Colorful

God intentionally created everyone to be unique. And when we appreciate the uniqueness that we see in others, we truly honor the creative work of God around us. The world is a work of art, full of color and full of diversity.

Nobody looks quite like you look. You’re not one in a million; you’re one in 7 billion! And if you have a problem with people who are different from you, you really have a problem with God. Racism is essentially believing that God should have made everyone else to be just like you.

First Corinthians 15:38-40 says, “God gives everything the kind of body he wants it to have. People, animals, birds, and fish are each made of flesh, but none of them are alike. Everything in the heavens has a body, and so does everything on earth. But each one is very different from all the others” (CEV). That’s intentionality.

Then the Bible says, in Acts 17:26, “From one person God made all nations who live on earth, and he decided when and where every nation would be” (CEV).

We all ultimately descended from two mutual parents, Adam and Eve. Our unity was fractured by sin…

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Walking Together as a Group

We may attract attenders through preaching, but disciples are made in small groups.

When you’re leading a campaign, like 40 Days of Prayer, or anytime in the future as you lead your congregation toward a deeper relationship with Jesus, you’ll want to explain to your members why small groups are so important to spiritual growth and why they are more than just a Bible study.

Small groups provide the kind of accountability and support we need to mature as believers, so I want to give you four reasons why they are important to your congregation.

1. Small groups are relational.

You can’t have a conversation with 600 people or 60 people, but you can have a conversation with six people. Generally, when there are more than 10 in a group, people stop talking. It is impossible to learn how to love your neighbor as yourself unless you are involved in a small group of some kind. You don’t need a lot of friends in life, but you do need a few good ones, and you find those solid, supportive friendships in small groups.

Sometimes I hear people say they don’t…

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If God allowed you to baptize hundreds of new believers, add hundreds of new members, and increase your average attendance by thousands in just 40 days, would you call that a revival?

If, during those same 40 days, God prompted people in your church who were previously uninvolved to start serving in ministry, and caused others to commit to a world missions project, what would you call that? An awakening?

What term would you use if God led your members to become so concerned for their spiritually lost friends that they convinced their neighbors to study the Bible for six weeks in one of thousands of small groups meeting in homes around your city? A miracle?

Well, whatever you call it, all this has actually happened at Saddleback Church during the various campaigns we’ve conducted over the years, and we stand in awe at what God has done. And God has repeatedly worked through campaigns hosted by thousands of churches around the world in similar ways.

Untold thousands have come to Christ and have been baptized, welcomed into church membership, connected to a small group or Sunday School class, taught the meaning of real worship and fellowship, equipped for ministry, and then…

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Dreaming

Everybody needs a dream. In fact, God wired you to dream dreams, and from Joseph to Daniel to Peter, the Bible is filled with stories of God giving his people great dreams.

Whenever you first got involved in ministry, you probably started with a big dream. Unfortunately, as you get into that ministry, your dreams can shrink to the size of the situation.

If you’re going to be involved in ministry, you’ve got to continue to be a dreamer. You’ve got to have faith in what God can do through your ministry. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). Faith begins with catching a dream, a vision.

When I started Saddleback, I started with a dream. In fact, at the very first Saddleback trial service, I shared that dream with the 60 people in the room. I shared a bold dream that day—a dream of a church of 20,000 people ministering in Orange County and around the world, a dream of a campus that would be a refuge for the hurting, depressed, frustrated, and confused in our community, and a dream of sharing the Good News with…

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High achievers usually have one obvious thing in common: personal discipline.

Successful people are willing to do things that most people are unwilling to do.

As the pastor of Saddleback Church, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of Orange County’s most successful business leaders. I’ve observed that successful people express self-discipline in six key ways:

1. Successful people master their moods.

They live by their commitments, not their emotions. People who do the right thing even when they don’t feel like it accomplish most of what gets done in the world!

“A man without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down walls” Proverbs 25:28 (TLB).

2. Successful people watch their words.

They put their minds in gear before opening their mouths.

“He who guards his lips guards his life” Proverbs 13:3 (NIV).

3. Successful people restrain their reactions.

How much can you take before you lose your cool? Unfortunately, a lot of potential influence can be cut short by a short temper.

“If you are sensible, you will control your temper. When someone wrongs you, it is a great virtue to ignore it” Proverbs 19:11 (GNT).

4. Successful people stick to their schedule.

If you don’t determine how you will spend your…

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Rebels

By Brian Raynor

Hello, my name is Brian. I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, and I struggle with alcohol and drugs.

As a young child, life for me was pretty normal. My mom stayed home and my dad bought wrecked cars, fixed them, and sold them. It was fun, as a little kid, having a garage behind our house. I could go down to the shop, hang out, and watch my dad work. I started helping him out, and I was good at working on cars. Just like my dad.

A few years went by and car sales were not going well. My dad was a perfectionist and would invest more time and money in the cars than they were worth. The business was bleeding money, and he ended up going through his entire life savings. All this stress made my dad an angry and uptight person. I was with him every single day working, and as I got older I was expected to work and help with the cars. The work I did never seemed to be good enough or right for him, no matter how hard I tried. All my…

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First Time at Celebrate Recovery

By Mac Owen, National Director, Celebrate Recovery

I’ll never forget the big, 6-foot-4 shell of a man who walked into Celebrate Recovery one cold winter night. He had a bodyguard on either side of him. Actually, they were two friends who brought him to a place where he could find help, and they weren’t going to let him escape. He had an expression of pain and sadness on his face. There was no mistaking that much of his life’s plans had gone badly.

They brought him to Newcomers 101 that night so he could hear about the program. About halfway through my explaining what Celebrate Recovery was all about, he raised his hand said, “Can I ask a question?” “Sure, go ahead” I replied. “Why are you smiling so much? I don’t have anything to smile about.” I responded, “Well, hopefully, that will change. Please keep coming back for at least six weeks. See if things might just start to get better. We always have a misery-back guarantee.”

He liked that and said, “You’re on; I will be back for six weeks. But really I don’t see how anything can…

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Celebrate Recovery

I believe great churches are built by broken people, ministering to other broken people.

Brokenness is a willingness to abandon our pride, our pretensions, and our self-righteous posturing. And it is the prerequisite to God’s blessing on our lives and our congregations.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3 NIV).

When we reach the end of our rope and give up our self-sufficiency, that’s when God moves into our lives with healing and growth.

Sin is addicting, and “all have sinned.” That means we’ve all created ungodly and unhealthy methods for handling life, so every church needs to have some form of a recovery ministry.

Not one of us is untainted, and because of sin, we’ve all hurt ourselves, we’ve all hurt other people, and others have hurt us. Each of us needs repentance and recovery in order to live our lives the way God intended.

At Saddleback, we’ve watched the miracle of Celebrate Recovery develop and expand to reach most of the nations of the world in the last few decades. It has touched hundreds of thousands of lives and continues to expand.

I believe the success of…

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Transformation

Nothing thrills a pastor more than seeing real transformation happen in the lives of people. We want to see people grow up and become completely mature—completely like Jesus Christ. Another word for this is sanctification, and sanctification always begins as God’s Spirit uses God’s truth to change the mind, heart, and will of his follower.

Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17, “Use the truth to make them holy. Your Words are truth” (GW). Transformation is change, and change happens as we apply God’s truth to every area of our lives. The first responsibility of pastors and shepherds is to preach God’s truth, which transforms the lives of our hearers into the image of Jesus Christ.

One of the primary marks of spiritual immaturity is when other people can easily sway us away from the truth. Not knowing the truth of God’s Word causes us to change our beliefs back and forth, repeatedly, which creates an unstable life. Paul said in Ephesians 4:14-15 that when we are mature and know God’s truth, “Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different…

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Love Your Neighbor

Last year was a very difficult year in many ways.

Our culture has been battered by one crisis after another: scandals, shootings, angry protests, and a constant barrage of mad pundits shouting at each other in the media 24 hours a day. Our nation is deeply polarized and fractured into splinter groups that demonize each other on the internet. And, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in violence in our streets, schools, theaters, and now even in churches.

We’ve seen the rise in vile bigotry, hateful racism, and ignorant prejudices against different cultures and immigrants—in a nation that was built by immigrants! I imagine the Statue of Liberty is weeping. And we’ve seen the videos and heard the voices of people genuinely hurt by injustice or poverty, or by having their job shipped overseas.

How should followers of Jesus respond to all the anger we see erupting today? How can God’s family, the church, be the “peacemakers” and the “ministers of reconciliation” that Jesus commands us to be? How do we build bridges to each other instead of walls around our hearts and homes? We can begin by loving like Jesus loved.

Here are five important ways to do just…

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Vision

You may be overflowing with vision for your ministry, but there is a point where you have to stop thinking about it and talking about it, and instead, start doing something about it—moving your vision toward a tangible reality. I’ve met thousands of pastors with incredible vision for ministry in their community, but sadly they never got past the thinking stage.

What good is a vision when it stays stuck in your head? Or if it languishes in the “talk stage” and never launches into the sea of faithful action? The vision behind Saddleback Church would be nothing more than that—a vision—without the steps of faith taken to plant, and then grow, the church.

God rarely asks you to take leaps of faith; rather, he encourages you to take small steps that grow larger as your faith grows larger.

But you’ve got to take the first step to get to all the other steps!

In the opening chapters of Joshua, the Israelites faced a faith-step: They stood just across the Jordan River from the Promised Land, a vision of home burned into their hearts during 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. Their new leader,…

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Life can get busy for anyone, and this is certainly no different for pastors. And for pastors, there is a rhythm to our year that involves seasons of more intense ministry, like Christmas and Easter.

Regardless of the season you’re in right now, it’s always appropriate to withdraw and spend time seeking God’s favor on your life and ministry.

If we want to fulfill God’s vision for our lives and ministries, we must continually hear from God. We must believe that hearing from God daily is a requirement for us to truly shepherd our congregations. It is not just an add-on to our list of things to do; it is a necessity for being a loving and effective pastor.

The prophet Habakkuk says, “I will climb up to my watchtower” (Habakkuk 2:1 NLT).

This is his way of saying, I’m going to get alone with God.

It doesn’t matter where you get alone with God. You just need to find a place. I happen to like outside.

When my kids were growing up, I actually built a little prayer garden down on the slope behind my house where I could get away to pray and focus on…

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