Archives For Ed Stetzer

Crowded ChurchAlmost every church in the world will see an attendance spike this week. In the this-is-really-obvious-research-finding, we found that Easter was the highest attended day of the church year. (OK, really, it was about Mother’s Day, as USAToday reported in a front page story on our data, but Easter was number one.)

If you work in ministry, you already know this and did not need LifeWay Research to tell you. You’ve been planning for it. But are you planning for next week, too?

Nicola Menzie, a reporter for the Christian Post, asked me some questions for her story, “How to Keep the ‘Chreasters’ Coming: Experts Say Preparedness and Follow-Up Are Key.” The story has lots of helpful information, and the subtitle gets it right, “While Churches Look to Make Converts for Christ on Easter Sunday, Many Fail to Make a Connection.” Her good questions got me thinking—so I turned my comments to her into a full post here.

Let me share some thoughts on what your church can do to follow up its Easter guests.

Seize the Easter Moment.

Easter is an opportunity, but it has to be seized. More people will hear…

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I research, write, speak, and generally encourage the church towards joining Jesus on mission. Obviously, my understanding is that there are a large number of churches that are not engaged—at least, not engaged well—and my hope is that this will change.

There are two aspects of this process of change I would like to address in this post: one encouragement and one caution. These can be rather tricky waters to navigate, and there may be a couple of paths that seem right and easy.

The Encouragement

A few years back, I did some labor relations consulting with one of the top three home improvement warehouses. As part of that process, we would set up survey calls to every employee in every store, and each would answer a series of questions regarding the health and culture of the workplace.

The information was gathered anonymously in order to encourage honesty. Once the information was gathered and compiled, a rating was given to each store based on the information gathered from all the employees at each location.

Stores in the “red zone”—the bottom ten percent of all the stores—would be separated out and marked for further study, and perhaps…

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FeetMany people have slipped into the mindset that evangelism is a gift that some believers have and others do not. The reality is that when someone becomes reconciled to God, He sends them out to reconcile others. That’s not a gift—we all have the responsibility to take Christ to others.

Pastoral leadership can go a long way in shifting those mindsets. Pastors can and should equip the church body to understand their role in evangelization. Among other things, a church can do four things to encourage the spirit and practice of evangelism.

1. Build Relationships

Only a very few hear the gospel or show up at church without first being in relationship. Most people who come to Christ are invited by a person they know.

God calls us to evangelize, including our family, friends, and neighbors. He invites us to invite others. Personal relationships are the best way to reach out.

Sometimes the world gets the wrong idea that being a Christian means our lives are perfect.

Your friends trust you when you talk about restaurants, plumbers, and baby sitters. That same trust gives each believer an open door to introduce their friends to Jesus.

2. Encourage Engagement

Sometimes…

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Little ChurchDisciples Need Leaders

I wonder how many church leaders don’t even realize the success of ongoing discipleship depends partly on how well they develop leaders.

God didn’t design the church to have one person lead everyone else in spiritual formation—far too often the model of evangelical churches. Throughout the New Testament, we see leadership development and delegation—or mass participation—of discipling others.

Paul repeatedly told young pastors to entrust the ministry to spiritual people who could then pass it on to the next generation.

You mass produce cars, not disciples.

I’m convinced one of the reasons we struggle with discipleship is because we aren’t raising up leaders to make more disciples.

You don’t need a priest because you are a priest.

Most people who are reading this are going to be Protestants of some variety. Protestantism was in part a rediscovery that individuals do not need a priest to communicate with God.

This is a key theological issue. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:9 that we are a “royal priesthood” who are to proclaim the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness. We correctly assert that we don’t need another human as a priest for us…

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Why Is Discipleship Lacking?

We were called to make disciples, but there seems to be a discipleship deficit in many churches. And it isn’t for lack of conversation and resources.

Leaders are asking questions like, “What should we do?” and “How should we do it?” They want to know the best ways to turn this discipleship deficit into the kind of robust discipleship that will matter along the way.

The Internet is full of discipleship models—some good, and some not so good. But what can we learn about discipleship from the scriptures? In this series of articles, we are looking at four discipleship principles found in the Bible.

  • Maturity is a goal for disciples.
  • God wants you and your church on a clear path toward spiritual growth.
  • God involves us in our own growth, as well as our church’s growth.
  • God calls you and your church to be spiritual leaders.

I Know . . . I Know . . .

As we start, let me just say what we all know: Only God can truly grow anything. God doesn’t need anyone to do anything for Him, or for anyone else. He is quite capable of doing everything that needs to…

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At some level, all Christians want their churches to be influential in carrying out the work of God. One pathway to increased influence is a road we often overlook – the one behind us.

Looking back can be good. It can give us wisdom and perspective. It can also help us look forward to what God is doing next in your churches and ours.

This helpful book looks back at ten historic spiritual shifts of the last century and identifies a church closest to the center of each one. You may not have heard of these pioneering churches and their leaders, but we suspect you have been influenced by them far more than you realize. And we strongly suspect that after reading each of their stories, you’ll be glad you did – and you’ll have a better perspective on your own church and how God is at work in and around it.

It is hard to imagine anyone more qualified to identify and describe these trends and the personalities behind them than our friend, mentor, co-author and fellow researcher Elmer Towns. Starting in the 1960s he became the nation’s leading figure in…

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MoneySince the turn of the century, many denominations have made a strong effort to funnel resources toward church planting. This support helps to secure facilities, execute marketing campaigns, provide equipment for ministry, and even underwrite pastoral support.

That’s a good thing.

More denominations are prioritizing church planting—and that’s a good thing.

Not only have denominations created departments that financially support church planting, the church planters have the blessings of the denomination’s leadership, which often helps them gain access to established local churches to seek financial sponsorship.

In the new millennium, networks have followed a similar pattern, though to a lesser degree due to their smaller resource base.

The Landscape Is Changing

Fast forward to today.

I am often asked, “How do you see the funding options available to church planters changing in the future?”

My view is that there will be less funding readily available to church planters from the current sources. But before we get discouraged about the future prospects, we need to realize that we can’t—and shouldn’t attempt to—buy our way into a church multiplication movement in the West (North America, Australia, England, etc.).

The truth is: most denominations and church-planting networks run out of money for church…

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ThreeWhat Are We Missing in Discipleship?

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about spiritual formation and discipleship, and rightfully so.

I think we can all agree there’s a discipleship deficit in many churches. There isn’t a whole lot of discipling going on, even though that’s precisely what we, as Jesus’ followers, were commissioned to do—make disciples.

So leaders are asking questions like, “What should we do?” and “How should we do it?” There are plenty of successful models that have been tried in a variety of contexts. But how can we best make disciples right where we are?

There are plenty of discipleship books and models. But what can we learn about discipleship from Christ and the early church? In this series of articles, we are looking at four discipleship principles found in Scripture:

  • Maturity is a goal for disciples.
  • God wants you and your church on a clear path toward spiritual growth.
  • God involves us in our own growth, as well as our church’s growth.
  • God calls you and your church to be spiritual leaders.

A Pathway to Maturity

If we can agree that spiritual maturity is the goal for disciples, how do we achieve it? How does God…

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Bible ReadingA Discipleship Deficit

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about spiritual formation and discipleship, and rightfully so. I think we can all agree there’s a discipleship deficit in evangelicalism. Perhaps the elephant in the room is that there isn’t a whole lot of discipling going on, even though that’s precisely what we, as Jesus’ followers, were commissioned to do.

So leaders are asking questions like, “What should we do?” and “How should we do it?” There are plenty of successful models that have been tried in a variety of contexts. But how can we best make disciples right where we are?

What if, before buying the latest discipleship book, we looked to Scripture to find out what God says about discipleship? In this series of articles, we’ll look at four discipleship principles found in God’s Word:

  • Maturity is a goal for disciples.
  • God wants you and your church on a clear path toward spiritual growth.
  • God involves us in our own growth, as well as our church’s growth.
  • God calls you and your church to be spiritual leaders.

Moving toward Maturity

First, we have to recognize that maturity is the goal of discipleship. Keeping people spiritually immature is…

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Little ChurchFacts are our friends, and we need to use them with care. A church assessment is about giving you the facts you need, even if a lot of people don’t recognize that. Churches of all sizes, even small ones, should engage in some form of assessment because it is necessary, legitimate and beneficial.

Is It Necessary?

Whether you know it or not, from the classroom to the doctor’s office, we use assessments every day. My auto mechanic uses certain tools to assess the health of my car and determine if there are any problems we need to address. Most accept those types of assessments, but when it comes to the assessment of churches, the conversation can get sticky.

Pastors and leaders should know the state of their church, regardless of its size.

While I don’t think most people ask their doctor why he needs to measure their blood pressure, people regularly ask me, “Why should my church care about measurements?” There’s a whole category of people who are fundamentally opposed to the idea that we should ask questions of “how many” when it comes to the church.

I understand the hesitancy. We can become so…

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There’s an idea that Christianity in America is dying. No serious researcher—not one—thinks that. However, I still am surprised that some people think this. (For a quick analysis, see this article.)

Facts are our friends, in this and in every situation, and what do the facts really show about the situation?

The Unchurched Are Open

A few years ago, LifeWay Research did some significant research on the faith of young adults to see where they stood. Here are a few stats from that study:

  • 73% of unchurched 20- to 29-year old Americans consider themselves “spiritual” because they want to know more about “God or a higher supreme being.”
  • 89% of unchurched young adults say they would listen to what someone believes about Christianity.
  • 63% of young adults said they would attend church if it presented truth to them in an understandable way “that relates to my life now.”
  • 58% of 20-somethings would be more likely to attend if people at the church “cared for them as a person.”

Here is some more data from that survey in graph-form:

What’s surprising to me is the degree to which the young “unchurched” believe in the death and resurrection of…

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Saddleback JoyWhen I was a kid, Christmas was a time of forced church attendance and family conflicts with out-of-town relatives. We did not have much, the gifts reflected it, and we did not know enough to be grateful that we got anything at all.

In other words, when Christmas came around every year, my focus was on it being an unhappy holiday. I was not at all concerned with the actual meaning of Christmas—the birth of the Son of God. So, I grew up not liking Christmas much. Then I became a pastor, and it got worse. Maybe that’s you, right now, but in a different way. One too may late nights. One too many critics of the technology. One too may experts on what the church Christmas service should really include. Just one too many….I get it—if you are reading this magazine, you probably are at a church where it takes a lot of work to pull off a Christmas service. As a pastor, I see how hard our team works every week and how much time and effort they put into every last detail.

Hours of work already go into a…

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