Archives For Discipleship

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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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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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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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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11 Simple Strategies for Helping Guests Feel Welcome

When I think back to some of the factors that have helped Saddleback grow through the years, one of the most important has also been one of the most overlooked.

If you want people to show up, you must be nice to people.

Sounds simple, right? It really shouldn’t surprise anyone. But even though most churches say they’re friendly, some of them really just mean their members are friendly to people they already know. They’re friendly to people who look like them and act like them.

And that doesn’t guarantee they’re friendly to guests.

You must be intentional in your friendliness. You don’t overcome unfriendliness by accident. You need to build friendliness into your worship service.

That’s why, early on at Saddleback, I instituted the three-minute rule. Guests are usually among the first to leave at the end of a worship service. Longtime members stay the longest. I’d tell my longtime members to find someone who looks like a guest (they are usually easy to spot) and talk with the person right after the service. I’d encourage them to spend some time getting to know these guests and making…

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10 Reasons Every Christian Should Share the Message of Jesus

Every person in your church has a message to share with the world. The middle-aged business owner has one. The single parent has one. The 10-year-old you just baptized has one. The 95-year-old in a senior citizen home has one, too.

As pastors, we understand that every member is a minister. And so telling others about who Jesus is and what he came to do isn’t a commission meant just for us.

The Bible makes it clear that God has called every believer to share the Good News.

I know it’s not easy to get everyone in our congregations to commit to evangelism. And it can be frustrating to hear people say they don’t know what to say, they don’t have time, or they are embarrassed to talk about spiritual matters.

At Saddleback, we’ve learned that explaining why evangelism is so important helps people understand the necessity and value of sharing their faith. Here are 10 reasons from the Bible why God wants us to share our faith.

1. God made us to know him.

Human beings are unique. God made us in his image. We have a…

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Why Every Pastor Must Empower and Release Leaders

I know my leadership style. I’m a big-picture, vision-casting leader. The details, frankly, don’t hold much appeal to me.

By itself, my leadership style wouldn’t accomplish much. But surrounded by staff and volunteer teams whose gifts complement mine, I’ve watched God achieve many milestones through Saddleback Church.

He is, after all, both the giver of vision and the giver of those who can handle the details that breathe life into vision.

There’s nothing inherently right or inherently wrong about being a vision-casting leader. It’s simply the way God wired me. He may have wired you differently. The key is for each of us to recognize our personal style, up front.

Then we can recruit a team with gifts that will enhance and supplement our style. This is important because God calls the church a body with many different parts, each having different gifts. Each part is necessary for the overall health of the body.

There’s tremendous power in cooperation. We do our best work when, instead of jockeying for position or trying to build a base of power, we work together—building on each other’s strengths and shoring up each…

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During the Cold War, the Strategic Air Command operated 24 hours a day as a shield of protection for our nation. This meant that at any point in a given day, there were fully combat-configured bombers flying to assure the safety of our nation.

Since these planes flew constantly, how did they remain full of gas? They did what is called mid-flight refueling. A refueling plane actually flew up next to the Strategic Air Command plane, docked in, and filled the plane with gas.

As a pastor, you need to learn how to refuel your life in mid-flight. You can’t just hop off to a tropical island every time you get tired and discouraged. You have to keep going. You have to learn how to recharge yourself in the middle of your hectic lifestyle.

The fact is, it takes energy to do God’s will. What do you do when you run out of energy? Psalm 94:19 says, “Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer” (TLB).

I suggest that once a day, you should go outside in your yard, sit down, and…

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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…

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Pastor, you may have a large crowd of attendees on Sunday morning—and still not have a congregation. The fact is that the crowd must become a church. People must be assimilated.

Assimilation is simply the task of moving people from an awareness of your church, to attendance at your church, and then to active membership in your church.

  • The Community talks about “that church.”
  • The Crowd talks about “this church.”
  • The Congregation talks about “our church.”

Members have a sense of ownership. They are contributors, not just consumers.

Because the incorporation of new members into your church does not happen automatically, you have to develop a system and structure to assimilate and keep the people you reach. At Saddleback, our system is composed of two parts.

The first part of our assimilation system is a set of questions we ask ourselves:

  1. What does God expect from members of his church?
  2. What do we expect from our members right now?
  3. What kind of people already make up our congregation?
  4. How will that change in the next five to 10 years?
  5. What do our members value?
  6. What are new members’ greatest needs?
  7. What are our long-term members’…

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The difference between being a church attender and a church member is commitment.

Attenders are spectators from the sidelines; members get involved in the ministry. Attenders are consumers; members are contributors. Attenders want the benefits of a church without sharing the responsibility.

Yet one of the biggest hurdles you face as a church leader is convincing attenders they need to commit themselves to the church family and become members.

Today’s culture of independent individualism has created many spiritual orphans who hop from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment.

Many believe it is possible to be a “good Christian” without joining a local church. How can you convince them otherwise?

God is not silent on the issue. The Bible offers many compelling reasons why every believer needs to be committed to and active in a local fellowship. And one of the best things you can do is communicate this biblical reasoning on a regular basis.

Here are six biblical reasons to commit yourself to membership in a local church.

A church family identifies you as a genuine believer.

I can’t claim to be following Christ if I’m not committed to any specific group of disciples….

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