Archives For Missions

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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Christmas BokehOne of the secrets of growth at Saddleback Church is that we usespecial days as an evangelism tool and to keep our members motivated toward the growth of our congregation. In a sense, Saddleback Church was built around three days each year: Easter, Christmas, and Mother’s Day.

Here are some reasons we plan for growth during Christmas:

Christmas attracts the community. You are well aware that many people who normally never come to church will come for Christmas services or Christmas presentations. In addition, your whole community is immersed in Christmas, and many people are more prepared to hear the Gospel than at other times of the year.

Christmas encourages members to bring relatives and friends. Christmas is a perfect time to make a first impression. If your relatives wonder where you’re going to church and you bring them to church on the biggest Sunday of the year, they’ll catch the excitement of the congregation. Your members will find it easier to invite family and friends to church at Christmas than any other time of the year.

Christmas enlarges the vision of your members. This is a time to help your congregation catch a vision…

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Life on MissionMatthew was a tax collector. The Jews hated tax collectors because they were usually swindlers and “sell outs” who worked for the Romans. You couldn’t get any lower than a tax collector. They even had their own category. There were “sinners” and there were “tax collectors.” Like there are normal sinners, and then there are tax collectors.

So Jesus and the disciples came upon Mathew one day and Jesus says, “Why don’t you quit your job and follow me?” (Matthew 9) Matthew says “yes,” and the next thing you know Jesus is at a party at Matthew’s house. There are no details about what happened next, we just know that Matthew throws a party and Jesus is there.

So who would Matthew invite? MORE SINNERS!

Can you imagine the scene? Put it in modern day context. I can only imagine Matthew running back and forth from the kitchen, making sure everyone was being looked after as he listened to the conversations that took place around the table and out in the hot tub. He’s restocking the beer cooler. There is NON–Christian music on the stereo. You know Naughty Matt had a…

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Mexico CityWe all know what transformative life change can occur when someone comes to accept Christ. Though the power of the church, Christ-inspired members have caused a massive shift for the betterment of local communities. We believe local church pastors can play a very strategic role in worldwide evangelism and community transformation for God´s Glory. The time has come to inspire, equip and mobilize a new generation of healthy pastoral leadership, committed to growing churches to train and mentor other pastors. This movement will result in church-to-church partnerships to reach people groups who still have no believers, no Bible, and no body of Christ.

Saddleback Church is embarking on a global, Purpose Driven PEACE-inspired mission initiative to reach across every continent and impact and transform all nations. We are looking for Purpose Driven and PEACE-friendly churches and pastors to “come and see” what Saddleback is doing to transform not only lives and communities, but entire nations across the five continents.

We are in the planning stages and before our first All-Africa continental initiative takes place in the country of Rwanda in Africa in 2015, we want to develop and implement a “Mexico Pilot”…

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Mother TeresaMartin Luther King, Jr. was so moved by the plight of black people in America that he gave his life leading a civil rights movement. Mother Teresa was so crushed by the poverty she saw in Calcutta that she spent her life there ministering to the poor. John Knox was so burdened for the souls of the people of Scotland that he prayed to God, “Give me Scotland, or I die.”

Moses saw the suffering of his Hebrew brothers and sisters and it moved him to reject his royal upbringing and ultimately lead them across the Red Sea to freedom. David was touched by the broken and outcast who were fleeing Saul’s kingdom to live in the caves that he became the great shepherd-king of Israel. Paul was devastated over the Jews’ rejection of Jesus as Messiah to the point that he bordered on wishing himself to be accursed if it would mean saving them.

What breaks your heart?

After Jesus encountered the woman at the well and changed her life with the good news, His disciples wondered why Jesus would even waste his time on the Samaritans. Jesus forced them to refocus and…

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MistakesOver the last two plus decades I’ve had the privilege of engaging thousands of youth leaders in conversations about the subject of outreach and evangelism. During that time I’ve gathered a ton of great thoughts and ideas from youth leaders in the trenches when it comes to reaching out to the next generation with the good news. Some youth leaders are killing it when it comes to advancing the good news among teenagers in their communities.

Sadly, I’ve also witnessed a pattern of mistakes and missteps in the youth ministry world when it comes to outreach. I’ve boiled them down to 5…

1. Forgetting to saturate their outreach efforts in prayer

Jesus set the pattern for saturating outreaches in prayer. Mark 1:35-39 reminds us of this, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ So…

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If you could travel back in time a hundred years and share some of the discussions we’re having in the 21st century about Islam, the folks there probably would not believe you.

Back then, Islam was on the decline, reduced to a somewhat marginalized religion in many parts of the world. The Ottoman Empire had fallen and Islam’s future looked dim.

But, things have changed. During the 20th century, there was a resurgence of Islam. We are still dealing with that resurgence today.

Why the Resurgence?

Are we as eager to build bridges to reach Muslims as we are to build walls to protect ourselves from them?

Certainly, the ever-increasing demand for oil around the world has, in part, fueled the comeback. Petrol dollars have provided the means for much of the Muslim mission. Just go to parts of Africa and you will find petrodollar-funded, government-directed mission outposts all over.

That’s easy to see.

Yet, it’s not all about petrodollars. The fact is that part of Islam’s growth has come from people of all stripes freely embracing the religion around the globe, including here and in the rest of the…

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PeopleIt is a natural thing for Christians to want to be around other Christians. Something special happens in the fellowship of believers.

We can worship freely, study deeply, and communicate clearly. Hanging out with like-minded people who (appear to) “have their stuff together” can be a wonderful thing.

But how well are we engaging those who aren’t as spiritually stable as we (think we) are?

I’ve been fascinated by the fact that a lot of Christians don’t seem to like non-Christians—otherwise known as “the lost,” “the unchurched,” or whatever other term you may want to use. They want to keep away from the messy people– perhaps missing the obvious that we are messy as well.

Who Is on Your Friends List?

It is kind of interesting that after coming to Christ and growing in knowledge, we often end up distancing ourselves from some of our former friends. And then, as we begin to grow in spiritual maturity, we find that we have less and less time for the hurting and struggling.

We have found the one thing that meets the need in our lives, but we keep our distance from those who need the very thing we’ve…

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MillennialsIn my book Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and Churches that Reach Them, we focused on the generation often called “Millennials” today. The first part of the book dealt with the views of the unchurched. However, we didn’t just want to write a book about what was wrong. So, the last part of the book dealt with churches that were successfully reaching young adults.

My coauthors and I were very thankful to be named to Leadership Journal’s Golden Canon book awards, and many people said they were helped by the resource to have a reasoned (rather than sky-is-falling) look at the generation and it’s challenges.

I’m often asked to summarize some thoughts on the book, and did so in a recent conference call, which we’ve turned into an article here at the blog.

We identified characteristics of churches that were engaging young adults by reaching and keeping them as part of the church. Here are three significant ways in which churches can effectively reach and retain Millennials.

1. Be Contemporary and Culturally Engaged

The first clear pattern among churches that are reaching young adults…

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