Archives For Charles Arn

ObstaclesHealthy people grow. Healthy animals grow. Healthy trees grow. Healthy plants grow. Healthy churches grow. Growth is a characteristic that God supernaturally breathed into all living things. And the body of Christ—the local church—is a living thing.

So, when a church is not growing, it is helpful to ask: “Why?”  If we understand the reason for a church’s lack of growth, it is easier to accurately diagnose the cause and to prescribe the cure.  Here are the five most common “growth-restricting obstacles”…

Growth-restricting obstacle #1: The Pastor.

There are three different causes if the pastor is inhibiting the growth of a church:

1. The pastor does not have a PRIORITY. Churches grow when they have a priority for reaching the unchurched. When the pastor doesn’t, the church won’t. (See Luke 19:10)

2. The pastor does not have a VISION. Growing churches have pastors who believe God wants to reach people in their community and assimilate them into the Body. No vision for outreach is as much a barrier as no priority.  (See Acts 16:9)

3. The pastor does not have the KNOWLEDGE. Working harder is not the secret to effective outreach. The secret is working smarter. Unfortunately, little is taught in most seminaries or Bible schools about how…

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RelevanceHere’s how to be guaranteed that listeners will eagerly anticipate your next series of messages, waiting to hear your words—and God’s—on the selected topic.

First, some background…

A few years ago the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps asked me to research the attitudes of incoming 18-, 19-, and 20-year old recruits toward religion and church.  I interviewed young men and women across mainstream America.  One of the questions I asked was, “What is your opinion of church?”  Two words came back over and over: boring and irrelevant.

“Relevance” is one of the hallmarks of an effective, contagious church. Attendees who find their church speaking clearly and creatively to life issues not only return, but bring friends. “Relevance” is found in the words and rhythm of songs…in the style and appearance of facilities…in children’s Sunday School and topics in the adult classes.  But perhaps more than any other area, relevance must be found in the sermon.

In his book, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary, veteran pastor James Emery White talks about how to make preaching relevant: “The most important thing has to do with your sermon topics. They should address people’s life issues and questions about the faith… That means you try to bring as…

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Fresh New Growth

Here’s a growth axiom you can take to the bank. Whether you are pastoring a (large, medium, or small) church…leading a youth group…overseeing a music ministry…or involved with any other aspect of a church in which you believe God desires growth, it is just about guaranteed. Here it is:

New Units = New Growth

It’s a proven principle. New Sunday school classes attract new people. New small groups involve new people. New worship services connect with new people. New churches reach new people.

Why It Works

The most common application of this principle is in starting new groups. Here is why the strategy of starting new groups is so predictably successful:

  • New groups respond to human need. In long-established groups, members just like to be together. Relationships have become the primary value. And that’s good. But, often such groups lose their outward-focus and no longer contribute to the growth of the church. Starting a new group focuses on a specific human need(s) and how the new group will meet that need. Starting new groups directs a church’s focus outward.
  • New groups involve new people. Because new groups focus on meeting needs, those who were not…

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Charles Arn Surgery

Date: October 18, 2013  (Friday)
Time: 02:35 p.m.
Place: California Urology Medical Clinic, Pomona California 

“Dr. Arn…your biopsy came back positive.  I’m afraid you have prostate cancer.”

I thought he must have been talking to someone else in the room.  But we were alone…and the doctor was looking straight at me.

“Are you sure?” was all I could think of to say.

“Well, you are certainly welcome to get another opinion. But these biopsies are seldom wrong.”

“So, now what?” I asked, which led to a 20-minute conversation about what this newly discovered disease was…how far advanced it might be…and what were the options.

To make a long story short, three months after the biopsy report I had an IV in my arm and was being wheeled down the hallway at the City of Hope Medical Center to what would be a 3-hour surgery. (Robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy to be exact.) For those of you (men) who have been there and done that, I won’t remind you. For those who haven’t, I won’t bore you. But as I think back on the events of the past three months, I’d like to share with you what I learned from hospital staff, doctors, nurses, and even…

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Anyone who has written a book knows the feeling of satisfaction when you finally see your long, hard hours of work make it to the printed page. (It usually takes about a year even after the completed manuscript is turned over to the publisher before the book finally arrives!)

So, I am particularly excited about a book I have been working on for nearly ten years which Wesley Publishing House will soon be releasing—Side Door. It’s my effort to share with church leaders a powerful missional process that has a proven track record in almost every larger growing church today. But the strategy of building church side doors is definitely not limited to larger churches. In fact, it has tremendous potential for medium and smaller sized churches that want to “break the mold” of traditional (and often ineffective) outreach methods, and begin a strategic new missional ministry in their community.

I have reproduced a conversation that recently appeared in the Wesley Publishing House blog about the idea of side doors. I hope you find it instructive in learning more about the principles behind the book, and that you will be encouraged…

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SelectionIf your church could reach more people for Christ by focusing on one “people group” in your community, would you do so?

Certain people around your church are more receptive to the Gospel than others.  I suggest that good stewardship of your church’s human and fiscal resources calls you to find and focus on these receptive people.  They are the “fertile soil” (see Mt. 13:1-23) who are “ripe unto harvest” (Jn. 4:35).  And your successful evangelistic results will be praised by the Master with the same words heard by those who returned more talents than they had been given: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (see Mt. 25:14-30).

The “Receptivity-Resistance Axis” below illustrates a person’s openness to becoming a new creation in Christ.  Every non-Christian is somewhere on this Axis.

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Some people are open and responsive to the Good News—the “good soil,” as Christ described them in the Parable of the Sower.  Others are resistant to the Gospel—the rocky soil.  When Jesus concluded this parable with, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” I believe he was suggesting that the Good News we proclaim will not be…

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One of the keys to a church’s missional success is how its members are deployed. There are two approaches—one facilitates the church’s mission; the other often frustrates it.  Few in the church ever clarify this choice, but every church makes it, and every church lives with the consequences of its choice.

The institutional approach to lay ministry begins with the needs of the institution.  Every church needs Sunday school teachers, committee members, musicians, ushers.  In the institutional approach, when a job opens up, the response is to search for a person who seems most suitable to fill it and/or is most likely to say yes.  Success, in such churches, is when a member says, “Okay, I’ll do it.”  Hopefully the person is qualified, gifted, and motivated for that ministry; but there are no guarantees.  If it turns out there is a mismatch between member and task, the result is a job poorly done and a member mostly frustrated.  “Plugging warm bodies into ministry slots in a congregation,” says Pam Heaton, “tends to increase volunteer burnout, dissatisfaction, and departure.”  With the institutional approach to lay…

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Several years ago a study by the largest Protestant denomination in the country found a startling relationship between the length of time pastors had been in their churches, and the growth or decline of those churches.  Their finding?  Approximately 3/4 of their growing churches were being led by pastors who had been in their church more than four years, while 2/3 of their declining churches were being led by pastors who had been in their church less than four years.  Their conclusion (with which I agree):  Long-term pastorates do not guarantee that a church will grow.  But short-term pastorates essentially guarantee that a church will not grow.

So, why do pastors leave their churches?  Here are the results of one study where pastors were asked that question …There is an undeniable relationship between pastoral tenure and church growth.  While most growing churches have long-term pastorates, and some non-growing churches have long-term pastorates, it is almost unheard of to find a growing church with many short-term pastorates.  Frequent change of pastors seems…

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Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.”  You’ve heard it.  You’ve studied it.  You’ve preached it.  But, have you ever defined it?  What, exactly, is a “disciple”?

May I suggest that, for all practical purposes, a “disciple” is synonymous with an “ideal church member.”  Or, at least, it should be.

If you agree, then try this exercise with your church leaders: List the qualities of an ideal member of your congregation.  How should such a person act?  What should he say?  How should she feel?

Once you have listed the qualities of a disciple, examine your church’s programming to see how—or if—you are helping people reach this ideal.  After all, it seems reasonable that church activities should lead people toward some goal…

Here are nine characteristics I suggest could begin your thinking about the characteristics of an ideal member in your church …

An ideal (assimilated) member:

1.   …understands and identifies with the goals of your church.  Goals are what church leaders have determined to accomplish in the coming year.  How many of your constituents could list at least two of your church’s goals for the coming year? …

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Silver Bullet“Silver bullet”— Any straightforward solution perceived to have extreme effectiveness; a phrase that typically appears with an expectation that a particular practice will cure a major prevailing problem. i

Based on my 30+ years in studying the process of evangelism and church growth, I can confidently say there is a “silver bullet” for fulfilling Christ’s command to go and make disciples.  Here it is:

The most effective evangelism—by far—occurs through meaningful relationships between Christians and non-Christians.

Did you know that over twice as many non-Christians come to Christ through relationships with Christian friends or relatives than all other reasons combined?

Many times in his ministry Jesus talked about and modeled this “disciple-making silver bullet.”  To the demon-possessed man (Mark 5:19) he said, “go home to your friends and tell them what wonderful things God has done for you…”  When Zacchaeus believed, Christ told him that salvation had also come to his friends and family (Luke 19:9).  After Jesus healed the son of a royal official we learn that the Centurion, and all of his family and friends, believed (Mark 2:14-15).  Jesus was teaching about sharing God’s love with the people we already know. …

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A “seeker-hostile” church service is where the activities, worship style, and “in-house” jargon are so foreign to newcomers that they have no desire to return.  The Apostle Paul, in speaking to the Corinthian church about the use of tongues, talks about a seeker-hostile service and presents a broader principle which applies to every church: “If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me” (I Cor. 14:11 NIV).  Paul goes on: “But in a church meeting, I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language” (I Cor. 14:19 NLT).

Why would Paul be so concerned with communication in a common language?  Because he assumed there would be unbelievers in the midst of their Christian worship.  It was important to Paul that the services not be an obstacle to understanding the Gospel, so that “… if you come together as a congregation…

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