Archives For Missions

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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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 cultures leaders most naturally create and he 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, and life on life) and multiplication (the macro strategy of reproducing churches). He writes: “We must purpose to continually ask ourselves, ‘How do we help everyone…

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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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“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

Though most of our personal evangelism probably happens in the context of some kind of relationship (friend, family member, co-worker, neighbor, classmate, teammate, etc) there are countless opportunities we have throughout our lives to engage complete strangers with the good news, just like…

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As I’ve said before, Christianity is not dying; nominal Christianity is.

Today, Pew Research Center released a report drawing a variety of headlines—everything from “Christianity faces sharp decline as Americans are becoming even less affiliated with religion” to “Pew: Evangelicals Stay Strong as Christianity Crumbles in America.”

So what are we supposed to think of Christianity in America?

The nominals are becoming the nones, and the convictional are remaining committed.

The big trends are clear, the nominals are becoming the nones, yet the convictional are remaining committed.

In other words, Americans whose Christianity was nominal—in name only—are casting aside the name. They are now aligning publicly with what they’ve actually not believed all along.

The percentage of convictional Christians remains rather steady, but because the nominal Christians now are unaffiliated the overall percentage of self-identified Christians is decline. This overall decline is what Pew shows—and I expect it to accelarate.

As I have said before, not one serious researcher thinks Christianity in America is dying. What we see from Pew is not the death-knell of Christianity, but another indication that Christianity in America is being refined.

As such, let me share three takeaways from…

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Outside TemperatureIsn’t it easier to point out the wrongdoings of others and tell people what to do, rather than be a part of the solution?

My wife and I have noticed this in our children—they love playing the victim. So whenever there’s conflict, instead of figuring it out themselves, they come to us crying out “injustice!”

I wonder where they learned that from? I knew I never should’ve let them watch Sesame Street…

In order to fix this attitude, a few days ago, my wife began teaching them the difference between being bossy and being a leader. Here’s the difference:

  • Bossy people point out the wrongdoings of others, expect others to fix their issues, and are never wrong.
  • Leaders take responsibility for situations, don’t dwell on problems, focus on solutions, and make change happen.

As I was reflecting on this new paradigm of parenting (my wife is amazing by the way), I couldn’t help but notice the similarities that it had with thermometers and thermostats. Let me explain:

  • Thermometers point out what currently is, expect others to do something with that information, and they provide us with the standard—they are never wrong. Thermometers are indicators.
  • Thermostats, on the other…

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In a recent Fast Company article, The Startup Revolution Is About To Surge Again, Coca-Cola VP of Innovation David Butler discussed his ideas about what is needed for the “next wave entrepreneurial growth.”

I see some parallels with church planting and church growth movements.

Butler talks about three waves, two of which have already occurred and one which is forming.

The First Wave

The first wave was, “moving from dotcom to startup”

Startups are now mainstream. It’s never been easier to start a business. There are new tools available that make the process easier than ever before.

Church planting has become more mainstream as well. Church planting became cool. Churches wanted to become church planting churches and seminary graduates began thinking more and more about planting their own churches rather than going on staff at existing churches.

In the startup world,

…new tools, communities, and access to capital have all contributed to today’s global startup ecosystem. That’s the second wave—the wave we’ve been riding for the past decade.

Church planting organizations, congregational church planting arms, multisite, church planting conferences, books, etc. all grew up to create a church planting ecosystem. This was the second wave.

The Second Wave

Church planting organizations and…

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Rick and Kay Warren at the PEACE CenterBy Tommy Hilliker

It started with a bag of groceries to meet a serious need in our community. Our benevolence requests went from six a day to more than 40 a day, and 15 percent of our congregation was out of work. At the peak of the economic recession, our community was hurting and in need of real assistance. In response, Saddleback Church launched its food pantry, which two years later would turn into The PEACE Center.

Jesus said in Mark 9:41, “Anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name … will certainly not lose their reward” (NIV).

Everything we do centers on providing practical help and connection to the church and sharing the hope of Jesus Christ.

People came to our doors the first day we opened them. We have fed more than 80,000 people in south Orange County, Ca. We also provide free legal aid, immigration help, tutoring clubs, ESL classes, medical services, and much more. And the most amazing part is that more than 1,600 people have given their lives to Jesus because of the work done through The PEACE Center. People…

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CoffeeCurrently there are about 12,000 Starbucks stores across the United States.* These 12,000 stores are strategically located in high end strip malls, busy corners and Target Store entrances. They are designed to draw us in and give us the coffee (and snacks and atmosphere and, did I say coffee?) we love.

Starbucks has done the best job of any coffee company in existence of penetrating the market and saturating the nation. Their green and white circle sign of deliciousness draws us weary travelers in like a bee to a honey flavored Frappuccino (is there such a drink? Just wait and I’m sure there will be!)

So how can Starbucks saturate the physical cravings of decaffeinated Americans and the church cannot satisfy the spiritual thirst of Americans with the living water? After all, there are only 12,000 Starbucks coffee shops in the United States and there are over 300,000 Protestant churches! That’s right! We outnumber Starbucks by 25 to 1!

So, with this as a backdrop, here’s what Starbucks can teach the Church when it comes to evangelism:

1. Train more “Baristas” to serve excellent drinks consistently.

Too many times the pastor is the only Barista…

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Sending CapacityIn their new FREE Exponential eBook, Sending Capacity, Not Seating Capacity, J.D. Greear and Mike McDaniel, leaders of The Summit Church, share some of the lessons they’ve learned over the last 10 years of planting 23 churches domestically and 90 internationally, and sending out 555 people from the congregation to be part of new church plants. Below, they focus in on what it takes to make a risky move and commit to share your best leaders–the people you least want to send–with new church plants. 

Missiologists say that to begin advancing on lostness in North America, we need to increase the rate at which we’re planting churches fivefold. As you can imagine, planting that many churches will take a lot of resources. However, it may surprise you that the greatest obstacle to planting more churches is not a lack of funds; it’s a lack of qualified planters. Our own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has an aggressive strategy to plant 15,000 churches over the next 10 years in North America, and while financial resources are always tight, the greater limiting factor, according to leaders like Kevin Ezell of the North…

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Crowded ChurchAlmost every church in the world will see an attendance spike this week. In the this-is-really-obvious-research-finding, we found that Easter was the highest attended day of the church year. (OK, really, it was about Mother’s Day, as USAToday reported in a front page story on our data, but Easter was number one.)

If you work in ministry, you already know this and did not need LifeWay Research to tell you. You’ve been planning for it. But are you planning for next week, too?

Nicola Menzie, a reporter for the Christian Post, asked me some questions for her story, “How to Keep the ‘Chreasters’ Coming: Experts Say Preparedness and Follow-Up Are Key.” The story has lots of helpful information, and the subtitle gets it right, “While Churches Look to Make Converts for Christ on Easter Sunday, Many Fail to Make a Connection.” Her good questions got me thinking—so I turned my comments to her into a full post here.

Let me share some thoughts on what your church can do to follow up its Easter guests.

Seize the Easter Moment.

Easter is an opportunity, but it has to be seized. More people will hear…

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Cross Church Door

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…

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