Archives For Missions

Life on MissionThe front page of USA Today read, “Protestants lose majority status in the U.S.” It just happened to catch my eye as I walked past a newsstand. I thought to myself, “Okay, but what could have taken its place? Catholicism is dying – is this about Mormonism?”

The article explained that Protestant numbers are down from 53% in 2007 to 48% today.  But these Protestants didn’t switch to a new religious brand. They just let go of any faith affiliation or label. According to the Pew Forum, one in five Americans now claims no religious identity. None. That means there are now more “nones” in the U.S. than any other protestant denomination.

Warren Bird from Leadership Network concludes that: “More than 1 out of every 3 adults (33%) in America is unchurched. This means they haven’t attended a religious service of any type during the past year. This represents some 125 million Americans. That number alone would be the 10th largest country in the world!” (September 9, 2012, leadnet.org)

Does that mean the U.S. is now a mission field? I think the more appropriate question is WHEN WAS IT NOT?

In Acts 1, Jesus charged the first disciples with the responsibility of…

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Gaining by LosingPeople are leaving the church J.D. Greear pastors. Big givers. Key volunteers. Some of his best leaders and friends. And that’s exactly how he wants it to be.

When Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission, he revealed that the key for reaching the world with the gospel is found in sending, not gathering. Though many churches focus time and energy on attracting people and counting numbers, the real mission of the church isn’t how many people you can gather. It’s about training up disciples and then sending them out. The true measure of success for a church should be its sending capacity, not its seating capacity.

But there is a cost to this. To see ministry multiply, we must release the seeds God has placed in our hands. And to do that, we must ask ourselves whether we are concerned more with building our kingdom or God’s.

In Gaining By Losing, J.D. Greear unpacks ten plumb lines that you can use to reorient your church’s priorities around God’s mission to reach a lost world. The good news is that you don’t need to choose between gathering or sending. Effective churches…

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Second Time Guest

My Experience…

Ten years ago my family and I moved into a new home and neighborhood, and used the summer to search for a new church home. In 8 of the 10 churches we visited, I filled out a visitor card or signed a guest register. (Two churches had no way for visitors to identify themselves.)  Of the churches visited, 6 of 8 sent a “Thank you for visiting” letter, and 2 had a representative phone us the following week.

My family especially enjoyed three of the churches and decided to go back for another visit. I again completed the visitor information and, the following week, checked the mailbox for a follow-up. Monday … Tuesday … Wednesday … no letter … Thursday … Friday … Saturday … nothing. No card. No call. No contact.

We returned to the same three churches for a third visit in our search for a church home. Visitor card? Completed.  Left with the church? Check. Received any follow-up contacts the next week? None.

My Questions…

Do you have a way to let your first-time guests know that you are glad they came? A letter? Phone call? Post card? Hopefully so. But what…

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I’ve heard the story of a man who was criticized for his evangelism methodology by a fellow believer. He was told that his methods weren’t personal enough, too mechanistic, and they would never work.

The man, saddened by the criticism, thought for a few moments about the challenge leveled in his direction. With great care and genuine concern in his voice he responded, “I much prefer my method of doing evangelism to your way of not doing it.”

Now that’s an evangelism mic drop moment.

I’ve seen that credited to D.L. Moody and James Kennedy, but regardless of who said it the story reminds us of our situation today.

The Need

In a culture that is quickly changing—one that has openly embraced secularism and spirituality without any sort of biblical foundation—evangelism is shockingly and sadly unengaged by many Christians. The people around us are increasingly secular, and our evangelistic efforts are on a downward trend.

That means we have a big problem, friends.

All Christians love evangelism, as long as someone else is doing it.

At LifeWay Research, we have analyzed the evangelistic behavior of Christians almost ad…

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Gospelize” is an old English word for evangelize. It’s a cool word with an old flair that engages our postmodern teenagers with the ancient quest of going into all the world to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19.) If you really want to get your teenagers engaged in telling “the greatest story ever told that’s hardly ever told” (to quote my good friend Propaganda) then here are five simple action steps you can take right away in your youth ministry:

1. Spend more time in prayer.

For the last few years we’ve been programming into our Dare 2 Share weekend conferences an extended time in prayer. These mini concerts of prayer have been an exciting and somewhat surprising realization for me. I’ve realized that, given the right context, teenagers down deep inside really want to pray. What if you took 10 minutes of every meeting, maybe right in the middle of a worship set, and allowed teenagers to pray in small groups, silently and even had a few come up to an open mic? Or, like one youth leader in Chicago, get your teenagers in a big circle at the end of the…

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I see a lot of church advertising these days. Many churches are utilizing billboards, print ads, and social media for the purpose of outreach. I love the concept of utilizing creative spaces to advance the kingdom. However, there is a something unsettling about public ads that advertise with slogans such as:

  • “In depth preaching,”
  • “Contemporary and traditional services,”
  • “Bible studies for the whole family.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love all of those things. Preaching, corporate worship, and Bible study are all high on my list. And no, I don’t think the church should hide what we are doing.

However, it strikes me odd when a church’s outreach efforts advertise elements that only believers would be interested in. That doesn’t mean unbelievers don’t need it –it just means they don’t know they need it –yet.

As I see it, this kind of advertising implies one of three things about the church:

  • The church assumes we live in culture familiar with Christianity. Churches must realize that we no longer have the luxury of living in a culture that is familiar and friendly to the church. Reaching unbelievers requires us to think like a missionary overseas attempting to reach a…

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As someone who both cares about the mission of the Church and leads a research organization, I watch the trends in the Church and the culture. Occasionally, someone asks me to share some thoughts on the big picture, in the case of the North American context, questions related to “streams” of Protestantism.

Based on research, statistics, extrapolation, and (I hope) some insight, I notice three important trends continuing in the next 10 years.

Trend #1: The Hemorrhaging of Mainline Protestantism

This trend is hardly news—mainliners will tell you of this hemorrhaging and of their efforts to reverse it.

Mainline Protestantism is perhaps the best known portion of Protestantism, often represented by what are called the “seven sisters” of the mainline churches. Mainline churches are more than these, but these seven are the best known, perhaps:

  • United Methodist Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
  • Episcopal Church
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • American Baptist Churches
  • United Church of Christ (UCC)
  • The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

They tend to fall on the progressive side of the theological continuum, but there is diversity of theology as well (Methodists, as a whole, are probably most conservative, for example).

Mainline Protestantism is in trouble and in substantive decline. Some…

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In last week’s The Top 10 Leadership Posts I Read The Week Of June 8th, Beth Riedemann wrote a post entitled An Open Letter To Mike Linch, Sr. Pastor at NorthStar.

The title caught my attention because Mike is one of my dearest friends and one of the great pastors in America.  You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

As I read Beth’s post I was moved by her transparency as she recounted her family’s story of coming back to church and the role NorthStar Church and Mike, specifically, have played in her spiritual journey.

While no two stories are ever the same, the following are 20 Facts About The Unchurched People Who Visit Your Church I gleaned from Beth’s comments:

  1. Unchurched People were often deeply affected as children by the actions of their parents and their view of God.
  2. Unchurched People were often judged harshly by those in roles of spiritual authority.
  3. Unchurched People often watched Christians treat each other harshly. Why would they want to be part of that?
  4. Unchurched People are unclear on what is needed to go to Heaven.
  5. Unchurched People have seen poor Christian leadership modeled for them. Thankfully, God…

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Parkview Christian On Mission

“Your mission . . . should you choose to accept it.”

Every kid growing up in my generation longed to hear those words from the television series, “Mission Impossible.” The agency would send a super secret tape player to the secret agent, who would listen to instructions (usually involving a dangerous trek to some communist country), and then the tape would self-destruct so no one else could ever know what the super secret mission was.

Interestingly, there was never an episode where the agent said, “I’m not feeling it, I think I’ll go get a beef sandwich.”

The assumption here is that if you are an agent, it’s your job to take the mission. If you want to sit around all day and play Candy Crush®, you can work somewhere else. Maybe the DMV. But if you’re an agent—you accept the mission. That’s the whole reason you took all those Kung Fu lessons.

Guess what? Every believer is an agent. Every believer has a mission.

The Life on Mission curriculum is about how to help your congregation realize that they are on mission. Not just the Pastor. It’s written to help them understand…

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I used to go to church to make fun of Pastors. No joke. I would take notes as they preached and wait behind to tell them the 15 ways they were wrong. Not only that, but I used to read the Bible only to look for contradictions in order to argue Christians out of their faith. Sometimes it even worked, sadly.

Now most atheists aren’t this way, but some of them have strong opinions about religion, God, and the people who follow Him. Which is why it’s important that we – as Christians – minimize our mistakes when we do get the opportunity to talk with them about Christ.

Two Things:

Before we get into the 5 mistakes, I do want to mention two things:

First, for the material in this post I will be drawing mainly from three different sources: my time as an atheist; my mistakes in talking with atheists after becoming a Christian; and the wisdom of those who graciously gave their opinions and experiences on this topic – thank you!

Second, I want to assert that ‘talking to atheists’ means a respectful and wanted conversation by two or more people that have…

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Culture Wars

By Tim Harlow

Life on MissionI believe that God puts us where He wants us. I know that’s an obvious opening statement, but that means that I actually believe that God put me in Chicagoland in 2015 because He gave me certain gifts and abilities that He wants me to use.  I don’t think I would have fit in as a preacher in Mayberry in the 1960s. I just could not have dealt with the legalism. I would have probably opted for Woodstock.

I was recently at an event where I heard a lot of well-meaning Christian leaders talking about “taking our culture back.” There are many church leaders who would love to bring back the “moral majority” to America. And while I hate what immorality does to people’s lives and also to the heart of God, my study of church history shows me that Christianity is usually most potent when it comes in from the outside. Jesus didn’t call us to be the majority of the earth.

He called us to be the salt and light.

I want to lead the Christians who are cellphone lights in a movie theater. Do you know what I…

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