Archives For Missions

People WalkingI am concerned.

We live in a time when church planting continues to capture more of our attention, mission volunteerism continues to be on the rise, and yet evangelism seems to be on the decline. Now, I think I have the background and practice to say that church planting matters to me—deeply. And, mission volunteerism has been a part of my life for decades. However, I think evangelism is on the wane.

We see that in research. Over the past few years LifeWay Research has studied North American Christians and our research has turned up a glaring lack of concern for evangelism. The research indicates that Christians know they should share their faith, they just don’t. This is where denominations and networks can step in and help.

The redeemed people of God have been raised from spiritual death to eternal life and perfect fellowship with God.

In 2010, I wrote an article for Christianity Today in which I suggested that denominations are a good and helpful thing, when they are focused on helping churches and Christians more effectively engage on mission. This is where partnership among…

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Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains have been helping in areas hit by a string of tornadoes across the U.S. These are two of many lives that have been changed as a result.

More Information About the Rapid Response Team

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EvangelismWe are in a time when it appears evangelism is on the decline. In my most recent episode of The Exchange I hosted Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg. We discussed the decline in evangelism and how to address it.

I’ve talked about this on many occasions because it is a concern we should all share. Sharing the gospel today may be met with difficulty, but sharing the gospel is nonetheless important.

What is the state of evangelism in the West, particularly in the United States? Are people sharing the gospel on a regular basis or at all? What do the numbers say?

LifeWay Research has conducted some research on evangelism frequency among Protestant churchgoers and believers alike. Additionally, the Barna Group released some research at the end of 2013 on the state of evangelism among born-again evangelicals that may be helpful, particularly when it comes to evangelism frequencies across age groups.

I thought I’d take a look at both—since they come to some different conclusions. (That does not mean that they are both inaccurate, but more on that in a moment.)

Evangelism and the Millennial: Surging, Sinking, or Staying the…

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Saddleback Greeting

One of the most important factors for the growth of your church, of any church, of the kingdom for that matter, is how loving we are as Christians. It’s absolutely essential that we lead our churches to be love-filled communities. It’s love that reaches people. You don’t argue people into the kingdom of heaven. You love them into the kingdom of heaven.

How do you have a loving church? Three steps:

1. Accept everybody.

Have you ever been in a church of spiritual snobs? We get it and you don’t. Do you know why people have a hard time accepting others? They confuse acceptance with approval. There’s a big difference between acceptance and approval. You can accept somebody without approving of his lifestyle. He may be doing something totally contrary to the word of God, but you can accept him as a person without approving of the sin he’s involved in.

Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another just as Christ accepted you.” That’s a start — acceptance. At Saddleback we are trying to cultivate an attitude of acceptance. At Saddleback, we communicate that the church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for…

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Fresh New Growth

Here’s a growth axiom you can take to the bank. Whether you are pastoring a (large, medium, or small) church…leading a youth group…overseeing a music ministry…or involved with any other aspect of a church in which you believe God desires growth, it is just about guaranteed. Here it is:

New Units = New Growth

It’s a proven principle. New Sunday school classes attract new people. New small groups involve new people. New worship services connect with new people. New churches reach new people.

Why It Works

The most common application of this principle is in starting new groups. Here is why the strategy of starting new groups is so predictably successful:

  • New groups respond to human need. In long-established groups, members just like to be together. Relationships have become the primary value. And that’s good. But, often such groups lose their outward-focus and no longer contribute to the growth of the church. Starting a new group focuses on a specific human need(s) and how the new group will meet that need. Starting new groups directs a church’s focus outward.
  • New groups involve new people. Because new groups focus on meeting needs, those who were not…

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Grace Hills Church Worship

I was humbled by the words scribbled on the back of a communication card this past Sunday:

This was my first time to church. I have struggled most of my life and just find myself in the worst situations. Listening to your sermon gave me a lot to think about and I am ready to let Jesus help me find the way.

I had a follow-up conversation with this young man after the service was over and I was moved by his honesty about his past and present struggles. We make it clear at Grace Hills that all of us are broken and any of us can find healing in a relationship with Jesus. That healing process just started in the life of this young man. Another young lady made the same decision Sunday as well.

In addition to two people trusting Jesus for the first time, we heard from quite a few others who were discovering or rediscovering Jesus, or church, or both.

Easter Sunday was big for us this year. Each year, it’s been our highest attended service and this year a new record was set with 337 people attending. That…

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Exhausted

The pastor, church leaders and members are wrung-out-exhausted after all the extra preparations for Easter Sunday. Some planned Good Friday service, egg hunt, breakfast, sunrise event. Extra effort was put into greeters and music and invitation counselors. One church painted their entire interior. It was all worth the effort. God was honored.

People came. In droves! New people. Missing members. Strangers. Many of them don’t really go to church often, but they came on Easter. Maybe it was for grandma or the kids, but God tickled something in their hearts to entice them to worship Him on Easter Sunday.

They could have ignored the guest card, but for some reason, many guests completed it. Deep down, they knew it might trigger some type of follow up.

So now they wait.

You’re exhausted…They’re waiting.

When we exert huge effort to make Easter special but fail to do immediate follow-up, it’s like planning a grand party but forgetting to attend. The critical work begins now!

Here are three simple follow-up tips you can still accomplish before Sunday.

#1 – Send an email. On Saturday, write a brief, personal email to every guest or rare attender who came. Send a copy…

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Keep Out

Growing up, anytime guests were coming to visit, we would “clean house” to get ready. The more important the guest, the more we cleaned up.

Every church (no matter the size, median age, location, or resources) can quickly communicate a lack of concern for visitors by the way they keep their facilities. Here are three quick ways to display a lack of welcoming hospitality:

1)   Don’t change the message on your sign for weeks on end. This is a real pet-peeve of mine. If you are going to have a message-changing sign (or a website for that matter), keep it current. There’s nothing that screams “nobody cares” more than having your fall festival advertised in December.

2)   Leave up old concert posters doors and walls. Seriously, when the event is over, take them down. This is not your teenage daughter’s “brag wall.” When visitors see that you don’t pay attention to detail, they wonder if you will pay attention to them.

3)   Don’t keep-up your facilities and grounds. When someone in your neighborhood lets their yard go uncut and has UPS packages piled up on their front porch, you typically think they are out of town on vacation. Is…

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Big EasterEaster is one of the two biggest weekends for most churches in terms of attendance. I see this as a great opportunity for evangelism to begin and for a relationship to start between your church and all of the visitors who come that Sunday. You should do everything you can to leverage Easter weekend for growth.

At the same time, it’s important not to ‘put all your eggs in the Easter basket.’ What I mean is, Easter is a great starting point for evangelism, but it’s not the finish line, at least not for a purpose driven church. In our culture, it usually takes multiple exposures to the gospel for someone to make a decision to follow Jesus. Let me explain.

Give People More Than One WEEK

Many churches offer a come-forward invitation, which by the way, I used to do myself, Billy Graham, style when I would preach evangelistic crusades. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with altar calls. But often the emphasis is on making a decision in the moment and often there is a…

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Map with pins 

Mission leaders like to talk about Church Planting Movements (CPMs), but I believe it’s unlikely we will ever see one in our current context.

A Church Planting Movement has a specific definition: a movement of church planting characterized by a rapid, even exponential, multiplication of churches within a people group or population segment.

Something like that will be unlikely to happen in the society in which we live. In an industrialized society, like our own, with labor segmentation in place, people assume specialization. Whether we like it or not (and I don’t) people have a hard time seeing the mechanic as the pastor.

This type of thinking hinders an exponential movement, which is why we find CPMs most often in non-industrialized societies. But that doesn’t mean all movements are impossible here. In our context, we should target a different goal.

Church Multiplication Movements happen when the number of churches grow by 50 percent in a given year.

There may be various factors that prevent a Church Planting Movement in our context, but I believe we have seen and can continue to see Church Multiplication Movements. As Warren Bird and I explained in Viral Churches, these Church Multiplication Movements happen…

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