Archives For Missions

There’s an idea that Christianity in America is dying. No serious researcher—not one—thinks that. However, I still am surprised that some people think this. (For a quick analysis, see this article.)

Facts are our friends, in this and in every situation, and what do the facts really show about the situation?

The Unchurched Are Open

A few years ago, LifeWay Research did some significant research on the faith of young adults to see where they stood. Here are a few stats from that study:

  • 73% of unchurched 20- to 29-year old Americans consider themselves “spiritual” because they want to know more about “God or a higher supreme being.”
  • 89% of unchurched young adults say they would listen to what someone believes about Christianity.
  • 63% of young adults said they would attend church if it presented truth to them in an understandable way “that relates to my life now.”
  • 58% of 20-somethings would be more likely to attend if people at the church “cared for them as a person.”

Here is some more data from that survey in graph-form:

What’s surprising to me is the degree to which the young “unchurched” believe in the death and resurrection of…

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World Map

Based on what we know about the rest of the world and how they live, would you consider those of us living in America to be unusually blessed? I think we’d all have to admit that our country, even with its present social and economic challenges, has been blessed by God. That’s wonderful — but with blessing comes responsibility.

If we want to take those responsibilities seriously, we’d be wise to look at the four laws of God’s blessing:

Our blessings should flow to others

Some people have the mindset that God has blessed them just so they can be happy and comfortable. But that’s not so. The Bible teaches us that we are blessed so that we will bless others. God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2 (NCV) was: “I will bless you … and you will be a blessing to others.” Blessings must flow outwardly.

When we bless others, God takes care of our needs

There’s almost nothing God won’t do for the person who really wants to help other people. In fact, God guarantees a particular blessing for the one who is willing to share what he’s been given instead of hoarding his wealth. In…

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Keep Out

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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