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Updated: 2 hours 16 min ago

Interview: Francis Chan: Stop Treating the Book of Acts Like Hyperbole

2 hours 16 min ago

The former megachurch pastor asks today’s churches to measure their practices against the New Testament standard.

Eight years ago, Francis Chan resigned as senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California—the church he helped grow from 30 people gathered in a living room to a multimillion-dollar ministry. He wasn’t burned out. There was no disqualifying moral failure. He’d simply grown convicted over his challenges in steering a large ministry in accordance with biblical values.

Chan sold his house and spent a year traveling through Southeast Asia, visiting churches and interacting with church leaders. Returning to California, he began planting churches in his home and the homes of others in his San Francisco neighborhood. His latest book, Letters to the Church, is a pastoral call for American churches to consider whether their values and practices are consistent with Scripture. Writer and fellow Bay-area resident Rachael Starke spoke with Chan about the blessings that come from recommitting to church life as God designed it.

Your book exhorts churches to recommit to Acts 2 practices like extended prayer, radical love and service, and intimate fellowship within the home. But many of these run counter to the digitized lives we live today, especially in places like San Francisco. How have revolutions in technology influenced American church practices and habits?

Technology is really about speed: doing everything faster and with less effort. We’re tempted to want the church to be the same way—let me accomplish what I want in as little time as possible. But the blessing is going to come from the work itself, from the hard work you do to love and serve one another. What could be greater than that?

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What I Learned from Same-Sex Abuse Inside the Church

Tue, 11/09/2018 - 4:48pm

My church mishandled my case. Yours doesn’t have to.

The first time I was groomed, I opened the door to find Liz* standing there with a jar of cream for muscle pain. I had fallen from a horse and hurt my legs, so she was stopping by to check on me.

At the time, I was 20 years old and had recently gone through a spiritual and sexual identity crisis. The Bible church in the town where I went to college had offered me respite—a place to follow Jesus and rebuild my soul. Thanks to a referral from the counseling ministry at the church, I had found a seemingly wonderful mentor. Liz had been counseling women like me for years and was one of the church’s star disciplers. She had recently begun calling me more frequently, and when she heard my eventful news on that October day, she expressed concern and insisted on coming over. I didn’t know that her visit would include a thigh massage nor did I know I was being groomed.

A few weeks after this incident, Liz took her grooming to the next level and initiated a sexual relationship with me. Though I was same-sex attracted, the thought had never crossed my mind. I had been referred to Liz for help with maturing in my faith, which included living chastely. Although I did not feel the same, I was deeply attached to her and felt overwhelmed at the prospect of losing our relationship, so I indicated my willingness to accept sexual contact. In addition to being my discipler and counselor, Liz was nearly twice my age.

Liz and I continued a physical relationship for over four months, which quickly became mutual in desire once that door was opened. After our final encounter, we asked each other’s forgiveness and thereafter managed not to sexually engage again. When I asked her if we should get some help, Liz told me emphatically ...

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Renewing Your Church: The (Sometimes) Slow and Detailed Process of Revitalization

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 4:46pm

Turning a country-club-style church into a church on a mission.

Today I am glad to welcome William Sikes, Pastor at Loch Arbor Baptist Church (SBC) located in North East Louisiana.

In 2014, I accepted a call to pastor at my current church after serving two years as interim and five years as youth pastor. I followed the previous pastor, who had served 24 years at the church and had great highs and great lows.

During the previous pastor’s tenure, attendance had risen to nearly 200. The budget had topped $200,000, but it was never adjusted correctly for the giving that took place and at the time of the previous pastor’s departure.

While the budget stayed the same, we were barely breaking $100,000 in giving. The church was dying, members were leaving, there was no outreach, there were no young people, and there was no consistency in anything positive.

The church was focused on a country club lifestyle while everything crumbled around them. They were still holding onto the programs that had worked in the past, but were now only continuing because that was what they knew to do. Change needed to happen and I knew it was going to be difficult.

Evaluating the church as the pastor was painful as I was ministering at the church for a number of years before being named pastor. I pulled out annual church profiles from the previous 20 years and started making graphs and reports. I had to consider what events led to the current situation in the church.

This was helpful in many ways. I was able to see how well the church had done in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Then, I found events that started the decline.

A big business in the area closed and moved employees to other states. This led people away and the budget took a hit. Although not all the people who worked in this company left because ...

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Why “Finishing Well” Can Never Be Our Main Reason To Behave Morally

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 7:44am

We need to behave morally not so we can keep our reputations intact, but because hurting other people is wrong. Always wrong.

Finishing well in ministry really matters to me.

Especially since I now have more ministry years behind me than in front of me.

I want every day of my ministry life to matter. And I want to end it having brought honor to Christ, his church and my family.

This has become even more important as I have watched so many pastors leave the ministry under a cloud of suspicion or outright guilt, sometimes in what was already going to be their final years.

Too many times we’re seeing decades of great ministry irreparably tainted by credible accusations of moral indiscretion.


Wanting to finish well is not the main reason I’m determined to behave morally. It should never be for any of us.

Why We Must Behave Well

In all the recent heartbreaking news about immoral, sometimes criminal behavior by clergy, many of my fellow pastors are responding with “it’s a shame to have so many years of great ministry end like that.”

While I agree with their sentiment, it’s a problem when the loss of reputation by the church leader is so high on our list of concerns – sometimes getting more expressions of grief than our concern for the victims.

This betrays a problem of priorities that may be one of the reasons behind a lot of the bad behavior that’s coming to light lately.

The reason we need to behave morally is the same as it’s always been – because it’s the right thing to do.

Loving God and others is called the first and great commandment for a reason. The Bible’s more-than-reasonable rules for treating others with love, care and respect constantly show themselves to be the only way to behave like a decent human being.

Like everyone else, pastors need to behave morally not so we can keep ...

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When Church Members Keep Second-Guessing Your Pastoral Decisions

Mon, 03/09/2018 - 7:42am

Unlike politicians and major league coaches, most of our critics aren’t strangers in the stands, they’re people we know very closely. 

What do pastors, politicians and major league coaches have in common? A whole lot of people who’ve never done their job are convinced they could do it better.

The less experience they have the more certain they are, because those who’ve actually done it know how hard it is.

I can’t speak to how it feels as a politician or coach to constantly be second-guessed by everyone who’s ever watched a game or (not) voted in an election, but I do know how pastors feel when we’re constantly criticized by people who don’t have enough information, but still give lots of advice.

In fact it may be harder on pastors because, unlike politicians and major league coaches, most of our critics aren’t strangers in the stands, they’re people we know very closely.

If this is something you’re experiencing as a pastor in your church today, let me offer a few words of comfort and advice.

1. It’s usually far fewer people than it seems

When one or two people are constantly challenging your decisions, your sermons, your parenting skills or your spirituality, it can feel like the whole church is against you.

Years ago I heard about an older pastor who had a great way of helping younger pastors who felt like the church was against them. “Name them,” he’d say.

When the younger pastor was actually required to put names to the people who were second-guessing everything, it was always far fewer actual people than it felt like – often just one or two people.

2. They seldom have the support they think they have

Any time someone tells you about a problem “everyone” is talking about, do what that older pastor did in the previous point. Ask for names. Not in a confrontational way, ...

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What Evangelicals Need to Know About the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal

Wed, 29/08/2018 - 7:40pm

Protestants can both learn from and minister to this community during a very harrowing season.

The Catholic world is reeling after a devastating month of sexual abuse revelations. At the beginning of August, a Pennsylvania grand jury reported that hundreds of priests abused at least 1,000 children since the 1940s and that dozens of church officials covered it up.

Then, this past week, a prominent archbishop claimed that Pope Francis knew about—and covered up—the actions of Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal who has been accused of sexually harassing adult seminarians and abusing a child.

For lay Catholics, the litany of sex abuse stories has been devastating.

“The ultimate source of authority and power that the normal Catholic needs week to week is their priest,” said John Armstrong, the president of ACT3 Network, an organization which works to foster Christian unity. “It’s not the Vatican, not the structure of the Vatican, not even the Pope, though he’s the Holy Father to Catholics.”

Because of this close relationship, the church betraying their trust can feel even more intense.

“When the priest is an abuser, it breaks all confidence and trust in the authority of the church, which extends all the way to the Vatican because this priest would not be ordained if had not gone up the chain of command and has ultimately the blessing of the Holy Father who is the pastor of pastors and the shepherd of the whole church,” he said.

Armstrong joined associate digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the nature and extent of the abuse in the Catholic church, the Vatican’s historically contentious relationship with the media, the politics affecting the whole situation, and how it affects evangelical churches.

What is “Quick to ...

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Four Practical Steps for Recruiting a Church Plant Team

Tue, 28/08/2018 - 4:39pm

There are so many needs to fill and sometimes the enormity of it all can feel paralyzing.

Preparing to start a church plant can be a daunting task. There are so many needs to fill and sometimes the enormity of it all can feel paralyzing. One of the keys to successfully planting a church is to recruit a good launch team. (Remember, in our language today, a launch team and a core group are a little bit different. A core team is the team at the onset of the church who typically sticks around for the long term, contributing once the church has already been started. A launch team is developed before the church plant and in preparation for the core group.)

Below are four tips for recruiting launch team members for an upcoming church plant.

First, start by praying.

Where do you start? You start by praying. Pray for the upcoming church plant. Pray about it with close friends, other pastors, and other people you’ve connected with in your journey—perhaps those you’ve met through education (Bible college, seminary) if you’ve done that. God may guide others to join your launch team in the process of praying.

But more than anything, seek friends who will go to God with you as you seek direction. Establish a prayer team that helps you begin to pray for the development of your launch team and your core group.

Second, plan.

Sit down and decide what you need. How will your staff team be funded? Will they raise support or work a job themselves? What about a worship leader? Typically, I think you should start a launch team with someone who will lead worship, someone who will help with assimilation and groups (I often put those together), someone who leads the children’s ministry, someone focused on evangelism, and someone to do finances.

Notice that some things that may develop later in the church are not ...

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How to Convince People to Get Involved in Small Groups

Wed, 22/08/2018 - 4:34pm

Three tips on how to build a culture of small-group involvement.

People today are often extremely busy, including me. We have countless things going on at work, at home, even at church. With so many demands on our lives and limited time available to satisfy them all, small groups can easily get lost in the shuffle. We must be intentional in how we lead our congregations in order to shape a culture of small-group involvement.

Here are three tips on how to build that culture.

First, teach it biblically

Hang on, Ed, aren’t small groups not in the Bible? Sort of. It’s true there is no verse in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt make your church have small groups.” But, every church in the Bible was what we would consider a small group. There were no buildings; they were functionally house churches. The closest thing to the New Testament expression of the church today is our small groups.

Sometimes, people look to the Bible and say, “We should do house churches.” I am for house churches, but most people are not going to do that. Usually, people are much more likely to join a small group than they are to switch to an entire new model of church.

In addition, there are a number of commands in the New Testament that cannot be fulfilled in a large group setting. For example, one command is to bear one another’s burdens. A big group is not conducive to this. How can you bear one another’s burdens when there are 200 people sitting, all facing forwards, lined up like rows on shelves at Walmart? How do you do that?

You bear one another’s burdens by moving from sitting in rows to sitting in circles.

Teach the value of small groups. Involve the leadership structure in your church when you teach it to emphasize the importance of small groups. Say things such ...

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Why We Stopped Taking Attendance At Our Church For A While

Mon, 20/08/2018 - 10:33am

Getting more precise numbers wasn’t going to fix the obvious problems or identify the undiscovered ones.

Numbers matter, because people matter.

If we keep track of them correctly, the right numbers can give us a lot of helpful information about a church and its ministries.

For many years, I kept track of church attendance numbers very carefully. As the church grew, I calculated growth patterns, percentages, demographics, you name it. I found that counting wasn’t just important and helpful, it was fun. When we were growing.

Then we stopped growing.

Soon we started shrinking.

And we kept shrinking. No matter what we did to correct the downward slide.

Eventually we lost about two-thirds of the congregation from its peak size. I don’t know the exact numbers we dropped down to because I stopped counting. But we ended up much smaller than when the growth spurt had started.

I felt guilty about the decline. And I felt guilty that I didn’t keep attendance records any more. But I just couldn’t look at the numbers.

I didn’t need attendance records to tell me what my eyes could see.

Knowing the Numbers Doesn’t Fix the Problems

Some of the challenges were obvious, including demographic shifts and limited facilities – all exacerbated by my own underdeveloped management skills. So we worked to correct what we could. But many of the problems remained a mystery.

Keeping accurate records can help you see problems early and tweak issues before they get out of hand. Sometimes. But when the whole thing is going up in flames, knowing the precise temperature of the fire doesn’t help put it out.

That was the case at our church during that difficult season. Getting more precise numbers wasn’t going to fix the obvious problems or identify the undiscovered ones.

So we stopped counting and did what we could to ...

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Pastoral Transition: Six Factors That Help A Church Navigate Big Changes

Mon, 13/08/2018 - 7:29pm

Churches that resist change have a harder time when change is needed. Churches that regularly make smaller transitions hone their transition skills.

Six months ago today, our church made our biggest transition in a quarter century.

After being the lead pastor for 25 years, I stepped aside so that Gary Garcia (the youth pastor who has been with me for that entire time) could take my position, while I became the teaching pastor.

I wrote about this transition before, during and immediately after it happened, but the six month point seems like a good time to report on how things are going so far.

How is the church doing? How have they accepted the new pastor? How do we work together now that the lines of authority have shifted?

In a word, it’s working great. On every level.

The church is solid. No one has left due to the transition. Worship, fellowship and ministry are stronger than ever. New leaders are stepping in to their roles. The facility is being upgraded.

The new lead pastor has been completely embraced by the congregation. New people have been added. He, I and the rest of the leadership team are working together smoothly in our new roles.


In addition to the essential factor that we all believe this transition was and is God’s plan for me, the church and its new lead pastor, there are six factors key that are helping this work, and that can help any church navigate necessary changes:

1. Timing

Every major life change has a window of opportunity, like the hand-off zone in a relay race, in which a transition can happen best. Move too early and people feel pushed, too late and you’ve missed the momentum and lost some of your innovators and self-starters.

Our church has gone through several major transitions during my 25 years as lead pastor. By doing so, we’ve developed the skills needed to make bigger changes, including getting the timing right. Developing ...

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The Invisible Scandal: How Bad Debt And Poor Stewardship Are Killing The Church's Reputation

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 7:24am

People want to give. God wants to provide. Our churches need to be places worthy of those gifts and that provision.

There’s a scandal going on in the church today.

It is one of the biggest scandals in church history, yet it remains invisible to most of us.

No, it’s not the sexual sins of some of our leaders. It’s not the physical, emotional and spiritual abuse of church members, or the cover-up of those sins. It’s not the self-righteous legalism on one side, or the moral compromise on the other. It’s not even our tendency to quarrel and back-stab each other.

Those scandals are horrifying, for sure. Many of them have been well-documented and need to be exposed to the light of day even more.

The scandal I’m talking about has flown under the radar for a long time – centuries, actually. It’s so common we seldom think of it as the sin it is, or how badly it hurts people and tarnishes the reputation of the church in the eyes of those affected by it.

The most widespread sin of the modern-day church is poor stewardship.

Too many churches are mishandling the money that has been entrusted to us. Many churches are enslaved by unsustainable debt. More churches close their doors every year because they are unable to pay their bills than for any other reason – maybe more than all other reasons combined.

No, this is not just a giving problem. Or a bookkeeping issue. It’s sin. And it is a scandal.

But it remains a virtually unknown and invisible scandal.

Here’s one small example of it.

Bad Stewardship Hurts Real People – And Our Testimony

“They won’t rent to you because you’re a church.”

With those words, the whispered voice on the other end of the phone confirmed what I had suspected. For months I’d been trying to rent a property for our church to meet in on Sundays, ...

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Where Have All the Church Planters Gone?

Mon, 06/08/2018 - 4:24pm

What’s the greatest hindrance to effective church planting?

What’s the greatest hindrance to effective church planting?

You might expect to get varied answers to this question from church planting theorists, strategists, and practitioners, but among those consistently participating in this conversation one comment bubbles to the top almost every time: A scarcity of prepared leaders.

This wasn’t true in the not-too-distant past. As networks and denominations fanned the fires of church planting fervor, the early adopters were quick to launch out and start new churches. There was once a substantial pond of would-be church planters from which to fish, and numerous groups threw their lines in the water and caught strings of quality leaders.

For example, Chris Railey, Senior Director of Leadership and Church Development for the Assemblies of God, reports that they planted 406 churches three years ago[1] and the North American Mission Board’s Send Network saw a similar rise in church planting in 2014[2], with 985 new church planted.[3]

So, what’s the problem?

To many, all looked good. But there was a problem that most didn’t foresee over the horizon. It soon became obvious that ready-made, pre-prepared church planters were becoming a difficult fish to catch. The pool of church planters was becoming fished out and no one was stocking the pond.

The years that followed were met with diminishing or plateaued results among even the most aggressive denominations or networks.

No amount of altered strategy or focused resourcing can make up for a lack of pre-prepared leaders to plant the churches that North America so desperately needs.

Which prompts the question: How many churches do we need? Currently, there are approximately 4,000 churches being planted across North America ...

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5 Steps To Move A Church From A Static To A Dynamic Organizational Style

Wed, 01/08/2018 - 7:20pm

Lack of an Org Chart is no excuse for lack of organization.

There are two different types of churches, organizationally.

Static and dynamic.

As we saw in a previous article, Why Most Small Churches Don’t Use (Or Need) An Organizational Chart, the smaller the church, the less necessary it is to use a static organizational system.

Static churches have a thorough Org Chart, with positions that need to be filled, and each position is arranged in some sort of hierarchy. Everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and who reports to whom based on the Org Chart.

Some statically–organized churches have a physical chart on display, while others operate by an unseen, but just as strongly defined system.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with having and/or using an Org Chart. In fact, the bigger the church, the more essential it becomes. When you’re trying to coordinate dozens, even hundreds of leadership positions, the Org Chart reduces chaos and helps create stability.

But if you’re pastoring a small church and you want to move from static to dynamic, how do you do that?

Here are 5 starter steps:

1. Understand and explain the differences between static and dynamic churches

If static churches use an Org Chart to define what people do, a dynamically-organized church will change what they do based on the people they have.

This is especially true in smaller congregations because in a small church the arrival or departure of one person or family can change your ability and/or need for entire ministry departments.

If you want to move toward a dynamic organizational style, or simply remove the vestiges of a static system, the key leaders in the church need to understand these differences and why moving to a dynamic style is a smart move for your church.

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Mon, 30/07/2018 - 10:18pm

Why Most Small Churches Don’t Use (Or Need) An Organizational Chart

Fri, 27/07/2018 - 7:15pm

When small churches follow a strict Org Chart, people end up filling positions instead of operating within their talents, gifts and passion.

Does your small church have an Organizational (Org) Chart?

If you don’t, relax. You probably don’t need one.

If you do, brace yourself. You may want to get rid of it because they tend not to work in small churches like they work in large churches. In fact, some of the problems that you think are people related may in fact be Org Chart related.

In small churches, having an Org Chart can cause more frustration than they’re worth.

What Is An Org Chart?

The reason Org Charts tend not to work in small churches has less to do with the nature of small churches than with the nature of Org Charts.

Simply put, an Org Chart is a way of visualizing who does what and who reports to whom in an organization. A typical Org Chart will have a CEO at the top, with VPs underneath them, then department heads, all the way down to the average worker.

In a church, it’s usually the pastor at the top (or we’ll give Jesus that spot) followed by staff, then department heads, then members. Unless it’s a congregational church, in which the members hold a position under Jesus and above the pastor, while those same members are also under the pastor in ministry positions… and my head is already starting to hurt.

Some Org Charts will be arranged in a circle instead of a top-down structure, but all Org Charts have one thing in common: they are relatively static structures, with the positions staying the same, while the people who fill those positions come and go.

An Org Chart becomes more necessary the larger the organization is – whether a for-profit business, or a non-profit church – because it keeps a highly complex system relatively understandable. Employees/church staff can readily see who is supposed to ...

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Why Public Intellectuals Need Their Ivory Towers

Thu, 26/07/2018 - 4:14pm

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s departure from 'The Atlantic' reflects a growing crisis: Our digital age inhibits reliable and enduring insight.

After ten years as a national correspondent, Ta-Nehisi Coates is leaving The Atlantic. In a memo to his staff, Coates’s editor Jeffrey Goldberg explained that “the last few years for [Coates] have been years of significant changes. He’s told me that he would like to take some time to reflect on these changes, and to figure out the best path forward, both as a person and as a writer.”

Coates’s writing for The Atlantic in “The Case for Reparations” and “My President Was Black”—along with his books—has shaped our national conversation on race. Although he's been surprised to find himself famous, his departure from The Atlantic is about much more than unease with sudden fame. Instead, it reflects a growing crisis for public intellectuals in the digital age.

We’re forced to ask: Is our hyper-connected culture driving to extinction the most thoughtful among us? Put otherwise, are the conditions of our times intemperate to the work of public thinkers like Coates?

Alan Jacobs, distinguished professor of humanities in the honors program at Baylor University, traces the postwar history of public intellectuals in his essay “The Watchmen.” Citing the work of sociologist Karl Mannheim, Jacobs explains that a public intellectual is someone whose “special task is to provide an interpretation of the world” and to “play the part of watchmen in what otherwise would be a pitch-black night.”

Coates fits the description, even if he rejects the moniker. In an interview with podcast host Krista Tippett at the 2017 Chicago Humanities Festival, he explained his particular hesitations with being a public intellectual. First, he wants to demarcate ...

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Transitioning from Bi-Vocational to Vocational Ministry: 3 Questions

Tue, 24/07/2018 - 4:12pm

Three questions that can help guide you and your churches if you are considering this transition.

Most churches in America are ‘small churches,’ having less than 100 people. Most of these churches have a bi-vocational pastor; one who does not receive full-time financial support from the church they serve. Having an outside job may be part of a plan.

But there is a growing movement of intentional bi-vocational pastors who will remain so regardless of the future growth of the church. Others take the path of vocational ministry from the start through various means. Still others will start out bi-vocational with the anticipation that at some point they will transition to full-time vocational ministry.

Making the transition from bi-vocational to vocational can seem like a dicey proposition. Faith and obedience will obviously be at the center of the decision, but there are several things to consider, including the make-up of the leadership team and size of the church.

So when should one move into vocational ministry? When should churches make this all-important decision? Three questions can help guide you and your churches if you are considering this decision.

First, “Can we afford this?”

This kind of decision warrants that finances be at the core of the issue. Any conversation that doesn’t include financial feasibility is not helpful. I’m not suggesting that money is the determining factor. God calls us to take steps of faith that involve not seeing the end result. But he also expects there to be wisdom in the transition.

A bi-vocational pastor who believes it is time to move into vocational ministry should figure out the financial number that person needs in order to make the change. Then, it’s best that 75% of the funds should be there. You don’t really have to wait until the church ...

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Renewing Your Church: Growing Together to Discover Our God-Given Purpose

Tue, 17/07/2018 - 4:05pm

I asked if they were ready to see God do something new. When they affirmed that they were, I told them that we would be changing absolutely everything.

November 2014 marked the month of my 32nd birthday and my first week as Lead Pastor of what was then known as Thornville Community Nazarene, in Thornville, OH. I would take the position as bi-vocational, being on a plane three days a week for my corporate job, with the hopes of growing the position into something that might be full-time in the future.

Fifteen adults greeted me that day for my first service, though 30-35 would come in and out of the building during that first month. The church was in decline, in crisis, operating in the red, irrelevant—you throw out the title and it fit. In a town of 1,000, this church once had 200 people in the late 1990s, but then went through two splits and had averaged 25-30 people for over the last decade in a KJV-only environment.

When I sat at my first board meeting with the leaders of the church, I asked if they were ready to see God do something new. When they affirmed that they were, I told them that we would be changing absolutely everything. After they said they were okay with this, I repeated the question, being sure that they knew that I really meant it and qualified the statement by saying that if we were not getting the desired results, then everything had to be up for discussion.

They consented and off we went. I took lesser pay so we could hire a part-time youth pastor. Praise music from the 1980s and 1990s quickly transformed into the likes of Hillsong, Bethel, and Elevation. We put up a new sign, changed the name of the church, and overhauled the foyer, sound system, sanctuary, and the landscaping. We took down every single decoration, award, plaque, and memento that might remind anyone of who we had been.

One of my favorite memories from this time was when the gatekeeper ...

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6 Principles Healthy Churches Use To Deal With Conflict Well

Fri, 06/07/2018 - 6:51pm

We have an obligation as leaders to have a plan in place to resolve conflicts in the healthiest way possible.

Conflict is inevitable. Even in a healthy marriage, family and church.

Like healthy marriages and families, healthy churches don’t avoid conflict, but they deal with it well.

I’ve been in pastoral ministry for more than 35 years. In the early days, I dealt with more conflict than in recent years. Not because the early churches were bad, but because I didn’t know how to deal with conflict as well as I do today.

Unfortunately, I learned how to deal with conflict the hard way – by making mistakes.

Through those mistakes, then through watching and learning from other churches, I have discovered 6 principles that healthy churches use to deal with conflict well:

1. Healthy churches know that conflict isn’t fatal

A strong and healthy human body is able to fight off disease better than a weak and sickly one. It’s the same in a church.

When the church is healthy (not perfect, but healthy) they know that a disagreement between members or staff is like an occasional bought of insomnia or the common cold in an otherwise healthy adult. It’s unpleasant, but it will pass if we deal with it correctly.

When we feel like every conflict is a disaster in the making, we will either refuse to acknowledge them (thus driving them underground only to be bigger and badder when they come back up), or we’ll press the panic button every time a staff member tells the pastor “I may have a better way to do that” and never hear anything fresh and new ever again.

Both ignorance and panic are dangerous.

A healthy church knows that disagreements are normal and survivable.

2. Healthy churches reduce the number of conflicts through better team dynamics and communication

Dealing with problems while they are small ...

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The Illusion Of Pastoral Control In A Small Church

Wed, 04/07/2018 - 6:50am

If you’re a small church pastor who’s been frustrated with your inability to gain control of the church, stop trying. There's a better way.

If you’re a control freak, I have one word of advice.

Don’t become the pastor of a small church. (Actually, I’d advise you not to pastor any church. We have enough control freaks in the pulpit already.)

It’s a common misperception that the smaller a church is, the easier it will be for the pastor to control.

The only people who think this have never pastored a small church.

Small ≠ Controllable

Small churches can be wonderful places in which to serve, worship, fellowship and minister. But because of their size, denominations will often put younger pastors in small churches, thinking they’ll be easier for the novice to lead. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Due to many factors, including the sociological phenomenon called The Law of Large Numbers (which I describe in some detail in my book Small Church Essentials) small groups of people, including small churches, actually behave less predictably than big groups of people (including big churches). This generally makes them harder to manage than most of their larger counterparts and absolutely impossible to control.

Here’s why. Because there are fewer people in the small church, the interplay of the unique personalities of church members has a huge impact. Much more so than they do in big churches.

Making sense of – let alone controlling – the complex and elusive web of personalities and relationships in a small church is much harder than planning a sermon series, hiring staff members, or casting a vision for the future.

Also, history plays a stronger role in established small churches. Traditions are more firmly established. And if the small church is also in a small town, the complex relationships of the dominant members can ...

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