5 Tools to Help People Grow Spiritually

All living things grow. It’s evidence of life. If a child doesn’t grow to physical maturity, that’s a tragedy.

And if people in our congregations don’t grow spiritually, that’s a tragedy, too.

Many churches focus on getting people in the doors and maybe making a salvation decision. But that’s only a small part of our responsibility.

Jesus gives us another example. During his ministry, he started by urging people to “come and see.” And they did! People began to follow him. But then Jesus slowly turned up the heat. He began adding qualifiers, statements that start with “You’re my disciple if”:

  • You love one another (John 13:35)
  • You abide in his Word (John 8:31)
  • You deny yourself (Matthew 16:24)
  • You make Jesus your prime allegiance (Luke 14:26)

Eventually, Jesus took it a step further and said that a person had to “come and die” (Luke 14:27) to be a disciple.

But Jesus didn’t start with “come and die.” He moved people slowly from “come and see” to “come and die.”

That’s what discipleship is all about. And I learned early in my ministry at Saddleback that I couldn’t grow the church….

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5 Ways to Break Through a Growth Barrier This Christmas

A few weeks back we talked about some of the reasons churches plateau. I know it’s a popular topic because so many pastors tell me their churches are stuck at a certain number of members or attenders.

Here’s the good news: Christmas is a great time to get unstuck.

People who wouldn’t come some other time of the year show up at Christmas. And we have a great opportunity to tell them about Jesus and to encourage them to come back to church. You can use Christmas services to help your members sense that they are a part of something big and exciting. It can be tough to keep people motivated consistently over the long haul, but we can get them fired up for a specific day.

A “Big Day” can help people feel like they’re on a winning team.

And a “Big Day” like Christmas can help break through growth barriers (whether it’s 200, 300, 400, or 1,000).

At Saddleback, we refer to it as pyramiding growth. You push past a barrier on a “Big Day,” then the numbers might drop a little bit the…

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Four Ways Every Youth Pastor Can Bring Out the Best in Students

The first job I ever had in a church was as a youth pastor. When I took the position, I knew nothing about youth ministry. Honestly, I was as green as they come.

I’ll never forget the church’s pastor, W.C. Bryant, pulling me into his office after he hired me. We couldn’t have looked more different. He was in a three-piece suit. I was in jeans and a t-shirt. But W.C. looked me right in the eyes and said, “Rick, if I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t hire you. If I didn’t trust you, you wouldn’t be on this staff. The very fact that you’re here means that I do trust you. So go for it. Do whatever it takes to reach kids for Christ.”

And that’s what I did. After he showed that kind of trust for me, I went all out engaging our community’s youth with the Gospel. We reached hundreds of teenagers for Christ. That experience profoundly changed the course of my future ministry. I learned lessons that would eventually help me found and lead Saddleback Church. I’ve taught…

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Four Ways Your Church Can Care for the Poor

I’ve always found it significant that Jesus mentions the poor in his very first sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor” (Luke 4:18 NLT).

We must care about the poor because Jesus did. We don’t have a choice. So how can we help the people in our churches minister to the poor? Here are a few ideas I have; perhaps you have more:

1. Treat the poor with dignity.

We’re not smarter, we’re not more talented, and we’re not more valuable than people who are poor. The Bible says, “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2 NIV). I like to say that our self-worth isn’t based on our net worth.

2. Offer the poor opportunities.

The Bible says, “When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it” (Galatians 6:10 NCV). As I’ve talked to people in various ministries, they all say that the best way to help the poor isn’t to give them a bunch of money. It’s to give them opportunities.

Maybe people…

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By Vinson

The first time I walked into Celebrate Recovery® at Horizons Church, I showed up for all the wrong reasons: I wanted to impress my girlfriend, Kourtney, who had been bugging me to go with her.

As I sat through 45 minutes of what I later learned was “Large Group,” I determined my Celebrate Recovery experience would be “one and done.” I thought it was time to go, but Kourtney informed me that there was more to the CR experience. I listened halfheartedly as the man up front rattled off several “Open Share Groups” that would be taking place in five minutes. The last group he mentioned was “Men’s Welcome Home for Veterans.”

“They’ve got a group just for veterans?” I mumbled. “Well, I’m stuck here until Kourtney is ready to leave; I might as well be stuck with some fellow veterans.”

I had joined the Marine Corps right out of high school, after a very difficult childhood in rural Lewis County, West Virginia. My early years were an endless crucible of sexual and violent physical abuse. I often told social workers cover stories for my own mother. I thought I was being responsible…

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Thank You

By Celebrate Recovery

By Quint Pitts, National Director Welcome Home

When I was a kid we played outside—without iPhones, Xboxes, and PlayStations. We used our imaginations a lot. Some of my earliest memories are of playing Army in my neighborhood. The tiny town of Nutter Fort, West Virginia, became the great battlefields of American history. Park Hill was Mount Surabachi on Iwo Jima, Elk Creek was Omaha Beach, Norwood Park became Gettysburg, the woods behind the elementary school became the Ardennes. My friends and I were fierce warriors, turning back our nation’s enemies with our daring deeds. We never lost a battle. We never lost a friend.

When I was a kid I’d never even heard of Iraq or Afghanistan. But in those distant lands, war ceased to be a game I played as a kid. The weapons weren’t made of plastic, the explosions weren’t cheesy sound effects I made with my voice, and the battles didn’t end when Jimmy had to go home for dinner.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, we lost battles.

I lost friends.

It’s one of the reasons we honor every veteran on Veterans Day. There is perhaps nothing more honorable in all of human activity…

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The way you see your life shapes your life.

I wrote those words 16 years ago in The Purpose Driven Life, and I still mean them today. We’re tempted to see ourselves as everyone else does. You know the way it goes. You see yourself as broken and beaten up. You see yourself as an addict or former addict. You see yourself as a failure.

If that’s what you believe about who you are, you’ll never become who God wants you to be. How you define your life determines your destiny.

That’s one of the reasons why, when John Baker first started Celebrate Recovery®, he didn’t ask people to identify themselves by their addictions.

Instead, in Celebrate Recovery, participants each identify themselves as “a believer who struggles with” a specific issue.

There’s a huge difference between the two. Your identity isn’t your sin. Your identity is in your Savior.

Don’t let the ugly words in your past (or even in your present) define you any longer.

Other people may see you as broken and damaged goods. But that’s not how God sees you.

I don’t know where you are in your walk with God today, but if you truly…

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Tips to Improve Your Sermon Preparation

One of the ways I prepare for sermons is by constantly collecting content—things like news stories or statistics that might make a good illustration, anecdotes and quotes, and Bible verses based on a common theme.

I usually start collecting this stuff months or even years before I ever write the sermon. This kind of collecting is one of the most underrated habits of great preachers. We can learn from them by always being on the lookout for things that will help us develop future sermons.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. A few years ago, I preached a sermon series on Psalm 23. It turned out to be a great evangelistic series. In fact, 446 people gave their lives to Christ during the seven-week series. But here’s the thing: I started collecting material on Psalm 23 back when I was in college! And so when it came time to preach this series, I had a huge file of information to draw on. I’d been thinking about the topics in Psalm 23 for years, so I don’t believe it was accidental that God used the series…

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How to Mobilize Our Churches to Finish the Task

For the past 2,000 years, Christians have been praying for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

And we’re still not there yet. But it’s within sight. We’re closer than ever before.

More than 2 billion people have never even heard the message of Jesus, so it’s time to take a radical stand and say, “This has to be completed in our generation.”

Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to people who haven’t heard it.

It’s why you’re still on this planet. It’s why every person in your church is still around. There are only two things you can’t do in heaven: You can’t witness to other people, and you can’t sin.

Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to everyone—and finishing our task. History depends upon it. The spiritual destinies of people depend upon it.

The church’s birth in Acts 2 gives us a great model for how we’ll reach the remaining unreached people groups on the earth. Within the story of these early Christians, we get the biblical foundation for mobilization.

1. We must depend upon the Holy Spirit.

If we don’t begin, continue, and end with…

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10 Reasons Churches Plateau

Every church goes through plateaus—times when your church simply doesn’t grow. It’s natural and normal, and they’re part of our story at Saddleback.

Our plateaus have looked different at times, but they’ve been there. In fact, a decade ago we were in the midst of one such five-year plateau. But then God did what only he can do. Today we’re going through a renewed period of growth.

In nearly 50 years of ministry, I’ve talked with thousands of pastors going through their own periods of plateau. I’ve studied the issue extensively. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Plateaus are natural.

Don’t get freaked out by them. Plateaus are just a state of little or no change. Everything stops growing at some point. It happens all of the time in nature. It shouldn’t surprise us when it happens in our churches. It will happen in our churches. You can count on it.

2. God created every organism to have a maximum limit on its growth.

Even redwood trees, which grow to 400 feet tall and live for 2,000 years, have a growth cap. Your church does, too. You can’t use it as an excuse, though….

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4 Things That Matter Most in Holiday Giving Campaigns

You’ll hear one word more than any other during the holiday season.

I’d like to say that word is Jesus or Gospel or even gratefulness. But it’s not.

The most popular word, by far, is gift. Everyone wants to talk about gifts they’re giving or gifts they’re getting. It’s not just a national obsession. It’s a global one. We spend at least a month—and these days, likely two months—in a mad dash to find the right gifts.

Many people think that the idea of giving gifts at Christmas began with the wise men bringing their presents to the Baby Jesus. It does begin in the Bible, but it isn’t the wise men who gave the first Christmas gift.

It was God himself.

The most famous verse in the Bible says it like this: “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die” (John 3:16 CEV).

Jesus was the original Christmas gift. God loved us so much that he gave.

That’s why it’s natural to encourage people to give to ministry…

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I’ll never forget the night years ago when my younger brother, Andy, told me he was addicted to heroin. We sat in my parked car near the beach, the darkness shrouding his face as he told me the story.

“I need to tell you something, Kay. I know you’re going to take this hard. I started using heroin a few months ago and I can’t stop.” The world stood still for a few moments as I absorbed the news that my baby brother—the one whose arrival in our family eight years after I was born gave me the sibling I had longed for, the one I carried in my arms, the one I pretended was my personal walky-talky doll when he was 2, the one who used to snuggle in my arms and call me “Sissy”—was a heroin addict.

Through my tears I shouted questions at him: “Why did you start shooting up heroin? What’s the matter with you? Are you stupid? What did you think would happen? Did you think you could play with heroin and not become a drug addict?” I was shocked and angry and confused. Mostly I was frightened. Was I going to…

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