God never intended for anyone to walk through life alone. He made us for each other, and he wants us all to belong to his forever family.

One of sin’s effects on the human race has been the separation from God and from other people that we all experience. From Adam onward, we’ve all had the tendency to hide in shame.

But there is help, not only from the redemptive work God accomplished through his Son, Jesus, but also in the form of other people.

Part of your healing will always be found in the context of healthy community.

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble” (NLT).

These verses teach about the principle of mutuality, and there are three significant needs met in our lives by the mutuality of biblical community.

First, we all need mutual accountability.

In other words, you need a prayer partner. You check in on each other and support one another in your spiritual journey.

Not everything you do in a small group has…

Continue Reading

By Carol Holmstrom, National Assimilation Coach

“‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ . . . But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man’” Genesis 2:18, 20-23 (ESV).

The Bible goes on to recount how Adam and Eve fell into temptation and did the one thing that the Lord told them not to do. They then played the “excuse and accuse” game. They blamed each other for their mistakes and bad choices.

How often do we do that in our relationships—especially in marriage? “If my husband wasn’t this way, I wouldn’t respond like that.” “If my wife…

Continue Reading

How to Prepare for a Spiritual Growth Campaign

One of the most powerful tools God has used to grow Saddleback Church in profound ways over the last several decades has been the spiritual growth campaign.

We usually move through seven or eight major sermon series per year, which gives us the chance to cover all five of the purposes of God for the church. Typically, two of those series are what we refer to as spiritual growth campaigns.

These campaigns have been responsible for thousands of baptisms and tens of thousands of spiritual decisions, as well as major waves of growth for our church.

One of our campaigns always happens in the spring while the second is in the fall, when people are finding their routines and starting to re-engage after summer vacation season has ended.

The end of summer, for us, is always a season of preparation for the fall campaign.

1. Identify the areas of growth your church needs most.

In a season of prayer and reflection, look back on the series you’ve preached in the last couple of years and identify areas that might have been neglected or opportunities that need a fresh focus.

We’ve dedicated…

Continue Reading

It’s impossible to estimate the kind of good the church could do for the world if every believer was financially healthy and spiritually mature in the area of generosity.

The problem is, the church is hurting in this area–badly. According to USA Today,

The average American household carries $137,063 in debt, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest numbers.

Yet the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median household income was just $59,039 last year, suggesting that many Americans are living beyond their means.

I believe we, as church leaders, often underestimate the amount of financial pressure most families feel because we want to trust that people would be open about poor financial management. But the fact is, people are private about finances.

And pastors, we’re not immune. Many pastors have a hard time teaching about money because of the personal guilt they feel about their own financial problems.

Debt is a problem we can’t ignore any longer. But how do we get out from under it?

We’ve got to commit to these eight steps and help the people in our congregations do the same.

1. Commit to becoming debt-free now.

Pastor, this is the…

Continue Reading

 Keys to Small Group Ministry

I have this displayed on my office whiteboard: “Vision without implementation equals hallucination.” I believe in vision. If you don’t have a plan for implementing your vision, you are wasting your time. Success involves the management of ideas. Ideas can provide wonderful breakthroughs for your ministry. However, trying to implement too many ideas at once can crush or fragment your ministry. Here are five important keys to begin building a solid foundation for your small group ministry . . .

  1. Think Church-wide

Each local church is meant to be a unified body, working together in a coordinated way toward a common purpose. This means that as you plan your small group ministry, you should start by thinking church-wide. The weekend services, the small groups, and the other church ministries all work together to achieve the outcome of a mature disciple — what Saddleback calls the Purpose Driven Life.

  1. Plan Intentionally 

Whole-church coordination doesn’t happen by accident. It takes intentional planning. As Christians, it is possible to get caught in the passive “If God wants it to happen, it will happen” trap, and this can often…

Continue Reading

Testimony of Change

I’m a follower of Jesus Christ who struggles with addiction and self-control. My name is David.

I recall receiving affection and attention as a child, attending church with my folks, and going to the racetrack with my dad, who was a jockey for 14 years. My mother was loving and giving with everyone she encountered. But my parents also struggled greatly.

As a boy I tried to fit in with others while battling a sense of feeling “less than” others. But I thrived as a wrestler and was academically successful. I was fairly industrious working after-school jobs. By high school, I felt alienated from the church.

During college, hard drugs were everywhere and took a toll on others and me. It was so easy to delude myself into thinking that I was only hurting myself. People were wrecking their cars, their marriages, and going to jail. Two kids died from heroin overdoses at my house. I came to hate heroin and what it did to people. Yet there I was using other substances.

I had played music professionally, but my focus shifted as I became involved with people who had been exiled from Iran during…

Continue Reading

What God Starts He Finishes

Before Saddleback moved to its present location, we bought a big chunk of land. While I thought at the time it was a dream come true, it turned out there were giants in the land.

The county began heaping on ridiculous requirements. First they wanted to allow us to build on only nine acres of the property.

Then they instructed us to build a berm — an eight foot ridge of dirt — along the front of the property to hide the building.

Then they decided we’d need to move 150 trees from the back of the property to the front of the property and plant them on that berm.

Next, they told us we couldn’t build a 7,000-seat worship center. Instead, we could build a 1,000-seat worship center and have seven services.

Then they demanded that we put in a charcoal filtration water system so that the water that ran off the parking lot would be nice and pure as it went into the gutter.

Then they told us we couldn’t build a parking lot. We’d have to build a parking garage.

Finally, they decided we couldn’t build a preschool because “that’s not a legitimate…

Continue Reading

Knowing Whom You're Trying to Please

You can’t please everybody. Just about the time you get one group of people pleased, another group gets mad at you. Even God doesn’t please everyone.

Jesus lived with a singular purpose: to please the Father. He said in John 5:30, “I cannot do anything on my own. The Father sent me, and he is the one who told me how to judge. I judge with fairness, because I obey him, and I don’t just try to please myself” (CEV).

When you don’t know whom you’re trying to please, you cave in to criticism because you’re wondering what everybody else is going to think about you.

You also cave in to competition because you’re worried whether somebody else is getting ahead of you.

And you cave in to conflict because somebody disagrees with you and you don’t know whom you’re trying to please. You give in to keep them happy with you.

A long time ago, I decided that in my life, I want to please one person: Jesus Christ. If I focus in on just pleasing God, my life will be simplified. Pleasing God will always be the right thing to do….

Continue Reading

By Danny Duchene, National Director for CR Inside

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NKJV).

The paradox of recovery is that both the wounds behind addiction and the healing of those wounds are relationally based. This is why healthy relationships are a protected and essential part of Celebrate Recovery. Unfortunately, many men are resistant to healthy relationships and, as a result, are not maturing in recovery.

One of the reasons men resist needs-based relationships is what I call masculine-masking. I believe one of the most spiritually crippling masculine-masking messages is the belief that “needing someone is weak.” This mask is especially dangerous because spiritual growth is relational. We grow spiritually and emotionally through healthy relationships with God and others. When we say we don’t need anyone, we are halting our own progress. In reality, this mask reveals emotional wounds rather than emotional health.

When I was a young teenager and both my parents were incarcerated, my response was to protect myself from close relationships in order to avoid getting hurt. In his book Hiding From Love, Dr. John Townsend explains this response: “When you experience emotional injury, fear, shame, or pride,…

Continue Reading

Thriving in Ministry Leadership

A lot of ministries begin with a bang, then explode with new growth. But after the initial growth, they plateau. I have seen this repeated thousands of times from pastors I’ve talked with over the years.

God doesn’t want ministries to stagnate. Not only does he want them to succeed, but he also wants us to succeed as ministry leaders.

To help us achieve this goal, God has given us examples of errors to avoid — seven common traps of leadership that Satan is most likely to use to keep your ministry from becoming all that God wants it to be.

1. You stop growing personally

Whenever you find yourself resisting a new way of doing something, defending the status quo, or opposing a change that God has told you to make, watch out — you’re about to lose your place of leadership.

What’s the key to overcoming this leadership trap? You must continue developing your skills, your character, your perspective, your vision, your heart for God, and your dependence upon him.

Never stop learning. Read and reread the Bible. Listen to podcasts and sermons. Read books and blogs and magazines. Attend conferences and seminars.

Continue Reading

Leadership

When you become a pastor, you become a leader.

I’m often asked specifics about my administrative style, but I think leadership style is just as important. Understanding basic, universal leadership concepts is essential to your success.

Here are six non-negotiable facts about leadership . . .

1. Nothing happens until someone provides leadership for it.

This is a law of life. For instance, the Civil Rights Movement made little progress until a man came along named Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “I have a dream.” The NASA space program was quite limited until John F. Kennedy said, “We’re going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.”

Saddleback Church started because God said, “Rick, I want you to be a leader and get the thing off the ground.” When problems arise in your own family, nothing happens until somebody assumes leadership and says, “We’re going to do something about it.”

Everything rises or falls on leadership, and many problems can be traced to a lack of competent leadership.

I believe one of the greatest problems today is a leadership shortage within our churches.

2. Leadership is influence.

If I had to summarize leadership in one word,…

Continue Reading

Up Steps

One of the ways I believe you can assess whether or not your church is maturing spiritually is this: The standards for leadership keep getting tougher as time passes. You keep turning up the heat every year, requiring a deeper level of commitment to Christ and spiritual growth.

Every time you raise the standards for leadership, you bring everyone else in the church along a little bit. A rising tide raises all the boats in the harbor.

Focus on raising the commitment of your leadership, not those who are the least committed in the crowd or even the semi-committed in your congregation. Whenever you raise the standard of commitment for those who are in the most visible positions of leadership, it raises the expectations among everyone else.

You must ask people for commitment

If you don’t ask people for commitment, you won’t get it. You have not because you ask not.

It’s amazing to me that many community organizations require more from participants than local churches do. If you’ve ever been a Little League parent, you know that when your child signed up to play, you were required to make a major commitment in terms of providing…

Continue Reading