Friday, June 23, 2017

Five Danger Signs in Churches - Rainer on Leadership #339 [Podcast]

If any of these danger signs are present in your church, you need to take note. They can signal decline, dead theology, or even death of the church. Listen Now

There Can't be Only One Way

When I was a freshman in high school, I tried out for the varsity basketball team. On the first day of tryouts, the coach ran a scrimmage, periodically sending players into the game to see how they played. When my turn came, I intercepted a pass on the very first play. Then I took the ball the length of the court, skyed over every other player and made the prettiest layup you ever saw.

The coach instantly blew the whistle, stopped the game and called me over to the bench. I was walking 10 feet off the ground. I just knew my shot was so good that he had to stop the game just to tell me. I envisioned that ESPN had called and wanted the footage, and that Sports Illustrated had every intention of running a photo of me on the next cover. The shoe deal with Nike was only a matter of time. So I walked – actually, strutted – to the sideline.

My coach said, “White, that was a great shot. Your form was great; your intensity was great. Only thing is, you went to the wrong basket – but it was a great shot!” Is there a right and a wrong basket in the spiritual game? Is Christianity the only way to score with God or simply one of many ways? For today’s unchurched person, this is hardly academic. The religious landscape of modern American society can be nothing less than bewildering. Religious groups, sects, cults, movements, philosophies and worldviews abound in incredible numbers and diversity.

Add to this mix one of the most pervasive, fundamental convictions of contemporary American society: All roads lead to God, and to say that one way is right and all the other ways are wrong is narrow-minded, bigoted and prejudicial. What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me. Searching for God is like climbing a mountain. Since everyone knows there is not just one way to climb a mountain – mountains are too big for that – each person can choose from a number of paths. All the ideas about God contained in the various religions of the world are just different ways up the mountain. In fact, though different religions have different names for God, the names all refer to the same God.

Is it true that a lot of roads lead to heaven, which means we really don’t have to worry about which road we’re on? Is it true that no person, no religion, no group, no book has a handle on the truth? Is it true that all religions are basically the same and all religious leaders are essentially of one mind so that ultimately all spiritual pursuits lead to the same place? If so, people need not look for spiritual truth. They just need to decide on spiritual preference.

If you embrace the idea that multiple paths lead to God and you turn out to be wrong, the consequences are enormous. So let’s explore the reasons why people hold to this belief.... Read More

What Is Saving Faith?

Faith is central to Christianity. The New Testament repeatedly calls people to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a definite body of content to be believed, which is part and parcel of our religious activity. At the time of the Reformation, the debate involved the nature of saving faith. What is saving faith? The idea of justification by faith alone suggests to many people a thinly veiled antinomianism that claims people can live any way they like so long as they believe the right things. Yet James wrote in his epistle: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?…Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:14, 17). Luther said that the sort of faith that justifies is fides viva, a “living faith,” one that inevitably, necessarily, and immediately yields the fruit of righteousness. Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. A faith without any yield of righteousness is not true faith. Read More

Want An Effective Ministry? Consider Becoming A Zagger

You and your church can have a big impact and great effectiveness by meeting a small, overlooked area of need.

"When they zig, you zag."

I don't know who said it first, but a lot of people have said it since.

I'm a zagger.

I’ve tried to be a zigger. To go with the flow, not against it. To pick the low-hanging fruit.

But, time after time, without intending to, I find myself zagging. Getting off the interstate. Finding the road less traveled. Read More

If You're Going To Do Church That Way, Do It Well

Churches don’t become great by adding more programs. They get better at the ones they already have.

There are so many ways to do church.

As long as you’re honoring the Bible, worshiping Jesus and loving people, no method or structure is wrong.

But any method or structure can be done wrong.

Thankfully, it can also be done right.

Whatever program, asset or resource you think your church needs in order to become great, you can find a church somewhere that became great without it.

It’s not about what you have or don’t have. What you do or don’t do. It’s far more about doing it well, not matter what you have or don’t have.

For instance.... Read More

7 Rules for Keeping Pastoral Sanity

Pastoral ministry can be busy and rewarding. It can also be a place to lose your sanity.

It is truly a joy to serve the Lord and the church as a pastor. We know many things we’re supposed to do—study, pray, read, show compassion, love others, and lead well. But there are some things I’ve learned we just shouldn’t do; not because they are sinful, but because they aren’t helpful.

These seven rules for keeping pastoral sanity are not intended to be legalistic. Rather, I hope they will assist us in our leadership interactions with others. I’ve listed them in the negative for effect and hope they will stick out to you as they have to me. Read More

Why Are There So Many Interpretations of the Bible? The Problem of "Pervasive Interpretative Pluralism"

Back in April of this year, at the national conference of the Gospel Coalition, Kevin DeYoung addressed the question of why there appear to be so many different interpretations of the Bible? If the Bible is inspired and sufficient, why do so many Christians disagree with one another on particular texts and topics? The language of “pervasive interpretive pluralism” was first used by author Christian Smith, who recently converted to Roman Catholicism. Kevin’s message was excellent, but I thought I would add to what he said with a few observations of my own.

Let’s begin with the important concession that this is a problem that all people face, regardless of their religious affiliation. It is not solely a Protestant problem. Anyone who thinks there is monolithic and always unified interpretation in the Roman Catholic Church is simply uninformed. Not only is this a problem in all families of the Christian faith, it is a problem in all spheres of earthly existence. In other words, this isn’t simply a religious problem, it is a human problem that infects every discipline of study and every work of literature that we read. Nevertheless, it is especially present in Christianity because we affirm that our “work of literature”, the Bible, is inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient.

We are now prepared to examine some of the reasons for interpretive pluralism. These are by no means the only reasons, but they provide a good place to begin our discussion. Read More

Five Steps for Sharing the Gospel with Your Neighbours

Immediately before his ascension, Jesus’ promised his disciples that the coming Holy Spirit would empower them to be “[his] witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Though they had already been commissioned to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19), their instructions were to begin this mission in Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). While there are significant theological reasons for making Jerusalem the starting point of the church’s mission, we should not overlook the simple fact that beginning in Jerusalem meant starting at home in their own community.

In our efforts to bring the gospel to the most distant and unreached corners of the globe we must not overlook the opportunity and responsibility that God has given us to make Christ known to the folks next door—our neighbours.

Some of us may already be making inroads in sharing the gospel with our neighbours, and others may be wracking our brain to remember the name of the person down the hall or across the street. Wherever you find yourself, here are five basic steps toward being a faithful witness where you live. Read More

Thursday, June 22, 2017

5 Ways To Lead When You Have No Money Or Team

I recently surveyed over 1400 pastors of small to mid-sized churches to find out what they struggled with.

I ran the survey to collect input for a new online course I’m releasing this fall called Breaking 200 Without Breaking You, all about breaking the 200 attendance barrier, something 85% of churches never do. (You can sign up to get on the inside track for the course release here.)

Man, I learned a ton from that survey.

One of the common refrains leaders voiced was uncertainty about how to lead when they didn’t have much money or the right team.

After all, most of us visit mega-churches and think if I only had a tenth of their money and their people, it would instantly solve my problems. And then we go back to our own context and get almost instantly depressed.

So when you have almost no money for ministry and you clearly haven’t got the right kind of people in the room, where do you start?

Believe it or not, neither condition is fatal to your cause. In fact, almost every great movement, church or organization you admire started with no money and no people.

So how can you lead when resources are scarce to non-existent?

There are at least five things you can do to help you find traction. Read More

Eight Reasons the Pastor Matters Most in a Church's Evangelistic Efforts

In my decades of studying churches, I’ve never seen an evangelistic church not led by an evangelistic pastor. Here’s why the pastor is so critical in this Great Commission task.... Read More

6 Attitudes That Kill Evangelism

I won’t bore you with statistics about declining evangelism in our churches. You don’t need me to convince you that most churches are not reaching our communities with the gospel. You don’t need me to provide data that shows our churches are reaching fewer people today than just a few years ago.

But why are our churches less evangelistic today?

That question could be answered from a number of perspectives. But one of the key explanations is simply an attitude problem. There are several dangerous and debilitating attitudes in churches that are killing evangelism. Here are six of them.... Read More
This article was posted on Anglicans Ablaze earlier this month. It was originally posted on Thom Rainer's blog. Anglicans Ablaze would like to hear from you about your own experiences. What attitudes were killing evangelism in your church? What did you do to overcome these attitudes? What worked? What didn't?

Thursday's Catch: "Does Your Church Have the Right Model?" and Much More

Does Your Church Have the Right Model?

How to decide. Read More

What Is a Worldview?

Abortion. Euthanasia. Pornography. Same-sex marriage. Transgender rights. Embryonic research. Genetic enhancement. Christians surveying the cultural landscape in the West have a clear sense that things are headed in a destructive direction. While most believers can easily identify the symptoms of decline, few feel competent to diagnose and address the root causes. There are many complex factors behind these developments, but one invaluable tool for better understanding and engaging with our culture is the concept of worldview. The sociological quakes and moral fissures we observe in our day are largely due to what we might call “cultural plate tectonics”: shifts in underlying worldviews and the collisions between them. Read More

Thomas Cranmer: Evangelising the Nation [Audio]

At the 2017 Church Society Conference, Revd Dr Peter Adam outlined Thomas Cranmer’s strategy for evangelising the nation, which could be summed up in one word: Bible. Listen Now

Five Leadership Axioms That Shape Your Ministry

Healthy leaders make for healthy organizations. Read More

10 Transformative Lessons for Healthy Churches and Leaders

When we have overlooked issues of character because of natural abilities or effectiveness, we have always paid a price. Read More

How Vulnerable Should a Pastor be When Preaching?

When you think about it, though, is not the act of preaching itself an act of deep vulnerability? Read More

Preacher’s Toolkit: Should I Always Call for Repentance and Faith?

Expository preaching addresses the entire person—the mind, the affections, and the will. Sadly, many think of expository preaching only as mental instruction. While preaching must certainly instruct the mind, it must go further than mere mental instruction. An expository sermon must also raise the affections. Read More

5 Principles for University Evangelism

In our current environment, with its distinct challenges and opportunities, how should we go about the task of university evangelism? Is there anything practical we can say? Yes, in fact. Here are five principles for university evangelism today. Read More

How To Distinguish True Zeal from False Zeal

I fear there is a plague of complacency among Christians today. Whatever happened to zeal? Whatever happened to Christians who are on fire to know and obey God, who have (in the words of John Reynolds) “an earnest desire and concern for all things pertaining to the glory of God and the kingdom of the Lord Jesus among men?” Yet while zeal is a noble trait, it must be properly directed, for not all zeal is good. Here are some pointers on distinguishing true from false zeal. Read More

4 Misconceptions of the Missionary Call

We are currently out on our American Tour, and are talking to people about what it is like to be a missionary. We have found that there is a very common perception that certain people are "called" to be missionaries in a unique way. While I certainly have met a lot of unique missionaries, I believe that there are some misunderstandings undergirding this belief. Below are four of these misconceptions I hope to clear up in this post. The first misconception is that.... Read More

Four Common Gifts Churches Give to First-Time Guests

As we’ve seen churches become more intentional about guest assimilation, many give away a small gift to guests to make an impression and to convey appreciation for their visit. If your church decides to do this (and I would recommend that you do), the gifts don’t have to be overly expensive. But they should convey that you care about the guests. Here are four popular gifts churches give to guests and some tips for how you can maximize their usefulness.... Read More

Evangelicals Tell Trump: Don’t Deport Christians to Face Genocide in Iraq

As outcry over fate of 199 mostly Chaldeans continues, so do ICE arrests. Read More

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Your Church Is Big Enough: Karl Vaters Talks Small Church Health

Yesterday I posted Thom Rainer's interview with Karl Vaters. Today I am posting Lawrence Wilson's interview with Karl.

Karl Vaters believes your church can be healthy regardless of its size. This 30-year ministry veteran pastors Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, Calif., and has emerged as a champion of the small church through his book The Grasshopper Myth and the blog Pivot hosted by Christianity Today.

But that rosy outlook on small-church life was years in the making. It was born from a near-burnout experience when his congregation “grew” from 400 to well below 100 in just nine months. That’s when Karl said out loud the words that shocked his staff and surprised himself: “We’ve got to stop thinking like a big church.” Read More

Related Articles:
5 Mistakes More Likely To Be Made By Small Churches Than Big Churches
Small Churches are Not a Problem, a Virtue or an Excuse
The 3-2-1 System for Better Annual Small Church Planning
Why Some Great Churches Never Impact Their Community

9 Reasons Rural Churches Still Matter

I wrote yesterday about the importance of the church connecting with cities. I confess that I’m more urban and suburban than rural, but I also recognize the importance of rural churches. In fact, I began my ministry career as pastor of a more rural church. Here are some of the reasons these churches matter.... Read More

Five Overcorrection Mistakes Churches Make

The pendulum swings in churches.

The congregation does not like a previous direction, so they overcompensate with the next move they make. Often, the overcompensation becomes a more challenging situation than the previous state.

Here are five overcorrection mistakes I frequently see in churches.... Read More

Preaching the Gospel with TULIP’s Tricky “L” in Mind

It’s a fair question for the Arminian to ask: How can you preach the free offer of the gospel when you believe in a limited atonement? How can you preach the “whosoever” of John 3:16 if you cannot be certain that Christ’s atonement was for every person? How can you say, “Turn to Christ and be saved all the ends of the earth” if Christ’s atoning sacrifice does not extend to all humanity?

First, a brief theological refresher. The doctrines known as “Calvinism” insist that Christ’s atonement was completed with a limited or definite purpose in mind—the salvation of God’s elect. Thus, while the atonement was sufficient for all humanity, it was intended and applied only to those who had been specially chosen by God to be his. R.C. Sproul says, “Our view is that the redemption of specific sinners was an eternal plan of God, and this plan and design was perfectly conceived and perfectly executed so that the will of God to save His people is accomplished by the atoning work of Christ.” Conversely, Arminianism insists that Christ’s atonement was unlimited or universal, both sufficient for all humanity and applied to all equally. The call of the gospel, then, is to embrace what Christ has already done for each sinner.

The question is, do those who believe in a limited atonement have the right to honestly preach the gospel and to call on people to turn to Christ in repentance and faith even when it is possible that this person is not among the elect and, therefore, not the object of Christ’s atoning work? Read More

10 Hidden Traps that Trip Pastors

Through the years, I have come across more than one leader who was stranded on the side of the road, leg entangled in an ugly trap. They were hurt and bleeding, and their leadership was sidelined. I have listed a few of these hidden traps and have given some advice about how to avoid them. Honestly, I have some scars from being caught in a few of these snares. Maybe I can help you to go around some of these.... Read More

The Worship Swing-Vote Principle: A Divine Partnership

Over the years, I began to quiz people after church about the musical worship time. I found that there were some people who, no matter how good the music and leadership was, didn’t worship. On the opposite end, there were those who worshipped (and wholeheartedly, at that) no matter how good or bad our team did leading. And then there were those who were sometimes “into it” and other times “not so much.”

I began to notice patterns and dynamics. I began to see the relationship between leadership and these people groups. My conclusions led me to what I call the “Swing Vote” principle, or 60/20/20 rule. It starts with the people. Read More

Related Article:
The Worship Swing-Vote Principle: Maximizing Engagement

Climate Watch: By 2100, Deadly Heat May Threaten Majority of Humankind - UPDATED

Up to 75 percent of people could face deadly heatwaves by 2100 unless carbon emissions plummet, a new study warns.

A new study has found that 30 percent of the world’s population is currently exposed to potentially deadly heat for 20 days per year or more—and like a growing forest fire, climate change is spreading this extreme heat.

Without major reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, up to three in four people will face the threat of dying from heat by 2100. However, even with reductions, one in two people at the end of the century will likely face at least 20 days when extreme heat can kill, according to the analysis, published on Monday in Nature Climate Change.

“Lethal heatwaves are very common. I don’t know why we as a society are not more concerned about the dangers,” says Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the study’s lead author. “The 2003 European heatwave killed approximately 70,000 people—that’s more than 20 times the number of people who died in the September 11 attacks.”

Dangerous heatwaves are far more common than anyone realized, killing people in more than 60 different parts of the world every year. Notable deadly heatwaves include the 2010 Moscow event that killed at least 10,000 people and the 1995 Chicago heatwave, where 700 people died of heat-related causes.

Heatwaves have also claimed victims more recently. In the last two weeks, dozens have died in India and Pakistan’s current heatwave, with temperatures spiking to a record 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53.5 degrees Celsius). And there have been heat-related deaths already in the U.S. this summer. Read More

Related Articles:
New: Planes, Road Burns And Snakes: 5 Things That Extreme Heat Brings
New: Did Climate Change Ground Flights in Phoenix?
New: A Tick Bite Could Make You Allergic to Meat—And it's Spreading
Ethiopia's Coffee Farmers Are 'On The Front Lines Of Climate Change'
Does your church have a contingency plan for how it is going to respond to heat waves and other natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and wildfires that may affect your community? Developing and implementing such a plan is one of a number of ways that Christians can live out the Great Commandment and show that they care about the community in which their church is located. It builds bridges between the church and the community and strengthen the church's positive image in the community.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Anti-Gospel of the Alt-Right (Pt.1): Introduction to Alt-Right Ideology

On Wednesday, June 14, the messengers of the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention condemned “the anti-gospel of alt-right white supremacy.” The resolution passed by an overwhelming majority of approximately 5,000 votes in favor to no more than 10 votes against.

In light of the SBC’s condemnation and of the alt-right’s emergence on the national scene during the 2016 election cycle, I will be releasing a four-part series on the anti-gospel of the Alt-Right, summarizing its ideology, leadership, and involvement in the 2016 election cycle, before going on to address how Christians should respond to the Alt-Right’s false gospel. Read More

10 Things You Should Know about the Demise of Expository Preaching

Biblical preaching has fallen on hard times in the western world. There’s certainly no lack of speaking and sharing and shouting. And dramatic presentations and video clips are prevalent in pulpits across America. But there is precious little biblical preaching. The Bible makes a token appearance here and there, but rarely to be explained and expounded and acknowledged as authoritative for how we think and live. There are several reasons for this dearth of biblical preaching, ten of which I’ll mention. Read More

Tuesday's Catch: "Church Mergers and Plants" and Much More

Church Mergers and Plants: Summer 2017

The latest issue of 9Marks Journal is now online. The focus of this issue is church mergers and plants. Lots of great articles. Check it out.

Why We Plant Churches

Sojourn Network must plant churches; this is our constitutional mandate—anything less represents willful disobedience.[1] For ‘church planting’ to be achieved, however, it must be understood. To be understood, it must be defined. To be defined, it must be clarified in writing. We chalk a line at that place, then, and mark it as our starting point. Read More

Five Big Problems for Small Churches Featuring Karl Vaters - Rainer on Leadership #338 [Podcast]

Karl Vaters joins Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe to discuss issues found most often in small churches. However, these issues manifest themselves in any size church in any setting. Listen Now

3 Steps to Resurrect a Dying Church

If you focus on growth before depth, you’ll be tempted to adopt gimmicks, quick fixes and copycat tactics. Read More
I have some ambivalence about posting a link to this article. It is related to Brian Moss's third suggestion. While I agree that reassessing the church's ministry target group is important, I must point out focusing solely on "people like us" can be problematic. This is an application of the homogeneous unit church growth principle. Focusing only on "people like us" and not a more diverse segment of the local population, one more representative of the community or neighborhood's population, has also been identified as a major contributing factor to the plateauing and decline of churches. If a church's ministry target group is a small one, the church is not likely to experience much growth. If a church wishes to arrest its decline, it must expand its population base. One of the reasons churches plateau or decline is that they tie themselves to a stagnant or shrinking base.
9 Reasons to Connect Our Churches with the Cities

We are called to get the gospel to all peoples of the world (Matt. 28:18-20), and we will not do that if we shy away from the world’s cities. Please read on even if you’re not interested in urban settings, and pray about how your church might tackle a city (then come back tomorrow to hear my thoughts about rural areas and churches). Read More

Five Easy Ways to Pursue Excellence as a Church

Want to pursue excellence as a local church? Here’s how you do it. Read More

The 5 “R”s to Remembering Names of Everybody You Meet

Remembering a person’s name is important. You never know how such a small detail might have a profound impact on someone’s life. Read More

10 Ways Pastors Can Help Women in the Church

Pastors and leaders have a responsibility to shepherd their flock--the entirety of it. If you are a church leader, you have a unique opportunity to embrace the gifts women bring to your body. Read More

5 Myths That Keep You from Recognizing God at Work

As I have preached on people’s jobs over the years and researched my book Every Job a Parable: What Walmart Greeters, Nurses, and Astronauts Tell Us about God (NavPress, June 2017) I’ve encountered five vocational myths that keep people from more fully recognizing God at work. Read More

Is the ESV Literal and the NIV Gender Neutral?

There actually are five methods on translation with three sub-categories for the handling of gender language. Translations are all on a continuum, overlapping one another, and hence it is misleading to picture them as different points on a line. I am guessing, but for example, about eighty percent of the ESV and the NIV are the same, once you account for different translations of individual words. Read More

The Challenge of University Evangelism

Some believe, however, that the university may be entering a new era of opposition to student ministry, and particularly to evangelism. When weighing what seems to be the beginning of a shift or trend, it’s always hard to know whether it’ll be localized and temporary or sweeping and lasting. However, particularly in elite American universities, students are becoming highly sensitive, traumatized, and outraged by opposing viewpoints. Read More

Developing a Spirit of Acceptance When We Reach Out to the Unchurched [Podcast]

Rick Richardson, Professor at Wheaton College and head of academic programs and research at the Billy Graham Center, shares a story of a recent evangelism encounter. Rick explains that once unchurched people know they won’t feel judged or pressured by Christians, their hearts warm to the gospel and the opportunities for faith sharing are endless. Listen Now

Southern Baptists and the Alt-Right: On Being in the Room Where it Happened

Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution “On the Anti-Gospel of Alt-Right Supremacy.” It was not without some controversy. Read More

Monday, June 19, 2017

10 Key Values of a Multiplying Church

If you’re planting a church or have planted a church, you may sometimes feel like you’re done—you’ve made your contribution to the Great Commission. But is there something more? Is the nature of the Great Commission addition, or is it multiplication? In Matthew 28, the Savior of the world calls his disciples to multiply the church—to see his world redeemed. He has called us to make disciples who make disciples and multiply churches that multiply. New churches will be the way we advance his kingdom.

Right now, less than 4 percent of churches in the United States ever reproduce. That means more than 96 percent of all churches never reproduce. As leaders, it’s up to us to move the multiplication needle. Below are 10 key characteristics that a working team of national leaders from multiplying churches identified—values embedded in the culture of Level 5 multiplying churches. Read through each of the following characteristics carefully and then work through each one with your team.

Here are 10 characteristics of a level 5 culture. Read More

6 Ways Small Churches Can Love Their Communities

What if you are the pastor of a small church but would like to do something to serve your community? What if you love the idea of adopting a school, but barely have enough resources to cover your nursery on Sunday?

Is it possible to do acts of mercy in your local Jerusalem with a tiny band of volunteers? Surprisingly, it is. Here are six tips for small church outreach.... Read More
A repost but worth reading again if you've already read it.
Photo Credit: Trinity Episcopal Church, Fulton, Kentucky 

Good News which is also True News

Dr. Paul Barnett was a speaker at the Anglican Connection Conference held in Dallas, Texas on June 12-14, 2017. He has posted the text of his talk on his blog.

Gospel means ‘good news’ because its message is that Jesus the Son of God has saved us from the penalty of our sin and blessed us with his life-changing Spirit.

This ‘good news’ is no less true news’ - true historically. If the gospel is not historically true, then its message is not ‘good’, but ‘bad’, misleading and a cruel mockery.

But the ‘good news’ is no less ‘true news’.

There have many attacks on the truth of the gospel, especially from the New Atheists who have carpet bombed the integrity of the four Gospels.

Please see my response, Gospel Truth published by IVP/UK. Read More

Saving Your Ministry Before You Lose It

A wise leader does not wait for God to send a messenger to uncover his or her sin.

He spoke only a few words and I knew something was wrong…desperately wrong. When my phone rang and I saw who it was, I was happy. Ken (not his real name) was a faithful friend and pastor of a local church in our community. I had known him for about a decade and I respected him greatly.

Can I come over to your office and talk?” he asked. I let him know my schedule was full, but maybe we could set up a lunch the next week. With a stern voice he responded, “I have to come over and talk to you right now.”

My heart sank and I could feel a knot forming in my stomach. I cleared my schedule and awaited his arrival. When he walked into my office, he was without his normal smile and energy. He walked to a chair in the corner and sat down. He never made eye contact.

I made a mistake…a big one. It could cost me my ministry, my marriage, and maybe my family.” Over the next hour we talked, prayed, and cried together. The specifics of his crash are not relevant for this blog, but he was absolutely right. The series of decisions he had made and the actions he had taken cost him his ministry. By God’s grace, his marriage did not end. But for five years he invested a great deal of time and energy in rebuilding trust and restoring love.

What struck me as I watched my friend and his family journey through almost five years of hellish pain and struggle was that he could have avoided it all with a few simple decisions. I am not saying these decisions would have been easy, but they are quite simple. Here are some ways a Christian leader can make a decision to save his or her ministry before he or she loses it. Read More

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Pastor, Share Your Faith

I have just returned from the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, AZ. I was reminded this week how much I love being a Southern Baptist. They are my family. Just like my biological family we don’t always get everything right, but warts and all I love the SBC.

Several things encouraged me this week, not least of which was the racial diversity that I observed. We have not arrived as a convention of churches, but the composition of our messengers, churches, and leaders is increasingly diverse. I am encouraged by this.

I was also encouraged to see an emphasis on evangelism. Southern Baptists always talk about evangelism, but this year there was a real emphasis on it. President Steve Gaines has appointed an evangelism task force and there was even a sermon on the importance of public invitations that included practical tips on extending invitations.

Nevertheless, talk as much as we will, the truth is that at its core evangelism is not denominational; it is personal. Effective evangelism has to be more than public invitations. Effective evangelism must include personal invitations—not just invitations to church, but invitations to Christ. Read More

Effective Partnering: The Church and Cross-Cultural Worker On-Task Together

A good church-field partnership takes work and lots of communication.

Everyone agrees that we must work together to accomplish the task of Matthew 28:19-20 so that we may move closer to the end goal found in Matthew 24:14. Furthermore, we all know God did not give this task solely to missionaries or pastors.

In this post-modern world, many in the Church are ready and willing to go “to the ends of the earth”—at least for short periods of time. However, as I’ve mingled with both cross-cultural workers and church leadership, one recurring emotion surfaces: frustration. Some cross-cultural workers dread the next team’s arrival and some church leaders long for a vibrant, influential role in reaching the nations, but feel stymied by overseas personnel.

It does not have to be this way. A healthy partnership finds the cross-cultural worker actively anticipating and preparing for the short-term team. He or she prays that God will multiply his or her expectations, and trusts God to work—both among the people group and in the volunteers.

In the same partnership, the church body knows they play a strategic role in fulfilling God’s will for that community and area. They care little about costs and time because they are invested in the local people and God’s work among them. They trust the cross-cultural worker to create opportunities for sharing, and they are prepared to follow the Holy Spirit as far as he leads them.

A good church-field partnership is like a marriage. It takes work. It demands seemingly excessive amounts of communication, which leads to trust. And while it may not always be comfortable, there is a sense of ‘rightness’ on both sides. Below I examine a healthy church and cross-cultural worker partnership and offer a step-by-step guide to establish and maintain a partnership that glorifies God and fulfills his vision for the world. Read More

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pentecost and the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit

I doubt if many of you have ever heard the name Octavius Winslow. He was a Baptist pastor in England in the 19th century (d. 1878), a contemporary of Charles Spurgeon, who late in life became an Anglican. But that’s not important. What is important is that you hear and understand the truth of one thing he said about the Holy Spirit:
"All that we spiritually know of ourselves, all that we know of God, and of Jesus, and His Word, we owe to the teaching of the Holy Spirit; and all the real light, sanctification, strength and comfort we are made to possess on our way to glory, we must ascribe to Him. . . . Where He is honoured, and adoring thoughts of His person, and tender, loving views of His work are cherished, then are experienced, in an enlarged degree, His quickening, enlightening, sanctifying and comforting influence" (Octavius Winslow).
Pentecost is the day in the church calendar that typically comes on the 50th day after the Sabbath of Passover. This year that day was celebrated two weeks ago on June 4. As you probably know, it was on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the followers of Jesus. This was the event that fulfilled the prophecy of Jesus to his disciples in Luke 24:49 – “And behold,” said Jesus, “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Clearly, then, the focus of Pentecost is the coming of the Holy Spirit, his indwelling presence in our lives, and the power that he brings to enable us to do what we otherwise could never accomplish.

What exactly happened on that day? Let me respond to this question with two answers. First, the events of Pentecost were a singular phenomenon in history. In other words, there is only one Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the people of God. It was historically unique, which means that it is not correct to speak of people elsewhere throughout the world, down through the centuries, each experiencing their own Pentecost.

However, it is equally important to remember that although the Day of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit could only happen once, as a singular event in redemptive history, the effects or aftermath or fruit of the Spirit’s coming are experienced at all times throughout the course of church history. Let me try to explain this in simple terms. Read More
For readers who may be interested in learning more about Octavius Winslow, I am providing a link to a Wikipedia article about him.

3 Truths About The Accelerating Pace Of Change And Leadership

When was the last time you had a productive conversation about the pace of change?

In many businesses, that conversation happens all the time. In church world….it rarely happens.

Instead, church leaders will talk about how hard it is to change and how slow the pace of change is. Other they bemoan the reality that their church will never change (here are 7 signs that’s likely the case at your church).

What if there’s far more at stake in the conversation around change than you think?

Like irrelevance, for starters.

What’s the fastest path to irrelevance? Simple. Don’t change.

Why are change and relevance connected? It has everything to do with speed and currency.

Rick Warren said it well in his Tedx Talk: when the speed of change around an organization is faster than the speed of change within the organization, the organization becomes irrelevant.
The fastest path to irrelevance? Simple. Don’t change.
Here are 3 truths about the accelerating pace of change and church leadership. Read More

Related Article:
7 Signs Your Church Will Never Change

Sears and the Church

I’ve written recently about what the church can learn from the retail slide into the economic abyss. But an article in the Washington Post, delving into the big missteps that brought American retail icon Sears to the edge of collapse, held too many parallels not to revisit the retail world again in (hopefully) ever enlightening ways.

I am old enough to have grown up with Sears. Kenmore washers and Craftsman tools were the mainstay of every home. Christmas? That was easy. It was no more – and no less – than the Sears “Wish Book.” I remember to this day pouring through its pages, circling specific toys and dog-earring entire pages.

Sears Roebuck & Co. began in the 19th century as a mail-order business for selling such things as watches, but quickly grew into a catalogue that sold everything from saddles to sewing machines largely to a rural nation. The combination of low prices, vast selection and mass production proved electric. They followed catalogue success with brick-and-mortar department stores, building off of the new mobility of automobiles.

Sears quickly became the country’s largest and most powerful retailer. Sears sold everything – cars, houses… everything. By the 1970s, 1 out of every 204 working Americans worked at Sears. The publishing of their catalogue alone made them the nation’s largest publisher. “Sears was regarded as a national institution, almost like the Post Office,” said Gordon L. Weil, who chronicled the history of Sears in a 1977 book.

So what can churches learn from its seeming demise?

Here are three big takeaways.... Read More

Related Article:
What the Church Can Learn from the Retail Meltdown

The Top 3 Reasons Church Growth Ideas Usually Fail In Smaller Churches

We're often told that small churches are failing at church growth. But sometimes church growth ideas are failing in smaller churches.

I love church growth.

I also love the Church Growth Movement. It’s brought some wonderful benefits to the church in the last 40 to 50 years. A renewed emphasis on outreach, accurate assessment tools, and an openness to try new methods are just a few of the positives.

But every good idea also has unexpected consequences. For the Church Growth Movement, this has included a tendency to overemphasize numerical increase to such a degree that it discourages pastors and churches when they don’t hit expected numerical marks.

Plus, since every movement has a vested interest in promoting its success stories rather than its typical results, we’ve often overlooked one big reality...

Church growth principles don’t work in most small churches.

Why is this?

The tendency is to blame the churches and their pastors. We must be doing something wrong.

Of course, we are doing something wrong. No church or pastor does everything perfectly. But some churches get it 90 percent right and grow exponentially, while others get a different 90 percent right and continue to remain static numerically.

Plus, we all know of some cases where churches grew dramatically, only to discover a cancer on the inside that, once exposed, sinks the ship entirely. They were doing the basics wrong, but still grew like crazy.

Meanwhile, thousands of faithful, godly pastors are leading healthy, vibrant churches with no skeletons in their closets, yet they continue to struggle numerically.

Something else must be going on.

From my decades of study, pastoral experience and conversations with hundreds of small church pastors, I’ve discovered three primary reasons church growth principles fail in small churches more often than they succeed. Read More

5 Reasons It's OK to be Awkward When You Share the Gospel

Awkward Gospel Conversations

What keeps you from sharing the Gospel? For many the main answer to that question comes down to awkwardness.

Awkwardness is defined as causing or feeling embarrassment or inconvenience.

And while with most things it is probably helpful to have a keen sense of when awkwardness is on the horizon, we must remember what is at stake when we think about the eternal destiny of those around us.

I’d like to encourage you to rethink the common thought that it is better not to share the Gospel than to do it awkwardly. So here are five reasons why it’s ok to share the Gospel awkwardly. Read More

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3 Reasons Why Christianity Doesn't Need to Be Cool
5 Ways We are Doing Evangelism Wrong
The Surprising Key to Great Evangelism? Be a Friend

Saturday Lagniappe: "15 Ways to Talk So People Listen" and Much More

15 Ways to Talk So People Listen

We’ve all had leaders we wished would sit down and stop talking. Don’t be one. Read More

10 Things You Should Know about Jonathan Edwards

No one outside the biblical authors themselves has exerted the influence on me personally as has Jonathan Edwards. So here are ten things you should know about his life and ministry. Read More

The Ultimate Character Test Any Great Leader Passes

The longer I lead and the more I see, the more I’m convinced that character ultimately determines a leader’s true success. Read More

3 Indicators of Integrity Lapses in Leaders

Here are 3 indicators of integrity lapses in leadership.... Read More

How Debt Can Destroy Your Ministry

For those in ministry, you could say that debt is a ministry killer. Personal debt places burdens and barriers on the lives of those in ministry. Let’s consider how debt can destroy your ministry. Read More

The Great Exchanges of Romans

When the wonder of the gospel breaks into your life, you feel as though you are the first person to discover its power and glory.... f my own experience is anything by which to judge, discovering Romans can be a similar experience. Read More

Sorry, Old Testament: Most Theologians Don't Use You

Should systematic theologies equally rely on Bible verses from the Old and New Testament? Experts weigh in. Read More

Learn to Recognize An Idol Before It Rules Your Life

What does it actually mean to worship an idol? Read More

3 Ways to Spot “Christian Backstabbing”

People who have been around the Christian faith a long time can even learn how to backstab each other in a way that appears Christian. Of course, it is not. It is deceitful and disingenuous. Read More

How to Love Your Friends Who Don't Love Jesus

When your friends can’t stand your “obsession” with Jesus.... Read More

What Christians Need to Know about Islam

Roger Barriers offers a simple explanation of what Christians need to know about Islam.Read More

A media firestorm elevates a false narrative of Southern Baptist racism

What happens when frenzied news cycles, a culture of perpetual outrage, social media and political intrigue infect a religious event? Read More

Friday, June 16, 2017

Eight Signs That Point to Probable Church Death - Rainer on Leadership #337 [Podcast]

These eight signs are almost always evident in churches that are on their way to death. Does your church exhibit any of these?

Some highlights from today’s episode include:
  • Blogs create fans, podcasts create family.
  • Four consecutive years of decline indicate a problem that must be addressed.
  • If your congregation is mostly senior adults, you’re only a few funerals away from closing the church doors.
  • Don’t sit and expect younger people to come to your church. You have to work to connect with them.
  • In churches that are on their way to death, members often fight fiercely for their preferences.
  • One of the most sacred cows in dying churches is the parlor. Listen Now

Sin Is Cosmic Treason

“The sinfulness of sin” sounds like a vacuous redundancy that adds no information to the subject under discussion. However, the necessity of speaking of the sinfulness of sin has been thrust upon us by a culture and even a church that has diminished the significance of sin itself. Sin is communicated in our day in terms of making mistakes or of making poor choices. When I take an examination or a spelling test,if I make a mistake, I miss a particular word. It is one thing to make a mistake. It is another to look at my neighbor’s paper and copy his answers in order to make a good grade. In this case, my mistake has risen to the level of a moral transgression. Though sin may be involved in making mistakes as a result of slothfulness in preparation, nevertheless, the act of cheating takes the exercise to a more serious level. Calling sin “making poor choices” is true, but it is also a euphemism that can discount the severity of the action. The decision to sin is indeed a poor one, but once again, it is more than a mistake. It is an act ofmoral transgression. Read More

3 Reasons Preaching Is Essential to Discipleship

God can use whatever methods or techniques he wants to bring life change and hope to the world.

God uses many things, but he has ultimately and sovereignly chosen preaching to be one of the primary channels he uses to bring his blessing, his truth and his kingdom to this Earth.

Preaching is the channel God has chosen for much of the transformation that occurs in the believer’s life. And as individuals are transformed to be more gracious, peaceful and loving like Jesus, transformation builds in the society around us, as well. Read More

Related Article:
Consecutive Exposition Is Not the Only Way

10 Children's Ministry Issues

As my church consulting team does congregational interviews, we often hear concerns about children’s ministries. Listed in no particular order, here are the most common concerns we hear.... Read More

Thursday, June 15, 2017

'Missional Spirituality' - On Joining What God Intended to Keep Together

Many evangelicals pit missions against spiritual formation, but both are important for Christian faithfulness. A recent book, Spirituality for the Sent: Casting a New Vision for the Missional Church (IVP, 2016), seeks to bring those two movements “together into a single conversation for the sake of ongoing evangelical faithfulness”—the case is made for “missional spirituality.”

I corresponded with co-editor Keith Whitfield—assistant professor of theology and vice president for academic administration at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary—about what “missional spirituality” means, what this vision can look like in our churches, and the role of evangelism and church planting in this task. Read More

We Were Called a Cult: Two Things I Learned While Planting Our Church

As a church planter, I quickly learned that not everyone is excited for a new church in town. We experienced our fair share of critics on issues of belief, expression, and culture. However, one individual particularly stood out, making it his personal mission to inform as many in our neighborhood as possible that our church was a heresy-promoting cult. From posting flyers all over the neighborhood to penning critical blogposts to talking to people on the street (including mission teams in town to work with us), he was zealous to guard the honor of God and the Church by spreading the bad news of who we were. (Ironically, this was the very reason some curiously sought us out.)

I initially responded with frustration and disbelief. I could sort of understand if we were labeled bible-thumping, no-fun-fundies. But a cult? From this difficult season, I learned two valuable lessons. Read More

Confessions Of A Social Media Lurker: 3 Guidelines For Commenting Constructively Online

I don't want to just participate in conversations – whether they're online or in real life. I want to elevate them. And be elevated by them.

I spend a fair amount of time on social media. But there are a lot of people who don't even know I'm in a group with them because, while I monitor a lot of conversations, I seldom participate.

I hang out, I follow the conversation, I learn whatever can be gained, but I don't contribute.


Well, there's this Bible passage about pearls and pigs...

So much of the online tone is so mean, confrontational and toxic, it would be a waste of my time and emotional energy to engage in it. And this is in Christian groups. Including ministers' groups.

Sadly, some ministers have stained the reputation of their ministry, their church and the gospel by their online behavior – including a few who have lost their ministry positions over it.

At times, I've been tempted to opt out of social media entirely. And have done so for short seasons. But there is a lot of value in it. And I think it's important to be aware of what my fellow ministers are saying about the major subjects of the day.

So I'm a lurker. A hoverer. An eavesdropper.

I watch, listen and learn. Occasionally I'll jump in. But only under very tight guidelines.

I've created a set of rules for my engagement in online conversations. Including the Facebook and Twitter comments about this blog. Read More

Climate Watch: Melting Ice and Spreading Diseases. What Next?

Unusual weather in Antarctica leads to rain and a Texas-sized melt

That’s trouble. Read More

Climate Change Pushing Tropical Diseases Toward Arctic

Temperature changes around the globe are pushing human pathogens of all kinds into unexpected new areas, raising many new risks for people. Read More

Bizarre, Glowing Sea Creatures Bloom in the Pacific

Tropical, tube-shaped animals called pyrosomes, known as "fire bodies," appear by the millions off the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. No one knows why. Read More

A Running List of How Trump Is Changing the Environment

The Trump administration has promised vast changes to U.S. science and environmental policy—and we’re tracking them here as they happen. Read More

The FAQs: What Christians Should Know About the Alt-Right

Earlier today, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution condemning the movement known as the “alt-right.”

The language of the resolution reads, in part,
WHEREAS, Racism and white supremacy are, sadly, not extinct but present all over the world in various white supremacist movements, sometimes known as “white nationalism” or “alt-right”; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13–14, 2017, decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil; and be it further RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst; and be it further RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.
The resolution initially caused confusion because many Baptists—like most other Americans—are not familiar with the movement. A majority of U.S. adults (54 percent) say they have heard “nothing at all” about the “alt-right” movement, and another 28 percent have heard only “a little” about it, according to a Pew Research Center survey taken last year.

“There were a lot of people [at the SBC annual meeting] who just weren’t familiar with what the alt-right is,” said Russell Moore, a TGC Council member and president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “And then there were others who assumed the alt-right was just a fringy group of people that they didn’t want to dignify by even mentioning them.”

“What I point out is just how dangerous and present the alt-right is. . . . When people recognize what it is that the alt-right believes,” Moore added, “I haven’t talked to anyone who doesn’t immediately reject that.”

Here is what every Christian should know about the alt-right.... Read More

Related Article:
Southern Baptists Approve Alternate Resolution Against the Alt-Right

Iraqi Christians Face 'Death Sentence' as Trump Prepares Mass Deportations

A large roundup of Iraqi Christians by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been met with widespread criticism toward President Donald Trump, who previously pledged to protect such communities from persecution in the Middle East.

Dozens of Iraqi Christians and other immigrants were seized over the weekend in a series of ICE raids, many of which took place in Michigan, a state known for its large Middle Eastern population. Those arrested face risk of deportation back to their home countries, some of which Trump had previously criticized as being hostile toward Christians.

Many of the detained are facing years-old charges and some having not committed any crimes in the past two or three decades, CNN reported. Activists such as Steve Oshana, an Assyrian-Christian who is executive director of A Demand for Action, a non-profit that assists at-risk religious and ethnic communities in the Middle East, have attacked Trump for allowing authorities to send Christians back to places like Iraq, where the U.S. has said a "genocide" against the faith was occurring. Read More

Related Articles:
Trump Promised He Would Protect Persecuted Christians Instead He's Sending Them Back to Iraq
US Prepares to Deport Hundreds of Iraqi Christians

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

10 Characteristics of Movemental Christianity

moving from addition to reproduction

In the West, if and when we see movements of churches planting 1,000 churches in their lifetime, 
then we believe the following ten characteristics will be present. Based on our observations, movemental Christianity will have some of these characteristics. Read More

Twenty Relics of Church Past

This article will get me in trouble.

It began with a simple and informal poll on social media followed by several direct conversations. The question I asked was basic: “What did you have or do in your church ten years ago that you don’t have or do today?”

The top twenty responses were, for me at least, a fascinating mix of the expected and the surprises. They are ranked in order of frequency. Read More

4 Ways to Escape the Pastor-Isolation Trap

Operating in a vacuum of isolation, unfortunately, is how a number of pastors operate in ministry. Don’t get me wrong … I can appreciate the situations that my fellow co-laborers experience.

For some, geography is a challenge. You feel so far away from friendships and denominational connections that the locational disconnect translates into relational chasms.

Maybe, like me, you have what I would call a genetic challenge. I term myself as a “nurtured extrovert.” By nature, I’m shy and very quiet, and thus, this became my excuse to not reach out to others. Today, my wife wonders why I have to engage in conversation with random strangers in the mall.

For others, age is a huge relational issue. I can understand being the only minister in the room from one particular generation, and you long for a peer to connect with.

Then, there are situational challenges. I totally get wanting to find someone who is in a similar place in ministry and shares either a similar place of ministry or a specific season in the life of a church. Personally, I love finding other pastors and churches who have walked similar paths and/or are tracking along with my vision for the church.

But regardless of the challenges, as ministers we have to power through and intentionally engage in community. We were divinely designed to live in community. I get how busy you are. But there are times we are so busy doing “good” things that we miss out on the “best” things. And, in my limited-experiential opinion, operating in relationship as a minister is one of those “best” things we cannot ignore.

As my mentor has said to me in so many occasions, “The Enemy works in isolation; God works in community.” Read More

4 Spiritual Disciplines Pastors Often Neglect

The terms spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation have taken center stage in many churches and pastor conversations today.

Essentially, they refer to what we do to build healthy souls. And we all want that. They serve as means to an end—to become more like Jesus—not as ends in themselves. And the most common ones include Bible reading, fasting and prayer.

While I believe that most pastors somewhat regularly practice the main ones, I have a hunch that we may often unintentionally miss the following four. As you read each one, ask yourself when you last practiced it. Read More