Friday, June 26, 2015

Preach repentance: It takes courage and kindness

I read this today:
Jesus told us we would have hard times. He never promised us a prosperity gospel. He said we would face opposition, but he said he would be with us. If we are going to be faithful to his gospel, we must preach repentance—even when that repentance is culturally unwelcome. And we must preach that any sinner can be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ. That means courage, and that means kindness. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Is your church sick? Here's some symptoms to watch for.

Great food for thought blog post by Thom Ranier today.  Click through for the original post.


Anatomy of a Sick Church – 10 Symptoms to Watch

There are certain metrics and issues physicians check when we go to the doctor. They want to check our blood pressure and temperature. They do blood tests to see if there are any warning signs. They are looking for symptoms that might indicate real problems exist.
After working with churches for thirty years, I too look for symptoms that might point to greater concerns. The symptoms are not necessarily the problem; they simply provide warnings or cautions of potential issues.
While there are many potential symptoms of a sick church, I have found ten to be consistently common. These ten are not listed in any particular order:
  1. Declining worship attendance. Surprisingly, the majority of church leaders do not monitor worship attendance. I advise leaders to compare each month’s average worship attendance to the same month of previous years.
  2. Decline in frequency of attendance of church members. This symptom is the number one explanation for attendance decline in most churches. Members are not as committed as they once were. Their waning love for their church is reflected in their declining frequency in worship attendance.
  3. Lack of joy and vibrancy in the worship service. Obviously, this symptom is subjective. It is still, however, very important. Most people can sense when a worship service is vibrant, lukewarm, or dead.
  4. Little evangelistic fruit. As a general rule, a healthy church will reach at least one non-Christian for every 20 in worship attendance. A church with a worship attendance of 200, for example, should see at least ten new Christians a year.
  5. Low community impact. In my consultations, I attempt to find clear indicators that a church is making a difference in its respective community. I ask both church leaders and community members for clear examples and indicators.
  6. More meetings than ministry. A sick church will meet about what they should do rather than do it. Some churches have more committees than conversions.
  7. Acrimonious business meetings. Christians can and do disagree. Sick churches have meetings where the disagreements reflect obvious bitterness and anger.
  8. Very few guests in worship services. A vibrant church will attract guests. A sick church will not.
  9. Worship wars. Yes, they still exist in many churches. Those wars are indicators of an inward focus by the members.
  10. Unrealistic expectations of pastoral care. Sick churches view pastors and other staff as hired hands to do all of the work of ministry. Healthy churches view pastors as equippers for the members to do most of the ministry.
None of these symptoms are good, but churches do go through periods where they demonstrate a few of them. The key is to recognize the symptoms and respond early and quickly.
Here is my own subjective health analysis according to the number of symptoms:
1 to 2 symptomsNormal for most churches for a short period of time. Not an indicator of poor health, but the symptoms should be addressed promptly.
3 to 4 symptomsThe church is sick and needs immediate attention.
5 to 6 symptomsThe church is very sick. If significant changes are not made, the congregation is in danger of moving into the phase of terminal illness.
7 to 10 symptomsThe church is in danger of dying in the next five to ten years. While it is possible for a church to recover from this level of sickness, it is rare. Intervention must be quick, intense, and dramatic. The amount of change necessary is often more than most leaders and members are willing to bear.
Give an honest assessment of your own church by these symptom indicators. What do you see? What should you do if there are a number of symptoms? Let me hear from you.


Tuesday, June 02, 2015

4 Steps for new ways of thinking

Interesting piece from Ministry Best Practices:


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Making disciples not converts

A great piece over at Relevant Magazine with an excerpt below.

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Our mission isn’t to win converts; it’s to make disciples. So what is the difference?
  1. Converts are believers who live like the world. Disciples are believers who live like Jesus.
  2. Converts are focused on their values, interests, worries, fears, priorities, and lifestyles. Disciples are focused on Jesus.
  3. Converts go to church. Disciples are the church.
  4. Converts are involved in the mission of Jesus. Disciples are committed to it.
  5. Converts cheer from the sidelines. Disciples are in the game.
  6. Converts hear the word of God. Disciples live it.
  7. Converts follow the rules. Disciples follow Jesus.
  8. Converts are all about believing. Disciples are all about being.
  9. Converts are comfortable. Disciples make sacrifices.
  10. Converts talk. Disciples make more disciples.
A disciple is someone who whole-heartedly follows the life and example of Jesus, who makes His mission their mission, His values their values, and His heart their heart.
A disciple is someone who desperately seeks to be like Jesus. A disciple is someone so committed to the cause of Christ that they would follow Him through the gates of hell and back.
A disciple is someone who finds their entire identity, purpose and meaning in Jesus. Jesus is the center of their lives. They are all in, fully committed.
Not only is a disciple willing to die for Jesus, but they are dedicated to living every day of their life for Him.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Spiritual Disciplines Matter in Church Revitalization

Great read from Chuck Lawless on the important role our own personal walk with Christ plays in the revitalization of our churches.

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10 Reasons Why Spiritual Disciplines Matter 

in Church Revitalization

By Chuck Lawless
Thom Rainer and I have talked often about the process of church revitalization. Both of us recognize, though, that knowledge of revitalization is hardly enough to turn around a church; the process cannot be separated from the personal walk of the leader who longs for church renewal. Below are ten reasons why spiritual disciplines matter in church revitalization.
  1. The call to disciplines reveals our heart. If we don’t spend time with God daily, that choice tells us something about ourselves. Perhaps we are more self-dependent than God-dependent (see #6 below). Maybe we are “fixers” who try to address problems first, and then pray if necessary. We may evaluate our walk on the basis of public results more than a personal relationship with God. Any of these realities will hinder revitalization.
  2. Our personal walk with God affects the corporate walk of the local church. Leaders who spend little time with God tend to spend less time challenging their members to be with God. Their stories of personal victory are often more past tense than present tense. Those who do not follow God intimately seldom see genuine revitalization in their church; in fact, they sometimes produce congregations that unknowingly need revitalization
  3. The Bible is a book about hope and life. We know this truth – perhaps so well that we have forgotten its power. We preach about the promise of resurrection and new creation, all the while wondering if even God can revitalize dying congregations. To have hope for revitalization, we need to be reminded regularly through the Word that God brings life out of death.
  4. Disciplines strengthen our faith. Reading the Word and praying are more than just disciplines; they are lifelines to the Father. Knowing that God divides seas, collapses walls, slays giants, and empties tombs strengthens our trust in Him. Talking to Him and recognizing He listens to our prayers magnify our wonder of Him. No task of revitalization is too big for this God.
  5. Prayer is an expression of relationship with, and dependence on, God. When we pray, we express the truth that we cannot do in our power what God has called us to do. The reverse is also true: our prayerlessness is an expression of idolatry of the self. God does not bless the leadership of idolaters, even those who have great skills for revitalization.
  6. Daily obedience undergirds our praying. Simply stated, revitalization requires the power of God. The kind of praying that results in God’s power demands obedience (Isa. 59:1-2), including reading the Word, praying continually, and rejecting temptation. Perfunctory prayer from disobedient hearts hardly produces new life in a congregation.
  7. Disciplines focus our attention on God, not on our circumstances. It’s the apathetic, dying church that needs God’s renewed touch, but it’s that same church that can most frustrate its leaders. Unless we are regularly focusing on God via study and prayer, the obstacles to revitalization can quickly become overwhelming.
  8. Disciplines help to turn our heart outward. It’s hard to read the Bible consistently without seeing God’s heart for our neighbors and the nations. The resounding message of the scripture is that the God who desires a prayerful, intimate relationship with us loves the world. Leaders who live in that truth daily are best prepared to lead inwardly focused churches toward turnaround.
  9. Apart from being with God, we can produce deceptive revitalization. This reason may seem to contradict #2 above, but here’s the tricky part: if revitalization is limited to increased numbers, even the leader who is not faithful in his walk with God can lead a church to “revitalization.” What might seem to be a move of God, however, could be nothing more than popularity and attraction.
  10. Faithfulness to spiritual disciplines gives us humble confidence to lead. Revitalization requires helping churches see their current situation and then change as needed to reach this generation. Leaders who live in a state of ongoing dependence on God are most prepared to lead in this direction.
Let’s help one another: what steps have you taken to help you be more faithful in spiritual disciplines?