to become cold and dull and hard and blind.

All of us know what it is like to read without seeing “wondrous things.” We have stared at the most glorious things without seeing them as glorious. We have seen marvels without marveling. We have put God’s sweet kindness on the tongue of our soul without tasting sweetness. We have seen unspeakable love without feeling loved. We have seen the greatest power and felt no awe. We have seen immeasurable wisdom and felt no admiration. We have seen the holiness of wrath and felt no trembling. Which means we are “seeing without seeing” (Mattew 13:13). This is why we must continue to weave the thread of God-dependent prayer into our reading: “Show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18).

That’s the most basic reason we need to pray about our Bible reading. We drift away from the desire to do it. Few prayers have I prayed more often than this — Lord, keep me from drifting away from your word! “Incline my heart to your testimonies” (Psalm 119:36). Read More