Archives For Missions

Bikes

Summer is a great time to reflect on your leadership. You are between the “start of the year” season of ministry and the “fall season,” wrapping up the end of the year. In my personal life, each month, I look at my spiritual health planner to see where I’m at with spiritual goals, course correct, and the push into next month. It’s like my spiritual tune-up.

The same is true for my leadership. For me, summer is a season when I can take a deep breath, pause, and evaluate. I like to look at five attributes of my leadership that affect our church’s Small Group Ministry.

Am I taking a risk?

Comfort zones can be stabilizing places, but they can also be a barrier to the next level of ministry for you and your team. A good question to ask yourself is – Where are you taking a risk in ministry? When I use the word, “risk”, I mean, is there a new way you need to do ministry that may be better? If money wasn’t a barrier, what would you do?

Once you answer that, what are different ways to accomplish that goal with the funds…

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Messy Church

During my second full week of pastoring, one of the ladies of our church made a disturbing comment. Looking back, I believe her comment probably describes the attitude of many other churches and their members.

Our church was getting ready to construct a new building when I was hired. I’m sure the lady meant well, but you can imagine my shock when she said, “I don’t know why we are building a new building. We are a small town and only getting smaller.”

She was right. At that point in time, the town of 18,000 people had experienced a brief decline in population. However, her viewpoint missed one major fact: Out of the 18,000 people in the town, no more than 5,000 were active in a local church.

I kept my mouth shut, but my snarky brain wanted to shout, “Actually, we are building too small! There’s no way we could hold all the potential new believers in our town with this new building plan.”

What would prompt a person to overlook so many lost people in a town? It’s not ignorance of the situation. I believe most church members are tempted to write…

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Almost anytime I mention numbers related to church life, I anticipate some responses about the value of numbers and congregations. In the 1980s, this type of discussion came primarily from more liberal churches that weren’t growing. Some of these leaders felt that declining membership and attendance was likely a sign of health. The members who really cared about the church were the ones who remained. They could make the biggest difference without the more nominal members remaining as obstacles.

Today, it is not unusual for me to hear from more conservative church leaders that declining church numbers may be a good sign because it is an indication that the numbers reflect true regenerate members. But, for the purpose of this brief article, let’s assume that attendance growth is a positive indicator. Presumably more people are hearing the Gospel and being discipled when a church is growing.

It is in that context that I hear almost every week from church leaders whose churches seem stuck at some level of attendance: 100, 200, 500, 800, and so on. I even got a call a year ago from a church where the pastor was concerned that attendance was stuck at 7,000!

After 25…

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“He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.’ The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, ‘You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?’ Jesus replied, ‘If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water’” (John 4:4-10 NLT).

Though most of our personal evangelism probably happens in the context of some kind of relationship (friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, classmate, teammate, etc.) there are countless opportunities we have throughout our lives to engage complete strangers with the Good News, just…

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I want the church – your church and my church – to grow. I’m encouraged when I see the church effectively demonstrating the love of God and communicating the Good News of Jesus to a culture with an ever-evolving language. I’m concerned when I see the church struggling to connect with people who are far from God. This concern is grounded both in my understanding of Jesus’ challenge to be fruitful and my conviction that millions are spiritually dead and hopeless until they trust in Jesus. But fruit-bearing is only half of the equation.

I do not have a green thumb. I’ve purchased a number of plants over the years and have managed to watch most of them die grueling deaths, mostly from dehydration. But I do have enough common sense to know how vital roots are to the life and vitality of any garden variety plant. And typically, the deeper the roots, the fresher the fruits. Jesus even used this as an illustration of the Christian life.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot…

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Steps

When I think about the commitments I’ve made that led to spiritual growth, often a very small step took me to a place where I could make the next commitment. Here are some baby steps that will help your members make the next commitment toward spiritual maturity.

1. Put a place to commit on your welcome cards. If you have a card for guests to use to give you information about themselves, that’s also a great place to offer an opportunity to commit to a class. Your guests will see from the beginning that these classes are a priority at the church. It also gives them an opportunity to sign up without leaving their chair during worship services.

2. Personalize the weekend announcements. When you’re announcing the classes from the pulpit, think about the person who needs to make a commitment to the next step. Ask yourself, what will help him or her to do that? Focus on who needs to take the commitment step. Don’t simply tell people when and where the class will be. Remember, you’re inviting people, not numbers, to the class.

3. Make the commitment to the next class a…

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When I wrote The Purpose Driven Church, I made the bold assertion that every church is driven by something. That’s still true, and you must decide what will drive your congregation.

A lot of churches are driven by tradition. Others will be driven by personalities and politics. Still other churches are driven by debt, by the shape of their buildings, or by a ministry structure so large and so inflexible that fresh growth will be difficult.

Healthy churches, however, are driven by God’s purposes. These churches will focus on the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, and they’ll discover that God wants his church to fulfill five purposes:

  • Worship – Healthy churches will magnify the name of Jesus in all that they do.
  • Evangelism – Healthy churches will focus on the mission of introducing unchurched people to Jesus.
  • Fellowship – Healthy churches will bring people into membership in God’s family, the church.
  • Discipleship – Healthy churches will help people become more like Christ.
  • Ministry – Healthy churches will help…

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In ministry, some things must never change but others must change constantly.

Clearly, God’s five purposes for his church are non-negotiable. If a church fails to balance the five purposes of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism, then it’s no longer a healthy church, and it’s in danger of becoming simply a social club.

On the other hand, the way or style in which we fulfill these eternal purposes must continually be adjusted and modified because human culture is always changing. Our message must never change, but the way we deliver that message must be constantly updated to reach each new generation.

In other words, our message of transformation must never change while the transformation of our presentation should be continual, adapting to the new languages of our culture.

Consider this: the word contemporary literally means with temporariness. By nature, nothing contemporary is meant to last forever! It is only effective for a while and only relevant in that particular moment – which’s what makes it contemporary.

What is considered contemporary and relevant in the next ten years will inevitably appear dated and tired in 20 years. As a pastor, I’ve watched churches adopt many contemporary styles…

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Baptism at Saddleback

Many people came through the front doors of our churches during Easter – and many people were saved. But, as you already know, not all of those who come during Easter return the following week. And not everyone who gets saved during Easter services grows spiritually either.

So how do we make sure those who attend our Easter services return, become active in our churches and get involved in ministry?

Keeping the fruit of your ministry is as important as winning the fruit in the first place.

What did the early Church do after big evangelistic harvests?

  • They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said (Acts 14:21-22 NIV).
  • Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul…

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Conversation

The longer you’re a believer, the less you think like an unbeliever. After you come to Christ, your interests and values change.

Because I’ve been a Christian for most of my life, I think like a Christian. I don’t normally think like an unbeliever. Worse than that, I tend to think like a pastor, and that’s even further removed from an unbeliever’s mindset! That means I must intentionally change mental gears when seeking to relate to non-Christians.

If you look at most church advertising, it’s obvious that it was written from a believer’s viewpoint — not from the mindset of the unchurched.

When you see a church ad that announces, “Preaching the Inerrant Word of God,” what group of people do you think that ad appeals to? Certainly not to unbelievers!

Personally, I consider the inerrancy of Scripture as a non-negotiable belief, but the unchurched don’t even understand the term. If you’re going to advertise and promote your church, you must learn to think and speak like unbelievers. The spiritual terminology that’s familiar to Christians is just gibberish to the unchurched.

I’ve often heard pastors complain that unbelievers are more resistant to the Gospel today than in the past….

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Persuasion

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11a NASB).

“And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks
(Acts 18:4 NASB).

And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8 NASB).

Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian'” (Acts 26:28 NASB).

Persuasion gets a bad rap, especially when it comes to evangelism.

Sure, we all know those types who take it too far. We’ve all felt that holy cringe when we’ve seen pointed fingers and heard “repent” reverberating from a bullhorn on the street corner. But I think we can all agree that this style of “evangelism” is more coercion than it is persuasion.

The English word for “persuasion” smacks of the used car salesman stereotype of evangelism that asks “What can I do to get you to buy into Christianity today?” to a hurried, harried, and harassed customer. But the biblical Greek word for evangelism (“peitho“) is a whole different story.

Peitho means “to gently win someone over, to lovingly convince, to…

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This year my husband, John, and I are celebrating 20 years in full-time ministry. Twenty years! (Cue the confetti and horn blowers!) During those years we have had the joy of serving on staff at churches in New England and in Southern California. While the places look nothing like each other from the outside, I have found that the experiences are similar in many ways. Building bridges and a culture of love is always in style. There is joy in collaborating with a team, and there is tension when leading through change. Watching people walk through the doors of your church for the first time never gets old, and it is thrilling to step out of your comfort zone and into a new part of the world with the Gospel.

In New Hampshire, I learned about The PEACE Plan for the first time. Our church took teams to Rwanda regularly. We saw ordinary people with ordinary giftings become a part of something so much bigger than themselves or their region. My husband and I went on PEACE trips to Rwanda with our church on the East Coast and then…

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