Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday's Catch: "A Friendly Reminder: 'Come To Jesus' Is More Important Than 'Come To Our Church'" and More


A Friendly Reminder: “Come To Jesus” Is More Important Than “Come To Our Church”

We have become so used to tethering evangelism to our church’s programming and attendance that we can forget they're not the same thing. Read More

Autopsy of a Deceased Church Outreach Ministry

Thom Rainer offers some ideas that may explain the death of ongoing outreach by churches in the Southern Baptist Convention and other denominations. Read More

9 Hidden Things That Make Or Break Leaders

Changing your mind about how you lead, feel and think changes everything. Read More

Why NOT Getting Hired, Promoted, Or Recognized Is A Sign Of God’s Blessing

The following is a brief excerpt from Brian Jones' new book Finding Favor from a chapter called “Intentional Obscurity.” Read More

10 Options When You Don't Want to Go the Church Office on Monday

I know it happens, because I’ve been there. You so look forward to Sunday, but that day is a flop. Your sermon seemed like a failure. Attendance was down. Your friendly critic wasn’t so friendly. The events of the day bothered you on Sunday afternoon, and you just don’t want to go to work on Monday. What do you do? Here are some options.... Read More

3 Spiritual Vitality Warning Signs for Pastors

It’s often difficult to discern the level of your spiritual growth when you are professionally immersed in spiritually oriented church work. Read More

Is It Necessary to Preach Divine Wrath?

Faithful pulpit ministry requires the declaration of both judgment and grace. The Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword that softens and hardens, comforts and afflicts, saves and damns. Read More

What Am I Saved For?

We know what we’ve been saved from, but knowing what we’ve been saved for is just as important. Read More

Saturday, April 21, 2018

3 Ways to Keep Your Sheep From Being Stolen


Recently, pastor and theologian David Fitch engaged Ed Stetzer on his data about megachurches and sheep stealing, it seemed that the only thing they could agree on is that there were too many church transfers.

This is part of who we are as a country. The average American moves 14 times over his or her lifetime. And 58 percent of people who have changed churches, changed for reasons that had nothing to do with location.

here may be reasons to leave a church. In a way, church-hopping is very American. It makes sense in a place full of personalized playlists and individualized movie recommendations.

It would be easy to write off church hopping as a cultural phenomenon. You could even cite the individual for a lack of spiritual maturity. But churches have a responsibility as well.

Imagine if your sheep were so deeply committed to your church that it would be hard to accept a job offer in a new city.

Imagine if there was such a level of commitment that they would be willing to put up with poor preaching and bad music.

Church-hopping and sheep-stealing don’t have to be inevitable.

But it will require doing at least three things differently. Read More

College Grads and Retirees Make Great Church Planters


College students “discovered” the Summit in 2003. If I’m remembering rightly, it went something like this: One week about five college students visited. They pulled up in one car at the drop-off zone, parked it there, and then piled out. They liked the service, and because college students travel in herds, the next week they brought back 250 of their friends. They all arrived in that same one car. In a period of less than a month, our attendance doubled. And during that same time, our weekly average giving increased by $13.48. College students bring a lot of great things—enthusiasm, optimism, evangelistic zeal—but money is not one of them.

One of my favorite memories as a pastor is a Sunday morning when an usher came up to me after the first service with a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit from Bojangles. One of the college students had placed it in the offering plate with a little note on it that read (charitably misquoting Acts 3:6), “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I unto you.”

The leadership of our church realized something pretty quickly. With such a huge influx of college students, we might not be the wealthiest church, but we would always have a large pool of potential missionaries. So we began to challenge our graduating college seniors to let ministry be the most shaping factor in determining where they would pursue their careers. We asked our college students to spend their first two years after graduation pursuing their careers in a place where we are planting a church. As we tell them now, “You have to get a job somewhere. Why not get one in a place where you can be part of a strategic work of God?” We tell them, “Give us two years, and we’ll change the world.” Tongue in cheek, we sometimes refer to this as our “Mormonization strategy.” But it has caught on.

Hundreds upon hundreds of these students have answered that call. In fact, recent college graduates account for a third of the people we send on our domestic church plants.

As we have made room for them, God has provided for us. One week, after we commissioned dozens of college students, a guest from the West Coast visiting our church was so moved by the number of students he saw that he committed to give us $186,000. I stood up the next week and told our students, “Okay, guys, for the foreseeable future, financially, you are covered.”

Reaching college students isn’t just about creating enthusiasm and energy for your church. It’s about seeing God fulfill his promise in Psalm 2:8 to raise up a generation that will carry the gospel to the nations: “Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance.” Read More

Also See:
Don’t Sideline the Women in Your Church Plant

End of an Era: Once Vibrant Kentucky Church Closing Its Doors



‘It’s like taking care of your mother with dementia; We did everything we could’

Once a bustling congregation of nearly 1,500 members, Pollard Baptist Church is closing its doors.

Decades of decline had taken their toll at Pollard, leaving five faithful members to make the heart-wrenching decision to pull the plug.

The final worship service will be May 1.

“We grieve over what has come to pass,” said Wes Smith, Pollard’s pastor for the last six years. “We understand every living organism does die eventually. As great as the churches listed in the New Testament were, none of those are around today.”

For the tiny remnant of believers, the closing creates a deafening silence from the pulpit where God’s Word had been proclaimed for the past 126 years.

“It’s heartbreaking; it really is,” said 70-year-old Linda Cornwell, who has known no other church. She was enrolled in the "cradle roll" as a baby and committed her life to Christ at age 15. “It was August 1962,” she said. “Twenty-five people were saved on the same night.”

Churches close every single day in America and even though some have been around for more than a century, like Pollard, they fade from existence due to irrelevance, population shifts, societal changes and poor church leadership.

Churches, like human beings, are born and they live and they die. Read More
Just a reminder of the real need for vigorous church revitalization as well as aggressive church planting in North America.
image: kentuckytoday.com

Saturday Lagniappe: "6 Ways to Avoid Owing Taxes Next Year" and More


6 Ways to Avoid Owing Taxes Next Year

Tax Day has come and gone. For many, yesterday was a painful experience as they realized they owed the government more than expected. The good news is that, a year from now, filling out your 2018 taxes does not have to result in a repeat performance. Read More

Navigating the Gray Areas of Church Finance

When it comes to church finances, there are countless gray areas. It’s a good idea to get advice from an independent group. Read More

Why Study Theology

When large numbers of professing evangelical Christians are not sure whether the deity of Christ is an article of the Christian faith, then we have more than a problem. We are the proverbial lemmings, rushing headlong toward the precipice. Read More

4 Reasons Why Pastoral Honeymoons Are Shrinking

Why are pastoral honeymoons shorter now? There are at least 4 reasons.... Read More

Too Many Pastors Are 'Digging Their Graves with Their Teeth'

One of the chief occupational hazards of a pastor, whether evangelical or mainline, is overeating. Read More

Authentic Preaching: Bringing Yourself Into The Message

Craig Groeschel encourages pastors to make sure they don't miss the key ingredient for authenticity in preaching. Read More

What Is the Biggest Problem Facing Evangelicalism? Comfort

The biggest problem facing the British Evangelical church today is, without doubt, our own personal comfort. Far too many of us are happy in our middle-class Christian enclaves, in comfortable areas of the country, going to churches full of people exactly like them. If they are even willing to countenance joining a church plant – and many won’t because it is far more demanding to join a small core team rather than remain a consumer in a larger church – it is nigh on impossible to get them to consider a council estate or deprived community. Read More

Comfortable Christians Are Killing the Church

In this earlier article Stephen Kneale identifies as a major obstacle to church planting in England the problem getting workers to move to the less desirable parts of the country, a view that he reiterates in the preceding article. Read More
A part of the problem may be the approach to church planting that Kneale and others are employing in England. It entails recruiting a core group of Christians from existing churches in one region of the country to work with a lead church planter in pioneering a new church in another region of the country. This approach has its drawbacks as Kneale is experiencing. It is just one of a number of church planting approaches that Ed Stetzer and others have identified. To re-evangelize England's North and to plant new churches in that region may require a different approach or more than one approach. I do not disagree with Kneale's premise that many evangelicals are reluctant to leave their comfort zones and pioneer new churches. This problem is observable in the United States as well as the United Kingdom. But the solution may be to adopt a church planting approach that is keyed to the particular region as Stetzer and others advocate.
Student Walkouts Sweep the US

Friday was National Student Walkout in which thousands of students across the the United States walked out of their classes in a nationwide call for gun reform legislation. Read More

Ukraine Moves to Split Church from Russia as Elections Approach

Ukraine's Orthodox church could become independent of Moscow under the terms of a presidential initiative lawmakers approved on Thursday, a move that President Petro Poroshenko said would make it harder for Russia to meddle in Ukrainian affairs. Read More

Friday, April 20, 2018

Small Church Essentials with Karl Vaters - Rainer on Leadership #425


Karl Vaters joins Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe once again to talk about how small churches should focus on growing healthier—not necessarily larger. Read More

What Scale Will God use on Judgment Day?


One of my favorite ways to explain the Gospel these days is to use the scales analogy.

It wasn’t too long ago that a Muslim explained to me that on the day of judgment (Qiyamat) scales will be brought before each human being, and, like measuring grain, all of the good deeds that someone has done in their lifetime will be poured on one side of the scale, and all of the bad deeds that someone has done will be poured on the other side of the scale. If the good side weighs more than the bad side, the person will be allowed into Heaven.

This scale is not unique to Islam, though. It is the default position of every human being from birth. We all believe that we are inherently good, and that one day God will let us into Heaven based on our goodness. There is a simple way to expose this when sharing the Gospel.

Simply ask the person if they believe that they are good. Or, even better, ask the question, “If you were to die today and stand before God, and if He were to ask you, “Why should I let you into Heaven, what would you say?” I’ve found that most of the time the person has never been asked this question, and their answer reveals some type of works-based answer. When they answer, ask them if the above scale analogy fits their understanding of what will happen on the Day of Judgment. Every person I’ve asked lately, regardless of religion, has said yes.

That’s when you come in with a different scale. Read More

Also See:
The Reality of Living Before God

If You Love God, Listen to Him: Five Reasons to Read the Bible Every Day


Christians must be Bible people.

Over the years, I have spent many hours pleading with people to see that sentence as true. Sadly, it strikes many as novel, edgy — or worse, irrelevant.

Maybe it’s because those three words ring of one of the final taboo ideas left in our culture: fundamentalism. Immediately our postmodern minds go to the stodgy, three-piece-suit preachers of our grandparents’ generation, wagging their fingers with the “Good Book” in their hands.

Ours, we say, is an organic faith, not a rigid one filled with to-dos. Our Christianity is not a religion — it’s a relationship. We aren’t anti-Bible per se. There are many things in the Bible that have helped and inspired us over the years. We are against that earnest, rigorous, dirt-under-nails, restless consumption of the Bible. But what remains in a Christianity that doesn’t seriously engage God’s word? Sadly, a fluffy, pithy sentimentalism — a religion who’s entire belief system is more fit for a coffee mug than a catechism.

I want to give you five good reasons to find your life in the Bible for the rest of your life. Before you get into God’s word, remember that becoming Bible-literate is not about being smarter, or beefing up your spiritual resume, or lording your knowledge over others. It’s about looking through the pages to the Savior on the other side. Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39–40). It’s about seeing and savoring Jesus Christ through his word. We don’t worship the font. We worship the Father. Read More

Friday's Catch: "11 False Assumptions about Christianity" and More


11 False Assumptions about Christianity

Timothy Massarro examines 11 false assumptions about their faith that Christians can expect to hear or read. Read More
I have heard a number of these assumptions voiced in the conversations of other students at the university where I take a Japanese language class. They appear to have wide currency among young people. They may, however, be echoing the views of an older generation. It also not uncommon to hear young people criticizing Christians and their beliefs and practices. For some students it appears to be a mark of distinction and even pride in their own estimation and that of their peers that they are a self-professed agnostic or atheist.
Want More Church Leaders? Look For A Servant’s Heart

It’s better and easier to encourage a servant to lead than to get a leader to serve. Read More

A Short Guide to Inspiring Others

Inspiring others is an essential leadership skill. But inspiration is not a stand-alone skill. Here’s what it takes. Read More

Sermon Prep: 4 Ways to Improve Your Focus

Focus on these things in sermon preparation and you’ll minimize the distractions that can derail productivity. Read More

Eight Biblical Reasons to Preach to People’s Minds

Here are eight biblical reasons to preach to the minds of our congregations. Read More

12 Keys To Picking Great Songs For Worship

Here is my philosophy of picking worship songs distilled from 10 years of travelling, writing charts for Praisecharts.com and over 25 years of leading congregations from 70 to 7000 in worship. Read More
Good advise for the pastors and other worship leaders of churches that use praise and worship songs and contemporary Christian music in their worship gatherings.
Love God, Care for the Poor—Recovering the Lost Connection

Caring for the poor was a mark of faith in the first two centuries of Christianity. We need to recover our urgency to care for the needs of the poor. Read More

The Church and Mental Health: What Do the Numbers Tell Us?

Why is it uniquely challenging for us to address issues often associated with mental illness? Read More

Missionary Mandate: Preach the Gospel, Gather a Church

Churches are at the center of God’s Great Commission plan. Read More

The Non-Negotiable of Missionary Integrity

The fact is, missionaries face an uphill climb for relational credibility. They can’t always control perception, but they can control reality. And the reality is that missionaries must have identity integrity. Read More

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Death of "The Great Commission"


According to the latest Barna report 51% of church goers do not know what the "The Great Commission" is. Take that in for a moment, the average "Christian" doesn't know the last and lasting mandate that Christ gave to go and make disciples of everyone everywhere.

Wow.

That's like a doctor who doesn't know what the word "medicine" means or a soldier who has never heard of a gun before. In many ways it is unthinkable.

I believe that the responsibility of this falls squarely on the shoulders of the church leaders. If preachers and church leaders are not banging the drum that Jesus banged they may be playing in the wrong band. And if the leaders are confused about it then the people will be even more confused. As someone once said, "If there's a mist in the pulpit there's a fog in the pew."

Maybe the growing focus on social justice in our churches has overshadowed the primary mission that Jesus gave his followers. Perhaps the attention we are giving to loving our neighbors somehow has been psychologically unteathered from the verbal proclamation of the Gospel to them.

Whatever the reasons, we must face the fact that a technical majority of the people in our churches are unfamiliar with the term "The Great Commission." Now the question is what do we do about it? Read More

Also See:
51% of Churchgoers Don’t Know of the Great Commission

Why There’s No Such Thing as African Christianity


Every generation has philosophical winds that blow across the landscape of a nation or even an entire continent. These winds often begin from an epicenter of suffering and bring about a different way of looking at life. Africa has had its fair share of these winds, and as a result missionary efforts here have had to deal with them. One question that combines the philosophical winds blowing in Africa with the world of missions is this: “Are we African Christians or Christians in Africa?”

What do I mean by this? When the first generation of indigenous leaders takes denominational power from Western missionaries, there tends to be an over-reaction. The leaders emphasize their ethnicity so much that someone listening to them may soon start thinking that the new agenda in the church should be to rid themselves of anything that smacks of the West. We must now be truly African.

This is worse when the handover of church power takes place while a country is undergoing political change from Western colonialism. The one-stringed banjo that’s played over and over again is that Africans have their own way of worship and must return to it. What we have inherited is Western Christianity, and we must now get rid of it. That becomes the popular cry: “We are African Christians.” Read More

Some Keys to Success in Revitalization We Are Hearing from Leaders - Revitalize & Replant #037


Successful revitalization needs with a successful leader. Today, we take a look at some keys to being a successful leader in a church revitalization. Listen Now

Every True Practitioner of Piety


Lewis Bayly’s Practice of Piety is a classic work of doctrine and devotion that demolishes the idea that there’s any division between the two.

Those of us who simply love to read theology, more or less for its own sake, sometimes need to be reminded that knowing God has practical ends as well. And those of you (it would strain credibility if I pretended to include myself among the number) who do not make it a habit to read theology sometimes need to be told why it is worth doing.

Bayly is helpful for both, because his Practice of Piety, as the name accurately indicates, is a practical book “directing a Christian how to walk that he may please God.” The only trick (which is not really a tricksy trick but the sober truth) is that in order to know how to walk in the presence of God, you have to know a lot about God. Otherwise you’re just walking. So Bayly starts his practical book with a major dose of highly instructive classical trinitarian theology. It’s a lot of pages of what we call, in the technical language of Christian dogmatics, the good stuff.

He concludes that section by saying, “this is the plain description of God, so far as he hath revealed himself to us in his word,” and immediately identifies “four special uses” which “every true practitioner of piety” stands to gain from knowing and believing this doctrine. Read More
The Right Reverend Lewis Bayly was the Bishop of Bangor in the 17th century. He owes his fame to his book 'The Practice of Piety, directing a Christian how to walk that he may please God.' The date of the first edition is unknown; the third edition was published in 1613. By 1824 the book reached its 74th edition. 'The Practice of Piety' has been translated into French, German, Dutch, Italian, Polish, Hungarian, Romansh, Welsh, and into the language of the Massachusetts Indians. In The Netherlands it became the best selling Reformed book of the 17th century. An online edition of 'The Practice of Piety' in modern spelling and type face may be found at the Christian Ethereal Library. It may be read online, read on a mobile device, or downloaded.

How to Read the Bible for Yourself


1. Read for the author’s meaning, not your own.

When we read, we want to know what an author intended us to see and experience in his writing. He had an intention when he wrote. Nothing will ever change that. It is there as a past, objective event in history.

We are not reading simply for subjective experiences. We are reading to discover more about objective reality. I’m not content with what comes to my mind when I read it. The meaning of a sentence, or a word, or a letter is what the author intended for us to understand by it. Therefore, meaning is the first aim of all good reading. Read More

Thursday's Catch: "How to Experience a Breakthrough in Your Church’s Growth" and More


How to Experience a Breakthrough in Your Church’s Growth

The growth of the church is for the good of the entire world, so your church needs to grow! But how? Read More
Remember, true church growth is NOT filling the pews every Sunday but multiplying the number of disciples who make disciples. You may pack your church every Sunday but if you are not producing more disciples who make disciples, your church is not growing!
The Most Underestimated Advantage for Church Growth

Followup is the most underestimated advantage for church growth. Read More

Why You Should Study Theology

Here are three reasons you should commit to understanding good theology. Read More

15 Things Seminary Teaches Me That My Pastor(ate) Can't

Greg Lanier offers a different perspective from that with the Gospel Coalition has been offering in its promotion of a new book 15 Things a Seminary Couldn't Teach Me. Read More

Ministry Is Not a Place to ‘Find Yourself’

There was a real, clear danger that the disciples would find their identity in ministry. If that was possible for them, how much more so for us today? Read More

3 Things Every Pastor Must Do

In my experience, if a pastor does these three things faithfully he will have the support of the vast majority of his people in almost any church anywhere. Read More

9 Things Pastors Can Learn from Missionaries

I spend a lot of time with missionaries, and they always challenge me and stretch me. Frankly, I wish I had spent more time with missionaries when I was a full-time pastor – as I think I would have been a better pastor. I don’t want to suggest that pastors are not already doing these things, but here are some things I think missionaries can remind us.... Read More

How to Preach to the Secular Age

While modern self-sufficient secularists are tempted toward belief, believers are constantly tempted toward self-sufficiency. The task of the preacher, it seems, is to aim at this dual temptation. We speak to the longings of those outside the faith and the wanderings of those inside. Read More

How To Preach Jesus Using The Psalms

We can find Jesus all over the Psalms, because the Psalms are his prayer book that points to him. And when we find Jesus in the Psalms, we also find ourselves. Read More

Seven Ways Church Members Should Prepare for a Sermon

I can see incredible church revitalization taking place if church members took on their own responsibilities of sermon preparation. Here are seven ways members can actively prepare for sermons. Read More

What We Miss When We Skip the Prophets

Aside from missing out on a fifth of God’s word, here are five specific treasures we miss when we consistently neglect the reading and study of the prophets. (These are not all features exclusive to the prophets, but they appear in most of the prophetic books.) Read More

image: nashotahhouse.edu

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity #1: Is Jesus Our Lord or Our Example?


Last week I announced a new series entitled “The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity,” based off a list offered by Richard Rohr. This list embodies the type of theological liberalism that was battled by Machen in the early 20th century and still abides today.

So, let’s jump right into the first commandment: “Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship.”

In many ways, this is a fitting first commandment for progressive Christianity. When given the choice between worshiping Jesus (which requires that he is divine) and merely looking at Jesus as a good moral guide, liberals have always favored the latter.

Of course, one might object that this statement isn’t really rejecting the divinity of Jesus because of the phrase “more than.” Thus, it could be argued, liberals are quite happy to worship Jesus as divine, but just put the priority on his moral example.

But, I think that would be a naive way to take the text. While such a reading is possible, the entire history of liberal Christianity is against it. The first thing to be jettisoned by liberals is always the divinity of Jesus–and therefore the worship of him. Moreover, if Jesus really is our divine Lord, how could worshiping him be secondary? Why would Jesus as example be more important than Jesus as object of worship?

It seems, therefore, we ought not to read too much into the “more than” phrase. It is likely just a way to tone down and soften the implications of this first commandment.

What, then, do we make of Jesus as simply a moral example? Several problems arise here....Read More

The Rainer Report: Church Sickness #4: Institutional Idolatry


Institutional Idolatry happens when church members have an unbiblical devotion to inconsequential matters. Watch Now

When Do I Let My Church Die? A SBTS Event [Video]


This was an event put on by The Mathena Center for Church Revitalization at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where Brian Croft leads a panel discussion with Brad Walker, Alan Witham (KBC), and Randall Cofield (LRBA) considering when to let a church die and when to fight for life. A great discussion. Enjoy! Watch Now
Viewers may access more resources at Southern Baptist Seminary's Mathena Center for Church Revitalization.

5 More Reasons To Go To Church In Person: Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell, Taste


When all our senses are involved we learn more, engage more, enjoy more, contribute more and remember more.

If we want to get everything we can from our church experience, we need to start by showing up in person.

That may seem obvious to most churchgoers, but there is a large and growing number of people who think that watching a service online is all the church they need.

And no, this is not always because of laziness or lack of spiritual passion.

In a growing number of cases, it’s because they’ve been hurt deeply, sometimes repeatedly by church people. Or they’ve grown tired of a church experience that doesn’t seem to grow deeper with them.

But they still have a passion to follow Jesus. So they stay at home and watch online or listen to podcasts. Read More

Living the Christian Life with C. S. Lewis


The best books about C. S. Lewis make us want to turn, or return, to Lewis himself. Joe Rigney’s new book, a sort of systematic theology for Lewis, does just that. Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God is an irresistible hook for those less acquainted with Lewis (who will now scramble to read him) and a familiar feast for old Lewis friends who wish to study his thoughts on the Christian life in a single commentary.

Pastor at Cities Church and assistant professor of theology and literature at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Rigney is a veteran fan and disciple of Lewis. He’s also the author of Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles, which proved I can love reading about Narnia almost as much as I enjoy reading Narnia itself. Still, I was skeptical as I cracked Lewis on the Christian Life. Why would I read several hundred pages about Lewis? Why not just read Lewis? I feared this book would be but the tinny echo of a grand cathedral bell.

I was quickly surprised. Rigney goes far beyond merely summarizing Lewis. He expounds. Explains. Extrapolates. He offers plenty of his own invaluable insight. He faithfully mirrors and magnifies Lewis like the final movement in a sonata. Lewis is the exposition, Rigney the recapitulation. Much of my delight came in hearing the same truths spoken in new words, after all. Read More
C.S. Lewis' entire Perelandra science fiction trilogy and Narnia Chronicles are available at the Project Gutenberg Canada website as well as a number of his theological works, including Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer, and Lewis'autobiography, Surprised by Joy, The shape of my early life.
Image: Pauline Baynes

Wednesday's Catch: "Why Has It Become Harder To Stock the Church Planter Pipeline?" and More


Why Has It Become Harder To Stock the Church Planter Pipeline?

It’s become more difficult to recruit church planters today compared to the recent past. Read More

Is Your Church Plant Making a Difference?

There is a simple way to quantify the difference your church plant is making in the lives of people in your community. Here’s how. Read More

4 Reasons Perfectionism Doesn’t Belong in the Pastorate

Here are a few reasons perfectionism doesn’t belong in the pastorate. Read More

God’s Metrics

God’s metrics are not our metrics. The way in which we seek to measure fruitfulness and faithfulness is often quite skewed. Read More

The Big Thing Seminary Did Teach Me: I’ll Never Graduate from Learning

Pastors will always be students. Read More

10 Things You Should Know about 2 Corinthians

All of us have our favorite Bible verses. Some of us have our favorite Bible books. Mine is Second Corinthians. Perhaps that is due to the fact that it is so profoundly pastoral and describes in detail how Paul interacted with a church that treated him poorly. In any case, if you’ve never studied Second Corinthians I urge you to do so. Here are ten things about the letter that may help you get started. Read More

Are You REALLY Praying in Jesus’ Name?

“In Jesus’ name” was never designed to be a tack-on at the end of our superficial requests. Rather, “in Jesus’ name” is a reality that changes why, how, and what we pray, from the very opening moment of our communion with God. Read More

How to Save Your Privacy from the Internet’s Clutches

Practical tips to fight surveillance capitalism. Read More

Creepy Chick-fil-A and New York(er) Values: The Shock (and Slander) are Getting Old

The treatment the fast food restaurant has received for its “pervasive Christian traditionalism” is getting old and tired. Read More

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

7 Steps When You Can't Figure Out God's Will


I’ve been there. Perhaps you’re there today. You’re seeking God’s will about some decision, and you simply don’t have clarity. Maybe these steps will help you as you press forward. Read More

The One Question That Will Change Your Guest Followup


When guests arrive at our church, they are giving us a gift. They are honoring us with the valuable asset of their time, and trusting us to use that time wisely. For the guest with previous church experience, they have a baseline by which to measure us. If we hit the mark, they’ll know it. If we miss it, they’ll know that too. For the guest who is new to our church and any church, they may not know what church is supposed to look like, but they’ll intuitively know if it matches whatever image they had in their mind.

 If you follow up with your guests – and you should – there is a question I would encourage you to ask. It’s a simple question, but one that will reveal a tremendous amount about how your guest felt:

How was your experience? Read More

Also See:
Key Issues for Followup of Guests - Rainer on Leadership #424 [Podcast]

Seminaries Don’t Make Pastors. Churches Do.


You might think a seminary president would be the last person to contribute to a book on what a seminary didn’t provide for pastors. Actually, I welcome the opportunity. I have committed my life to the education of pastors through The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and after nearly 25 years of leading it, I am more convinced than ever of the value of a seminary education.

But seminaries do not call pastors. God does. And seminaries do not make pastors. Churches do. Keeping that straight is important. Read More

Also See:
What Seminary Can’t Teach a Pastor

Image: Student Commons, Nashotah House, by Jonathunder - own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64045220

Tuesday's Catch: "10 Ways to Ruin Your Next Sermon" and More


10 Ways to Ruin Your Next Sermon

Take note: these items could ruin your sermon. Read More

What a Good Sermon Introduction Looks Like and What It Does

Your people need your assistance in getting into the sermon. So, start at the shallow end of the pool. Read More

Preaching to Condemn: The Missed Opportunity

Too much preaching takes a sling-blade to the bruised reeds, then runs them over with a mower, then hacks at them with a machete, then tells them, “I have good news.” Or, it smothers the flame, then pours on water, then cuts down the wick all the while shouting, “LET THERE BE LIGHT!” Read More

10 Bible Translations You’ve Never Heard Of

Why we should read lesser-known versions of the Bible. Read More

7 Ridiculously Common Mistakes Churches Make on Social Media

Being one click away doesn’t mean that churches use social media well. In fact, I see many churches make common mistakes. Here are just seven that I see regularly. Read More

How We Make the Message Relatable

Share your faith in an understanding and accessible way through relationships with others. Read More

Leading Fearlessly in a Changing Culture

Popular blogger and pastor Trevin Wax discusses how a marginalized church can actually be more effective. Read More

On Getting Churches Totally Wrong

There is a widespread impression that the US mass media are deeply anti-Christian, and that this hostility echoes through film and television. I am not arguing with that basic idea, but the situation is actually worse than that. Generally speaking, the people who write scripts and make movies honestly have no idea of what Christianity is, or its most basic concepts, themes and institutions. Read More

Monday, April 16, 2018

Avoiding the Church Comparison Trap


Comparing your church to another church can be one of the worst things you do as a church leader.

To be clear, I am not referring to learning from other churches. We can always learn from our peers and our sister congregations.

But comparison for the sake of comparison is bad. Let me share a few thoughts about this issue to expand upon the concern. Read More

The Church in Paul's Letter to the Romans


At first, Romans might seem like an odd place to turn for an apostolic understanding of the church. The letter says nothing about the offices of the church, unless its brief mention of teaching and exhorting refers to official church roles (12:7–8). Similarly, it never mentions the Lord’s Supper, and, although it refers to baptism (6:3–4), the topic is not the ritual of water baptism but metaphorical union with Christ. The term “church” (ekklÄ“sia) does not even show up in the letter until the closing commendations and greetings of chapter 16.

Despite all this, Romans is a profoundly ecclesiological document. The gospel is the creative Word by which God calls the church into existence, and there is no more complete explanation of the gospel in the Scriptures than Paul’s letter to the Romans. The way in which Paul envisions the gospel shaping the church is clear from the unusual address Paul affixes to his letter. Rather than sending it to “the church in Rome” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; Philemon 2), he sends it “to all those in Rome, dearly loved by God, called to be holy” (1:7). Rather than calling Christians in Rome “the church,” he substitutes for this term a description of what the church is. It is the group of people whom God has called into existence through his love, a love that entailed the sacrificial death of his Son and that expresses itself in the sustaining, strengthening gift of the Holy Spirit (5:5, 8). It is also the group of people God has made “holy,” or set apart from the rest of humanity, to be a prototype of what all human beings will become one day in God’s new, restored creation (8:16, 18–25).

The way Paul describes the gospel throughout the rest of the letter emphasizes these two themes: God’s gracious, loving initiative in calling the church into existence and the church’s response of living as God’s restored people. Throughout chapters 1–15, for example, the theme of glorifying and worshiping God plays an important role both in Paul’s description of the human plight that the gospel of God’s grace addresses and in his description of the response that believers should have to this gracious gospel. The basic sin from which all other sins spring, Paul argues, is a failure to “glorify” the Creator and “give him thanks” (1:21). It is a desire to worship “the creature rather than the Creator” (1:25) or a refusal “to acknowledge” him (1:28). That is why, on the other side of the gospel, once people have been justified by faith and reconciled to God, they give “glory to God,” as Abraham did (4:20), and “present” their “bodies” to God “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable” to him as their “reasonable worship” (12:1). Read More

3 Ways to Deny the Resurrection (Without Being a Liberal)


Most readers of this site would cringe at any suggestion that they might have liberal theological beliefs. But, what about a liberal theological application? We all know that our real theology is what is applied. How we live over time communicates what we genuinely believe. Therefore, since you likely would not deny the resurrection on a theological exam, let’s make sure you do not deny it in the lab, either.

In this brief post, I want to provide three ways that you might be unwittingly denying the resurrection by how you live. I’ll get at them by way of question. The goal is not to make you feel bad, but rather to provide a diagnostic to help you evaluate your life and make proper adjustments. Read More

Why Seminary Can Never Qualify Anyone for Ministry


That Is Why Ordination, Taken Seriously and Done Properly, Should Mean Much More than Any Seminary Degree

“I do not have the authority to expel you, so I’m asking you, please withdraw and leave the seminary.” I realized the weight of my words and fully appreciated their potential effect. Only after several lengthy attempts to correct him, learning that he was not plugged into any local church, and then subsequently conferring with the dean did I let them fall so profoundly and heavily on his stunned ears. The young man had preached several sermons in my preaching practicum, each one more disturbing and irresponsible than the last. Finally he crossed the line from unbalanced to untrue and promoted something that I judged to be egregiously wrong, contrary to the gospel, and antithetical to everything Southern Seminary stands for. When he remained resolute in his position and belligerent at my attempts to reprove, I knew that the tragedy of his departure from the truth would be exponentially compounded with a seminary degree. So I asked him to leave, and he did.

While I still grieve that student’s departure from sound doctrine, I have never regretted the severity of my words to him. I could not stop him from preaching error, but it would be far worse if he did it with a degree from Southern.

My primary concern was not that someone would think he received his doctrine from my colleagues or me—though I certainly found that thought disquieting. My greater anxiety was that some church would mistakenly think him qualified to serve as pastor and would welcome him and embrace his false doctrine, simply because he had a degree from a seminary.

When it comes to qualification for ministry, ordination should carry much more weight and provide much greater evidence of a man’s readiness for service in the church than any seminary degree. A seminary alone is not sufficient to qualify anyone for ministry, no matter how faithful the faculty or how hard it tries. A seminary is a rigorous academic program, but that is very different from being a church in which the student can serve and demonstrate his gifts and calling while he is under its teaching, authority, and discipline. Read More

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6 Misconceptions about the New Testament


1. The Gospels give contradictory accounts of Jesus life, death, and resurrection.

Ask any detective or journalist and they will tell you that eyewitness accounts of the same event are never exactly alike. We have an overwhelming amount of redundancy between the four Gospels, more overlap than dissimilarity. When there are differences, they are minor and do not significantly change the basic account. If anything, it would be more suspicious if everyone told exactly the same details, as if they had collaborated beforehand to get their story straight.

2. Paul and Jesus teach different things.

People argue that since the Gospels are full of Jesus teachings on the kingdom of God while Paul's focus seems to be on justification, Paul must be teaching something Jesus never taught nor intended to teach. However, this reasoning misunderstand how revelation in the Bible unfolds. Revelation unfolds in an organic step-by-step way, rather than all at once. Christ inaugurated what the apostles built upon through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, a concept may be present despite the lack of specific vocabulary naming the concept. Christ clearly indicated that salvation could only come through him (Jn. 3:16-17; Jn. 14:6) despite never using the word justification. Likewise, Paul also taught that Christians who trust in Christ have an eternal inheritance, are called sons of God, and will be resurrected when Christ returns. All these things are elements of the kingdom Christ also taught. Read More

4 Ways to Practice Missional Hospitality


In a post-Christian world, God’s people are called to operate not out of fear but out of courage. And when we live courageously—putting our hope in the reality of who God is and what God has already accomplished—it changes everything. We’re freed up to be the people of God, living out the mission of God despite what new and challenging thing comes our way.

When we talk about what it means to be courageous and faithful in the age of unbelief, we have to talk about the Great Commission. That’s our mission. And though it’s always been true, I think it’s more true than ever to say that evangelism is going to look like hospitality.

You heard me right. As we walk courageously in our cultural climate, evangelism will look like showing hospitality. Don’t hear me say that hospitality is the sum total of courage or evangelism. But don’t miss me saying that living courageously will involve living hospitably. Read More

Saturday, April 14, 2018

It's Time to End the Stupid about the End Times: Debunking Christian Numerology


Self-proclaimed Christian numerologist David Meade is at it again.

Self-proclaimed Christian numerologist David Meade is at it again. This time, though, he’s saying that the world is going to end on April 23rd.

It’s on the front page of the USA Today and the Drudge Report right now.

Worse yet, he’s now brought international policy issues into the discussion (another subject area for which he has no academic credentials, like his “Christian numerology”). He’s now predicting that a nuclear conflict will also occur this month. Read More

How I Overcame My Dread Of Talking About Money From The Pulpit


Why should our approach to meeting financial challenges be any different than our approach to meeting every other challenge?

Pastors fall into one of three groups when it comes to money....

I used to be in the first group of pastors. I hated talking about money. So I did it seldom, poorly and apologetically. Not exactly a recipe for a financially healthy church.

In the last few years I have been able to turn a corner on that. Since I no longer dread teaching on finances, I’m able to do it in a more healthy, balanced, biblical way. It’s become a far more joyful experience, both for me and for the congregation.

So, how did this change come about? How did I move from the majority who dread the “money talk” to the minority who treat it like any other aspect of our lives? Read More

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image: factsandtrends.net

Things That Matter


Five Myths about Church Signage and Websites

I have consulted with hundreds of churches. One of the most common first steps I take is dealing with myths in churches. And myths about signage and websites are pervasive.

Here are five of them.... Read More

Why Most Churches Greet You Like It’s 1999

So your church has a website and a Facebook page. And maybe your church does Twitter or Instagram.

Or perhaps you’ve gone all out, with live streaming your services and podcasting your messages. (The links are to Connexus Church sites, where I get the chance to serve!)

We’re still in the early days of social media and everyone’s trying to figure out what ministry online means.

Whatever your church might be doing, my guess is you’re trying to connect with people online in some way, which is awesome.

Here’s the question though.

When you welcome people to your church, do you still behave like it’s 1999?

Strangely, most churches do. Read More

Is Church Online A Front Door—Or A Back Door—For Your Church?

What are the rapid rise of messages online and experiences online doing to the church and to people’s faith?

Are they acting as a front door to ministry and attracting people, or are they acting as a back door for people slowly leaving the church?

In other words, is the option of church online moving people closer to Christ, or further away?What are the rapid rise of messages online and experiences online doing to the church and to people’s faith?

It’s a great question every church leader should think through. Read More

Saturday Lagniappe: "The Future Belongs to Churches That Send" and More


The Future Belongs to Churches That Send

Ours is a revitalization story, not a church planting one. Long before the Summit was known for being a church that sends, it was a church that desperately needed a fresh breath of new life. Read More

A Churchly Faith

Is the Reformation over? My answer to that question is this: The Reformation is over only to the extent that, in some measure, it has succeeded. And, in some measure, of course, it has succeeded.... Even so, important differences remain among the most intractable is the doctrine of the church. Read More
The 2018 issue of the Beeson magazine is available online in PDF format.
‘Come Sunday,’ ‘The Heretic,’ and the Sad Stories of ‘Rebel’ Pastors

Two newly released films, 'Come Sunday' and 'The Heretic', pitch fallen megachurch pastors Carlton Pearson and Rob Bell as renegade heroes. Read More

The Dangerous ‘Well Done’: Three Risks in Receiving Affirmation

Praise from other people always arrives with potential dangers. Therefore, if we’re wise, we will reflect biblically on the perils of praise. Read More

Build 5 ‘Fences’ to Protect Yourself From Sexual Sin

I am still stunned by respected Christian leaders resigning over sexual misconduct. Can’t we just build the fences we need? Read More

Do We Have To Be Perfect To Preach?

The call to preach requires more of us than verbal proclamation of truth. We must not only speak God’s Word so it can be heard; we must live God’s Word so it can be seen. Read More

Preachers, Let's Stop Stepping on Toes

What can be done to address the low view of preaching and sanctification underlying the practice of "stepping on toes"? Read More

How Social Media Is Designed Around Sin

Trevor Sutton, my co-author of Authentic Christianity, has written a fascinating article entitled "Social Media and Sin". Using Luther’s definition of our sinful condition as being “curved in upon ourselves,” Trevor shows that the very technological design of social media exploits the fallen weaknesses and the sinful proclivities of the self. Read More
Considering that we live in sinful world, it is not surprising that social media is designed around sin. A lot of things in this world are designed around sin.
The Danger of the Foolish Tongue

Just as James points out, a little fire can set a great forest ablaze—so it is with the power of the tongue. We must respect the power of the tongue and fear the evil that can come if it’s not kept in check. Below are two dangers of an uncontrolled tongue. Read More

How to Ask Better Questions in a Post-Christian World

Andrew Katay examines the difference between macroculture and microculture and the bearing this difference has upon the way Christians should relate to non-Christians in a post-Christian world. Read More

Friday, April 13, 2018

No Small Pastors


Most pastors serve in small churches. Pastors of small churches experience many blessings: we get to know a particular group of people we know by name. We get to shepherd people, not manage complex systems. If you pastor a small church, you get to enjoy blessings that many pastors of large churches don’t.

But there’s a tradeoff: many pastors of small churches feel like failures. We hear the message — sometimes explicit and sometimes implied — that small churches should grow large, and that capable pastors should progress until they pastor large churches.

Baloney. Read More

Three Ways to Bloom Where You’re Planted


“Bloom where you’re planted.”

Nice leadership catchphrase. The message behind the colloquialism is to encourage people, who are often unhappy in their present place, to excel where they are rather than daydreaming of where they would like to be. A simple and encouraging principle, but how exactly is that done?

I want to propose three ways to bloom where you’re planted. Read More
Back in the late 1970s the Rev. Carey Landry wrote "Bloom Where You're Planted," a liturgical song for children. It is from his music collection by the same name, which is available from Oregan Catholic Press. You can listen to a verse and the refrain from the song here. It is a song that can also be taught to the whole assembly.

Two Truths for When You Don't Like Preaching


“A man only preaches a sermon well to others if he has first preached it to himself. If he does not thrive on the ‘food’ he prepares, he will not be skilled at making it appetizing to others. If the Word does not dwell in power in us, it will not pass in power from us.” – John Owen (here)
If Owen is correct, then my sermon a couple of weeks ago must have been a real stinker. I was preaching on 2 Corinthians about not losing heart in the ministry God has given us. And I was preaching while deeply discouraged. As much as I tried to “thrive” on that food I was preparing for others it just wasn’t “working”. I know the problem was with me and my own heart and not the text. But I was in a pit that I couldn’t get out of. It’s been one of those seasons where the darkness feels more pervasive than the light, and I’m just hanging on until morning.

How do I preach in a time like this? How do I preach when I don’t feel like it? And am I being a big ol’ hypocrite to do so?

It’s been my experience that this feeling is what keeps a good many of people away from doing ministry. When our feelings get all busted up and we don’t feel motivated to read Scripture, pray, share the gospel, or engage in ministry we’d rather stop than keep trucking on. We know that such a thing leads to burn out. And we know that this is the land in which hypocrites thrive. It feels so pharisaical to proclaim things to others that you aren’t feeling in your heart. And so, rather than continuing to feel like a hypocrite, we disengage.

Here are a two truths which help when we don’t feel like doing the ministry God has called us to do. Read More

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