Archives For Ed Stetzer

If you could travel back in time a hundred years and share some of the discussions we’re having in the 21st century about Islam, the folks there probably would not believe you.

Back then, Islam was on the decline, reduced to a somewhat marginalized religion in many parts of the world. The Ottoman Empire had fallen and Islam’s future looked dim.

But, things have changed. During the 20th century, there was a resurgence of Islam. We are still dealing with that resurgence today.

Why the Resurgence?

Are we as eager to build bridges to reach Muslims as we are to build walls to protect ourselves from them?

Certainly, the ever-increasing demand for oil around the world has, in part, fueled the comeback. Petrol dollars have provided the means for much of the Muslim mission. Just go to parts of Africa and you will find petrodollar-funded, government-directed mission outposts all over.

That’s easy to see.

Yet, it’s not all about petrodollars. The fact is that part of Islam’s growth has come from people of all stripes freely embracing the religion around the globe, including here and in the rest of the…

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PeopleIt is a natural thing for Christians to want to be around other Christians. Something special happens in the fellowship of believers.

We can worship freely, study deeply, and communicate clearly. Hanging out with like-minded people who (appear to) “have their stuff together” can be a wonderful thing.

But how well are we engaging those who aren’t as spiritually stable as we (think we) are?

I’ve been fascinated by the fact that a lot of Christians don’t seem to like non-Christians—otherwise known as “the lost,” “the unchurched,” or whatever other term you may want to use. They want to keep away from the messy people– perhaps missing the obvious that we are messy as well.

Who Is on Your Friends List?

It is kind of interesting that after coming to Christ and growing in knowledge, we often end up distancing ourselves from some of our former friends. And then, as we begin to grow in spiritual maturity, we find that we have less and less time for the hurting and struggling.

We have found the one thing that meets the need in our lives, but we keep our distance from those who need the very thing we’ve…

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MillennialsIn my book Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and Churches that Reach Them, we focused on the generation often called “Millennials” today. The first part of the book dealt with the views of the unchurched. However, we didn’t just want to write a book about what was wrong. So, the last part of the book dealt with churches that were successfully reaching young adults.

My coauthors and I were very thankful to be named to Leadership Journal’s Golden Canon book awards, and many people said they were helped by the resource to have a reasoned (rather than sky-is-falling) look at the generation and it’s challenges.

I’m often asked to summarize some thoughts on the book, and did so in a recent conference call, which we’ve turned into an article here at the blog.

We identified characteristics of churches that were engaging young adults by reaching and keeping them as part of the church. Here are three significant ways in which churches can effectively reach and retain Millennials.

1. Be Contemporary and Culturally Engaged

The first clear pattern among churches that are reaching young adults…

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Campus ClosedInterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) has been, in modern campus terminology, “derecognized” by California State University schools. Basically, they will no longer be arecognized campus organization on any of the 23 schools in that system. IVCF has been derecognized because they require their leaders to have Christian beliefs.

It’s not just InterVarsity that will be impacted. Following the same logic, any group that insists on requiring its leaders to follow an agreed upon set of guiding beliefs is no longer kosher (irony intended) at California’s state universities. This will impact many other faith-based organizations with actual, well, faith-based beliefs. Presumably, even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would have to allow Oscar Meyer to lead their campus chapters.

Only in a modern American university would this make any sense.

Now, it’s not persecution. Christians are not banned. People can share their faith. But, now, what we once called “equal access” has taken another hit—people of faith do not have equal access to the university community, like the environmentalist club, the LGBT organization, or the chess club.

The university system has decided that speech with beliefs that undergird it—and shape how it is organized—has…

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PhoneEvangelism is the responsibility of every believer. There is no such thing as the “gift of evangelism,” rather, all Christians have the obligation to share the gospel. It is, and should be, on the heart of every believer to look for opportunities to share. That’s why we call people to lives of incarnational mission, showing and sharing the love of Jesus—personally—to a broken and lost world.

It does not mean, however, that you should not create special times within the body of your church for evangelism with some strategy. Churches can and should partner with Christians to create evangelistic opportunities.

This might include preaching through a special series intended for evangelism outreach.

Evangelistically Intended Sermon Series

Established churches can use special times to reinforce evangelism and outreach. AtGrace Church, we preach about two-thirds of the time at our church through books of the Bible. We are strategic about the other third. For example, every year between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we do a family series to draw attention to an overwhelming need in our community—the need for strong families. It’s a time when people bring their friends and is often a time when their…

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People WalkingI am concerned.

We live in a time when church planting continues to capture more of our attention, mission volunteerism continues to be on the rise, and yet evangelism seems to be on the decline. Now, I think I have the background and practice to say that church planting matters to me—deeply. And, mission volunteerism has been a part of my life for decades. However, I think evangelism is on the wane.

We see that in research. Over the past few years LifeWay Research has studied North American Christians and our research has turned up a glaring lack of concern for evangelism. The research indicates that Christians know they should share their faith, they just don’t. This is where denominations and networks can step in and help.

The redeemed people of God have been raised from spiritual death to eternal life and perfect fellowship with God.

In 2010, I wrote an article for Christianity Today in which I suggested that denominations are a good and helpful thing, when they are focused on helping churches and Christians more effectively engage on mission. This is where partnership among…

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EvangelismWe are in a time when it appears evangelism is on the decline. In my most recent episode of The Exchange I hosted Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg. We discussed the decline in evangelism and how to address it.

I’ve talked about this on many occasions because it is a concern we should all share. Sharing the gospel today may be met with difficulty, but sharing the gospel is nonetheless important.

What is the state of evangelism in the West, particularly in the United States? Are people sharing the gospel on a regular basis or at all? What do the numbers say?

LifeWay Research has conducted some research on evangelism frequency among Protestant churchgoers and believers alike. Additionally, the Barna Group released some research at the end of 2013 on the state of evangelism among born-again evangelicals that may be helpful, particularly when it comes to evangelism frequencies across age groups.

I thought I’d take a look at both—since they come to some different conclusions. (That does not mean that they are both inaccurate, but more on that in a moment.)

Evangelism and the Millennial: Surging, Sinking, or Staying the…

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FallenPastor scandals happen.

Needless to say, I don’t say that with any enthusiasm. In fact, it is greatly discouraging to me, but it’s true nonetheless.

Furthermore, this is not just a recent phenomenon, though the evangelical world has been filled with reports over the last few months.
It’s just disheartening.

Yet, these scandals have been happening for a long time– since the beginning of Christianity (and before in Judaism). Pastoral failings stretch so far back in Christian history, we have New Testament instruction about them.

First Timothy 5 is, perhaps, the clearest passage on this issue.

That passage and others remind us that pastors– and other leaders of similar persuasions– are held to a different (higher) standard in the scriptures.

First, the level of proof for accusation is higher– it’s on the basis of two or three witnesses, whereas in Matthew 18 any one believer can go to any one fellow believer when sin arises. This serves as a buffer against unwarranted criticism that can come with pastoral positions (though it’s often abused, but that is for another conversation).

Also, it’s clear that pastors are worthy of honor– double honor, actually:

The elders who direct the affairs of the church…

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Map with pins 

Mission leaders like to talk about Church Planting Movements (CPMs), but I believe it’s unlikely we will ever see one in our current context.

A Church Planting Movement has a specific definition: a movement of church planting characterized by a rapid, even exponential, multiplication of churches within a people group or population segment.

Something like that will be unlikely to happen in the society in which we live. In an industrialized society, like our own, with labor segmentation in place, people assume specialization. Whether we like it or not (and I don’t) people have a hard time seeing the mechanic as the pastor.

This type of thinking hinders an exponential movement, which is why we find CPMs most often in non-industrialized societies. But that doesn’t mean all movements are impossible here. In our context, we should target a different goal.

Church Multiplication Movements happen when the number of churches grow by 50 percent in a given year.

There may be various factors that prevent a Church Planting Movement in our context, but I believe we have seen and can continue to see Church Multiplication Movements. As Warren Bird and I explained in Viral Churches, these Church Multiplication Movements happen…

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Chuck Smith

Like many of you, I found out this morning that Calvary Chapel founder and pastor, Chuck Smith, has died. He was 86. Chrisitanity Today has a helpful obituary.

Chuck and Calvary Chapel have played an important role in the evangelical movement in the past century. Simply put, it is hard to overstate the significance of Calvary Chapel in remapping Protestantism, particularly evangelicalism. And Chuck Smith was one of the main reasons for that impact.

When I first became a seminary professor back in 1998, I made a trek to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and attended with my family, interviewed the staff, and learned from how God was using the church and the movement. Over the years, I’ve been an observer of the movement to the point where I’ve actually had students write papers on Calvary Chapel and discussed the movement in my book, Viral Churches.

I actually do a presentation when seeking to explain the modern evangelical movement, particularly to movement leaders here in the United States or to missionaries who have been out of the country for a long time. The presentation is called “The Contours of the Modern Evangelical Movement.”…

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