Saturday, October 19, 2019

Saturday Lagniappe: The Almost Invisible Church and More

The Almost Invisible Church

I’m not against big churches. God is at work there too. My point is simpler: We tend to think that God is at work somewhere else. We spend our time wishing that we could be part of what God is doing, all the while missing what God is doing right under our noses because it looks small and insignificant and because it’s hard work. Read More

5 Ways to Reach Your Neighbors This Halloween

For some Christians, it might be tempting to turn off the porch light and hide from trick-or-treaters, but missional families see Halloween as an opportunity to share the gospel. Halloween can be an open door to witnessing. At the very least, it allows you to spend time with neighbors you rarely see. And though it’s centered on children, Halloween is a chance to reach people of all ages. Consider these five possibilities.... Read More

Trump’s Withdrawal from Syria Threatens the Growing Kurdish Church [Podcast]

Christianity is spreading in the majority Sunni community. But what will the violence mean? Listen Now

How to Stop the Shootings

There is no simple solution to America's gun violence. But there is hope. Read More

One Thing You Missed: Why Churches are Tax-Exempt [Video]

Even though the tax-exempt status of religious organizations is not presently under threat, I think we do need to know why tax-exemption exists and why it matters. Watch Now

How to Increase Year-End Giving with Compelling Stories

Stories encourage empathy. They help us understand problems and circumstances in new ways. And they provide tangible examples of God’s work in our communities. If your church wants to maximize year-end giving, you need to tell compelling stories about what God is doing through your congregation’s giving. Here’s how to do that. Read More

Looking Closely at Speaking in Tongues

1 Corinthians 14 is not an easy passage. The rise of modern Pentecostalism over the last 120 years has made the issue of speaking in tongues a perpetual issue, making it even more important to study this passage carefully. Further, Paul's arguments in this chapter--made in response to the Corinthian Christians' unruly worship and self-centered theology--stretches both the mind and heart. In this post, I will not be answering every question you or I might have about speaking in tongues, but I do hope to point out four features of this chapter, features which should shape our hearts and guide our discussion about speaking in tongues. Read More

Pastoring Is So Much More Than Preaching

The pastor’s calling is to care for God’s own church, to labor on behalf of God to care for what God loves most. But how? How does the pastor heed this call? Read More

How Should a Pastor Do the Work of an Evangelist

Among the many commands given to pastors, there is one that is beginning to receive renewed attention. That command is found in 2 Timothy 4:5 wherein the apostle Paul is giving a series of exhortations to Timothy which culminates in the command, “Fulfill your ministry.” In order to fulfill that ministry, the man of God must “Do the work of an evangelist.” What is this work and how is it to be manifested in the life of every pastor if he is to be found faithful to his calling? Read More

How the Church Became ‘Missional’

In this article Trevin Wax puts Mark Galli's critique of the missional movement in wider context, to show how missiology moved from what was essentially a church-centered view to a mission-centered view in the past 70 years or so. Read More

Global Outreach Opportunity: Ministry Among International Students

A critical part of the broader diaspora movement of people is international students among us. Read More

Friday, October 18, 2019

You Can Make A Difference and Change the Trend with Young Adults

There are ways we can help twenty-somethings find their place in their faith community.

In part because of Pew Research findings about “the rise of the nones” and what is happening as many western nations move into a pluralistic and post-Christian era, it is easy for people to begin thinking there is little they can do to turn the tide. For many, there is a sense that we are losing the next generation of young adults because of forces beyond our control—and that there is hardly anything we do which will make a real difference.

However, in my dissertation research I examined what was helping and hindering twenty-somethings from staying engaged spiritually and finding their places in faith communities after graduating from college. Through that research, I realized there are key actions people who care about the next generation can take that will make a significant difference. What follows are a few of those ideas. I have also made the dissertation available for free online for anyone who wants to delve into the research more deeply. Read More

Consequences of Musical Divorce

In many ways, the worship wars of the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s were like a marital conflict. The conflict grew so intense, and dragged on for so long, that reconciliation no longer seemed possible. Eventually, hearts were hardened towards one another, and what was once just separation was finally codified in divorce.

Different services, at different times, in different venues, with different musical styles, as a way to appease and appeal to different segments of the congregation, avoiding any one particular side having to lose the kind of style they preferred. In many churches across the globe, a cease fire was cemented into this kind of musical divorce.

And yet the partners didn’t move into different houses. They stayed under one roof and lived at the same address, but came and went at different times, spent time in different rooms, avoided each other as much as possible, and learned how to tolerate each other at Christmas and Easter. Family members had to choose sides, assets had to be divided up, and what was once a loving home was now a tinderbox of awkward dynamics.

This is a picture of churches whose musical conflict turned into musical separation and was codified by a kind of musical divorce. On the surface, conflict was resolved. Below the surface, conflict continued. But this time, the conflict was covered up and ignored. Churches believed that this would bring peace to its members and position them to reach different people with different preferences. And those pragmatic aims may very well have been achieved at some measurable level. People weren’t as angry anymore, and the traditional and contemporary services were free to attract their own constituencies.

But church-sanctioned musical divorce sends three dangerous messages to its own congregation. Read More

Latest Pew Survey: Christianity in America Is Declining, Still

The results of a Pew Research survey released today reveal that Christianity in America is continuing on its declining trend. While the study concludes “the U.S. is steadily becoming less Christian and less religiously observant as the share of adults who are not religious grows,” there are a couple of silver linings to look out for within the Protestant church.

The data was collected from political polls conducted by Pew Research, which asked respondents “What is your present religion, if any? Are you Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox such as Greek or Russian Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, something else, or nothing in particular?” Read More

Related Articles:
Christianity Continues to Lose Demographic Ground in the U.S.
In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Does Church Membership Matter?

An elevator pitch for church membership

Is church membership actually in the Bible?

How many times have you heard someone ask that? Maybe you’re asking it yourself.

If I have 15 seconds to answer that question—maybe I’m on an elevator with you—I would tell you to look at the church discipline passages in Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5. Jesus and Paul talk about “removing” someone from the body. What is a person being removed from if it’s not what we today call membership. Yes, it’s an implication, but it’s a very clear implication.

Or I might point you to passages like Acts 2:41, where it says three thousand people were “added to their number;” or Acts 6:2, which says the apostles called together “the full number of disciples;” or Acts 12:1, which says Herod attacked those “who belonged to the church.” They knew who belonged. They could name the disciples. Did they keep all those names on an Excel spreadsheet? I don’t know, but they knew who they were. Read More

Do We Really Need to Keep Singing Hymns

When I say “Hymn”, what comes to mind?
  • Dusty cloth covers concealing musty yellow pages?
  • Archaic words coupled with monotonous music?
  • A cherished part of your past?
  • An obligation in your present?
  • A remnant of the lifeless religion of your parents?
  • Nothing at all?
Growing up I attended an Assemblies of God church and didn't know hymns existed. Later we attended a little country church where I heard my first hymn. Confusion soon followed. In High School I helped at a Lutheran church and hymns began to intrigue me.

Now I'm a worship pastor and I have to decide for myself how I feel about hymns. Do we really need to keep singing them? I think so. And my first reason may surprise you. Read More

Help! My Teen Is Questioning the Faith

Most days, young children bombard their parents with a series of rapid-fire questions. From the situational (“Why do I have to go to bed at 7:30?”), to the theoretical (“Do you think I could fly off the roof if I made a set of wings?”), to the theological (“Why didn’t God protect me from falling off my bike?”), most parents spend their days offering up answers, advice, and wisdom to satisfy the natural curiosity of their kids.

Once the teen years hit, however, young adults start searching for new sources of information. Parents are no longer seen as the fount of all wisdom. In fact, for many teens, parents are the last place they want to take their questions—especially when it comes to matters of faith. They often internalize or verbalize the words of Will Smith: “Take it from me; parents just don’t understand.” (Although most of them are too young to remember his singing days.)

As our teens search for answers, how can we foster home environments where they can bring their questions, doubts, and insecurities to us? How can we proactively create spaces for discussions and respond to their doubts and questions with a listening ear and prayerful heart?

Here are a few ways we can build homes that allow our children to wrestle with questions of faith. Read More

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Closer Look at the ‘Nones’ in Their 20s

Earlier this week, I shared some surprising findings about the religious beliefs and practices of Americans in their 20s, based on research included in a new book, The Twenty-Something Soul by Tim Clydesdale and Kathleen Garces-Foley.

Today, I’m going back to their book to offer a few takeaways regarding the “Nones”—American 20-somethings who do not affiliate with a religious tradition. Read More

Related Article:
4 Surprises about the Religious Practice of 20-Somethings

7 Things I Miss About Church Planting

Here are ways the experience of planting a church is different than leading an established church.

I only had four church experiences in vocational ministry. I served twice in traditional churches where God allowed us to bring a renewed energy and growth to established churches. I was also part of two successful church plants.

God was so good to us in each of these churches—we saw growth in the churches and the people. We loved every experience and the people in each church.

I remember in our last church, which was one of the established churches, that one of our staff members, had never served in a church plant. He was a great minister, but as we shared stories, he was fascinated by how different things were at times in church planting versus the established church. Our conversation reminded me, as much as I love the established church, there were some things I missed about church planting.

There is a companion post needed of the things I enjoyed about the established church. There are certainly benefits to an established church. I actually encourage many pastors to consider church revitalization even over church planting.

I do love things about both worlds, but they are different in many ways. Read More

The Crisis in Syria and Caring for the Persecuted Church

How should we respond to crises involving the global persecuted church?

Five years ago, U.S. troops were deployed to help combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Last week, about 1,000 U.S. troops who had been partnering with Kurdish fighters in northern Syria were pulled out of the region. Since then, the nation of Turkey has launched military campaigns against the Kurds—and by extension, the Syrian Christians they have been protecting—in northeastern Syria.

We caught up with David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, to discuss the crisis and what churches can do to support the persecuted church both in Syria and around the world. Read More

The Early Church Thrived Amid Secularism and Shows How We Can, Too

The pre-Christendom church managed to avoid both isolationism and accommodationism. Their model gives us a map for post-Christendom challenges.

Iattended seminary in the 1970s. I had to take several classes in the history of Christianity, though in those days it was called “church history.” My professor taught the course largely as a history of Christian thought. We studied orthodoxy and heresy in the early Christian period, monastic and scholastic theology in the medieval period, the Reformation controversies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the evangelical awakenings of the eighteenth century, and the liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as its major twentieth-century critics (Barth and Bonhoeffer).

In general, we learned church history from a Christendom perspective. Questions of correct belief loomed largest, at least as I remember it. We studied it as a kind of history of the Christian family, which was our family.

In the beginning of my teaching career, I taught the history of Christianity in much the same way. My primary interest was Reformation theology and the evangelical awakenings, though I never totally neglected to tell the larger story. Students seemed interested enough, at least for a while. But then students began to change, and their interests shifted. They started to question the attention to doctrinal precision that emerged during the Reformation period. They wondered about the emotion of the evangelical awakenings. Doctrinal faith seemed too abstract and narrow, emotive faith too fragile and insecure.

I was teaching a Christendom course, but my students were asking for something different. I discovered that they needed something different because they were (and still are) growing up in a world very different from the one that existed only a generation ago.

Together we—professor and students—found it in early Christianity. Read More

What Does Baptism Do?

There are different ways to approach the regular debates and confusions about baptism. One way I've found helpful lately is to ask the Scriptures, "What does baptism do?" When we look for God's answer to this question, we also get a clear sense of the why behind baptism. Read More

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Missionary Insights into the Mind of the Unchurched in the Heartland

In Oklahoma, a person’s ideas about faith more likely come from media than from the Bible.

When missiologists study North America, they usually use research conducted on a national scale to reveal cultural trends that shape ministry strategy locally. But recently, research was conducted in the heartland state of Oklahoma that is revealing insights that might shed light on what the unchurched think in other places as well.

A survey of 1,000 Oklahomans was conducted online using a curated scientific sample of the state’s estimated 2.3 million unchurched. Respondents were asked a wide variety of questions, including queries about their religious participation, esoteric and spiritual beliefs, worldview paradigms, and demographics.

A clear picture of the state’s unchurched emerged and was developed into a book, Hidden Harvest: Discovering Oklahoma’s Unchurched. The book is free and available to anyone online as an e-book download. Here are a few key findings. Read More

4 Signs a Church Member Might Be Ready to Leave--And What to Do About It

What if no one ever left your church? What if your church was so amazing that once people visited, they were hooked and became fully engaged members who serve faithfully, give generously, and worship passionately?

That would be nice. It may not be realistic, being that they’re human and all, but that sure would be nice.

Although you may not become the kind of church where no one ever leaves, what if you could reduce the exodus to such a degree that fewer people want to leave?

As a ministry leader, God has given you a vision of what the ministry could look like if you had the right people all rowing in the same direction. When people jump ship at your church—or even show signs they might be leaving—that vision can become blurry.

Believe it or not, it’s possible to spot the signs that are common among those who are considering leaving. If you can spot the signs, you may be able to reach them where they need to be reached—which could help them decide to stay. Read More

Ten Things You Should Know about John Henry Newman (1801–1890)

On Canada Day, Pope Francis I declared that the deceased English Cardinal John Henry Newman would be canonized on October 13, 2019. Newman presents an interesting case. He converted to Catholicism from Evangelicalism, becoming a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic church. We lament his conversion and understand his story as a cautionary tale. We do not, therefore, present this article in any way to endorse his conversion but to give some insight into the life of this significant 19th-century thinker since many will have heard about his canonization. Read More

6 Crucial Small Group Lessons From the Early Church

In my mid-20s, I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, to begin a degree in New Testament studies and work under the direction of Gordon Fee, the author of the some of the best commentaries from the last 50 years. I had been working for TOUCH Outreach Ministries, which promoted the Cell Church model and encouraged churches to embrace a New Testament model of church life based on Scriptures that give us lessons from the early church met from “house to house” (Acts 2:42-46, 5:42, 20:20).

In those days, I assumed that the goal was to find the secret ingredients to life in the first-century church and to determine how those secrets have been forgotten by the church. I thought my studies would tell me about all the things we need to do today that they did back then that would fix the church.

The more I read about the early church, the more I discovered what I did not expect to find. (This is usually the case with good research.) For instance, I found that all the research demonstrates that they met in homes, but I also found that we must be realistic about the fact that they had no other place to meet. The early church was a movement with no social standing. In fact, it was considered a cult that undermined the mores of the majority culture. Where else would they have met but in homes?

In addition, the research demonstrates that it was a movement of small groups. Although some argue that they met in mid-size groups of 20-40 that met in homes of the more wealthy Christians—and I’m sure this occurred in some locations—archeological research has demonstrated that most homes could only handle 10-15 people. But here’s what I did not expect to find: There is little information about what actually transpired in these small group meetings. Those who want to get specific about what actually happened in these groups are speaking from silence. For instance, many argue that there was only small group house churches and that there was no preaching or teaching in larger gatherings. How can we actually know this? Jesus taught in larger groups. And it seems that Paul did also when he taught all night in Ephesus (Acts 20:7). But there is a lot that we just don’t know. I’ve found that people often project their preferred model of church life back upon the early church and therefore fill in the blanks.

While the New Testament, first-century history and archaeology reveal that early Christians met in small groups in homes, we cannot claim with honesty that this somehow provides us with a secret ingredient. Is the call to Christian community a prophetic challenge to the modern church that sits in rows and listens to a preacher? Of course, but if we are looking for a New Testament small group model or house church approach or apostolic movement strategy that will unlock the secrets of God, then we are asking questions that cannot be answered. Instead, I think that there is something much more significant about the first century church that we need to hear and heed. Read More

Monday, October 14, 2019

4 Surprises about the Religious Practice of 20-Somethings

The sky is not falling when it comes to religiosity among 20-somethings. No matter how many breathless blog posts and scary headlines you read about religious decline among young people, you should know that religious practice remains steady even as religious affiliation has declined.

Tim Clydesdale and Kathleen Garces-Foley’s new book from Oxford University Press, The Twenty-Something Soul: Understanding the Religious and Secular Lives of American Young Adults, combines qualitative and quantitative analysis, providing context and coloring in some of the details through individual stories that easily get overlooked in the sea of statistics.

Today, I’ll lay out four takeaways from their research, and later this week I’ll offer a closer look at those who now identify as “None” or “unaffiliated.” Read More

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday Lagniappe: 'Christians Killed on Syria’s Front Lines' and More

Christians Killed on Syria’s Front Lines

While Trump defends US withdrawal, advocates fear “Turkey will complete the work that ISIS tried to do, in eradicating Christians from this region.” Read More

The Art of Holding Your Nose: Negotiation and Dealing with Those Who Foster Injustice

How should Christians engage with the “Ahabs” and the “Rehoboams” of today? Read More

Can These Bones Live?

One day, I was reading the paper when I noticed several church buildings for sale. I’m a sucker for sacred spaces, so seeing these ads was particularly painful for me. I had noticed this trend before. Church sanctuaries and cathedrals are being converted all over the world. They are taking these sacred structures and turning them into upscale restaurants, condominiums, and office buildings. I don’t blame the people for buying these buildings. They are beautiful structures. Read More

Why We Need Bible-Oriented--Not Entertainment Oriented--Preachers

The difference between an entertainment-oriented preacher and a Bible-oriented preacher is whether there is a manifest connection between the preacher’s words and the Bible as what authorizes what he says. Read More

What Liturgy Should (And Shouldn’t) Aim To Do

For those of us who employ elements of a more traditional liturgy in our services, it’s worth asking the question from time to time, what should our liturgy aim to do? And on the flip side, what should our liturgy NOT aim to do? Read More

3 Spiritual Benefits of Singing in Church

Our singing matters, which is why the Bible is full of rich examples and powerful instruction to the people of God to not only recite and read and study God’s truth but to sing it, over and over again, to each other. Read More

7 Childcare Solutions for Small Groups

Whether you are a small group leader/host or the small group pastor/point person at your church, here are 7 childcare solutions to help your small group(s) thrive. Read More

The #EqualityTownHall Was Loud and Clear: The LGBTQ+ Community, Beto, the Equality Act, and Evangelicals

We've come a long way from a plea for marriage equality. Read More

Beto O’Rourke’s Plan to Destroy Churches

With seven words—“It is going to be an issue”—the U.S. government signaled to orthodox Christians that if they don’t drop their opposition to same-sex marriage, their religious institutions could lose their tax-exempt status—or worse. Read More

Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday's Catch: Sexual Abuse in Kids Ministry and More

Let the Little Children Come to Church, Safely

Improved policies are the first step in a major cultural shift to eradicate sex abuse in kids ministry. Read More

Will Gen Z Hold On to the Faith?

Discipling teens means understanding the culture we inhabit and training them to handle its particular challenges and crises. Read More

Are We Ready for Life on Mars?

The Bible offers no explicit or direct teaching about the possible creation (much less existence) of life on other planets. It does, however, offer three theological truths that can guide our thinking.... Read More

How Reading People Protects Us and Those We Love From Harm

How well do you read people? James Emery White shares a few lessons in reading people he learned the hard way.Read More

10 Community People I'd Want to Know as a Pastor

Chuck Lawless shares a list of community leaders he would want to know as a pastor. Read More

10 Ways to Read Your Community

Local church leaders often know too little about the communities they serve. In this articles Chuck Lawless suggests ten ways local church leaders can "read" their community. Read More
Reading the community is essential in planting a new church or revitalizing or replanting an existing one.
Welcoming and Affirming the Same Thing? Confusion in our Culture

"The twin ideas of 'welcoming' and 'affirming' are not necessarily identical and, I think, we better serve those around us if we keep the differences in mind." Read More

The (Sometimes Forgotten) Starting Point for ChMS

Yvon Prehn offers some tips for making the most of connection cards and getting the largest return of them. Read More
Also see How to Evaluate Church Communications
To the Young Man Who Has Been Asked To Preach for the First Time

Tim Challies offers some quick pointers in preparing your first sermon. Read More

7 Things Pastors Would Like Guest Preachers to Know

As a pastor who’s experienced the good and bad of guest speakers, here are some things pastors would like guest speakers to know. Read More

How to Build a Worship Ministry When You Have Nothing and Nobody [Podcast]

Eric Roberts joins the Rainer on Leadership podcast to discuss how to build a worship ministry. Read More

4 Ways to Install a Culture of Hospitality in Your Small Group

How do we practically live out hospitality in our small group? Chris Surratt suggests four ways. Read More

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Thursday's Catch: '5 Steps to Reaching a Younger Generation' and More

5 Steps to Reaching a Younger Generation--Without Alienating an Older One

Why do so many leaders end up with older Christians getting upset when they’re simply trying to reach the lost? Read More

Kids in Church: What do You Expect is Going to Happen?

Time has revealed to us some unintended consequences of the age segregation model adopted in the mid-20th century. And it’s not just in the church; our whole culture bought into the idea that separating generations is a good idea...but we were wrong. Read More

One Thing We Know For Sure Is God’s Will for You....

"Often I do not know the answer to a question about God’s will in a specific situation, but I can always point to one thing I know for sure is God’s will. And it is not a small matter. In fact, if we understand this and commit to this, the answer to a lot of decisions becomes clearer." Read More

7 Ways Senior Pastors Can Engage Teenagers to Listen to Their Sermons

Want to know how to engage teenagers to listen to your sermons? Read on. Read More
These tips will help preachers engage older people too.
Gained in Translation

Having the Bible in our own language is a gift we shouldn't take for granted. Read More

Helping a Worship Ministry Act Like a Healthy Body
One of the most vital contributions a worship leader can and should make to the culture of the worship ministry at his or her church is a firm commitment to building a healthy team, expecting (and helping) all of the members of the ministry – band members, choir members, tech team, and more – to act like the members of a healthy body. Read More

7 Reasons Why Announcements Don't Usually Lead to Church Member Involvement

I’ve heard it done often. In fact, I’ve done it too often. “It” in this case refers to trying to recruit church volunteers primarily by making announcements from the pulpit, via email, or within the church newsletter. Here’s why that approach doesn’t work.... Read More

The Search Bar as Spiritual Battleground

"Our mental and spiritual health suffers in this age of information gluttony; there is simply too much. Too many voices shouting at us. We don’t know what, if anything, to trust." Read More

One-on-One with CJ Davison on Our Christian Witness Today

“Relationships, not programs, are foundational to Jesus’ kingdom.” Read More

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

How to Create Entry Points for Visitors

Attending a church for the first time can be intimidating. Here are ways to ease visitors’ transition.

Visiting a new church, especially if you are unchurched or have been out of the church for many years, can be very intimidating. Most traditional churches assume that new guests will visit a Sunday morning worship service when they visit for the first time, but for church plants with missional models, that may not be true. Read More

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Tuesday's Catch: Syrian Christians to US: ‘Don’t Abandon Us Now’ and More

Syrian Christians to US: ‘Don’t Abandon Us Now’

After surviving a civil war and ISIS attacks, the Christian minority fears a Turkish takeover in Kurdish border region. Read More
We see a similar story played out in the Bible. The people of Israel put their trust in earthly rulers only have these rulers prove themselves not worthy of their trust.
Why We Must Speak Up for the Vulnerable

When injustice affects one part of creation, it affects us all. Read More

8 Things Not to Do When Planting a Church

Here’s a list of things Ron Edmondson writes he wouldn’t do again if he were planting another church. Read More

Give the Bible Functional Authority in Your Church

Any church we want to see planted, if it is to be what God has designed it to be, must be established according to Scripture. Read More

Five Church Membership Models [Podcast]

Every church has varying membership requirements. In today’s podcast Thom and Sam Rainer discuss membership classes and the strengths and weaknesses of church expectations. Listen Now

Roman Catholicism and the Battle Over Words [Video]

Roman Catholics may use words like “grace” and “faith,” but they often have very different meanings. In this brief clip, Leonardo De Chirico explains one of the main challenges coming from present-day Roman Catholicism. Watch Now

Why Do People Keep Pastors at Arm’s Length?

Ordination can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Read More

The Bible Is More Than the Sum of Its Books

Why Christians read the diversity within the canon as a unified whole. Read More

3 Steps to Understanding a Tricky Passage

In this article Jesse Johnson gives three steps to help those studying the Bible to understand tricky passages. Read More
The basics of Bible interpretation is something that every pastor should teach to his congregation, enabling its members to feed themselves from God's Word and to grow in spiritual maturity as disciples.
Manipulative Repentance: 8 Red Flag Phrases

In this post, Brad Hambrick seeks to accomplish two things. First, he attempts to clarify two common misperceptions about manipulation. Second, he discusses a series of phrases commonly used in repentance that can be red flags that the remorse being expressed will not lead to healthy relational restoration. Read More

Monday, October 07, 2019

Monday's Catch: The Biggest Demographic Churches Are Missing and More

The Biggest Demographic Churches Are Missing

A dramatic shift is taking place in the American workplace. More people are working on weekends, many of them on Sundays, than ever before. But most churches haven’t moved their worship day at all. It’s still on Sunday mornings. Read More

11 Reasons Why You Need to Belong to a Church

Peter Adams lists 11 reasons why we need to belong to a church. Read More

Why We Need Others in the Body of Christ

We were made for community, as this story from Robert Caro’s ‘Working’ illustrates. Read More

7 Key Concepts for Biblical Preaching

The following is an excerpt from Biblical Preaching, a free resource from Coram Deo Church (Acts 29) in Omaha, Nebraska. You can find the entire resource and more print resources from Coram Deo Church here. Read More

Why Church Camp Is More Subversive Than You Realize

A taste of rich Christian community. Read More

Uniting to Disciple a Neighborhood

When the local church demonstrates unity, the natural fruit is gospel belief. Read More

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Saturday Lagniappe: Celebrating with Other Churches and More UPDATED

3 Reasons to Celebrate, Not Compete, with Other Churches

A church that’s frantically trying to keep up with the Jones will soon have a pastor, staff, congregation, and budget stretched dangerously thin. This is a perfect formula for burnout. What’s a better formula? Three things come to mind. Read More

Kate Bowler: Why Christian Women Become Celebrity ‘Influencers’

When the path to formal church leadership is blocked, they'll naturally look for other ways to reach an audience. Read More

A Crazy Idea That Will Increase Your Impact in Your City

I’ve tested it out over the past few years, and it’s revolutionized how we do ministry. Read More

What Are Fresh Expressions?

"Fresh Expressions isn’t another new program but rather a movement of the Holy Spirit...." Read More
This article was taken from Alternative Faith Communities: United Methodist Innovators (Nov/Dec/Jan 2017-18) issue of Circuit Rider. It is one of several articles which are featured in that issue and which take a look at developments in the United Methodist Church. They offer interesting insights into the direction in which some UMC leaders are taking the local church.
Measuring Church Health: 5 Signs of Dysfunction

Numbers aren’t everything, but numbers can provide perspective that we don’t see otherwise. Read More

Why You Should Share Your Church's Vision Immediately

Don't wait to share your mission. Read More

How to Raise Money for God’s Ministry

HOW you raise money is secondary to WHY you raise money. Read More

Can Christians Lose Their Salvation? [Podcast]

Dennis Johnson discusses Hebrews 6:4–6, one of the New Testament's most famous—and debated—warning passages, a section of Scripture that many people think teaches that Christians can lose their salvation. He explains why he doesn't think that's what the author of Hebrews was saying, how to respond when people who once claimed to be Christians walk away from God, and whether or not we can be certain about our own salvation. Listen Now
A transcript of this podcast is also online.
12 Things Pastors Should Not Do

Here are a few things the Lord taught me over the years that pastors should not do. Read More

Why and How We Started a Sunday Evening Service

Sadly, for many Christians, the Lord’s Day has become the Lord’s hour. While Scripture does not mandate a second service on Sunday, we should ask ourselves, “How can we best use our time on the Lord’s Day?” To begin and end the day by worshiping with our church family is certainly profitable to us and pleasing to our Lord. Read More

4 Practical Ways to Have Fewer Announcements in Your Worship Services

Here are four practical ways to have fewer announcements in your weekly gathering.... Read More

Lay Catholic Leaders Warn about Amazon Synod NEW

Conservative Catholics are in an uproar over the upcoming Amazon Synod and what they believe that it might mean for the Catholic Church. Read More
It is noteworthy that Mary and the Magesterium received strong affirmations of faith as opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible.
9 Things You Should Know About Christianity and Communist China

Here are nine things you should know about the communist state and its historic opposition and suppression of the Christian faith.... Read More

Friday, October 04, 2019

Evangelicals and the Allure of Power: Anticipating 2020

A glaring fault line among evangelicals has opened up over whether Christians should support Donald Trump. This divide is raising larger questions: How should evangelicals relate to political power? How can they maintain a prophetic voice? When do they lose their holy distinction and become just another interest group?

On the cusp of another presidential cycle, it’s important for Christians to decide what kinds of power we should seek. To do that, we must explore the concept of power from a biblical worldview. Read More
The Bible warns us against putting our trust in human leaders instead of God. For example, Psalm 146: 3-5 advises us, "Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God...." The Bible also tells us what happened to the people of Israel when they failed to heed this warning.

Friday's Catch: Community Engagement Basics and More

Five Key Reasons Many Churches Struggles to Reach Their Communities [Podcast]

The local church is responsible for engaging the community. Many churches today are declining because they are too inward focused. In this podcast Thom and Sam Rainer discuss the basics of engaging the community and neighborhoods around the church. Listen Now

You’re Allowed To Care About One Thing Without Campaigning For Everything

Saying “no” to some good things so you can say "yes" to other good things is an essential step in being effective. Read More

7 Myths the Church Believes about Sexual Abuse

J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and lead pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, points out seven widely believed myths that keep the church from engaging the sexual abuse crisis—and prevent leaders from protecting people from abuse and making their church a refuge for abuse survivors. Read More
What myths does your church believe? What are you going to do about it?
What to Say When Someone Dies (And What Not to Say)

Many people struggle with what to say when someone dies. Read More

3 Questions to Help You Apply the Bible to Today

We must preach the biblical text to the point that people see how it comes to bear on their lives today. If we fail to do this, we have failed to preach. Read More

Make a Joyful Silence Unto the Lord

Why quiet is essential to corporate worship. Read More

How TikTok Holds Our Attention

On the popular short-video app, young people are churning through images and sounds at warp speed, repurposing reality into ironic, bite-size content. Read More

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Thursday's Catch: Anatomy of a Revived Church and More

Anatomy of a Revived Church: Seven Findings of How Congregations Avoided Death [Podcast]

In this podcast Dr. Rainer unpacks his most recent research project that studied the revived church. The qualitative research reveals 7 characteristics of churches that have moved from dying to revived. Listen Now

Should a Pastor Leave One Church to Plant Another One? [Podcast]

How does a church planter consider transitioning to a new ministry after planting a healthy church? Listen Now

David Platt: In a Tiny House on a Remote Mountainside, I Saw the Church as God Designed It

Those who come have very little. But they have everything they need. Read More

The Case for Sermon-Centric Sundays

Preaching should remain the center piece of corporate worship for at least three reasons. Read More

3 Reasons to Read Scripture with the Church Fathers

Engagement with the generations that have gone before us helps us recognize that we aren’t alone in our struggles today. We must not fall for the false idea that we face spiritual and cultural challenges on our own. Read More
In consulting the church fathers, it is important to keep four things in mind. Their writings are no more inspired than our own. The fact that they lived closer to the apostolic age does mean their writings are free from error. They were fallible like the rest of us. While some church fathers used scripture in interpreting scripture, others took an allegorical approach to the interpretation of scripture. Their interpretation of scripture was a product of their own imagination: they read into scripture what could not be read out of it and which was at odds with what scripture said elsewhere. We should not assign authority to their writings more than they did themselves. They did not see their writings as being on the same level as the scriptures. When they recognized that they had erred, they sought to undo and correct the error.
The Deficit of Discipleship: How the American Church Is Off-Mission

How can megachurches or any church for that matter make disciples? Read More

How Can I Be More Fruitful for Christ?

Here are some ways (most of them unimpressive) to pursue fruitfulness for Jesus. Read More

Gen Z Evangelicals Still Express Their Faith at School, But Few Others Pay Attention

Teenage “nones” are less likely to notice Bible-reading, prayer, or evangelistic outreach in public schools. Read More

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Wednesday's Catch: Beyond the Bible Belt and More

4 Realities of Church Life Beyond the Bible Belt

Here are four realities of church life beyond the Bible belt. Read More

“Get More People In The Room” Is Dead. Here’s What’s Replacing It

Size is no longer considered a sign of health by the average church member or spiritual seeker. Read More

5 Reasons Your Church Shouldn’t Copy a Mega-Church

There's a world of difference between adopting best practices and blindly copying. Read More

Church Planting Series: Creating a Culture of Multiplication

Multiplication always starts small. Read More

4 Things to Consider When Making a Tough Decision

Some quick advice on how to make hard choices. Read More

How Worried Should We Be about Pornography?

We need to talk more about pornography because it fuels sex trafficking and because it exists in and around our churches. Read More

The Myth Of Spontaneous Preaching

Some people think the work of the Holy Spirit is thwarted when the preacher makes an effort to improve his preaching. Read More

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

6 Myths for Church Planters Seeking Old Buildings

Chances are, if you’re a church planter, you know of a dying church in your neighborhood. You’ve maybe even wished their building were yours.

Last year, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) started 624 new churches. Concentrated mostly in urban areas, the plants meet in living rooms or rented-out theaters or public schools. Every week, pastors and volunteers set up and take down chairs and sound systems and pulpits. Within a few years, they’ll grow out or get kicked out and find someplace new. Most are dreaming about a permanent home.

Also last year, the SBC closed about 850 churches—which isn’t unusual. Many were church plants: more than half of those closed in the last four years were less than a decade old.

The rest are dwindling, aging congregations. By the time a church dies, the building is usually behind in maintenance and capital improvements—some need major work such as new HVAC units or mold removal or sewer line repair. But they have sanctuaries and kitchens and Sunday school classrooms.

More than that, they have a plot of land and a place in the neighborhood.

“We know the church isn’t a building,” said Mark Clifton, author of Reclaiming Glory: Revitalizing Dying Churches. “But our neighborhood identifies what we believe with that church building. If we say Jesus is the answer for 40 years on that corner, and then they see a ‘for sale’ sign, that robs God of his glory. Nothing about it says, ‘Our God is great, and the gospel is powerful.’”

Better by far would be to give old buildings to new work.

In 2013, he said as much to the North American Mission Board, which gave him an office and a budget. With it, he’s been writing, podcasting, and working with congregations that might be in trouble.

“Over four years, easily 300 churches have engaged in the replant process—maybe more,” he said. Momentum is picking up—140 of those were in the last 12 months.

TGC took a closer look at the equation that seems simple—empty building, meet growing congregation—but never adds up quite so cleanly. Read More

Tuesday's Catch: The Spirit of Methodism and More

One-on-One with Jeffrey Barbeau on Methodism

Ed Stetzer interviews Dr. Jeffrey Barbeau about his latest book, The Spirit of Methodism. Dr. Barbeau serves as Professor of Theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. Dr. Barbeau offers his view of the crisis in United Methodism. He also touches on the Anglican heritage of John and Charles Wesley. Read More

They Aren't Heretics Because You Disagree with Them

Not long ago, I saw a link to a promised comprehensive catalog offering “definitive” proof of heresies. What I found was a list of various teachings or situations the compiler found problematic: a different view of women’s roles in the church, a different position on how the gifts of the Spirit are manifested today, friendship with—or sharing a platform with—people who teach wacky things. I will admit some of this raises my own eyebrow, and none of it is beyond biblical scrutiny, but in terms of proving a charge of false teaching, I should say I find these catalogs of alleged malfeasance a bit…lacking. And here’s why.... Read More

Rejecting Self-Centered Christianity

I belong to a great denomination that is known for its passion for evangelism and missions. Nevertheless, the number of people being baptized each year is steadily declining. This fact bewilders many. How can a group of churches that has a high regard for God’s Word, prioritizes evangelism and missions, and makes numerous resources available to equip its people not be growing rapidly? There are a few compelling reasons. Read More

10 Safety and Security Mistakes Churches Make

We live in a new reality. And the reality is families can be attacked at the store, while at work, while at the movie theater, at a sporting event, at school and yes, even at church. More than ever, we must have safety and security measures in place if we are going to reach families. The average Millennial parents are not going to return to your church if they see that safety and security is lacking. Read More

4 Ways to Revolutionize Your Bible Reading

From the patristic age to the Reformation, Christian teachers roamed freely across the canon because they had stored it in the palace of memory. It’s probably too much to hope we can replicate their knowledge of Scripture. But is there a way to approximate it? Perhaps, if we grasp and practice four axioms. Read More
One caveat--a liturgy may incorporate numerous texts from the Bible but not be Biblical in its content. These texts may not be used to teach what the Bible teaches but something entirely different.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Monday's Catch: "When I Was Hungry, You Gave Me Food. When I Was a Refugee...." and More

Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Lowering the US Refugee Ceiling

Why the recent reduction could lead more countries to follow suit—and continue to damage the church's reputation. Read More

U.S. Sets Refugee Resettlement Cap at Historic 18,000 Low

The historically low cap—a decrease from 30,000 in 2019 and 110,000 in 2017—comes at a time when the number of refugees has soared to the highest numbers since World War II. Read More

Understanding Our Hispanic Brothers and Sisters

Jesus has gathered his church to put the beauty of his creativity and wisdom on display to the ends of the earth. Read More

Modern Research about Happiness Repeatedly Parallels Biblical Principles

With their talk of being thankful, serving others, and giving generously of time and money—accompanied by the assurance that money, sex, and power won’t buy happiness— progressive secular psychologists sound remarkably like old-fashioned preachers! Read More

Your Church Needs You to Sing

Your brothers and sisters in your local church need you. They need you to show up. They need you to be engaged. And, perhaps more than many of us realize, they need you to sing. Read More

20 Truths from ‘The Church on Mission’

Dr. Craig Ott digs into the relationship between the church and the transformation of the world. Read More