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doneenough

By Bob Smietana

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours in American life, with more than 8 in 10 congregations made up of one predominant racial group.

And most worshipers like it that way.

Two-thirds of American churchgoers (67 percent) say their church has done enough to become racially diverse.

And less than half think their church should become more diverse.

Those are among the findings of a study of church segregation by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. Researchers surveyed 994 churchgoers—who attend worship at least at holidays or more often—about race and the church. They also surveyed 1,000 Americans as well as 1,000 Protestant senior pastors.

needstobecomemoreChurchgoers, researchers found, are lukewarm about diversity. More than half (53 percent) disagree with the statement, “My church needs to become more ethnically diverse.” Four in 10 agree.

Researchers also found churchgoers who oppose more diversity do so with gusto. A third (33 percent) strongly disagree that their church needs to be more diverse. More than 4 in 10 (42 percent) felt strongly their church was doing enough.

Evangelicals (71 percent) are most likely to say their church is diverse enough,…

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Is your community glad your church exists?  In the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, GA, local businesses and schools are thrilled Piedmont Church is there.  Led by Ike Reighard, Piedmont is committed to blessing its community and has seamlessly woven itself into the daily fabric of North Atlanta life.  Nowhere was this more apparent than this past Saturday when the church put on an event called Christmas At Piedmont.

As a gift to the community, Piedmont partnered with local businesses and schools to host over 20,000 visitors during this two-day event.  The church’s Senior Associate Pastor Marlon Longacre, and for my money the best community pastor in America, first made me aware of Christmas At Piedmont back in November.  But when I read about it on the front page of the Marietta Daily Journal as “One Of The Top 5 Things To Do In Marietta This Weekend”,  I knew my family needed to stop by.

The following is what I and thousands of others discovered upon arriving at the church (and I want to emphasize – this a church:

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Little ChurchFacts are our friends, and we need to use them with care. A church assessment is about giving you the facts you need, even if a lot of people don’t recognize that. Churches of all sizes, even small ones, should engage in some form of assessment because it is necessary, legitimate and beneficial.

Is It Necessary?

Whether you know it or not, from the classroom to the doctor’s office, we use assessments every day. My auto mechanic uses certain tools to assess the health of my car and determine if there are any problems we need to address. Most accept those types of assessments, but when it comes to the assessment of churches, the conversation can get sticky.

Pastors and leaders should know the state of their church, regardless of its size.

While I don’t think most people ask their doctor why he needs to measure their blood pressure, people regularly ask me, “Why should my church care about measurements?” There’s a whole category of people who are fundamentally opposed to the idea that we should ask questions of “how many” when it comes to the church.

I understand the hesitancy. We can become so…

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Heat“I contend for this, that to gospelize a man is the greatest miracle in the world. All the other miracles are wrapped up in this one. To gospelize a man, or, in other words, to convert him, is a greater work than to open the eyes of the blind.” Charles Spurgeon

Gospelize” is an old English word for “evangelize” (but just sounds way cooler!)

So how can you gospelize your 2015? Here are 5 quick ideas:

1. Pray for an opportunity everyday to share your faith! You’ll be shocked how many opportunities God brings your way!

2. Learn how to ask, admire and admit. Ask great questions (moving from everyday topics to spiritual ones), admire what you can about what they believe and admit the reason you’re a Christian is that you needed someone to rescue you spiritually.

3. Carry Gospel tracts with you or Life in 6 Words cards and use them when you leave a tip at a restaurant (and tip really big!) Here’s another blog I wrote called “10 tips on tipping if you’re a Christian.”

4. Ask the server at the restaurant you often go to or barista at the coffee…

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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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