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Before I started Saddleback church 34 years ago, I spent 12 weeks going door-to-door in our area trying to discover the answers to that important question. The answers I got were not at all what I expected or what I wanted to hear! But over the years, I found these same 4 complaints and excuses still being used by folks who don’t attend any church.

“Church services are boring, especially the sermons. The messages don’t relate to my life. Why should I go? I don’t understand it and it doesn’t really help me.”

In our area, this has been the number one excuse for not attending church. It’s amazing how some pastors are able to take the most exciting book in the world and bore people to tears with it! Miraculously, they’re able to turn bread into stones!

The tragedy of being a boring speaker is that it causes people to think God is boring! So when I heard this first complaint over and over, I determined to somehow learn to communicate God’s Word in a practical, interesting way. I hope I’m getting better at it, because I do everything I can to…

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IMG_0046A dark reality exists for many Christians that deep down they don’t talk about at parties.  Many Christians, if they would be totally transparent, are extremely nervous to bring their unchurched friends to their weekend services.  This concern comes from a variety of things.  Lack of excellence, outdated music, rude members and boring sermons are just a few of many hurdles Christians must overcome before inviting their friends who are unchurched.

This past Sunday my wife received a phone call from a friend who joyfully said, “The young couple we just met came to church today.  They had a great time.  I am so proud of our church.”  I immediately followed up to find out what were the key factors in this young couple, who also had a newborn baby, having such a great experience.

The following are 11 Practices Of Churches You Are Excited To Take Your Unchurched Friends To:

  1. Churches You Are Excited To Take Your Unchurched Friends To Act Like They Are Expecting Unchurched People To Show Up - This church had clear signage upon entering the property which directed them directly to easy-access Visitor Parking.
  2. Churches You Are Excited To Take Your Unchurched Friends…

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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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1. Because you’re doing it for them.

Think “outreach” in youth ministry and we automatically think “event.” The words go together like “dodge” and “ball“. The challenge is that our teenagers themselves are our biggest outreach “event“. Because the average teenager has around 400 online and face-to-face friends they must be inspired, equipped and unleashed to engage them in Gospel conversations. Think about that for a moment, the average teenager has more friends than the average youth room can hold! But we have an almost irrepressible appetite for doing outreach events instead of mobilizing our teenagers to be the outreach event.

To make the switch we must turn from quarterbacks to coaches. Instead of just “Hey kids bring your friends out and watch me throw the touchdown throw of salvation in their lives” we must equip them to bring the “J” word up with their own peers. Of course, outreach events are fine and good and needed from time to time. But if they are replacing, rather than enhancing, our teenagers’ personal evangelism efforts then they are limiting our true outreach effectiveness.

2. They don’t understand the urgency.

When’s the last time you talked about the reality of hell with your teenagers? Yes,…

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SparkWhat would it look like if a significant number of churches had to intentionally try not to multiply and the Lord added to their numbers daily? (Acts 2: 42-7)? In this FREE resource, Exponential Director Todd Wilson presses into Exponential’s 2015 theme, “SPARK: Igniting a Culture of Multiplication,” to give church leaders a vision for reproducing churches and the tools needed to see that vision come to fruition. The eBook sets the framework for Exponential’s 2015 eBooks series focusing on multiplication and champions Exponential’s focus on moving the multiplication needle in the U.S. Church.

Wilson highlights the prominent church cultures leaders most naturally create and challenges you to honestly assess which culture you’re creating. He points out that every church–regardless of your context or phase (pre-launch, launch or post-launch)–is creating a culture and takes readers through a thorough explanation of how culture is created and what is needed to create a multiplication culture.

He offers an exploration of what Scripture says about God’s command to multiply and out of that scriptural study comes fresh insight as he contends that the U.S. church needs both addition (what he calls the micro strategy of adding disciples one on one,…

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I love small churches. I love medium-sized churches. And I love large churches and “megachurches” (typically defined as an evangelical congregation with 2,000 or more weekend service attenders). I also agree with a principle shared by Bailey Smith who once said, “There are no large churches. All churches are small, some are just smaller than others when compared to the surrounding lost population.”

I’ve pastored churches of 30 and I’ve served as a staff Pastor at a church that averaged about 22,000 attenders at the time. In many ways, the largest of them was also the smallest – the most capable of shaping and nurturing my soul. For whatever reason, church size is a very, very sensitive topic. Within the church, everyone seems to favor whatever size the church they’re part of represents. Some view small churches as ineffective and unwelcoming. Others view large churches as doctrinally weak or merely as corporate structures who prefer making dollars over disciples.

Why all the sensitivity? I think it’s social. We’re all a little protective of our identity, especially when we feel that someone is judging and assessing us as more or less worthy by secondary measures such as church size.

At Grace…

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Arm WrestlingI have to admit that I’m growing weary of the “Is it better to be relevant or obedient” arguments. Frankly, it’s wasting a lot of time and energy, plus, it’s causing division and isn’t helping the cause. Here’s why:

1. We’re not even using the word correctly.  By definition, “relevance” isn’t about popularity, being cool, being liked, or by extension, compromise. Relevance is about the right thing at the right time. It’s about being connected to the matter at hand. It’s about the right tool, strategy, message, or idea that fills a need. What could be more important in sharing the gospel? By misinterpreting and condemning the word “relevance” we’re closing the door on important and critical ways it could be used to reach this culture with the gospel.

2. Relevance and obedience actually work together.  Using the word correctly, if you’re obedient, then you’re relevant. In our obedience, God uses us to be the right answer at the right time. Anything else is disobedience and irrelevance.

3. The relevance versus obedience argument is a slippery slope.  It can too easily imply our superiority and godliness, and minimize other’s efforts to share…

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old churchAs a “traveling evangelist” I’ve had the privilege of preaching in churches from coast to coast. And, until I have the microphone on over my ear, most people have no clue that I’ll be the preacher that day, so most treat me like a first time visitor. Over the course of many years of visiting churches I have had great experiences as a guest along with some not-so-great ones.

And, lately, my trips to new churches have accelerated in my own city. I hate to use the term “church shopping” but that’s what we’ve been doing as a family for the last several months. The church we’ve been attending as a family for several years is a great one but it’s a 35 minute drive away. So my wife and I decided in September to start looking for a home church in the Arvada area. All the churches we have visited so far have been pretty good.

As a result of my visits to churches over the last several years and, with my family, over the last few months, I did notice some things about how first time visitors must feel when…

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ChurchIf you attend a church regularly, you’ve probably noticed the phenomenon. A guest shows up for a worship service, but he or she never returns. It is, unfortunately, a common issue in many churches.

I did a Twitter poll to ask these first-time guests why they chose not to return to a particular church. While some of the responses were anticipated, I admit being a bit surprised with some of them.

Though my poll is not scientific, it is nevertheless fascinating. Here are the top ten responses in order of frequency.

  1. Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service. This response was my greatest surprise for two reasons. First, I was surprised how much guests are really uncomfortable during this time. Second, I was really surprised that it was the most frequent response.
  2. Unfriendly church members. This response was anticipated. But the surprise was the number of respondents who included non-genuine friendliness in their answers. In other words, the guests perceived some of the church members were faking it.
  3. Unsafe and unclean children’s area. This response generated the greatest emotional reactions. If your church does not give a high priority to…

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Christmas BokehOne of the secrets of growth at Saddleback Church is that we usespecial days as an evangelism tool and to keep our members motivated toward the growth of our congregation. In a sense, Saddleback Church was built around three days each year: Easter, Christmas, and Mother’s Day.

Here are some reasons we plan for growth during Christmas:

Christmas attracts the community. You are well aware that many people who normally never come to church will come for Christmas services or Christmas presentations. In addition, your whole community is immersed in Christmas, and many people are more prepared to hear the Gospel than at other times of the year.

Christmas encourages members to bring relatives and friends. Christmas is a perfect time to make a first impression. If your relatives wonder where you’re going to church and you bring them to church on the biggest Sunday of the year, they’ll catch the excitement of the congregation. Your members will find it easier to invite family and friends to church at Christmas than any other time of the year.

Christmas enlarges the vision of your members. This is a time to help your congregation catch a vision…

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Life on MissionMatthew was a tax collector. The Jews hated tax collectors because they were usually swindlers and “sell outs” who worked for the Romans. You couldn’t get any lower than a tax collector. They even had their own category. There were “sinners” and there were “tax collectors.” Like there are normal sinners, and then there are tax collectors.

So Jesus and the disciples came upon Mathew one day and Jesus says, “Why don’t you quit your job and follow me?” (Matthew 9) Matthew says “yes,” and the next thing you know Jesus is at a party at Matthew’s house. There are no details about what happened next, we just know that Matthew throws a party and Jesus is there.

So who would Matthew invite? MORE SINNERS!

Can you imagine the scene? Put it in modern day context. I can only imagine Matthew running back and forth from the kitchen, making sure everyone was being looked after as he listened to the conversations that took place around the table and out in the hot tub. He’s restocking the beer cooler. There is NON–Christian music on the stereo. You know Naughty Matt had a…

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