Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday's Catch: God, Gender, and Language and More

Swedish Lutheran Church

Is God Male? Why Some Clergy Are Changing Their Language

After a U.K. survey found that only 1 percent of British Christians consider God to be female, some Church of England leaders are urging clergy to consider their word usage. According to research conducted by YouGov, younger Christians are now more likely than older Christians to view God as male. Read More

All Churches Make Mistakes, Why Do Ours Feel Fatal?

Christ is with us when we suit up again, even though we fell flat on our face the last time we went on the field. Read More

The Kingdom Mindset of Churches That Are Willing to Be Replanted

It’s important for churches to have a kingdom mindset if they are going to revitalize or be replanted. Today, Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe discuss what that looks like in a church. Listen Now

The Horrors and Habitat of Hell: Some Details You May Not Have Considered

In recent years, the biblical concept of Hell has come under fire. Hell is seen as the great scarecrow of Christianity, an antiquated tactic used by preachers of yesteryear to frighten people into making professions of faith. Those who view this as illegitimate fearmongering have responded by reinterpreting biblical passages on Hell to make it more palatable and less offensive. But Scripture teaches that Hell couldn’t be more real and gives great detail about the horrors of this habitat of certain torment. Read More

Pastor, Don’t Be a Secondhander

Merely imitating—instead of owning and believing what we’re doing—is to put on the appearance that something is abiding deep inside of us. This certainly applies to the Christian life in general, but I’m specifically thinking of those in pastoral leadership. Having a “bag of tricks” is being a secondhander, and we must guard against it. Here are three signs we’re at least bordering on being a secondhander. Read More

How to Help Prevent Your Child from Becoming an Atheist

According to a new study on adult atheists, the less that parents “walk the walk” about religious beliefs, the more likely their children are to walk away from the faith. Read More

A Missionary's Most Crucial Spiritual Discipline

Watchfulness is especially crucial for missionaries (and ministers, elders, and pastors) who bear the unique responsibility of caring for the souls of others as part of their vocation, often amid considerable challenges. While this calling brings many blessings and joys, missionaries also face unique temptations. Read More

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wednesday's Catch: Generation Z and Religion and More

In a departure from my usual format, I am posting only the links to seven articles that I thought that Anglicans Ablaze readers might benefit from reading. I have caught a cold and the coughing, sneezing, and other symptoms make cutting, pasting, and typing difficult. I decided on this temporary expedient over not posting anything.

Generation Z and Religion: "It's All Good."
A Sex Offender in the Neighborhood: Some Reminders About Child Safety
How to Do a Fall Festival During Church
2 Ways Artificial Intelligence Affects Our Families Without Us Knowing
Grace Means Christians Should and Can Live Differently than the World
Have Mercy as God Has Mercy
America’s Age of Skepticism: How Christians Should Respond

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Unattainable Perfectionism of Millennials

The young adults of the Millennial generation are showing a higher rate of mental problems than previous generations. A study says that the problem is perfectionism and their inability to attain it. Read More

Photo by State Farm via Flickr, Creative Commons License

3 Ways Church Planting Kills Consumerism

Consumerism is not a new phenomenon in the West. It’s so engrained in our lives that confronting it is like rejecting the air we breathe.

As a society, we don’t simply consume to live; we live to consume. There’s a collective void inside us that we attempt to fill with newer, better, more.

But here’s the thing: study after study reveals it’s not working. Most data, in fact, suggest the opposite. The more we consume, the less satisfied and fulfilled we feel. Read More

5 Better Ways to "Argue" About Social Justice . . . or Anything Else Online

This will be a short post, not about social justice per se, but about why some of us are having trouble seeing any fruitful conversations taking place online about it -- or any other subject of controversy within the Church -- and are reluctant to contribute. Read More

The Paradox of American Religion and American Secularism

In America, some of the most (apparently) devout people behave in the most secular ways. This is not a new phenomenon – the great sociologist Will Herberg was one of the first to identify it in his classic book Protestant-Catholic-Jew (1955). Polls in the 1950s already showed that Americans were overwhelmingly religious, but they often seemed to know little about the faith they affirmed. Read More

Monday, September 17, 2018

9 Principles For Creating An Annual Budget In A Small Church

With the possibilities for small church budgeting being so flexible, are there guidelines that are universal? I believe so. Here are nine of them.

Big churches and small churches design their budgets very differently.

While large churches spend their time balancing percentages, designing requisition sheets, and tracking an increase or decrease of giving as one measurement of the church’s health, small churches deal with an entirely different set of issues.

For instance, I just Googled “what percentage of a church budget should be salary?” and I found several helpful articles.

One of them, from a very good church consulting ministry, acknowledges that while “…every church is different,” their team “…generally encourages churches to try to stay in the range of 45 to 55 percent of total budget. We’ve seen churches that have gone as high as 65 to 70 percent… (but) these higher percentages raise red flags. These ministries may be in a danger zone.”

This is good advice, based on years of experience and sound stewardship principles. But those percentages mean nothing in most small churches because the smaller the church, the more likely you are to fall into the “every church is different” part that they mentioned. Read More

3 Temptations Challenging the Prayer Life of the Local Church

Prayer is a bigger deal than we’ve made it out to be.

It’s vital for the life of our churches. Having read books on prayer before, I know the difficulty isn’t in starting to pray more. The difficulty is in sustaining this attitude.

It’s not hard to start. It’s hard to solidify habits.

Over the years, I’ve learned that I don’t need to send out a survey or do market research on people’s common temptations. I merely need to look inside my own heart and see where I’ve failed to pray. Read More

The Myth of Missionary Neutrality

Everything we do either propels God’s mission forward or hinders the embodiment of his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Cars rarely operate in neutral, but churches do all the time.
Maybe this is because neutral is the normative posture of those who make up the church.

It’s common to hear people speak as if there are three possible positions for life in relation to God. Some are in drive—moving forward in active obedience to the Great Commission. Others are in reverse, demonstrating rebellion against God’s authority and living to undermine God’s mission in the world. The rest are sitting in neutral, somewhere between drive and reverse. Read More

Can You Hear Me Now?

In an age when most are rushing to have their say, Christians can love by giving others a hearing.

Instead of listening for what others might say, we need to recover the art of listening to others. If you have ever been on the receiving end of the listening for conversation, you know what this feels like.

When we simply listen for what another person is saying, we reduce that person down to a stereotype that we already have in our mind. This kind of listening is not really listening. It is merely argument formulation masquerading as listening.

When we listen to others, it is as if the posture and disposition of the conversation becomes open-handed. Listening to another person implicitly says, “I want to learn from you even if I don’t agree with you.” As Christians who are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, this strikes me as exactly the sort of thing we are called to do. Read More

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Saturday Lagniappe: Hurricanes, Disaster Relief, and More

9 Things You Should Know About Hurricanes

This week Hurricane Florence struck the Carolinas, dumping massive amounts of rain and triggering catastrophic floods inland. Here are nine things you should know about these types of deadly storms.... Read More

If You Really Want to Help after Hurricane Florence, Set Out to Be Humble—Not a Hero

Leave the cape at home before leaping into action because it’s humble hearts and hands that are needed to save the day. Read More

Why the Recent Stir about Safe Ministry?

Some volunteers will need to get a full Police background check—just to offer a helping-hand in the kids program they’ve been a part of for years. Read More

How to Deal with Theological Issues in Revitalization

Theology is important in a church. And sometimes when churches aren’t growing, there can be a temptation to be lighter on theology in exchange for relevancy or growth. Today Thom Rainer, Mark Clifton, and Jonathan Howe discuss why that’s a terrible idea. Listen Now

The Perils of Preaching an Implications-Free Gospel

Jared Wilson offer 5 reasons why clear application of the gospel is important and why in fact declaring an implications-free gospel is spiritually perilous. Read More

‘What Should I Do to Become a Pastor?’

I work for a seminary, but my advice for aspiring ministers doesn’t start there. Read More

Don’t Be A Halfhearted Christian

We all will leave a legacy of sorts – either a positive one or a negative one. Our lives eventually will come to an end, and each of us will leave a legacy. The truth will come out – the good things we did, the bad things we did, what we really stood for. Read More

How to Look Past Yourself to Be Kind to Others

You may feel like other people have got it all together, but if you take the time to listen, you’ll see we’re all dealing with something. Read More

Friday, September 14, 2018

Why Millennials ARE Coming to Church

There have been plenty of articles about why Millennials—those twenty somethings—are not coming to church. Plenty of time and attention towards what would bring them back.

Well, in our church at the moment plenty of Millennials ARE coming. It’s been noted by the older crowd that they’re starting to get outnumbered by that particular cohort this year.

As one older, wiser, godly Pentecostal brother who has been attending our service (as well as his in the morning) remarked about this fact, “Well I can tell you, it’s not for the music.”

Our music is pretty good—if you like really stripped back with one or two instruments and a couple of singers on the stage leading 150 singers in the seats. Which, if you’re a Millennial, I actually think you’ll like. We don’t need to be your favourite rock concert—you can go to your favourite rock concert for that. We want you to hear yourself sing with other people.

That aside, why are the Millennials coming? Why, beyond the fact that we may be the latest flavour or some such? My own thoughts, plus some conversations with these Millennials (as opposed to the results of a Survey Monkey poll) offer up the following reasons.... Read More

Favoritism in the Church

It seems that favoritism was an issue in the early church, as those with greater wealth or standing were accorded better treatment than others. The Apostle James spoke against this impulse in his epistle:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1–4)

He goes on to say,

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (vv. 8–9) Read More

Finding the Antichrist Today

Perhaps no subject broached by contemporary Bible prophecy teachers engenders more speculation and less sound Biblical exegesis than does the subject of Antichrist....

While it may come as a surprise to many, there are only four texts in Scripture (all in John's first two epistles: 1 Jn 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 Jn 7) where the term "antichrist" is actually used.[4] John's four texts set out a markedly different understanding of Antichrist than that given us by contemporary prophecy "experts." Therefore, it is most helpful to review them.

Based on these texts, there are three critical points to be made related to John's treatment of the Antichrist. Read More

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Pastor, Include More Prayer in Your Church Service

I remember hearing a story about an African church leader who was brought to America to tour churches. At the end he was asked his thoughts.

He replied, “I’m surprised by how little prayer I witnessed.”

The American church, at least in my experience, tends to be lackluster in prayer. This is especially evident in corporate worship services. It can be hard to find an evangelical church service that even contains one three-minute prayer. Yet Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13).

Maybe it’s our independent American spirit, or maybe it’s a lukewarm faith. Regardless, many churches need to repent of prayerlessness, especially in corporate worship. Read More
Because they use set forms of prayer in their corporate worship, Anglicans tend to think that prayerlessness is not a problem for them. But this is far from the case. Too often these forms are recited in a perfunctory manner which suggests that the congregation is not praying from the heart. While the liturgy may abound in opportunities for silent or extemporaneous prayer, congregations rarely take advantage of these opportunities. The problem of prayerlessness for Anglicans is not so much a lack of prayers but a lack of prayerfulness.

Thursday's Catch: Scheduling Christmas Eve Services and More

5 Things To Consider As You Schedule Your 2018 Christmas Eve Services

Christmas 2018 affords a number of unique opportunities and challenges for churches this year. Let me highlight some key considerations for your team to wrestle with to help you pick the right Christmas Eve service times.... Read More

6 Things Your Church May Be Doing Illegally

As a best practice to ensure your church is acting above reproach in honoring copyright law, survey the below list and seek to avoid the following six things that may be putting your ministry at risk. Read More

5 Bad Ideas That Will Make Your Service Fake

We have all been there. Everything may sound fantastic, look attractive and was planned with purposeful intent. But, something just doesn’t seem right. You feel fake vibes when hoping for authentic ones. Regardless, what makes a worship service fake might be boiled down to a few things even though there may be many things we can put on a list. Read More

Whats the Next Mission Wave? Ordinary Believers on Mission

The question is no longer if we are called to leverage our lives for the Great Commission; it’s only where and how. Read More

7 Reasons Most Churches Aren't Reaching the Lost in Their Own Backyards

Greg Stier identifies 7 reasons why many churches are not effectively reaching the lost with the Gospel in their communities. How well is your church doing?Read More

How to Evangelize Your LGBT Neighbors

When Christians live communally, outsiders find intimacy within the family of God. Read More

10 Simple Ways to Reach Your Neighbor for Jesus

Most believers will never share the gospel with anyone, and many will never even invite anyone to church. Sometimes, in fact, we overstate the hard work of evangelism, and our folks never even try to reach anyone. Here are some simple ways to start correcting this problem by reaching your neighbors.... Read More

“Let Them Not Share in the Affairs of Life”: How Ancient Christians Were Viewed as Dangerous to Society

Celsus “just can’t stand Christians.” So, writes James O’Donnell (Pagans, 101) as he describes the vicious opposition to Christians in the earliest centuries, particularly from the second-century critic Celsus. Read More

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Slow Killing of Congregational Singing

Here is a great historical irony. Fifty years ago choirs ruled the church. Usually, they were supported by a very loud organ. To be frank, many choir members were performers, and when the choir was large they drowned out the singing of the congregation. So, sadly, the very people appointed to help the congregation sing actually smothered congregational singing. Bit by bit, choirs disappeared. I think most churches didn’t mourn the loss.

Here’s the irony: we then replaced the choirs with song leaders (or, what we inaccurately call ‘worship leaders’). Over time the number of song leaders grew and grew until they became as big as a choir. Then we gave the song leaders full-volume microphones and electrical instruments, and many became performers. When the music team was large and the microphones were turned up they drowned out the congregation. So, sadly, the very people appointed to help the congregation sing actually smothered congregational singing. Read More

God’s Will Is Not a “Choose Your Own Adventure” Book

We often see the will of God like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story: We have two doors in front of us, and one probably leads to peace and prosperity and the other to doom and destruction. When things go wrong later, we look back and think, “If I had only known the right door!” How do we know what God wants us to do in any given situation? Read More

The FAQs: What Parents Should Know About Peer Contagion

What is peer contagion?

The term peer contagion describes a process of mutual influence between a child or adolescent and their peers that includes behaviors and emotions that potentially undermine one’s own development or cause harm to others. Examples of peer contagion include aggression, bullying, depression, disordered eating, drug use, bisexuality, suicide, tobacco use, and transgenderism.

Peer contagion is a form of social contagion—the thesis that attitudes, beliefs, and behavior can spread through populations as if they were somehow infectious. “Simple exposure sometimes appears to be a sufficient condition for social transmission to occur,” research psychologist Paul Marsden says. “This is the social contagion thesis; that sociocultural phenomena can spread through, and leap between, populations more like outbreaks of measles or chicken pox than through a process of rational choice.” Read More

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

5 Important Questions to Ask Yourself When Making a Decision in Your Life

When you make a decision in your life, how do you know it is the right thing to do?

Quick decision making often results in poor decision making. Conversely, long and drawn out decision making can paralyze your life as well as others who look to you for leadership. Is there a way to know we are making the right decisions in life?

Preparation is really one of the important things about decision making. I believe that when you passionately walk with God daily, it prepares you for decision making. The power of Christ will see you through every decision you make.

Ask yourself.... Read More

How to Launch a Second Worship Service

One of the big questions we are asked all the time in our coaching is: We’re thinking about going to two services—what do you recommend? Should we launch another service?

Let me start by saying: I love a multi-service reality when it’s done at the right time, for the right reasons and in the right way. Unfortunately, too many churches make the move without the proper forethought or preparation and end up getting less than ideal or desired results. Read More

Tuesday's Catch: First Responders, Church Security, and More

3 Ways the Local Church Can Reach First Responders

The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT)—which offers emotional and spiritual care to people affected by disasters—was born out of 9/11 when volunteers deployed to New York City to minister to those impacted by the terrorist attacks.... Josh Holland, assistant director of the RRT, offers ways for the local church to show appreciation and minister to the first responders in their communities. Read More

My Security Training Didn’t Prepare Me For This…But My Ministry Training Did

The first Sunday I served on the security team at church I had an interesting encounter. Late-comers were straggling through the lobby as usual when I noticed a visitor. He was holding a large metal coffee mug and looked disoriented. I didn’t recognize him, so I assumed he was new and probably lost. When I walked up and introduced myself, I realized that he was three sheets to the wind and his “coffee mug” was serving as a beer stein. Hmmm…what to do? Read More

Servant of the Church of God: Donald William Bradley Robinson, 1922–2018

Early on Friday 7 September one of Australia’s most brilliant biblical scholars and influential church leaders went to be with the Lord whom he loved and so faithfully served. If you are an Australian evangelical, you owe him a great debt, even if you’ve never heard of him. His name was Donald William Bradley Robinson. He was 95 years old. Read More

How to Know When to Let a Church or Ministry Die

Some ministries and churches are meant to last for a season. Here’s how to know when that season is over. Read More

7 Textual Reasons to Pray for Your Church Leaders Today

If you’re a church leader, you need people praying for you – and you need to be praying for other leaders in your congregation. If you’re a layperson in your church, you need to be interceding for your church’s leaders. Here’s why, based on the Word of God.... Read More

The Lies We Spread About Grace

If we tell people we are broken sinners just like they are, we are only telling half the story. Read More

5 Ways to NOT Be the Annoying Christian at Work

We’ve all had the moment where we want everyone to know about our church or our faith … but we feel that inner voice telling us, “Don’t be THAT guy.” You know, that guy with the Bible verse for everything, or the woman that spontaneously prays out loud and freaks people out. How do you connect your friends to your faith? Read More

The Nashville Statement Confronts Heresy, and That’s Why We Needed It.

Today Christianity is facing a conflict with the zeitgeist over sexual morality, and there are no shortage of attempts to “reconcile” the faith with a revolution in sexual mores that is inherently incompatible with the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Read More

Monday, September 10, 2018

Monday's Catch: Dead Churches?! Oh, Oh!!

Too far gone!

How to Wake Up a Dead Church

Here are my observations, for what they’re worth, on how to transform a collection of comatose do-nothings into a thriving, caring, loving church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, since every church is both similar and different, we will use a lot of generalities and broad-sweeping statements. Pastors should take anything that fits their situation and skip past the rest. Read More

How the Church Becomes a Community of Holiness

Imitating Christ is not just an individual concern but a corporate affair. Read More

The Metrics of Mission: How to Count What Counts

Five examples of kingdom behaviors that should be quantified. Read More

Want To Go Deeper And Wider? Underline New Stuff

I can’t gain new understanding of anything – even of the ideas I already agree with – if all I do is keep reinforcing old facts. Read More

By Some Means...

In recent years, a number of Reformed theologians have introduced the phrase ordinary means of grace to a forthcoming generation of ministers. The incorporation of this phase into the vocabulary of the church has been quite easily observable--especially in serious-minded Confessionally Reformed churches where it has become something of a Shibboleth of orthodox worship and missions. Nevetheless, few have set out, in summary form, the variations of its use in the history of the Church. Read More

10 Fears I Have for an "Internet Generation" of Leaders

I’m grateful for the opportunities that the Internet, social media, and other tools provide us as we do ministry in the 21st century. We can talk to the world in much more expedient ways today than we could when I started ministry more than 35 years ago. So, I’m overall quite positive about these tools. On the other hand, I do have these fears for young church leaders who’ve grown up with these tools.... Read More

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Practical Preaching Advice for Pastors and Lay Preachers # 16

No Excuses for Preaching Bad Sermons

It occurs to me that what is true of photographers is, to some degree, true of preachers. Just as the modern era has given us such good tools that we have no excuse for taking bad photos, it’s given us tools that leave us no excuse for preparing bad sermons. Today’s tools are just too inexpensive and too good and too widely available for that. Read More

Why Pastors Should Consider Preaching (At Least) 5 Minutes Shorter

Kevin DeYoung explains why in his words "the majority of preachers in conservative, Reformedish circles could safely cut their sermon length by five or ten minutes (or more) and be more effective because of it." Read More

How to Preach a Text You Don’t Fully Understand

There are many advantages to preaching through books of the Bible. One “disadvantage” is that you’ll occasionally have to preach through a text that you really do not yet fully understand. But even this, I believe, is healthy for the preacher and the congregation. So what do you do when you spend your week laboring over a difficult text with a couple valid options and you still don’t know where you land? Read More

Preaching and Crisis Management

My model of ministry for these types of difficult days comes from the example of Nehemiah. You know the story, so I won’t recount it here, but you can read about it in Nehemiah chapters two through six. Let me point to a few principles that have guided my preaching and pastoral ministry during times of church conflict. Read More

The Essential Me-First of Biblical Preaching

Are you afraid to use yourself as the example for your sermon? Read More

5 Marks of a Stinky Sermon

No preacher should expect to hit a walk-off home run every Sunday. It is realistic, however, for us to avoid fouling out any Sunday....To help you avoid preparing and preaching stinky sermons, I have provided a short list of common marks of a stinky sermon. Read More

7 Tips for Preaching to Teenagers

This isn’t an exhaustive list of everything you need to know. But hopefully these tips will help some of you not have to learn the hard way like I did. Read More

Friday, September 07, 2018

Friday's Catch: The Process of Church Revitalization and More

Renewing Your Church: The (Sometimes) Slow and Detailed Process of Revitalization

Turning a country-club-style church into a church on a mission. Read More

Is Your Church Resisting Necessary Change? Try This Helpful Strategy

Wise and loving pastors don’t attack people’s affection for the past, they ease their fears about the future. Read More

The Biggest Misunderstanding About Small Church Pastors

We don't have a limited vision. Our best contributions to Christ’s kingdom happen to be in a smaller setting. Read More

Let's Not Go Beyond What the Lord Said

Someone says, “I’ve had a revelation from the Lord, something Scripture doesn’t address.” Run, as fast as you can. Read More

Not Our Kind of People: 6 Intercultural Worship Musts

We are willing to go outside the church to diversify but failing miserably to do so within. So why are we so ready to defer when we travel around the world but not across the aisle? Read More

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Thursday's Catch: Necessary Characteristics for a Church Revitalizer and More

Five Necessary Characteristics for a Church Revitalizer

What makes a pastor or a church planter great at what they do is not always the same as what allows a church revitalizer to excel. Read More

Why Declining Churches Often Run Off Pastors - Revitalize & Replant #057

Some churches have a habit of running pastors off. Some pastors have a habit of leaving too soon. Today, Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe tackle the former issue and discuss why some churches continually run off pastors. Listen Now

The Secret Pain of Pastors

Being a pastor is hard work. It’s not for wimps. This is the reality—the job of a pastor can be 24/7 and carry unique challenges. Read More

Creating a Personal Growth Plan

I’m a huge fan of setting goals. But there’s something more important, more powerful and far more effective than setting goals. Plans. Read More

How the ‘Gig Economy’ Is Changing Christian Ministry

More and more people are getting part-time side gigs for supplemental income. Here’s how that affects the ministry landscape. Read More

10 Things I Did NOT Do—And Now My Congregation Sings Louder

Here are 10 things that I did not do with my congregation over the past year that I think has helped our congregational singing.... Read More

Your Small Church Is Not Too Small for Global Missions

Small churches can fund missionaries, send missionaries, take part in short-term missions, and fan a flame for the nations in their churches. Read More

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

10 Tips for Leaders of Small Churches

1. Love being small. Don’t wish for your church to be something it’s not, advises Elmer Towns, co-founder of Liberty University.

“Be happy for what it is and look at the strength of the small church. Look at the relationships! Look at the energy it has! Revel in those strengths and increase those strengths.”

2. Find partners. Churches near and far sent youth groups and missions teams to help revitalize First Wesleyan Church in Nashville, Tennessee, says its former pastor, David Gould.

“It took a lot of relationship building, but we were an inner-city church, and for bigger churches who wanted an outreach in such a community, we were a great outlet.” Read More
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6 Ways to Prevent Vision Drift in Your Church

Your most important job as a church leader isn’t to hire and fire. It isn’t to manage a budget. It isn’t to mentor younger leaders. It’s not even to preach.

All of those tasks are important. They’re part of what you do as a church leader.

But your main job as a leader is to remind your congregation continually of your church’s vision. Everything else you can delegate. You can’t delegate vision.

Proverbs says, “Without a vision, the people perish.” You have a lot riding on the vision you communicate to your church.

Communicating vision get harder and harder—and much more important—as your church grows. Read More

Seven Reasons Why Church Worship Centers Will Get Smaller [Video]

In this Rainer Report Thom Rainer takes a look at why the "big box" church worship centers may be a thing of the past. Watch Now
How many churches built "big box" worship centers out of the mistaken belief "if you build it, they will come"? They invested in a large building but the expected crowds did not flock to their church. On Sunday mornings the parking lot is nearly empty.

10 of the Best Ways to Make Visitors Feel Welcome to Church

Visiting a new church for the first time tends to be intimidating -- there’s a lot for visitors to figure out! You want church visitors to feel at home and at ease once they arrive, but how can you make that happen?

Here are 10 ways to make sure your church creates a welcoming environment for new visitors.... Read More

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

12 Reasons Your Church Doesn’t Produce Spiritual Growth

A while ago, I read Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson. Greg is the executive pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. Cally is Willow’s director of communication services. The book is based on their research of over 1,000 churches. It takes a hard look at spiritual formation in our churches with a focus on best-practice ministries.

This book is by far the book that has most challenged my thinking regarding spiritual formation in the church. My Kindle version has highlights throughout. This morning, I went through all those highlights and tried to narrow them down to the 12 that I found most challenging to current church practices. Unfortunately, these statements only provide a snippet of the findings and best practices outlined in the book. Read More

Before You Leave, Assess What’s Pulling You Elsewhere

Leading in any context is challenging. You carry the burden of the people and the ministry or organization on your shoulders. Problems will hit your office. Not everyone will like the decisions you make. Or even how you make them. Not everyone will agree with the priorities you set, the direction you take or the team you assemble.

In other words, you will disappoint people at times. The burden of leadership takes a toll. Because of this, there are always reasons to leave and go somewhere else. Those are often referred to as the “push.”

When people leave one role and to go to another, there is some ratio of a “push” and a “pull.” The “push” is typically a list of reasons someone wants to leave the current context. The “pull” is why someone is compelled to go to a new place of leadership.

Here are four thoughts on the push, the pull and your next leadership assignment.... Read More

8 Reasons Bitterness Will Consume You If You Don't Let Go

I’ve seen it a lot – church members who get angry at someone and then stay that way. I’ve seen people refuse to talk to each other at church, as if their silence is a godly adult reaction to disagreement. My heart breaks when I see such reactions because I’ve seen bitterness consume people for years. Here’s why that happens.... Read More

Monday, September 03, 2018

Monday's Catch: "Peak Attractional" and More

Have We Finally Hit Peak Attractional?

The attractional church model has been tried and found exceptionally successfully in its ability to draw massive crowds (though it seems these crowds are less likely to be comprised of unchurched people with genuine spiritual questions than churched people who come from smaller, less attractive congregations). The attractional church model has been tried and found exceptionally wanting in its ability to draw people into a living relationship with the Lord that results in their spiritual maturation and reproduction. Yet it lives on in a thousand megachurches and a million smaller imitators. Read More

The First Two Minutes Matter Most

In the first two minutes, visitors will feel either awkward or welcome. In the first two minutes, unbelievers will feel either rejected or accepted. In the first two minutes, the lonely will feel either neglected or comforted. In the first two minutes, so many people will make the decision to stay or to go. Read More

Discovering Your Role in Building the Kingdom

Kngdom building and disciple making require a shift in thinking from being a hero to being a hero maker. Read More

When Church Members Keep Second-Guessing Your Pastoral Decisions

Unlike politicians and major league coaches, most of our critics aren’t strangers in the stands, they’re people we know very closely. Read More

4 Emotions That Can Take A Leader Out

As leaders, we experience the full array of human emotion on a regular basis. How we handle our emotions can make or break our leadership. Read More

Three Lead Measures: Abiding, Going, and Telling

So many of us have become consumed and obsessed with attractive lag measures rather than emphasizing crucial lead measures. Lag measures are attractive because they’re easily recognizable. Pastors easily talk about attendance, giving, baptisms, and salvations because it’s the easiest way to express success or the lack thereof. Lead measures are also recognizable, yet many pastors and congregations have difficulty in recognizing important lead measures because we have failed to appreciate how crucial practice is to gameday, how vital preparation is to results. And perhaps many don’t know how to focus on lead measures because they simply haven’t yet clarified what they are. Read More

The Kind of Apologetics Jesus Uses

There will always be Christians who will rightly and necessarily point out that we must present Christ and not ourselves. They will say that we are in danger of entwining law and gospel. They will warn that we will confuse our hearers if we talk about the call and substance of discipleship and not the gospel, the gospel, and only the gospel. I concur completely with the danger these watchmen see and find of great concern, but I would counter with a similar set of warnings. Read More
Also see"Why Calls for Discipleship Make Us Feel So Guilty" and "Discipleship Isn't What You Think It Is."
Encountering God’s Mission in God’s Word

“If we read the Bible with a missional hermeneutic, we will see all of life through the same lens of mission.”Read More

How to Fail in Your Evangelism [Video]

We don’t fail in our evangelism when we faithfully tell the gospel and yet the person is not converted. We fail in our evangelism when we don’t faithfully tell the gospel at all. Watch Now

Nominal Christians: Some Stats from the U.K. from Broad Application

How do we reach people who are nominally Christian? Read More

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Do We Need More Small Anglican Churches?

By Robin G. Jordan

Do the various North American Anglican jurisdictions need more small churches? Don’t they have a plethora of struggling, small churches already? My answer to both questions is “yes.”

But when I answer “yes” to the first question I am not thinking about multiplying the number of small Anglican churches that live in the past, place their preferences before everything else, are inward-looking and disconnected from their communities, and otherwise fit the description of a stagnant, dying church. I am thinking about multiplying the number of small Anglican churches that are mission-oriented and are engaging their communities, in which Anglicans are connecting, growing, and serving together, and which in every way fit the description of a flourishing, healthy church. We definitely need a lot more of such churches.

When I answer “yes” to the second question, I am thinking that we have far too many small Anglican churches that fit the description of stagnant, dying churches. I am also thinking that these churches should not be kept on indefinite life support but should be allowed to die if they are unwilling to change their ways and become flourishing and healthy. What I am advocating is, in parenting and social work intervention, called “tough love.” We refuse to act as enablers and to rescue others from the consequences of their unhealthy behavior. An enabler is “a person who encourages or enables negative or self-destructive behavior in another.”

What has been my recent experience in small church ministry is that stagnant, dying churches, when they are given the choice between a leader who may be able to help them make a turnaround and a leader who will enable them to continue in their pattern of unhealthy behavior will chose the latter. The proclivity to chose enablers over healthier leaders is itself a part of their unhealthy behavior pattern. They prefer the status quo over change, even though maintaining the status quo will lead to the demise of the church.

What many small Anglican churches are suffering is a discipleship problem. They have an inadequate or distorted view of Christian discipleship. They may have never been taught a biblical understanding of discipleship. They may be facing a changing cultural landscape, demographic shifts, and a shrinking, aging base. But these factors, while they may present challenges, do not really account for the failure of these churches to thrive and grow. An insufficient grasp of what being followers of Jesus requires from them, however, does.

Jesus himself places a strong emphasis on following him. Trusting him, abiding in his words, and obeying his commandments are an integral part of his message. Those who do, enter the Kingdom of God.

Having water poured on us at baptism, hands laid on us at confirmation, and eating the bread and drinking the cup at the Lord’s Supper does not make us a disciple. Acceptance of the lordship of Jesus as God’s only begotten Son and his Anointed One does. We show our acceptance of his lordship, when we live our lives in accordance with his teaching and example. As my grandmother was wont to remind me as a child, “actions speak louder than words.”

Only when we are living with Jesus as the lord over our lives do we manifest the grace that we may have received at our baptism and in the Lord’s Supper. As the seventeenth century Anglican divine Richard Hooker warned, “all receive not the grace of God which receive the sacraments of his grace.”

You Can’t Love Jesus Without Loving His Church

Have you ever heard someone say, “I am into Jesus, but not the church”?

My first encounter with “Jesus, yes; church, no” theology came as a newly-minted pastor. My wife and I were hosting an open house in the church parsonage. About half-a-dozen young families attended, and all was going as planned until I began to talk about church membership. One gentleman in attendance pressed me on the topic, arguing the concept was unbiblical. I squirmed and tried to answer. Undaunted, he continued to press his case.

The conversation caught me a bit flat- footed, and forced me into an on-the-spot apologetic for the local church. For a moment, I felt uncertain and embarrassed by my lack of a clear answer.

And yet, what I intuitively knew then, and have come to understand more fully, is that Christianity is inextricably linked to the local church. In fact, the local church is the New Testament’s expression of Christianity. The New Testament depicts the Christian and the local church together, like hand in glove. Read More

Practical Preaching Advice for Pastors and Lay Preachers #15

5 Preaching Styles In 25 Years (Here's What I Changed And Why)

Our language keeps changing, our common experiences are fewer, and universal illustrations no longer are. Read More

How to Preach a Text You Don’t Fully Understand

There are many advantages to preaching through books of the Bible. One “disadvantage” is that you’ll occasionally have to preach through a text that you really do not yet fully understand. But even this, I believe, is healthy for the preacher and the congregation. So what do you do when you spend your week laboring over a difficult text with a couple valid options and you still don’t know where you land? Read More

7 Mistakes in Public Speaking

Have you made any of these mistakes in public speaking? What other mistakes have you made? Read More

Have You Half-Quit Preaching?

There are temptations to quit preaching, but temptations to "half-quit" are an even greater danger. Here are the warning signs and what to do about them. Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: Structuring Your Church to Reproduce and Multiply and More

Five Characteristics of Structure for Church Multiplication

For many churches, the reason why people fail to stay isn’t a ministry issue; it’s a structural issue. They simply don’t have the structure in place to see reproduction and eventually multiplication. Just as chairs are designed to support a certain amount of weight, so too church structures are designed to handle a certain amount of people. Sadly, most churches don’t realize they are perfectly designed to stay right where they are. Read More

8 Dangers of Church Revitalization

I’m convinced we need to focus on church revitalization as well as church planting to reach North America. At the same time, though, I see at least these dangers in church revitalization.... Read More

The Number One Lie the World Tells Our Kids Today

An important but challenging task for youth pastors and parents involves helping our children understand the messages of the world. However, given the pluralistic nature of contemporary society, one struggles to identify a cohesive ideology underpinning the values of the world. Read More

Part Two: Attacking the Lie of Individualism with Our Kids

How do we practically teach our children to recognize this fallacy of self-rule, and instead submit to the gracious leadership of God? Read More

How Facebook Has Flattened Human Communication

Online services demand easily classified content. Users have obliged. Read More

How the Local Church Prepared Me for Missions

I wish I could say that I’ve always recognized the significance of the role my local church played in preparing me for missions. But not until recently did I truly begin to appreciate it. From a very young age, on up through high school, my home church not only taught me the importance of missions but involved me and showed me how I could make a significant contribution to spread God’s glory to the nations. Read More

Promoting Plagiarism in Ministry

Over the last few weeks there’s been a lot of angst in my denomination’s local circles about evangelism. A visiting friend told us we’re no longer keen on it, and the statistics show that over the last ten years we’ve lost people just as fast as we’ve converted them. Read More

Friday, August 31, 2018

Christianity and Culture: Nothing Is New under the Sun

By Robin G. Jordan

The Pew report, “The Religious Typology a New Way to Categorize Americans by Religion,” is a reminder that Christianity has never occupied in an environment that was entirely free from other religious and spiritual influences. In some places and times Christianity has been the dominant religion; in others a minority religion. For example, Christians form about one percent of the Japan’s population. In Japan Buddhism, Shintoism, secularism, and a host of religious cults vie for the hearts and minds of the Japanese people. Both Buddhism and Shintoism have played a major role in shaping Japanese culture. They are an integral part of the cultural landscape.

The Facts & Trends article, “Americans Believe in God, but also Psychics and Crystals,” notes the influence of New Age spirituality on Christians as well as other Americans. A number of the beliefs and practices that are categorized as “New Age” have been around for centuries in the British Isles and North America. They may have enjoyed a resurgence in “the Age of Aquarius,” the 1960s and the 1970s, but they are not new.

In The Book of Common Prayer 1559 The Elizabethan Prayer Book, John E. Booty draws to our attention that Elizabeth I had her personal astrologer, Dr. John Dee, and that the signs of the Zodiac appear in the Almanac of the 1559 Prayer Book. Bishop John Jewel, while he condemned the practice of soothsaying, nonetheless believed the prognostications of soothsayers.

We may gather from William Shakespeare’s plays that the Elizabethans believed in the existences of fairies and preternatural phenomena. We may gather from other sources that they also believed in charms, potions, and white magic. A housewife might leave a bowl of cream or porridge or some other food offering on the hearth for the brownies that were believed to inhabit cottages and farmhouses. The milkmaid might say a charm over the cream to prevent it from curdling or souring. These practices would persist in the British Isles into the early twentieth century and may persist in some areas of the British Isles to this day.

In the United States spiritualism has a long history. The beliefs of the Shakers whose communities dotted the United States in the late 1700s and well into the 1800s were based upon spiritualism. While spiritualism has decreased in popularity since the early twentieth century, it continues to attract a following. Ouji boards and planchettes continue to be sold as parlor games.

On the other hand, the reading of daily horoscopes has increased in popularity. Many people not only read their daily horoscope but act on it.

When I was a boy, I lived in a small English village. I learned from the cautionary tales that I heard that it was advisable to avoid certain places, plants, and trees since those who had not heeded the warnings had brought misfortune upon themselves. I also learned that one should also refrain from doing certain things since doing them could produce a similar effect. On the other hand, there were certain things that one should do to avert misfortune or to ward off evil. I learned to avoid alder trees and ponds and not to walk windershins, or counterclockwise, around an object. I learned that I should not open an umbrella inside the house, put my shoes on the table, or break a mirror. If I spilled salt, I should throw a pinch of salt over my left shoulder. I heard these warnings from God-fearing, churchgoing folks.

Some of the warnings were based on past experience. Children playing on the edge of ponds were apt to suffer a misadventure—to fall in the pond, become tangled in pond weed, and drown. While the others might be dismissed as superstition, they were longstanding folk beliefs that had been passed from one generation to another and may have been remnants of the pre-Christian religions that were once a part of the cultural landscape of the British Isles. The adage, “better safe than sorry” was not an uncommon response if one questioned these beliefs. This adage may also explain why many people who read their daily horoscope act on it.

While the present cultural landscape may alarm some Christians, those who choose to follow Christ have always had to deal with “background noise” that competes with Christ for their attention and for the attention of those whom they are seeking to lead to Christ. The noise may have grown louder in recent years but it has always been there. What may be troubling them is that they are no longer able to tune it out—to pretend that it is not there. However, as the author of Ecclesiastes wrote, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

Americans Believe in God, but also Psychics and Crystals

When many Americans need a spiritual boost, they head to church.

Or look to the mountains.

Or pick up some crystals.

Four in 10 Americans (42 percent) believe spiritual powers rest in physical objects like mountains, trees, and crystals, according to a new study of American religion from Pew Research.

A similar number (41 percent) believe in psychics. A third (33 percent) believe in reincarnation, while 29 percent believe in astrology.

While the nation has become more secular, according to Pew’s report, it’s also filled with spiritual beliefs that fall outside of traditional faith. And the number of Americans who accept New Age beliefs include the highly religious and skeptics alike.

“New Age beliefs are common, even among Americans who are highly religious in traditional ways,” according to Pew’s report. Read More

Related Articles:
Which of These New Faith Categories Do You Fall Into?
The Religious Typology - A new way to categorize Americans by religion
Religious typology quiz
The religious topology quiz, which is based upon the research questionnaire, does not explain what it means by "spiritual powers" but leaves to the respondents to decide what this phrase means. The quiz also has limited categories of church attendance. For example, it has no category for those who attend church more than once a week. The categories that it does list do not reflect contemporary patterns of church attendance. Within its limitations the Pew research confirms what astute observers of our changing culture have observed since the 1980s and earlier. For those who have not been paying attention to the changes in our cultural landscape, it may prove a wake-up call if they bother to read the report.