Archives For Ed Stetzer

In recent years there has been some significant discussion and controversy over the de-Christianization of Christmas. With shop workers being told to say “Happy Holidays” the over-emphasis of Santa Claus, Elf on the Shelf, and other such traditions, many have felt as though we’ve been committing treason against the reason for the season.

New LifeWay Research data released yesterday afternoon suggests that most Americans concur with the Christian idea that Christmas should be more about Jesus.

Here are some key stats from the new data:

  • 63% of Americans say poeople should visit church for Christmas
  • 79% agree that Christmas should be more about Jesus
  • 70% say Christmas would be better with a Christian focus
  • 39% say “X-mas” is offensive
  • 29% say “Happy Holidays” is offensive
  • 56% say God’s son existed before Jesus was born in Bethlehem

Here’s an interesting point on the singing of Christmas songs in school music programs:

Most Americans (86 percent) say children in public schools should be allowed to sing religious Christmas songs in school-sponsored musicals. About one in 10 (12 percent) disagree. Two percent are not sure.

Nine in 10 women (89 percent) and eight in 10 men (83 percent) agree. So do most Westerners (80 percent)…

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CountingFifty years ago, many churches had signs posted within the building showing weekly numbers on them: worship service attendance, Sunday School attendance, offering total, and even how many people brought their Bibles. We live in a different age now.

Today, some frown upon “counting.” But I actually think it’s worth doing – and doing better than we’ve ever done before.

There’s an old but true cliché: We count people because people count. We count because we care about the souls of each person we count. We count because we want to be effective in what we are doing.

Among our churches, we need to ask if we are reaching people. We need to ask if we are discipling people. Are we reaching our goals or are we falling short? These are important questions to ask and important things to count.

My contention is that we need to keep a scorecard. The challenge is in deciding what we are going to measure and how are we going to measure it. I’m convinced that the things we’ve been counting for years on those church attendance boards are helpful to count – but they’re not all we should…

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FergusonThe grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri has decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson following the death of Michael Brown. Last night, after the grand jury’s announcement, peaceful protests quickly turned into violence, arson, and looting.

It breaks my heart to see.

As the family of Michael Brown and the President of the United States ask for peace and change and this is what we see. However, it is important to note that this does not mean most African Americans are involved in the looting. Not at all.

Yet, the looting itself is repugnant in more than one way. It will cause many to lose property and some may lose their lives. However, it may also cause many to say, “See, this is what happens with those people.”

Even more, we need to be careful about our discussion of “facts.” Bryan Loritts says, “Facts are a first and last resort in a court of law, but when it comes to human relationships, let us first stop and feel before we go to facts.”

Please do not be one of those people who ignore the hurt. You would not do…

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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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