Archives For Discipleship

How to Mobilize Our Churches to Finish the Task

For the past 2,000 years, Christians have been praying for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

And we’re still not there yet. But it’s within sight. We’re closer than ever before.

More than 2 billion people have never even heard the message of Jesus, so it’s time to take a radical stand and say, “This has to be completed in our generation.”

Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to people who haven’t heard it.

It’s why you’re still on this planet. It’s why every person in your church is still around. There are only two things you can’t do in heaven: You can’t witness to other people, and you can’t sin.

Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to everyone—and finishing our task. History depends upon it. The spiritual destinies of people depend upon it.

The church’s birth in Acts 2 gives us a great model for how we’ll reach the remaining unreached people groups on the earth. Within the story of these early Christians, we get the biblical foundation for mobilization.

1. We must depend upon the Holy Spirit.

If we don’t begin, continue, and end with…

Continue Reading

4 Things That Matter Most in Holiday Giving Campaigns

You’ll hear one word more than any other during the holiday season.

I’d like to say that word is Jesus or Gospel or even gratefulness. But it’s not.

The most popular word, by far, is gift. Everyone wants to talk about gifts they’re giving or gifts they’re getting. It’s not just a national obsession. It’s a global one. We spend at least a month—and these days, likely two months—in a mad dash to find the right gifts.

Many people think that the idea of giving gifts at Christmas began with the wise men bringing their presents to the Baby Jesus. It does begin in the Bible, but it isn’t the wise men who gave the first Christmas gift.

It was God himself.

The most famous verse in the Bible says it like this: “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die” (John 3:16 CEV).

Jesus was the original Christmas gift. God loved us so much that he gave.

That’s why it’s natural to encourage people to give to ministry…

Continue Reading

11 Simple Strategies for Helping Guests Feel Welcome

When I think back to some of the factors that have helped Saddleback grow through the years, one of the most important has also been one of the most overlooked.

If you want people to show up, you must be nice to people.

Sounds simple, right? It really shouldn’t surprise anyone. But even though most churches say they’re friendly, some of them really just mean their members are friendly to people they already know. They’re friendly to people who look like them and act like them.

And that doesn’t guarantee they’re friendly to guests.

You must be intentional in your friendliness. You don’t overcome unfriendliness by accident. You need to build friendliness into your worship service.

That’s why, early on at Saddleback, I instituted the three-minute rule. Guests are usually among the first to leave at the end of a worship service. Longtime members stay the longest. I’d tell my longtime members to find someone who looks like a guest (they are usually easy to spot) and talk with the person right after the service. I’d encourage them to spend some time getting to know these guests and making…

Continue Reading

10 Reasons Every Christian Should Share the Message of Jesus

Every person in your church has a message to share with the world. The middle-aged business owner has one. The single parent has one. The 10-year-old you just baptized has one. The 95-year-old in a senior citizen home has one, too.

As pastors, we understand that every member is a minister. And so telling others about who Jesus is and what he came to do isn’t a commission meant just for us.

The Bible makes it clear that God has called every believer to share the Good News.

I know it’s not easy to get everyone in our congregations to commit to evangelism. And it can be frustrating to hear people say they don’t know what to say, they don’t have time, or they are embarrassed to talk about spiritual matters.

At Saddleback, we’ve learned that explaining why evangelism is so important helps people understand the necessity and value of sharing their faith. Here are 10 reasons from the Bible why God wants us to share our faith.

1. God made us to know him.

Human beings are unique. God made us in his image. We have a…

Continue Reading

Why Every Pastor Must Empower and Release Leaders

I know my leadership style. I’m a big-picture, vision-casting leader. The details, frankly, don’t hold much appeal to me.

By itself, my leadership style wouldn’t accomplish much. But surrounded by staff and volunteer teams whose gifts complement mine, I’ve watched God achieve many milestones through Saddleback Church.

He is, after all, both the giver of vision and the giver of those who can handle the details that breathe life into vision.

There’s nothing inherently right or inherently wrong about being a vision-casting leader. It’s simply the way God wired me. He may have wired you differently. The key is for each of us to recognize our personal style, up front.

Then we can recruit a team with gifts that will enhance and supplement our style. This is important because God calls the church a body with many different parts, each having different gifts. Each part is necessary for the overall health of the body.

There’s tremendous power in cooperation. We do our best work when, instead of jockeying for position or trying to build a base of power, we work together—building on each other’s strengths and shoring up each…

Continue Reading

During the Cold War, the Strategic Air Command operated 24 hours a day as a shield of protection for our nation. This meant that at any point in a given day, there were fully combat-configured bombers flying to assure the safety of our nation.

Since these planes flew constantly, how did they remain full of gas? They did what is called mid-flight refueling. A refueling plane actually flew up next to the Strategic Air Command plane, docked in, and filled the plane with gas.

As a pastor, you need to learn how to refuel your life in mid-flight. You can’t just hop off to a tropical island every time you get tired and discouraged. You have to keep going. You have to learn how to recharge yourself in the middle of your hectic lifestyle.

The fact is, it takes energy to do God’s will. What do you do when you run out of energy? Psalm 94:19 says, “Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer” (TLB).

I suggest that once a day, you should go outside in your yard, sit down, and…

Continue Reading

How to Prepare for a Spiritual Growth Campaign

One of the most powerful tools God has used to grow Saddleback Church in profound ways over the last several decades has been the spiritual growth campaign.

We usually move through seven or eight major sermon series per year, which gives us the chance to cover all five of the purposes of God for the church. Typically, two of those series are what we refer to as spiritual growth campaigns.

These campaigns have been responsible for thousands of baptisms and tens of thousands of spiritual decisions, as well as major waves of growth for our church.

One of our campaigns always happens in the spring while the second is in the fall, when people are finding their routines and starting to re-engage after summer vacation season has ended.

The end of summer, for us, is always a season of preparation for the fall campaign.

1. Identify the areas of growth your church needs most.

In a season of prayer and reflection, look back on the series you’ve preached in the last couple of years and identify areas that might have been neglected or opportunities that need a fresh focus.

We’ve dedicated…

Continue Reading

Pastor, you may have a large crowd of attendees on Sunday morning—and still not have a congregation. The fact is that the crowd must become a church. People must be assimilated.

Assimilation is simply the task of moving people from an awareness of your church, to attendance at your church, and then to active membership in your church.

  • The Community talks about “that church.”
  • The Crowd talks about “this church.”
  • The Congregation talks about “our church.”

Members have a sense of ownership. They are contributors, not just consumers.

Because the incorporation of new members into your church does not happen automatically, you have to develop a system and structure to assimilate and keep the people you reach. At Saddleback, our system is composed of two parts.

The first part of our assimilation system is a set of questions we ask ourselves:

  1. What does God expect from members of his church?
  2. What do we expect from our members right now?
  3. What kind of people already make up our congregation?
  4. How will that change in the next five to 10 years?
  5. What do our members value?
  6. What are new members’ greatest needs?
  7. What are our long-term members’…

    Continue Reading

The difference between being a church attender and a church member is commitment.

Attenders are spectators from the sidelines; members get involved in the ministry. Attenders are consumers; members are contributors. Attenders want the benefits of a church without sharing the responsibility.

Yet one of the biggest hurdles you face as a church leader is convincing attenders they need to commit themselves to the church family and become members.

Today’s culture of independent individualism has created many spiritual orphans who hop from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment.

Many believe it is possible to be a “good Christian” without joining a local church. How can you convince them otherwise?

God is not silent on the issue. The Bible offers many compelling reasons why every believer needs to be committed to and active in a local fellowship. And one of the best things you can do is communicate this biblical reasoning on a regular basis.

Here are six biblical reasons to commit yourself to membership in a local church.

A church family identifies you as a genuine believer.

I can’t claim to be following Christ if I’m not committed to any specific group of disciples….

Continue Reading

The Path

Why do churches have so many members who give little or no evidence of Christian commitment or even conversion? Why do many churches find it difficult to motivate members to give, serve, pray, and share their faith?

The answer is simple. The members were allowed to join with no expectations placed on them. You get what you ask for!

While becoming a Christian means to commit yourself to Christ, becoming a church member means to commit yourself to other Christians. Paul mentions two different types of commitment in 2 Corinthians 8:5 – “First they gave themselves to the Lord; and then, by God’s will, they gave themselves to us as well” (GNT).

At Saddleback, we call these the first-base commitments. You commit yourself to Christ for salvation, and then you commit yourself to other Christians for membership in our church family.

At Saddleback, we only expect of our members what the Bible clearly expects of all believers. These expectations are summarized in our membership covenant. It is the most important element of our membership class.

We have four requirements for membership:

A personal profession of Christ as Lord and Savior, baptism by immersion as a public symbol of…

Continue Reading

No other institution on earth has the potential to change the world and address global issues as the local church. No force on earth is as unstoppable as the local church when it is functioning as a unified body of believers. And nothing brings a church together in unity better than a growth campaign.

The greatest waves of growth that Saddleback Church has ever experienced have been the result of the various church-wide campaigns that we’ve done. When we set aside six to eight weeks to concentrate, as a church family, on a single theme, amazing things happen, such as…

  • People bring their friends, co-workers, and neighbors to church.
  • Hundreds of people are baptized.
  • All kinds of new small groups form and launch.
  • Some people give financially for the first time, and everyone sacrifices for the Kingdom.
  • The church grows larger, deeper, broader, warmer, and stronger.

As you plan your preaching over the next twelve months, plan at least one, if not two, opportunities for your church to align around a single theme. Our newest campaign, 40 Days of Prayer is available now! Some of our other campaigns have included 

Continue Reading

“The New Testament is the only model we need!” There, I went ahead and said that for you. It’s out of the way. For those pastors and church leaders who highly value the New Testament and actually want to accomplish something meaningful, read on.

Every church follows a model. Most of the church leaders who criticize following a model follow a model that tends to criticize models. Follow that? There are traditional models with an age-graded Sunday School, a morning worship service, evening worship service, and a mid-week prayer meeting, plus some other programs. W. A. Criswell (one of my biggest heroes) was a pioneer of this model in the 1940’s. Back then, grading ministries by age was innovative.

Other churches follow the “simple church” model. They have weekend worship, small groups, and that’s about it. The ministry and mission is carried out by the groups and the individuals in them. It works well for those who do it right. There are also house churches, and still a few quarter-time churches that only have a Pastor once per month. There’s the Amish and Mennonite model – very community-centric. You get the picture.

We started…

Continue Reading