Archives For Missions

Over the years, I’ve seen lots of great church-planting practices, and many not-so-great ones. Too many churches open and then close too often because instead of looking to God, they were looking to themselves. Even more unfortunate is the fact that many church plants continue to exist but are like an enclave for the small community of people who attend. It’s like the community couldn’t care less that the church exists.

We must always ask ourselves: What difference does my church plant make in this community and in the world?

It’s a significant question that will take lots of prayer and a good plan. As you consider this, let me share three church-planting practices that need to die if we are to begin and sustain church plants that glorify God and keep us on mission with him.

First, we need to stop the sort of messaging that communicates (implicitly or explicitly) that all other churches are really bad and ours is the best.

I have seen this a lot over the years. For example, a mailer may go out and the messaging says something like:…

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Church planting is part of Saddleback’s DNA. We’ve started at least one church every year since the beginning.

It is simply who we are. We believe that mature churches are just like mature plants or mature people: They bear fruit.

You can tell an apple tree is mature when it starts growing apples. You can tell a Christian is mature when he or she starts winning other people to Christ. And you can tell a congregation is mature when it starts having babies — planting other churches.

I believe any definition of fruitfulness for a local church must include the planting of new congregations, in addition to growth by the conversion of unbelievers. If we’re not reproducing, then it is a sign that something is unhealthy in our congregations.

As I’ve often said, a church’s health is measured by its sending capacity, not its seating capacity.

Regardless of size or location, your church can help start new congregations. At Saddleback Church, we started our first church plant when we had 150 people coming to the weekend services. The truth is, it doesn’t take a megachurch to start new churches.

Over the course of our history, Saddleback Church has planted…

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Churches that desire to use an outreach event aimed at reaching their community for Christ often struggle with strategies that are effective.

Over the years I’ve seen churches (including mine) use big events that require a lot of time, money, and volunteers, only to find that they were relatively unsuccessful at connecting unchurched people into their congregation.

Of course, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to using events to reach people. However, we can uncover some guiding principles of what not to do and what to do.

First, what not to do:

1. Don’t be pushy.

On my honeymoon a guy at the hotel offered us a “free cruise.”  All we had to do was “listen to a brief presentation about their vacation timeshare.” We thought, “Why not? We have no money for a timeshare so this will be easy.” What we didn’t know was that the “cruise” was a boat ride to a private location with no way to get back except their boat. Finally, after several hours of very painful, high-pressure sales pitches, we were allowed to leave. I remember thinking, “I will NEVER do that again!”

I wonder how many “guests” feel that way after…

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Saddleback PEACE - Great CommissionIn an effort to take the Good News to the last 3,000 unreached tribes, Saddleback hosted over 500 people during the Finishing the Task Conference December 6-8. Now in its third consecutive year at the Lake Forest campus, the event brought together a global network of local churches, denominations, church planters, mission agencies, and organizational leaders committed to reaching Unengaged, Unreached People Groups (UUPGs).

By partnering together, they moved closer toward fulfilling the Great Commission through church-planting initiatives and sharing the Good News around the world. The conference was attended by three groups: church or organizational leaders wanting to send people on mission; resource providers raising finances or training tools; and mission mobilizers promoting the engagement of UUPGs through building awareness.

According to Jesse Stedman, PD/PEACE Global Events Coordinator, “It was incredible to see the collaboration between pastors and organizations. On the last day of the conference, people stood and talked about what steps they are taking in their commitment to engage the unengaged.”

Event highlights included insight from keynote speakers Francis Chan, Paul Eshleman, David Garrison, and Pastor Rick. Encouraging news and statistics were shared on progress made since…

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ChristmasChristmas Eve attendance matters because 25 percent of all your visitors for the entire year will come (or not come) on Christmas Eve.

My experience has been that only 1 out of 10 new visitors who attend a church will come back, come to Christ, and grow to full devotion. That means if you want to grow by 100 converts, 1,000 people will need to visit your services in 2016, and 250 of those will need to come on Christmas Eve.

With this in mind, here are three free (or nearly free) things you can do that will potentially double the attendance at your Christmas Eve gatherings this year.

1. Offer services at times people actually want to attend (in other words, earlier in the day)

The biggest battle I have with Senior Pastors that I coach is helping them to understand that your Christmas Eve attendance does not grow in proportion to your seating capacity, but according to the services available when people actually want to attend.

You don’t need more seats. You need more services at times people actually can or want to attend. You can have a 100,000-seat sanctuary, but it won’t make a dent…

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Baptism is the outward sign of an inward change in a person who has placed their trust in Jesus. We don’t save people — Jesus does that. We just have the privilege of helping them make their big outward profession of faith in the form of baptism.

While I don’t believe we should manipulate people or manufacture results for the sake of numbers, I do believe it’s significant that the Bible records how many people trusted in Jesus and were baptized on the day of Pentecost. The Bible says in Acts 2:41, “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day — about 3,000 in all” (NLT).

We ought to do all that we can to share the Gospel well, to make it very clear what the new believer’s next steps are, and celebrate the results of more people on their way to Heaven. At Saddleback, we’ve baptized over 47,000 people in the last 36 years, and I’d…

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Planting and Growth

Can our people articulate a simple Gospel message and call men and women to faith in Jesus Christ?

There’s no question that church planting has become the hot new thing. And I’m glad.

When I started my first church in 1988, it was an oddity. Now, it is mainstream.

This morning, I am in a hotel in Boston, about to talk to evangelism leaders, and two young men came up and said, “Are you Ed Stetzer?” Turns out I am, and they are church planters/pastors meeting in a high rise hotel in Back Bay Boston, at Reunion Christian Church.

Today, it’s normal that church planters are everywhere — even in Boston when I’m here talking about evangelism to evangelism leaders.

Books, conferences, and initiatives that champion church planting are manifold. This is a good thing. But it seems to me we’ve got better conferences and bigger excitement and, according to the research, only incremental progress when it comes to the evangelistic fruits of actual church planting.

Statistically, we have more church planting, but slightly less evangelistic impact. And, most importantly, too many church plants don’t have the needed evangelistic…

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Caring for the Sick

The Christian approach to pain, suffering, and sickness is compassion, mercy, tenderness, and caring. Matthew records, When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36 HCSB)

  • He didn’t write off their illness as an illusion.
  • He didn’t blame them for their illness.
  • He didn’t discourage them or tell them to give up.

He had compassion. If you’re going to be like Jesus, you have to learn to be compassionate toward people when they’re sick.

Millions of people are suffering unnecessarily from preventable and sometimes curable diseases. Three hundred million people will contract malaria this year, but we know how to prevent it and treat it. Every day three thousand children die of a mosquito bite.

And then there are the diseases we don’t have a cure for yet, but we’re working on it. Three million people die each year from HIV/AIDS. We don’t have the cure yet, but we do know how to prevent it.

We cannot delay. We cannot procrastinate. If we’re going to be people of compassion,…

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It’s so easy to get comfortable, to settle in, and to spend all of our time thinking only about frivolous, surface issues. But when you understand the scale and witness the sight of real human suffering, you can’t help but feel moved to say and do something on behalf of those who suffer. Today, tens of millions of people are suffering with HIV and AIDS, and the church can do something about it. But only if we’re willing to be disturbed…

For more, visit KayWarren.com and HIVandtheChurch.com.

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I’ll never forget seeing a woman pull measuring tape out of her purse as she talked about the skull of her child.

This woman, standing in an airport in Russia with my wife and me, was, like us, an American. She, like us, was in the former Soviet Union to pursue adoption. She had heard, she said, “horror stories” about fetal alcohol syndrome and various other nightmares. The measuring tape was for gauging the size of the craniums of her potential children, to make sure there was “nothing wrong” with them.

This woman spoke with hushed tones as she mentioned her last visit to an orphanage. She rejected the referral because the child had “something wrong with her” because she had a “blank stare” in her eyes. “You know?” the woman prodded. “Like, you know, the lights are on, but maybe nobody’s home?” I ventured that maybe the little girl had a “blank stare” because she had been staring at a blank wall for 12 hours a day. The woman assured me that I just didn’t know how bad it could be,…

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You can’t follow Jesus without going with Jesus.

Since the earliest days of Saddleback Church, servant-leaders have heeded the call to look outward, allowing God to work through them to reach others with the love and hope of Jesus Christ. They’ve done it locally, building relationships in community while meeting basic needs. They’ve done it throughout the United States, providing comfort and care in times of natural disaster. They looked further outward, venturing to all corners of the earth as the hands and feet of Jesus. Thousands of Saddleback members have gone to every nation in the world with the Gospel.

Jesus himself gave us the map for changing the world. In Acts 1:8 he said, “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and tell the people about me everywhere. In Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” So whether the focus is local or global, servant-leaders, ordinary people empowered by God, will be making a difference together wherever they are.

The only way to impact the whole world is to see the whole church involved – to see every member become a minister and a missionary. 

And…

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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.

For instance, when I first started Saddleback Church, fresh out of Southwestern Seminary, computers were in their infancy, slow and cumbersome and capable of very limited functions. The Internet was just a crude academic network and nobody had even heard of email. Now I often sit in my pajamas and have conversations with people across the globe.

In addition, you can get on a plane and within a few hours fly to almost anywhere in the world, and that means there’s even less of an excuse for not being involved in foreign missions, even if just for the short-term. The times, they are a-changing, and they’ll keep right on a-changing whether we want them to or not.

And…

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