The Path

Why do churches have so many members who give little or no evidence of Christian commitment or even conversion? Why do many churches find it difficult to motivate members to give, serve, pray, and share their faith?

The answer is simple. The members were allowed to join with no expectations placed on them. You get what you ask for!

While becoming a Christian means to commit yourself to Christ, becoming a church member means to commit yourself to other Christians. Paul mentions two different types of commitment in 2 Corinthians 8:5 – “First they gave themselves to the Lord; and then, by God’s will, they gave themselves to us as well” (GNT).

At Saddleback, we call these the first-base commitments. You commit yourself to Christ for salvation, and then you commit yourself to other Christians for membership in our church family.

At Saddleback, we only expect of our members what the Bible clearly expects of all believers. These expectations are summarized in our membership covenant. It is the most important element of our membership class.

We have four requirements for membership:

A personal profession of Christ as Lord and Savior, baptism by immersion as a public symbol of…

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Giving and Multiplying Fruit

God came up with the idea of multiplication.

If you give him your time, he multiplies it. If you give him your money, he multiplies it. If you give him your talent, he multiplies it. If you give him your energy, guess what? He multiplies it.

It’s the same principle as planting seeds. Second Corinthians 9:10 says, “God gives seed to the farmer . . . God will also give you seed and multiply it. In your lives he will increase the things you do that have his approval” (GW).

Think about that: God will increase the things you do that have his approval.

Farmers know that seed must be given away for it to increase. If you keep seed in a sack, it doesn’t do any good. But when you plant it, it multiplies. When you plant one corn seed, do you just get one corn seed back? No, you get a stalk with hundreds of corn kernels. When you plant one watermelon seed, do you only get one seed back? No, you get a bunch of watermelons with hundreds of seeds in them. God multiplies whatever little bit you give him.

“Remember that…

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Vision and Direction

It’s been said many times by many different people that everything rises or falls on leadership. I don’t think that’s ever truer than in ministry. Charles McKay, a former professor at California Baptist College, used to say, “If you want to know the temperature of your church, put the thermometer in your mouth.”

You can’t ever take people further than you are yourself, spiritually or any other way.

I remember when I was interviewed on the ACTS television network by former SBC president, Jimmy Allen, and he asked me about starting new churches. He said, “How important is location?” I told him that location is the second most important thing. But the most important thing is not location, but leadership in a church.

You don’t have to be a charismatic leader (in the emotional sense) to be a great leader. Personality has almost nothing to do with dynamic leadership.

Vision Matters

It’s not the charisma of the leader that matters, but the vision of the leader. Whatever your assignment may be in your church, no matter what your ministry concentration may be, your number one responsibility of leadership in that area is to continually clarify and communicate the…

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Friends

Some of the greatest preachers in history were great at introducing and delivering sermons, but poor at closing them. We preach Christ and we preach a Gospel that calls for commitment, so powerful preaching presses for a verdict.

This is an area I spend a lot of time on when I’m preparing a message because a sermon without a conclusion is a message without a purpose. Changed lives come from great conclusions. John Stott said, “If there is no summons, there is no sermon.”

First, avoid these four common mistakes:

  • Don’t just summarize the message. Ask people to act.
  • Don’t announce that you’re concluding, especially if you don’t mean it.
  • Don’t blame the clock and rush to a conclusion.
  • Don’t introduce new ideas or extra points in your conclusion.

Instead, conclude by doing these things:

1. Always point back to Jesus Christ.

Jesus is center stage. The goal of preaching is not to get people to fall in love with you as the preacher but to get them to fall in love with Jesus. Since the Bible is the story of Jesus’ redemptive work, every sermon ought to draw people to the cross…

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Freedom

By Alexandra Applegate, Storytelling Intern at Saddleback Church

The echoes of Jerry’s screams bounced off the walls and the vulgar words he used rang in his ears, making his wife and children recoil in fear. When he lost control and became inconsolably angry like this, it was hard for Jerry to look in the mirror and not see his own parents.

Jerry’s father was a military man who believed physical abuse was a form of discipline, and Jerry’s mother spent most nights drinking rather than being with Jerry. The time spent at his father’s brought physical bruises and tears while the time spent at his mother’s left him questioning why he wasn’t her first priority. Consistently being mistreated and forgotten about by his divorced parents left him with an anger he didn’t know how to separate himself from as an adult.

“I had my father’s anger. It was explosive at any given time,” Jerry said. “When something didn’t go my way, I got angry. If I couldn’t control the situation, I got angry. I yelled, I cursed, whatever made me feel better at the time.”

During his adulthood, this anger continued to lurk around every corner of Jerry’s…

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By Mary Owen, National Training Coach Celebrate Recovery

When Mac and I were first married, we loved to go camping. Part of the adventure became floating down whitewater rivers. At first the rivers we ran were easy. As our sense of adventure grew, so did the difficulty of the rivers. We soon discovered that it wasn’t wise to go through rapids until we pulled over and scouted the best possible approach. We witnessed many people just plow through the rapids. Some would make it. Some would capsize and need rescuing. We decided to pull over at fast-moving spots to identify the rocks that could trap or capsize us. We would choose the safest route and then go for it!

This took extra time and effort. However, it increased our chances for a safe and exciting run because we had a plan. There was another alternative. We could have said, “No way, we’re not doing that!” Then we’d have to hike to the road and get a ride to our car. Soon we’d be back at our campsite, ending our adventure and feeling defeated.

Problems are going to arise in life’s adventure. We can scout it out…

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Give Thanks

Some of you have had a tough year. You’ve endured your share of criticism. Maybe you’ve lost a job. Maybe you’re going through a rough patch in your marriage.

Now comes Thanksgiving. Can we thank God even when times are tough? Yes, we can.

First Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NIV).

This verse does not say to give thanks for everything. It says to give thanks in every circumstance. I see it misinterpreted all the time.

You don’t have to give thanks for evil in the world. The Bible does not tell us to be thankful for evil.

But in every circumstance, no matter how bad it is, I can give thanks to God because . . .

  • His purpose is bigger than my problem.
  • He will give me the power to overcome my problem.
  • I know I will grow through the experience if I allow God to help me grow.

I may not be thankful for evil, but I can be thankful despite evil.

How can you be grateful when you’ve lost your job, your health, or a spouse? You look not at what you’ve lost,…

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Ministry Leadership Action

Procrastination has a high cost. When we cram for tests, we get lower grades. When we wait until the deadline to file taxes, we miss things and make costly mistakes. When we put off difficult conversations, we hurt people and relationships.

And the cost of procrastination in ministry can be significantly higher. For us, procrastination isn’t measured in dollars; it is measured in ministries never started, people with needs going unmet, and those who are spiritually lost never hearing the Gospel.

The Bible says in James 4:17, “Remember, it is a sin to know what you ought to do and then not to do it” (NLT). When God calls you to do something, but you don’t do it, it’s not just a bad strategy or a missed blessing. It is sin.

If God has called you to do something in your ministry and you are not doing it, do it now! Not next month, next week, or even tomorrow—do it right now.

Proverbs 27:1 says, “Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring” (NLT). None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. You may not have the opportunity tomorrow to do what…

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Walk Happy

Being a pastor isn’t easy. It’s hard work. It’s emotionally taxing. We’re just as subject to the pressure to hustle and grind as anyone in a professional role, and sometimes, the grind gets to us. You can only hustle so long until you’re out of energy.

I’ve found that when discouragement attacks, it usually attacks on Mondays, even after a great weekend of worship services and seeing lives changed.

James Draper once described the Southern Baptist Convention as “a denomination of discouraged leaders.” I think that’s true of most denominations and churches. I’ve heard from tens of thousands of leaders who have attended our Purpose Driven conferences and training events, and I’ve concluded that a majority of pastors struggle with chronic discouragement.

Thankfully, there is an antidote. The fourth chapter of Nehemiah gives us a four-point plan for bouncing back when we’re feeling down.

1. Rest Your Body

Nehemiah rested. The psalmist wrote about rest in Psalm 127:2, “It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?” (The Message).

Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do in a…

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Project

As a pastor, you need to be able to put together projects efficiently and effectively. Whether you are starting a new church, planning a new ministry, opening a new building, or just preparing for next weekend’s services, you need to mobilize people around a common task. That’s leadership in a nutshell.

When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to help rebuild the city’s wall, he had a monster project on his hands. How he tackled that project provides us with seven key principles for getting things done.

1. The Principle of Simplification

Nehemiah kept his plan simple. He didn’t randomly assign jobs, he didn’t create a whole new organization, and he didn’t force any complex charts.

He organized around groups already associating together, such as the priests, the men of Jericho, and the sons of Hassenaah. The point is: Don’t create an organization if you don’t need it. If an organization already naturally exists, try to work through it and with it.

Sometimes a new leader comes into a situation, and the first thing he does is start changing the whole organization. Think: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Strong organizations are often the simplest ones.

2. The Principle of…

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Joyful Ministry

As Saddleback Church continues in our 40 Days of Prayer campaign, I’m mindful of the fact that a lot of leaders around the world might not be in the best place, spiritually, to lead a church in such an intense prayer effort. If you want to lead your church effectively through a campaign, you need to be keeping your own relationship with God fresh.

It’s way too easy to just go through the motions instead of basing your ministry on a growing relationship with Christ. In fact, your ministry will have no impact if you’re not developing a more intimate relationship with Christ.

Philippians 3:10 says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (NIV). The word “know” in this verse speaks of a deeply intimate relationship, like the relationship a husband and wife have with each another. Part of what kept Paul joyful in spite of being imprisoned as he wrote the book of Philippians was his intimate relationship with Christ.

Here are three big ways you can do the same …

1. Spend Time…

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By Hess Hester, National Celebrating Pastors in Recovery Director

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16a ESV).

For many years I struggled with this verse as I taught or preached through the book of James — probably five or six times as a pastor. At one point I wondered if James was saying that we should have open, public confession times in our worship services as a church. That might draw a crowd, for sure — like people who go to NASCAR races hoping to see enormous wrecks! I’d heard stories of churches that tried it, but most were about public confession times that had gone wrong — very wrong. I decided that’s not what James meant.

What James does mean is this: One of the greatest experiences you can have of God’s love and care for you is what takes place when you are willing to open your life to someone else in the Body of Christ that you know you can trust. As you mutually remove your masks and confess your sins and struggles to each other and pray for each other,…

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