Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

Challenges to Becoming a Multicultural Church

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

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

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

What “One Little Word” Will Fell Satan?

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

What Good Can a Heretic Bring?

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

10 Lessons for (Not Just) Younger Church Leaders

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

My 7 Least Productive Habits

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

Before You Fire Your Pastor

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

4 Key Ingredients in a Devotional Reading of Scripture

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

4 Super Effective Ways to Motivate Spiritually Apathetic Teenagers

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

Learning from Paul to Leverage Networking for Missions

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

6 Reasons Why the Church Is Not Singing


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

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

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

10 Eclipses in the Church


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

Photo Credit: Pexel

Why I Love the Rural Church


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

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


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

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

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


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

Top 10 Church Finance Mistakes


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

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

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

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

A Time for Confidence


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

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

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

Three Reasons to Keep Going in Ministry


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

You are tempted to quit. Read More

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


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

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

Preaching on Racism


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

Do You Read the Bible Like a Nonbeliever?


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

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

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

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

What the Bible Has to Say about Your Facebook Comments


The Bible actually has a lot to say about a Christian’s Facebook comments. Or, to be more specific, about your comments on anything. (It’s not just your mama who told you to “watch your tongue”!)

Words matter. They matter in person and they matter online—especially for Christ-followers who are called to a higher standard than the vitriol that shows up in Facebook comments. Read More
A careless remark can do a great deal of damage to you and to others.

The Devil's Glasses


No, this post is not about looking at the eclipse.

Rather, someone once illustrated temptation in this way. When you are being tempted, the devil sets on your nose a pair of false glasses. These glasses make the sin look so small that you view engaging in it as trivial.

How does Satan fool us with lies so that we believe that committing sin will be inconsequential? Here are five of the common ways he distorts our spiritual vision with his lies during temptation. Read More

13 Fall Outreach Ideas for Your Church


Are you looking for some ways to reach out to the community and invite people to church this fall? Here are some of our favorite ideas. Read More

Monday, August 21, 2017

Jesus, Our Substitute


The word vicarious is extremely important to our understanding of the atonement of Christ. The late Swiss theologian Karl Barth once said that, in his judgment, the single most important word in all of the Greek New Testament is the minuscule word huper. This little word is translated by the English phrase “in behalf of.” Barth was clearly engaging in a bit of hyperbole in making this statement, because many words in the New Testament are arguably as important or even more important than huper, but he was simply seeking to call attention to the importance of what is known in theology as the vicarious aspect of the ministry of Jesus.

He made satisfaction for our debt, our enmity with God, and our guilt. He satisfied the ransom demand for our release from captivity to sin. However, there is another significant word that is often used in descriptions of the atonement: substitution. When we look at the biblical depiction of sin as a crime, we see that Jesus acts as the Substitute, taking our place at the bar of God’s justice. For this reason, we sometimes speak of Jesus’ work on the cross as the substitutionary atonement of Christ, which means that when He offered an atonement, it was not to satisfy God’s justice for His own sins, but for the sins of others. He stepped into the role of the Substitute, representing His people. He didn’t lay down His life for Himself; He laid it down for His sheep. He is our ultimate Substitute. Read More

Why It Takes Five to Seven Years to Become the Pastor of a Church


You are the new pastor of the church. Expectations are high on your part and on the members’ part. Perhaps you celebrate with some type of installation service.

You are ready to lead and move the church forward. After all, you are the pastor. Right?

Wrong.

In most established churches, there is a prolonged period before the church members as a whole will truly embrace you as pastor. When that time comes, most pastors enjoy their greatest and most joyous years of ministry.

But the majority of pastors never make it to year five, much less year seven. So why does it take five to seven years to be embraced as the pastor of most established churches? Here are seven common reasons. Read More

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No, Christians Don’t See the Eclipse as a Sign of an Immediate Apocalypse (Except for a Few Odd Ones)


You will know when the end comes.

Contrary to the hyped-up news stories you might have seen concerning how Christians are reacting to the eclipse, there is no concern amongst any Christian leaders I know that the eclipse is a sign of an immediate Armageddon. And it certainly isn’t anything for us to fear.

The media often attempts to find fringe people that claim to be Christian, but often have little more platform than a badly-arranged blog and a few Twitter followers to ‘represent Christianity’ to the masses, via an often-hyperbolized segment designed to make Christians look stupid.

We’ve seen this before: the blood moons, planets aligning, 2012, and other events that are adopted as signs to serve a political point or send a message of God’s impending judgement. Often the message isn’t directly contradictory to Scripture (judgement is real), but the method of communicating and proving it (i.e., God’s judgement is on America because of X event) becomes harmful, embarrassing Christians every time it is proved to be untrue. Here are a few thoughts to address this.... Read More

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Is America’s Great Eclipse a Sign from God?
9 Things You Should Know About Solar Eclipses
Solar Eclipse

The world's top artificial intelligence companies are pleading for a ban on killer robots


A revolution in warfare where killer robots, or autonomous weapons systems, are common in battlefields is about to start.

Both scientists and industry are worried.

The world’s top artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics companies have used a conference in Melbourne to collectively urge the United Nations to ban killer robots or lethal autonomous weapons. Read More

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Are Christians Intolerant Haters? Lessons from the Church of the Second Century


As you now know, my book on the second century has just been released in the UK: Christianity at the Crossroads: How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church (SPCK, 2017). It will be released in the US with IVP Academic in the Spring.

Since it has been released, folks have been asking how this book connects to the modern church. In other words, can we learn anything from the Christians of the second century that may help us in our current cultural moment? Absolutely. Here are a few lessons to consider. Read More

Is the Catholic Church a Christian Church?


When we talk about God we often need to talk about him in parts. Because God is so big and our brains are so small, we need to be able to talk about him in manageable chunks. That is why we sometimes talk about the doctrine of the Trinity, or of Christ, of the church, of creation, and so on. However, because God is one and presents himself to us as a person, Jesus Christ, he is not reducible to those different parts; all these parts impact on and affect each other. You can’t change your doctrine about Jesus without it affecting your doctrine of the Trinity, for example. That is why when we learn and teach about God we study in a systematic way—so we can understand God best through an integrated and coherent system of truths, not isolated ideas.

Sometimes, as Evangelicals approaching Roman Catholicism, we look at various parts of Catholicism without considering how they relate to the whole Catholic system. For example, some might say Roman Catholics believe in the Trinity and the ancient creeds but that they have got the doctrine of Mary, Christ, salvation, the Bible and the church wrong at various key points. This atomization of Catholic teaching can lead us into saying things like, “The Roman Catholic Church is Trinitarian and creedal, and therefore more Christian than the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons”. One of the consequences of this error is to be less likely to be intentional in our evangelism of them. However, you cannot have a different teaching about Jesus and Mary and the church and salvation and the Bible without it profoundly affecting your teaching about the Trinity and your understanding of what the creeds mean.1

Gregg Allison and Leonardo De Chirico have done some very helpful work in critiquing the Roman Catholic system from a biblical perspective.2 In short, they suggest that the Roman Catholic system is best understood by the interaction of two key relationships. Firstly, there is the relationship of what they understand as the realms of Nature and of Grace. We might call them the physical world and the spiritual world. The second key relationship is the relationship between Christ and the Catholic Church. Catholics understand the Catholic Church to be the physical and spiritual continuation of Christ. The spiritual world is separated from the physical world and requires a mediator: Christ and the Catholic Church. Read More

Walking Through It: A Family Violence Survivor’s Reflection


I recently wrote a letter to ministers, entitled “Things I wish you understood: An open letter to ministers from a family violence survivor.” The response has been humbling. I’m glad it resonated with the experience of many, because it reminds me that I’m not alone, and that nor am I crazy because sometimes I have to fight with my emotions and body to get control again. Thank you to the sisters and brothers who have said “that’s me, too.” May God bless, comfort and heal you also.

I’m also more glad than I can say for the people who said it would help them to love their flock better. That’s what I was praying for. My experience won’t speak to everyone, and won’t be applicable to everyone, but if starts a conversation or raises awareness, then I thank God for that. If it means that I or someone else might have a better chance of hearing and understanding what the Bible says on some of those more difficult passages, so much the better. That was my heart—I want to hear and learn, and sometimes I can’t because of what I’ve been through. I’m not alone in that.

I’ve been encouraged privately to reflect and share on the experience of coming forward in the church. I am profoundly grateful for the godly men and women who walked through it with me. My experiences were generally positive but there were moments that weren’t so positive as well, and moments which might have gone much, much worse but for the grace of God. I am somewhat unusual, from what I can gather, in that I didn’t meet with anyone (outside of my then-husband) who treated me with harshness or ungraciousness. Even those who weren’t helpful still tried to treat me with love. My heart aches for those who have not been met with grace and love.

Here are some things that I’ve been reflecting on about my own experience.... Read More

Weekend Edition: "Balancing the Tensions of Leading an Established Church" and Much, Much More


Balancing the Tensions of Leading an Established Church

As you lead an established church to greater health, you will have to demonstrate a great deal of balance. Being an established church pastor is an exercise in paradox. Look at a few of the tensions you must keep in balance. Read More

Grow Your Own Leaders

What if it wasn’t necessary to look outside for leaders because you sufficiently discipled and grew leaders from within your congregation? Read More

10 Differences Between Confidence and Spiritual Arrogance

A cocky leader is not a leader with simply too much confidence; confidence and arrogance are very different traits. Read More

The Planter as Generalist: Delegation

...what if one of the most important things between your present reality and your ultimate goals is whether or not you become great at delegation? We tend to think that delegation doesn’t sound all that spiritual. And yet, it was a key component for the leadership of Moses, Jesus and the first-century church. Read More
"This post is written for church planters, but every one of us can learn something about delegation. Its simple, clear suggestions helped me." - Chuck Lawless
6 Words That Will Help the Dreaded Staff Meeting

...I take the approach that I am the mentor of the group. It’s the posture of “walking alongside the team” to invest in and guide them so they have the best chance for success. If they succeed, I succeed! Read More

Five Problems With Church Committees

...too many committees become the “tail wagging the dog” in churches. Here are five of the most prominent problems.... Read More

Preaching Under Pressure

How do you faithfully preach under the pressure that arises against your leadership, ministry, or pulpit? Read More

The Value of Meditating Upon God’s Word

An excerpt from Joel Beeke's contribution to Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching. Read More

Three Ways to Help Your Worship Leader

Over the twenty years that I have led worship for a local church, I have received thousands of post-service reactions. Sometimes the reactions have been wonderful — insightful, helpful, and encouraging. Other times, they have been . . . well, worse. People have tried to be encouraging, but for a number of reasons, their efforts have failed. Here are three ways to encourage the worship leader at your church this weekend. Read More

Suicide: Tragic Killer of Our Youth (and What You Can Do about It)

More teenagers die from suicide than from cancer, birth defects, heart disease, pneumonia, and influenza—combined. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24 (2015 CDC WISQARS)... Hear are six things a parent can do.... Read More

Don't Waste Your Commute

Here are four very tangible things that we can work toward as we attempt to redeem the time on our commutes.... Read More

Satan Has a Forked Tongue

...whatever the lie, Satan’s strategy is the same: to pull our focus away from Jesus. In temptation he’ll distract us from Christ’s beauty. When we sin, he’ll distract us from Christ’s mercy. His one goal is always to lead us away from Jesus. Read More

Why I kept Loving a Muslim Woman Who Didn't Want My Cookies

We know it’s not just a welcome mat they need. As Christians, we desire to share Christ with others even if they have little to no desire to know more about him. Read More

Summer 2017 Issue of Oakhill College's Commentary Is Now Online [Portable Document Format]

Featured articles are Brad Bitner's "Authority without Arrogance," David Baldwin's "Migration and the Local Church," and Robin Ham's "Aim for Iceburgs." Read Online or Download PDF

Black and White Christian Leaders Lament Charlottesville

Conference call tries to turn ‘pain and anger’ into ‘resolve and commitment.’ Read More

Friday, August 18, 2017

Four Paths for Church Revitalization - Rainer on Leadership #355 [Podcast]


Revitalization is needed in nearly two thirds of churches in America. Today ThomRainer and Jonathan Howe discuss four paths for revitalization and the challenges of each. Listen Now

IF I Were a Spy at Your Church This Weekend - LINK NOW WORKING


If you read this blog regularly, you know that my church consulting company, the Lawless Group, sends “spies” to churches to give us a report of their experience. They generally look for basic things – e.g., Is there adequate signage? Are the people friendly? Is the music well done? Is the preaching biblical? If I were to visit your church this weekend, though, here are some other things I’d watch for.... Read More

Christianity in the Modern World


“Teach a rat to expect punishment whenever a certain bell rings and a reward whenever a different bell rings; then ring both bells together. The rat will show confusion, timidity and indecision. In much the same way Christians today, confused by the ringing of many bells, are filled with indecision and a timid spirit.”

These are words with which Nels Ferre, the American theologian, begins his book “Return to Christianity”, and they are words which bring sharply before us something of the result of the modern search for truth, and the confused situation it has created for very many. We have delighted in many bells, only to find after a time that they developed unpleasant cracks, so that their music was ruined. Read More

The 8 Beliefs You Should Know about Mormons When They Knock at the Door

A statue of the Angel Moroni whom Mormons believe led Joseph Smith to the golden plates upon which was inscribed the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that Moroni was a prophet who became an angel when he died.  
The following is a brief overview of the beliefs of Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) believe, along with what the Bible really teaches, printed among the many articles and resources in the back of the ESV Study Bible (posted with permission). Read More

Preaching Bigger Books in Shorter Series


Let’s say you want to preach from a bigger book, but you like the idea of shorter series – is that possible? Here are a few suggestions.... Read More

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On technology and preaching

Are Evangelicals Donating Too Directly to Missions?


When helping hurts the professional helpers.

Long before Google Maps, a couple of guys in a garage in California figured out how to use personal computers to create a digital map of the global church.

It was 1983, and their two-year project—meant to help organizations see where to send missionaries and who still needed translations of the Bible—grew into an organization called Global Mapping International (GMI).

GMI spent the next 34 years supplying products such as missions maps and studies on how missionaries could thrive. It didn’t charge missions agencies very much and supplemented by asking for donations.

In June, GMI closed its doors, unable to draw enough funding from today’s givers.

“The attention span of the donor is much shorter, and their desire for tangible, immediate impact from their gift is much higher,” said GMI president and CEO Jon Hirst. Read More

The Centuries-Old Habits of the Heart


How our accomodation of sin found us out in Charlottesville.

The tragic events in Charlottesville have captivated the attention of the nation, plunging us, yet again, into another period of deep soul-searching over our anguished racial history. President Donald Trump drew criticism from both sides of the aisle for his reluctance to condemn white nationalism specifically in his initial remarks.

As a scholar of political rhetoric, I understand, yet strongly disagree with Trump’s strategy in refusing to condemn white nationalism specifically. A vocal part of his base aligns with this philosophy, leaving him little incentive to risk alienating them. When former Klansman David Duke endorsed Trump during the campaign, the candidate expressed similar hesitancy in distancing himself from white nationalism.

Trump deserves strong criticism for his failure to specifically and clearly condemn white nationalism. The lure of power and votes do not justify his silence. Yet, to criticize an unpopular president is easy. Perhaps the harder, more difficult task we face in the wake of Charlottesville is to consider how we as citizens and Christians engage in a similar type of silence on a regular basis. Many of us mobilize in defense of ideals of equality every time an incident like Charlottesville occurs, but quickly retreat to our comfort zones when public attention dies down. Daily battles for equality in church, education, employment, and the criminal justice system are much harder to maintain.

Trump’s silence on white supremacy was not an aberration, but a cultural norm. Our disgust with his statement threatens to blind us to the ways in which the American imagination has consistently made room for the ideas of white supremacy to exist alongside core values like freedom, justice, and equality. Accommodating racism is as American as apple pie. Read More

Related Articles:
Without Action, We Are Hypocrites
I Don’t Have the Luxury of Ignoring Racism Anymore
Pastoral Reflections from Charlottesville

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Adding A Second Church Service Without Killing Your Momentum


Taking an almost-full room and dividing into two less-than-half-full rooms can be a psychological blow. Here's how one church overcame it.

Has your church ever tried to add a second weekend worship service, only to have it flame out? This was the question that was asked on a small church pastors’ discussion board recently.

Several of the responses were, understandably, along these two lines:

“That’s a ‘problem’ I’d love to have.”

“Going to two services killed our momentum. Never again.”

So, yes, needing to add a service is a ‘problem’ many churches would love to face, but if you don’t do it well, it can hurt more than it helps. So let me share with you how our church did it without killing our momentum. Read More
As Charles Arn and Leith Anderson point out in How to Start a New Service, when you start a new service, you are not providing the existing congregation with the option of an alternative time that they may attend church. You are starting a new congregation. The second congregation may take on an entirely different character from the first congregation and that is OK. 

The 11 Beliefs That You Should Know about the Jehovah's Witnesses When They Knock at the Door


The following is a brief overview of what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, along with what the Bible really teaches, printed among the many articles and resources in the back of the ESV Study Bible (posted by permission). Read More

4 Bible Reading Strategies for Reading Plan Quitters


Do you sometimes find yourself being envious of the people who start a Bible reading plan, follow it faithfully, and stick through until the end? Then, they start the same Bible reading plan the next year and persevere to the end again. I’m sorry, I just struggle with doing that. Sometimes I find that I get halfway through a Bible reading plan, get bogged down, and cannot go any further.

This used to create a load of guilt in my heart because I would get stuck in the middle of really good Bible reading plans. It’s happened to me with some great Bible reading plans– Robert Murray McCheyene, the Bible Eater, and Dr. Horner’s Bible reading plan. All of these plans are built around solid strategies for reading the Bible, but in my personal weakness, I struggle to persevere.

I doubt that I am the only person who has this struggle. If you struggle like I do, here is the advice that I would offer– change it up. Instead of choosing one Bible reading plan, choose a strategy for reading the Bible and then change what you are doing when you find yourself getting stale. After all, what matters is not that we are sticking to a plan, but that we are reading the Bible and being changed by it.

Here are four strategies for changing up the way that you read the Bible. Read More

Six Communications Blunders That Will Cost You Volunteers


If you’re on staff at a church or a leader in any way, you likely interact with volunteers on a daily basis. And unfortunately, you’re probably not sitting on an endless supply of volunteers. It’s quite possible that you’re looking for people every week to fill a hole left by a volunteer who’s sick, out of town, or unreliable.

But is it possible that you could be running off volunteers? With some of the emails, letters, and communications I’ve seen from churches over the years, it’s entirely possible. Poor communication can cost you volunteers and church members. That’s why it’s important to avoid these communications blunders. Read More

Keeping the Faith in a Faithless Age


“The greatest question of our time,” historian Will Durant offered, “is not communism versus individualism, not Europe versus America, not even East versus the West; it is whether men can live without God.” That question, it now appears, will be answered in our own day.

For centuries, the Christian church has been the center of Western civilization. Western culture, government, law, and society were based on explicitly Christian principles. Concern for the individual, a commitment to human rights, and respect for the good, the beautiful, and the true—all of these grew out of Christian convictions and the influence of revealed religion.

All of these, we now hasten to add, are under serious attack. The very notion of right and wrong is now discarded by large sectors of American society. Where it is not discarded, it is often debased. Taking a page out of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, modern secularists simply declare wrong, right, and right, wrong. Read More

Iceland Eliminates People with Down Syndrome


A casually worded CBS News article depicts a horrifying reality.

CBS News reported earlier this week that Iceland is leading the world in “eradicating Down syndrome births.”

One might be forgiven for assuming that Iceland has developed an innovative treatment for the chromosomal disorder. It turns out Iceland’s solution is much simpler, and much more sinister: using prenatal testing and abortion to systematically exterminate children with Down syndrome. This isn’t progress; it’s eugenics. Read More

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White Evangelicals Oppose Calls to Impeach Trump


President’s faithful want him to stay in office, and trust him on Russia.

Even before the fallout over President Donald Trump’s remarks on the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, a growing number of Americans hoped to see the country’s 45th leader impeached. However, white evangelicals—a group that largely voted for Trump—were among the most likely to want him to stay in the White House.

A PRRI poll conducted in early August found that 40 percent of Americans believe the President should be impeached, up from 30 percent who said so in February.

Among white evangelicals, 79 percent oppose the calls to impeach Trump—more so than white mainline Protestants (63%), white Catholics (61%), and nones (45%). Overall, about half of Americans say Trump does not deserve to be impeached. Read More

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday's Catch: "One-on-One with Scholar and Researcher Mark Silk on the Future of Religion, Especially Evangelicalism, in America (Part One)” and Much More


One-on-One with Scholar and Researcher Mark Silk on the Future of Religion, Especially Evangelicalism, in America (Part One)

Evangelicalism is now the normative form of non-Catholic Christianity in America. Read More

Please Stop Saying “Christianity Isn’t a Religion, It’s a Relationship.”

I’m sure you’ve heard it or said it yourself: “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.” Please stop. Read More

Seven Characteristics of Reactionary Pastors

Thom Rainer speaks to the most common mistakes of reactionary pastors. Read More

Pastoral Plagiarism: 10 Do’s and Don’ts

What are the “rules” of plagiarism for communicators? Read More

10 Tips for Effective Leadership

In this day and age, everyone has their very own version of what it takes to be an effective leader. I’m no different. These are my 10. Read More

Protecting Children from Abuse: An Interview

Tim Challies recently interviewed Boz Tchividjian to ask him some key questions for every Christian and every church. Read More

Bruce Ammons on 500% More Second Time Guests Than The Average Church [Podcast]

Bruce Ammons from Sugar Creek Baptist Church talks with the Unseminary team about how to retain visitors to your church. Listen Now

Two-Thirds of Americans Admit They Are Sinners

Most agree with Romans 3:23, but disagree on what to do about it. Read More

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

9 Signs You're Operating in Your Own Power


It’s one of Satan’s most subtle strategies. He’s so sly that we don’t even recognize it’s happening. That strategy? To entice us to do ministry, whether as a pastor or a layperson, in our own power. He simply is not alarmed when we go through the motions and activities of church, but without the power of God on us.

Here are nine signs that you might be operating in your own power.... Read More

10 Things You Should Know about Repentance


Repentance is a massively important spiritual issue that calls for careful study and clear articulation. Here are ten things to remember about what it means to repent of our sin. Read More

3 Easy Ways To Know The Quality Of Your Leadership


One of the most difficult aspects of leadership is to know how you’re doing as a leader.

Add a little insecurity into the mix, and it makes things even more complex.

Naturally, you’ll get feedback from your peers and probably get an occasional 360 review (both great practices).

But beyond that, how can you tell how you’re doing? The reality is your leadership is being judged daily. But how accurately do you judge and assess your own leadership?

There’s a way to check that’s much simpler than you might think. By asking yourself three simple questions, you can not only get an accurate gauge of how you’re doing but where you need to improve. Read More

Will Contemporary Worship Kill the Choir?


Will contemporary worship kill the choir?

No.

And I say that with a great deal of confidence. I admit there are styles of music in the modern worship era more suited to choirs than others. I would add that the role of choirs in worship has also been a changing aspect of church practice through the years.

But, I’ll also add that most church leaders would rather influence 60 people than 6 if given the choice. Choirs make sense for a lot of reasons. That’s why our “tag line” for The Red Box (our choral preview club) proudly says that LifeWay Worship Resources is a “Proud Supporter of Choirs Everywhere!”

So, how do I know that choirs in worship will survive?

Simply stated, because choirs were God’s idea – not ours. Read More

Why Smaller Churches Can’t Fly Under the Copyright Radar


“Why is it important for churches to honor copyrights?”

This is a vital question for church leaders who set policies and procedures regarding their copyright compliance. I’m always a little stunned to hear someone counter with, “How many churches have been sued for copyright infringement?” In other words, what’s the chance of us getting caught and what are the risks?

Two recent lawsuits raised a major red flag for Christian leaders who have the illusion there is special immunity for churches when it comes to the U.S. Copyright Law, and smaller churches can no longer assume they operate under the radar. Read More

Race, the Gospel, and the Moment


How should Christians, and especially those with an Anglo-white background, respond to last weekend’s alt-right gathering in Charlottesville and its tragic aftermath?

Three brief things need to be said. Read More

On Christians Unable to Critique President Trump: Loyalty and the Rorschach Test


If you are unable to critique a president, you've lost your prophetic witness.

This weekend was an important moment in our nation and, I think, for evangelical Christianity in America. Reflecting and responding to the events following Charlottesville is worth our time and energy.

Many issues are already being discussed, and it’s important that we think deeply on issues of race, but I’d like to ask one additional question: Why are a subset of (often evangelical) Christians unable to see when President Trump has stumbled and feel they must defend everything he does—even after he obviously saw his error and sought to fix it today? Read More

Monday, August 14, 2017

8 Reasons the Size of Your Church Does Matter

old-fashioned weights

Last week, I posted on “7 Reasons the Size of Your Church Doesn’t Matter.” I trust that post was encouraging to many of you. At the same time, though, I want to offer a counter opinion today. I do think size matters, and here’s why.... Read More

Why Many of Our Churches Are Still One Color


What’s wrong with our church?”

It was a sincere question. The elder wanted to know why there seems to be a steady erosion of attendance, discipleship, and evangelism at his church.

Then I showed him the demographics of the church’s community. Over 40 percent of the area was non-white and growing, but the church was above 95 percent white. My response was simple. “You are not connecting with your community. The ethnic and racial diversity of the community is not reflected in the church.

” This church is one of tens of thousands of congregations that are one color, one race, or one group. Why? Why is this reality still taking place today? Let’s look at seven reasons. Read More

Photo Credit: Unsplash

When Should Doctrine Divide?


For various reasons I’ve been thinking about how Christians should relate to each other around secondary doctrines. What partnerships and alliances are appropriate among Christians of different denominations, networks, or tribes? What kind of feelings and practices should characterize our attitude to those in the body of Christ with whom we have significant theological disagreements? What does it look like to handle—with integrity and transparency—personal differences of conviction that may arise with your church, boss, or institution?

These kinds of questions have been a significant part of my own denominational and theological journey over the last decade, and it is a practical issue that will always be with us. So I thought it might be helpful to share two convictions that have been brewing in me while I’ve struggled my way through it all.

At the broadest level I see two opposite dangers: doctrinal minimalism and doctrinal separatism. Read More

Why You Don’t Read Your Bible (and How to Start)


Over and over again, studies show the most important thing for spiritual growth is reading the Bible, yet most people in the church aren’t doing it. Only 45% of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. For each church attender who does read their Bible every day, there’s someone else who doesn’t read it at all.

Biblical illiteracy is an epidemic.

I say this as a pastor who talks to people every week, inside and outside the church, with next to no biblical knowledge. The most concerning thing is that there doesn’t seem to be a distinction between those who are new to the faith and those who isave been Christians for several years, sometimes even a decade or more.

Why is it that despite the evidence, despite our sincere longing to grow spiritually, we don’t do the one thing most capable of producing that growth?

In my experience, there are two main reasons people don’t read their Bible. The first is that people honestly don’t understand the Bible holds transformational power. Second, they don’t read the Bible because they don’t know how to find delight in reading it. Both issues are worth understanding in more detail. Read More

Don’t Confuse Spirituality with Righteousness


Over the years I’ve had many young Christians ask me how to be more spiritual or more pious. Rare has been the earnest student who said, “Teach me how to be righteous.” Why, I wondered, does anybody want to be spiritual? What is the purpose of spirituality? What use is there in piety?

Spirituality and piety are not ends in themselves. In fact they are worthless unless they are means to a higher goal. The goal must go beyond spirituality to righteousness. Read More