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Updated: 52 min ago

Small Churches Are Stuck (But Not The Way You Think)

Wed, 06/03/2019 - 8:10pm

Churches on either end of the size spectrum are usually seen as fulfilling their calling. But those in the middle? Not so much.

If you are leading a healthy and effective house church, you may face some criticism for not getting bigger. But most people will start with the assumption that your size is appropriate for your calling.

If you are leading a healthy and effective big church, you may face some criticism for being too big. But most people will start with the assumption that your size is appropriate for your calling.

But if you are leading a healthy and effective small to midsize church, you are most likely facing a constant barrage of criticism for not getting bigger.

  • External criticism and internal criticism.
  • Intentional criticism and unintentional criticism.
  • Criticism disguised as an attempt to help you get bigger and criticism that’s not disguised at all.

What you will receive very little of is the assumption that your size is appropriate for your calling.

Why are the micro-mini church and the megachurch generally considered to be at an appropriate size for their mission (as they should be), but the in-between sizes are considered inadequate at best, and a failure at worst?

Our Size Is Not A Problem

No wonder small churches and their leaders often feel stuck. We are.

But we’re not necessarily stuck as far as health and effectiveness are concerned. Small and mid-size churches are stuck in an in-between zone that makes people assume we’re unhealthy and broken even when we’re not.

Certainly, most small church pastors want their church to grow. And that’s perfectly understandable. In fact, it concerns me when they don’t want to grow.

So I’m grateful for help to get stuck churches unstuck, unhealthy churches healthy, and dying churches growing again.

But helping to fix a small church’s problems is not the same ...

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One-on-One with Kadi Cole on ‘Developing Female Leaders’

Tue, 05/03/2019 - 5:09pm

“This book will educate and inspire you to better maximize the leadership potential of the women in your church.”

Ed: Why did you write this book?

Kadi: Over the course of my career as a leadership and organizational consultant, I have worked with churches and leadership teams in a variety of denominational settings. Recently, I’ve noticed a significant shift in the conversation around women in leadership roles.

Previously, when I would present at an event, the few women present would seek me out to get advice about being a female church leader. Surprisingly, last year, male pastors started to approach me, asking how they could best develop the female leaders on their teams.

I could tell they were genuine in their desire to learn. Unfortunately, many of the things they were trying weren’t actually helping. In fact, as I talked with the women on their teams, they often felt the opposite – that their perspective was not welcome and there was no further way for them to grow or contribute in a more significant way.

But I knew this wasn’t how their senior leaders saw them. There was a disconnect of some kind. That distance between what these high-level male leaders were doing to help women grow and what those women were actually experiencing was problematic and fascinating to me. I set out to research why this was happening and what we, as church leaders, could do about it.

After conducting in-depth interviews with 30 high-level female church leaders, surveying over 1,200 women in various church leadership roles, and collecting research from academic, marketplace, and ministry settings, ‘The Eight Best Practices’ for churches surfaced.

Ed: In the church today, we tend to divide our views of female leadership into cookie cutter categories based on denomination and theology. How do you address this in the book? ...

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The History of the Fundamentalists Facing a Massive Abuse Scandal

Mon, 04/03/2019 - 11:09pm

Meet the conservative Baptists who don’t like Billy Graham.

On Sunday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published a four-part series on more than 400 allegations of sexual misconduct affiliated with the independent fundamental Baptist movement. The scope of their reporting spanned nearly 1,000 churches and organizations across 40 states and Canada. The report noted:

One hundred and sixty-eight church leaders were accused or convicted of committing sexual crimes against children, the investigation found. At least 45 of the alleged abusers continued in ministry after accusations came to the attention of church authorities or law enforcement.

But what is the independent fundamental Baptist movement?

Historically it has meant a firm belief in the “fundamental doctrines, that is to say, the essential doctrines of the Christian faith” and “an insistence that you should only extend Christian fellowship to people who profess to believe the gospel.” said Kevin Bauder, a research professor of systematic theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of a two-part volume on Baptist fundamentalism.

But that’s not necessarily what people hear, Bauder acknowledges.

“The term ‘fundamentalist’ has sort of been co-opted by Martin Marty’s Fundamentalism project, where he made it a sociological designation for any extreme group,” said Bauder. “None of us are really happy with that label these days, because of the connotations it carries now.”

(Perhaps one way to see it could be as the inverse of historian George Marsden’s remark: “An evangelical is someone who likes Billy Graham.”)

Bauder joined digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the history of fundamentalism, why ...

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Mon, 04/03/2019 - 11:09pm

Southern Baptists Torn Between Bold Abuse Reforms and Caution

Mon, 04/03/2019 - 11:09pm

President J. D. Greear wants 10 churches investigated; Executive Committee subgroup wants only 3. But both agree on Sovereign Grace.

Update (March 4): The head of the Southern Baptist subcommittee tasked with reviewing 10 churches for possible violations of denominational standards regarding abuse resigned on Friday, according to a Houston Chronicle report. Ken Alford cited “controversy and angst” over the bylaws workgroup’s response, but defended their position, saying their small group was not equipped to investigate the churches further.

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Conflicting statements from Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders on the denomination’s approach to addressing sexual abuse have left victims, advocates, and pastors themselves with a sense of whiplash—and called into question the fate of proposed reforms to improve accountability among SBC churches.

Those concerned about abuse within America’s largest Protestant body—including the hundreds of cases reported by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News—cheered repentant statements and bold plans for policy changes from SBC president J. D. Greear last week, only to see his recommendations largely turned down by part of the SBC’s Executive Committee days later.

Greear called on the Executive Committee (EC), the decision-making body tasked with addressing convention business between annual meetings, to take a harder line against churches that mishandle abuse allegations. Specifically, he wanted the SBC to look into 10 particular churches implicated in the recent investigation to see if the churches still meet denominational standards.

Though Southern Baptists have generally resisted top-down oversight, several prominent SBC leaders, including Greear and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore, had begun to say that a commitment ...

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The Biggest Difference Between Churches That Are Raising Young Leaders And Those That Aren't

Fri, 01/03/2019 - 5:07pm

We cannot simultaneously mourn the absence of young church leaders while belittling the way they lead.

There seems to be an absence of young people stepping up to take leadership roles in the church.

I say “seems to be…” because that’s what I keep hearing from so many of my contemporaries in ministry.

“It’s hard to find younger leaders!”

“Why won’t youth step up and take their place in the church like we did when we were younger?”

“What’s wrong with (…here it comes…) Kids. These. Days!?”

Some of this leadership vacuum is due to factors beyond our control. Many small towns, for instance, are losing their youth to big cities at a record pace.

But aside from those situations, we can make the necessary adjustments to keep raising up new generations of young church leaders.

And there’s one factor that has a greater impact than all the others, if we have the will to practice it.

Humility.

The Place Of Humility

In most denominations, the clergy are graying. And in most churches, so is the support staff, whether paid or volunteer. But not in all of them. There are many churches in which young leaders are stepping up big time, including the one I’m blessed to serve.

I’ve been in a lot of churches of all types and styles in the last few years, including those that are dying for youth (literally) and those that are driven by youth.

The dominant factor in churches where young people are stepping up and taking responsibility is that the current leadership is learning to let go, change their role and realize they don’t have all the answers.

In other words, practice some humility.

If you are an aging minister like me (late 50s and older), this message is for us.

We can’t just disciple potential young leaders, we have to release them. ...

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Southern Baptists Torn Between Bold Abuse Reforms and Caution

Fri, 01/03/2019 - 5:07pm

President J. D. Greear wants 10 churches investigated; Executive Committee subgroup wants only 3. But both agree on Sovereign Grace.

Conflicting statements from Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders on the denomination’s approach to addressing sexual abuse have left victims, advocates, and pastors themselves with a sense of whiplash—and called into question the fate of proposed reforms to improve accountability among SBC churches.

Those concerned about abuse within America’s largest Protestant body—including the hundreds of cases reported by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News—cheered repentant statements and bold plans for policy changes from SBC president J. D. Greear last week, only to see his recommendations largely turned down by part of the SBC’s Executive Committee days later.

Greear called on the Executive Committee (EC), the decision-making body tasked with addressing convention business between annual meetings, to take a harder line against churches that mishandle abuse allegations. Specifically, he wanted the SBC to look into 10 particular churches implicated in the recent investigation to see if the churches still meet denominational standards.

Though Southern Baptists have generally resisted top-down oversight, several prominent SBC leaders, including Greear and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore, had begun to say that a commitment to church autonomy could not supersede their responsibility to prevent and address abuse.

But when it came to the 10 churches in question, the executive committee’s bylaws workgroup declared that 7 did not have credible claims of wrongdoing to investigate in the first place, reasoning that the churches didn’t merit further review and admonishing SBC leaders against calling for inquiries without criminal convictions and evidence ...

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The SBC, Abuse, and the Need for a Better Response: It's Never Too Late to Do the Right Thing

Wed, 27/02/2019 - 2:06am

The SBC Executive Committee response to J.D. Greear needs to be walked back to show survivors they are worth more than a quick dismissal.

The Southern Baptist Convention often does the wrong thing before doing the right thing.

Or, in the case of last week, in responding to a wrong thing, they started to do the right thing, then went back to the wrong thing.

Now, I want them to do the right thing.

The Houston Chronicle’s Abuse of Faith series pointed out what many already knew—the SBC has an abuse problem. SBC President J.D. Greear sought to at least take some steps to address it. And, the bylaws workgroup of the Executive Committee of the SBC heard his call and decided to address it—at lightning speed.

And, according to a growing chorus of Southern Baptists, without due diligence.

Actually, they declared (without actually doing much inquiry) that “no further inquiry is warranted” in most of the cases.

So, Southern Baptists have been accused of not taking sexual abuse seriously and members of the Executive Committee responded by seemingly not taking such allegations seriously.

I should add that in three cases, they did say the situations required more diligence. One of those was Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville. Of course Sovereign Grace needs to do such an investigation and that has been obvious for years.

But, they are not the only one needing more investigation.

And that does not happen at lightning speed.

The hasty response issued by the bylaws workgroup of the Executive Committee to a group of churches named by the Houston Chronicle has been roundly criticized by pastors, abuse survivors, and survivor advocates. Executive committee members are now tweeting their own statements.

The statement has been picked apart for a multitude of reasons, but two are most problematic.

First, the response was issued just one day after requested ...

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Give Us This Day Our Daily Plan

Fri, 22/02/2019 - 5:03pm

How I’m learning to lead God’s people one basket of manna at a time.

I’ve given up trying to manage my church. I’d love to be able to manage things—we all love to feel stable and certain. But I’m choosing something harder and better.

I’ve tried the management approach. It required a lot of future prediction. I would begin a season of the church with a period of discernment and decision-making. Then I would set everything in stone so I could just cruise. Maybe a little trouble-shooting was required along the way, but I didn’t feel much need to check in with God each day. Why bother? I already had my plan.

This approach was handy for crafting sermon series, shaping church vision, and leading staff. The moment when I finally came up with a polished, tidy plan for something important felt great. And so did the measurable success achieved by the plan—and more importantly, the planner. Of course, that was only if my plan succeeded.

Few things make me more anxious than church finances. And as the pastor of a university congregation whose finances are rarely stable or predictable, I have many opportunities to feel financial anxiety. Because of this, budget reports often make me feel like a failure. Surely by now I should have figured out a way to stabilize weekly offerings, even with a transient congregation. Every year when it comes time to shape the next year’s budget, the current budget is rarely where I would like it to be. And every year I’m tempted to confront our problems by first making plans: calling megachurches to ask if they’ll partner with us, finding new ways to communicate our urgent need to every congregant, and many other action-oriented ideas.

This approach seemed to work at times, but it always fell flat when I had to deal ...

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Southern Baptists Want to Expel Churches Over Abuse

Wed, 20/02/2019 - 5:03pm

President J. D. Greear announces a batch of new proposals, reiterating that congregations that cover up incidents have “no place” in the SBC.

After a Houston Chronicle investigation uncovered hundreds of instances of criminal sexual abuse within its churches, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president J. D. Greear said the denomination needs to “repent of a culture that has made abuse, cover-ups, and evading accountability far too easy.”

Already, Southern Baptists are taking action to change their church culture, debuting this week new policies and plans to improve organizational awareness of abuse cases and train leaders to address them.

The news report drew particular attention to at least 35 pastors and volunteers who continued to work in Southern Baptist churches after being convicted or credibly accused of sexual misconduct.

At a meeting of the SBC executive committee on Monday, Greear called on the denomination to examine 10 churches who were “alleged to have displayed a wanton disregard for the seriousness of abuse” to see if they indeed meet the standards for SBC churches set forth in the Baptist Faith and Message.

Notably, the list includes Houston’s Second Baptist Church (in recent years, the third-biggest church in the SBC) and Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, where C. J. Mahaney is senior pastor.

While the SBC can remove churches that harbor predators under its existing policy, the committee wants to now explicitly name mishandling of abuse as grounds for expulsion. If approved by the delegation at the SBC Annual Meeting this year and next year (amendments require two consecutive votes), this requirement will be added to the SBC Constitution as one of the qualifications for churches:

Has not been determined by the Executive Committee to have evidenced indifference in addressing sexual abuse that targets minors and other ...

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The Danger of “Christian” Infamy

Mon, 18/02/2019 - 5:02pm

Fallen flesh doesn’t like simply being sent. We’d rather build our own tower for our own glory.

Last week, the Send Institute ran a poignant piece by John Davidson that argued for the decoupling of church planting and entrepreneurship. Davidson writes, “Rather than framing planting as ecclesial entrepreneurship, the church would be better served if we framed it biblically. The way to do that is by calling it what it is, apostolic ecclesiology.”

He argues that the business nomenclature that characterizes entrepreneurship stands in stark contrast to the simple sentness of the biblical apostles and those who follow in their patterns. I’m a big fan of John Davidson.

Simple sentness.

Is there anything our world needs more of?

Our present missiological matrix necessitates a wholesale change in the normative ambition of kingdom disciples. This begins, at least in part, by the posture of both those leading existing churches and those starting new ones.

The public perception regarding this work might be at an all-time low. There was once a day when the mention of the word “pastor” conjured images of maturity, wisdom, and tender care. These days the term is more often conflated with abuse of power, predatory behavior, or chauvinism.

Much of this we’ve brought on ourselves. The siren’s call of the grandiose platform, international audiences, and the adoring fans, has lulled far too many of us from the simple course to which we were called.

For many, there may have been a time when “simple sentness” was the passion of our hearts. God captured our very souls with the good news of Jesus and we longed for others to experience his grace.

But something happened. Simple sentness wasn’t enough, so we continually grappled for more. In reality, Jesus wasn’t enough. As with most ...

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Pastoral Transition: 7 Signs It May Be The Right Time To Let Go

Fri, 15/02/2019 - 5:00pm

Watching someone else build on the foundation you’ve helped establish may be the most fulfilling part of life and ministry.

One year ago this month, I stopped being the lead pastor of our church.

Not because I was done, but because it was the right time.

Truth be told, I still want to be the lead pastor. At the age of 59, (58 when we made the transition) I’m not too old. I still have the passion, the heart and more than a few important things to say.

But I stepped down anyway.

Earlier than I thought I would. By maybe a decade. But it happened just when it was supposed to happen.

This weekend our church will celebrate the one year anniversary of that transition. So, as I think about all that’s happened over the last 12 months, here are 7 reasons we knew it was the right time for a pastoral transition.

1. The Church Is Strong

The reason most pastoral transitions are so dangerous is that we don’t even consider doing it until there’s a problem – usually an avalanche of problems.

It’s hard for a church to change its leadership. It’s even harder when the church is already in crisis.

Over the 26 years I’ve been at Cornerstone, we’ve learned to look around when things are good and ask, “how can we use this time of strength and health to make the necessary changes?”

2. There’s Someone Else Capable Of Leading

Too many churches lose their best people because they’re unwilling to let them operate in their greatest area of strength.

Weak leaders are intimidated by strong leaders. Strong leaders make way for other strong leaders.

If you look around your church and you see someone else who’s capable of doing your job, don’t be afraid, be happy. You haven’t failed, you’ve succeeded.

That doesn’t mean they’ll take your position (or, as in our case, you’ll ...

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After Major Investigation, Southern Baptists Confront the Abuse Crisis They Knew Was Coming

Tue, 12/02/2019 - 1:58am

The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News collect 380 allegations spanning 20 states in an unprecedented look at sexual misconduct across the denomination.

A landmark investigation into hundreds of cases of sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches opened with a collage of pictures of the offenders, row after row of headshots and mugshots of men who had been accused of abusing a total of 700 victims over the past 20 years.

In Sunday’s report, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News were able to do what victims say the nation’s largest Protestant denomination has failed to for years: provide a picture of the extent of the abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention and a database of those found guilty of their crimes.

With allegations against 380 church leaders in 20 states (a majority of whom were convicted or took plea deals), it’s believed to be the biggest report on sexual abuse among Southern Baptists in the movement’s history. The report confronts the longstanding defense that the organization can only do so much to monitor abuse since affiliated congregations operate autonomously.

Another set of pictures captures a sense of the impact of abusers in Southern Baptist congregations. In response to the investigation, Southern Baptist women and fellow Christians shared childhood photos on Twitter from the age when they first suffered abuse.

Dozens joined a thread started by Living Proof Ministries founder and popular Bible teacher Beth Moore, including advocate and abuse survivor Jules Woodson and other ministry leaders.

Over the past couple years, the #MeToo campaign has raised awareness about abuse within the SBC and galvanized official efforts to improve the denomination’s response. Last December, as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram rounded up more than 400 allegations among independent Baptists, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission ...

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8 Non-Numerical Ways To Assess The Health Of A Church

Mon, 11/02/2019 - 10:58pm

Numbers are not the only way to measure church health and effectiveness, especially in smaller churches.

There are healthy churches of all sizes.

In recent years there’s been a renewed emphasis on defining health numerically. But that’s not the only way to measure church health and effectiveness.

In my previous article, Effective Small Church Metrics: Why Average Results Aren’t Typical Results, we saw that statistics, surveys and comparative metrics are not as helpful in assessing small church health as they are in assessing big church health.

So, what’s a small church to do?

Today, we’ll take a look at 8 helpful ways to assess the health and effectiveness of a church without using numbers.

1. Ask “What Should We Be Doing And How Well Are We Doing It?”

Jesus gave us the Great Commandment and Great Commission. That is the mission of every church. But the way one church is called to do that is going to be different than the way another church is called to do that.

Every leader of every church needs to know how their church is fulfilling the Great Commandment and Great Commission within their context.

We must constantly assess the health and effectiveness of the congregation based on the following questions: Are we a worshipping church? A loving church? An evangelistic church? A compassionate church? A discipling church?

But, without a numerical component, how do we assess how well we’re doing those things? That’s what points 2-7 address.

2. Talk To The People In The Church

In the 1980s, Ed Koch, the mayor of New York City, was famous for walking through the streets of Manhattan, asking everyday citizens “how am I doing?”

As you can imagine, he didn’t always hear the answers he wanted, but the fact that he kept asking the question is an important lesson for all leaders. ...

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The Imposter Syndrome and Pastoral Ministry

Mon, 11/02/2019 - 4:58pm

This phenomenon affects many, and pastors may be particularly susceptible.

“You’re a fraud.”

“Everyone’s going to find out…eventually.”

“Just stop, it’s not worth it.”

“What difference do you think you’re actually going to make?”

If you feel like I’ve just read your mind, welcome to the club! You’re officially a member of Imposter Syndrome Anonymous. In fact, since you’ve had these thoughts for a while, you might as well become a lifetime charter member. There’s just one catch—you can’t cancel your membership. It’s kind of like Hotel California: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”

In 1978, researchers Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the phrase—the Imposter Phenomenon—and captured the essence of this very thing that seems to be progressively troubling so many of us. And with our lives increasingly being lived online, along with our follower counts displayed in a showcase for the world to see, this topic is of particular importance. After all, what’s healthier than comparing ourselves to one another in all of our filtered glory?

Although Clance and Imes initially researched how Imposter Syndrome affected high achieving women in a pre-internet and pre-social media world, 40+ years later it’s become quite apparent that this syndrome now affects everyone.

After all, when was the last time you found yourself in a room and felt like you didn’t belong—even though you had the academic credentials, degrees, experience, or whatever else you needed to get in? Or, have you ever wondered when people were going to find out and discover the real you? The you underneath the surface that you’ve hidden away? ...

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Effective Small Church Metrics: Why Average Results Aren’t Typical Results

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 7:56am

Statistics, surveys and comparative metrics are not as helpful in assessing small church health as they are in assessing big church health.

One of the challenges of pastoring in a small church is that there’s nothing typical (or normal) about anything we do.

Our schedule, our skill-set, our facilities (or lack of), our staff (or lack of), our salary (or… you get the idea…). None of it is typical.

Our friends and colleagues in big churches are able to collect information, assess data and find numbers that help them understand what a healthy church looks like statistically, but those metrics fall apart as churches get smaller.

Here’s why.

The Big/Small Difference

Imagine that a collection of large churches sends in their data for assessment. It might be discovered that they have 35-45 percent of their offerings going to salaries, and 50-60 percent of their weekend worshippers involved in small groups on average. If so, almost all the healthy churches surveyed might fall within those parameters, and if they’re outside them, it will only be by a percentage or two. If they’re WAY outside them? That’s a sign of imbalance and ill-health.

In healthy big churches, average numbers will be typical numbers.

On the other hand, if you collected the data from a bunch of small churches, the averages might show 50-60 percent of their offerings going to salaries and 30-40 percent of their weekend worshippers involved in small groups. (These numbers are used as examples, not based on actual satistics). But that won’t tell you what a typical healthy small church looks like.

Instead of most of the small healthy churches landing within those narow ranges, as we saw in bigger churches, healthy small church percentages will land all over a much wider range.

Healthy small churches can have a pastoral salary range from zero percent to 80 percent ...

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Why Is There An Increasing Pushback Against Church Growth Principles?

Tue, 05/02/2019 - 7:54am

As the church growth movement enters middle age, it’s time to ask some tough, but fair and necessary questions.

Recently, I've had several conversations with friends who teach church growth principles. Several of them have asked me some version of the question in the title of this article.

“Why is there so much more pushback against church growth principles lately?”

I’m noticing it, too.

More church leaders are asking hard questions about the church growth movement. And this time it's not just the usual cynics, it's leaders who previously would have – or did – embrace those principles with open arms.

This is not because there’s something inherently wrong with the church growth movement, but because it’s been around long enough to see, not just the short-term successes, but the long-term challenges as well.

Acknowledging Real-World Problems

Every set of principles should be able to stand up to scrutiny, so these new questions should not be seen as a problem, but as an opportunity to learn more about such an important aspect of church life and leadership.

For several decades now, the burgeoning field of church growth has relied on learning new ideas, testing them in real-world situations, then promoting the success stories.

But as church growth principles come to the half-century mark, they’ve been around long enough to see a sizable number of stories on the other side of the ledger, too – churches for whom church growth principles not only didn’t work, but seemed to create more problems than they solved.

This shouldn’t surprise or upset us.

After all, facts are our friends. And if those facts are now exposing some previously unseen problems, we need to explore them with eyes wide open. Or we’ll never be able to fix them.

Unintended Consequences

Here’s why ...

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Celebrities, Professors &amp; Care-Givers: How We Lost Our Missional IQ

Mon, 04/02/2019 - 4:54pm

None of these North American pastoral archetypes prioritize mission.

Alejandro wasn’t a pastor. As an immigrant from Peru, Alejandro’s understanding of church leadership was unlike what he was observing in North America. He found it difficult to see how he might lead, even though his life demonstrated evangelistic faithfulness and fruitfulness that far surpassed many of those who received paychecks from the local churches he had attended.

Alejandro wasn’t your typical ‘Type A’ leader. One-on-one he could converse with anyone and showed an uncanny ability to turn everyday chats into amazing gospel conservations, but he was paralyzed by a large crowd. On one hand, His dexterity in applying the good news of Jesus to commonplace needs was unmatched, yet he struggled in crafting a 4-point, 40-minute sermon on a biblical text.

And, to top it off, his love for the marginalized and broken led to a real struggle relating to the first-world miseries of the average dispirited church-goer. He was drawn to endeavors that pressed to the margins of society—those that required a large measure of risk and experimentation and presupposed a high likelihood of failure.

Is there room for Alejandro?

Diverse factors combine to create the combustible environment we experience as missionaries, church planters, pastors, and congregations today.[1] Say the word “pastor” and certain caricatures are likely drawn in the minds of most. Aside from the physical attributes one might mention, there are certain gifts or abilities that tend to rise to the surface.

One such mental image is often that of the charismatic, silver-tongued celebrity. If there’s a crowd of church goers, the celebrity is right in the middle, exerting his influence by sheer power of will and strength of ...

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Pulpit Discipleship: Organizing Your Annual Preaching Calendar For Maximum Effectiveness

Fri, 01/02/2019 - 7:53am

As a small church pastor, I have to keep these two tasks in balance – preaching to the congregation, and spending time with members.

Preaching is one of the most important responsibilities of the pastor in a small church context.

It’s important, not just because it is the most visible function of a pastor, but because it is one of the primary tools for discipleship.

As pastors, our primary job is making disciples (Ephesians 4:11-12). And in the Great Commission, Jesus told us that “teaching them” is one way to do that. So the time we have behind the pulpit is the most consistent tool we have to inform, inspire, and equip disciples.

Like many pastors, I have found that an annual preaching calendar helps me to prepare a consistent spiritual diet for our congregation. In order to present a well-balanced approach to discipleship from the pulpit, I assign my sermons series for the year into one of four categories:

  1. Theological (who God is)
  2. Doctrinal (what we believe)
  3. Practical (Christian living)
  4. Cultural (what is happening around us that is on everyone’s mind)

Each year, I try to do 2-3 series from each of these categories.

Applying these filters allows me to keep track of what I’m communicating and how I’m discipling from the pulpit.

(Today’s article is written by a fellow small church pastor, Jeff Hamilton of Hills Church, Laguna Niguel CA (hillschurchoc.com). When he told me how he organizes his preaching schedule, I thought it might benefit others. - Karl Vaters)

Organizing For Effectiveness

Having considered these factors, I begin to plug the sermon series ideas into the calendar (I use a spreadsheet).

Then I assign each sermon or series a category: theological, doctrinal, practical, or cultural. This helps me see if I have similarly-purposed series grouped too closely together.

This list then goes to my ministry team for their ...

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Next Steps for Ministry Leaders Following the GC2 Summit

Thu, 31/01/2019 - 4:52pm

Six next steps for ministry leaders who desire to humbly engage with questions surrounding sexual violence.

In Between Two Worlds, John Stott charges preachers to address controversial topics: “Christian people are crying out for guidance...Shall we abandon them to swim in these deep waters alone? This is the way of the coward.”

If the recent GC2 Summit Responding to Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Violence said anything, it was this: Church, we will no longer walk in the way of the coward. We will not abandon our people to navigate these waters alone.

Still, the church’s question in this season of lament is the same one the prophet Jeremiah asked of God in his: How?

How, God, can we right these wrongs? How can we do better?

As a woman in church leadership and a survivor of sexual assault, I’d like to suggest six next steps for ministry leaders who desire to humbly engage with these questions. These are by no means comprehensive—others will have crucial expertise and wisdom to offer.

Nonetheless, may these steps encourage us all as we seek to answer our hows.

1 – Learn from women—purposefully.

After hearing complaints about their male-dominated structures and strategies, the elders at Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City spent time meeting with groups of female church members, asking questions like: What has been hurtful? Where have we overlooked you? What do you long for?

Sarah Davidson, one of the women involved, described the experience as safe and powerful: “The elders didn’t counsel or coddle. They humbly listened, affirmed, and apologized.”

As a result, the church strategically hired more female staff, launched a women’s ministry, changed female titles from “directors” to “ministers,” and invited women to lead on stage.

To Leaders: with a posture ...

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