Church Articles

6 Steps to Maintaining Progressive Leadership

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Leaders come and go. Their seasons change, their circle of influence changes and their challenges change. Some rise to the top and others slowly drift away. What is the difference in the mindset of a leader that never stops stretching and is resilient compared to a leader that gets buried in crisis, personal struggles or loss of motivation and passion? Why are some leaders stirred to move forward and some shaken by the number of challenges and problems facing them? How do you become a leader that rises to the challenge regardless of the season you are in?

1. Develop A Personal Growth Plan

I became a Senior Pastor at 23 years old and I knew right away that I had no idea what I was doing. I needed to figure out how to lead and fast. So I began to read like never before. I listened to every great leader I could, trying to get as much information into my brain as possible

The key to stretching yourself and growing as a leader is to develop a consistent personal growth plan. When you do, it is inevitable that those you lead will grow. Maybe not immediately, and certainly not as fast as all of us would like, but they will grow.

What are you going to do daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to grow yourself?

2. Retrain Your Brain

We all battle indecision and procrastination at some point. The key to pushing yourself through is to trick your brain into thinking differently. I think that is what Paul meant when he coined the phrase “renewing the mind.”

Each one of us has to do some self-study to determine what works best. For me, one of the best methods is utilizing my calendar. I find that when I place things directly into my calendar instead of on a to-do list, I am more likely to get right to it.

Allowing yourself blocks of uninterrupted time keeps you moving in one direction. I utilize weekly routines, categorizing my days into blocks of time. This allows me to be consistent each week with what I am focused on. For example, I block Monday’s for message prep, instead of procrastinating and getting my message done later in the week.

3. Realize the Importance of Re-creation.

I used to just rest. I would sleep in really late on my day off and then go to the couch and watch movies or play video games all day. There was no focused purpose behind it and afterwards, I found myself more tired, stressed, and less able to focus. The truth is, I was neglecting myself, my health, my family, and my church.

I decided that I needed to do more than just rest, I needed to recreate. Recreation is re-creating yourself. So, instead of watching movies and lazing around all day, I decided to activate the brain instead.

On my days off, I added reading and family time into my calendar. I take my kids out on daddy dates in the morning, I date my wife in the evening, and I will take 3-4 hours in the afternoon to sit in a coffee shop somewhere with a good coffee and a good book and feed my brain instead of starving it.

I began looking forward to getting back to work and felt energized and full of new ideas. Doing this as a regular habit created a way for me to regularly regain and re-engineer my own passions.

Determine what recreates you and then put that into your regular weekly routine. By recreating, you draw from every area of your life and you become energized.

4. Lead With Vision

It is too easy for leaders to react to what’s going on around them, to allow the whirlwind of priorities to distract them from advancing their vision. I believe there are four deadly “D’s” in leadership that we all need focus on overcoming:

Distractions.

The more success you have, the more distractions tend to come your way. It’s important to ask yourself with every decision, “Will this opportunity benefit the big picture of the organization and its vision, or is it a distraction?”

Discouragements.

Every leader battles discouragement. It’s going to happen. And it is usually the result of the regular pressures of being a leader. That’s why it is so important to regularly “re-create” yourself and find a way to refuel and re-fire.

Divisions.

Divisions come when there are multiple visions. Multiple visions tend to occur when we become distracted by pressure and reactive instead of leading and advancing with the focused vision.

Disengagement.

If I feel myself disengaging from God, people, or the vision I know that there is a problem. This is most likely because I have lost focus, got distracted, or lost momentum because I was overcome by the pressures. Again, I need to reflect, regroup, or recreate to get my passion hot again.

5. Address the Warning Signs

When you begin to echo the language of disappointment, discouragement and depression, you may be on the brink of burnout.

Learn to read the physical signs. If I am needing more and more coffee just to stay alert in a day, that’s not good. If I just can’t seem to get enough sleep, that’s not good. If it gets harder and harder to spring out of bed in the morning, that’s not good.

I have learned over the years of doing ministry to know the seasons in the year when, no matter how disciplined I am in my weekly recreation time, I find myself just plain tired. My wife and I schedule regular holidays in those seasons for rest and recreation.

6. Develop Your Team

Realize that EQ — or emotional quotient — is more important than IQ, talent, or skills. When hiring and working with my staff, I try to surround myself with leaders who have high EQ. Skills and talent are important, but they are easier to teach and train into someone than EQ. That’s the first step.

The second one is to regularly teach your people the value of a personal growth plan. Hold them accountable for growing themselves. If leadership stops growing, our organization will stop growing. So, I regularly ask them about their growth plan. I regularly resource them with books, podcasts, or conferences to keep them stirred.

Thirdly, I regularly give them projects that will challenge and stretch them. I believe it was Noel Tichy who said: Winning leaders push people not just to memorize the organization’s values but to wrestle with them, to internalize and use them.” He advocates putting people “in progressively more difficult situations where they have to make decisions, and then give feedback and support.”

This keeps them stirred and engaged.

 

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming article, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

7 Toxic Leadership Personalities

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We all want to be strong leaders, but we often have tendencies that can prevent us from reaching our full potential. Some tend to care too much what people think, others have dangerous emotional problems, and many lack organizational skills. Today we are discussing seven dangerous personalities leaders are at risk of adopting and how you can prevent yourself from becoming like any of them. 

1. The People Pleaser

Have you ever worked with a leader who just wanted to be liked, to fit in, to be loved? They are great to be around but their weakness is usually in holding people accountable, making the hard calls and being decisive. If this is you, or you know someone like this, it's important to help this people pleaser type to see the bigger picture that produces results. 

I think it is good to study decisive people. Ask them how they do it and what kind of results they get by making the hard calls or by holding their team to account. When you study the results, you will quickly discover that these leaders are usually well respected and liked by their team and, in fact, their team seems to thrive in an accountable environment. 

2. The Isolationist

Let’s pick on the leader who isolates themselves from their team.  Not only do they shut out their best people’s input, but their disconnect may cause them to over-promise and under-deliver. 

I've never understood leaders who isolate themselves from the people. Leaders who need to be separated from their people won’t be leading long because they won’t be able to keep the pulse of their organization or hear the heart of the ones they lead. They will make visionary decisions based on their feelings instead of the feelings of the people they lead. It is vital a leader stays connected with their people.

3. The Coaster

What about the leader who is coasting to the finish line? They have grown complacent, stopped learning and are totally invested in maintaining the status quo of their business, organization or church’s glory days.  They have probably lost their “first love” but carry on as if changing is out of the question.

It’s not natural for a leader to coast. Leaders hold the vision which is always progressive and forward moving. Once the leader doesn’t have the vision he is not the leader anymore. So, maybe their assignment is up. If it is, who would be the obvious replacement? Most times, leaders don’t have one.

A leader is often energized by a new challenge. Find where the new challenge is and if it is in your current organization, stay. If it is outside your organization, prepare to leave responsibly.

4. The Exploder

Have you ever had a leader turn on you, going into a rage in front of the whole team? Leaders who are lacking in emotional intelligence are toxic not only to their team but to themselves as well.  This weakness in a leader often goes unchecked because people fear them. It's often easy to recognize in others, but it's harder to identify in yourself.

I recently listened to a podcast by Pastor Craig Groeschel entitled “Fire Your Inner Boss.” In it, he described the difference between a boss and a leader. He said:

  1. A boss instills fear while a leader inspires confidence.
  2. A boss assigns blame while a leader takes responsibility.
  3. A boss demands loyalty while a leader extends trust.
  4. A boss controls people while a leader empowers people.
  5. A boss is often guarded whereas a leader is transparent.

He said we can have control or we can have growth, but we can’t have both. Isn’t that powerful? I think my favourite quote in the podcast was “Position may give you power to control, but trust will give you permission to lead.

I think as leaders, we need to look at this list and ask ourselves if we are bosses or leaders to our people. And if you dare, ask your team which one you are — a boss or a leader?

[bctt tweet="We can have control or we can have growth, but we can’t have both. @craiggroeschel" via="no"]

5. The Bad Communicator

One of the major blindspots in leadership on multiple levels centres around communication. When communication is a weakness, it is often because what leaders think is enough communication is not what their team, board or stakeholders would consider being enough. 

I think communication is always a skill we as leaders should be working on and improving in. Our success and our organization’s success depends on it. Remember, successful communication is not what I think I said, but instead what the receiver understood I said.

[bctt tweet="Successful communication is not what I think I said, but what the receiver understood I said." username="kellystickel"]

So, if there is a breakdown in the reception of the message, then it is my fault regardless of how well I thought I communicated it. I must communicate to them in a way that they understand — whoever 'they' is. That is a continual learning process for all of us.

6. The Poor Planner

Strategic thinking is a vital skill set in organizations today because everything is moving so quickly. Change is constant, opportunities are plentiful, but leaders who are limited to managerial thinking rather than strategic thinking fall into an area of weakness. This weakness can jeopardize everything they’ve worked for. Some may even be blindsided by this weakness.   

If you are a leader and you are not naturally strategic in your thinking, then I would say one of your first hires should be someone who is naturally strategic. Listen to them and pull on this gift. The ultimate decision will be yours, but the idea was theirs. You don’t always have to be the idea-man to be the leader, you just need to be the one who knows which idea to follow and which one to avoid. That is usually trial and error. When it works, give your strategist the credit. When it fails, you take the blame, because you made the call to go with it. That’s what a leader does.

7. The Cultural Drifter

In leadership today the term “culture” is of constant discussion. Andy Stanley says the longer a leader is in an organization the more they don’t see the culture they are in. At MyVictory we constantly fight to prevent drifting in our culture, constantly evaluate everything we’re doing, and constantly incorporate better ways of doing what we do. Leaders who don’t understand the significance of culture may be blinded to their weakness in this area.  

This weakness in creating culture is detrimental to leadership today, especially in the church. Every organization, every family, every church has a culture. Culture either happens by design or by default. But culture is powerful. It is more powerful than vision or strategies.

[bctt tweet="Culture either happens by design or by default." username="kellystickel"]

The right vision in a wrong culture is doomed to fail. I think every leader must learn how to recognize and design culture in order to see their visions come to life. For pastors, I’d recommend starting with Sam Chand’s book “Cracking Your Church's Culture Code” to better understand how to design the culture of your church. You won’t get very far as a leader without truly understanding culture.

Pastors, we all need you to be successful and go far because the church is the hope of the world and we are on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming article, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

6 Benefits of Reading the Bible Daily

For some reason, the Bible has become less and less important in the daily lives of believers. This seems especially true of believers in the Western world. While many parts of the world are desperate to get their hands on the Word of God, Western believers have easy access to the Word and yet many are neglecting the daily discipline of reading the Bible. Why is this?

One reason we may be less inclined to regularly feed on the Word is because we have forgotten the benefits this daily discipline affords us. For those of us who have forgotten these benefits, here are 6 benefits the Word promises we will receive:

  1. It gives you the power to overcome sin. Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Have you ever felt like the apostle Paul in Romans 7 who cried out "why do I do the things I know not to do, and the things I know I should do, I don't." I know I have. And in those times, it is easy to resort to prayer for an answer. Yet the Psalmist proclaims that the way to overcome sin, is to get the Word into our hearts.
  2. It gives you direction and clarity for your future. Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." Again, when I am searching for the right answer or for direction in my life, it is easy to fall back on prayer. While praying is never wrong, again the Psalmist says that the Word is the right tool when needing direction or an answer. And it's true! Many times I have been stumped with what to do or where to go, and I will read something in the Word that will give the answer to the questions I am asking. That is why I have made it a habit of reading a chapter in Proverbs every day. There is too many answers in that book alone to ignore!
  3. It is your weapon against temptation. Matthew 4:3-4 says, The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Jesus used the Word as His weapon to fend off the devil's temptations. He had the Word memorized and unleashed the right verse that would counter the specific lie the enemy was trying to sell Him. This is how we should overcome the temptations we regularly face. Again, it comes to depositing the Word into our hearts and memorizing the Word in our minds.
  4. It will bring you freedom from hurts, habits, and hang-ups. John 8:31-32 says, So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” The key word in this verse is "continue." Jesus said if we continue in His Word. That means regularly feeding on it, not just reading it once. If we continue in His Word we will transform our thinking to His thinking and this will bring the truth that will set us free from whatever bondage we are facing.
  5. It will lead you to prosperity and success. Joshua 1:8 says, "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." God promised Joshua success and prosperity if he would continue in His Word, meditating and memorizing and speaking it regularly. I've found this to be true. God's systems, as revealed in the Word, don't always make sense in the natural, but for some reason they always lead to good things. When we begin to see as God sees we will do as God does, and this can only lead to prosperity and success.
  6. It will lead you to salvation and show you how to live God's way. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us." The Bible will show you the way to eternal salvation and to living a righteous life, which simply means a life that is right standing with God. You will find your destiny here and will become eligible for all of the above benefits.

I would encourage everyone to make a daily habit of reading and studying God's Word. If you don't have a Bible, you can order one here. Don't hesitate, start today! And watch what God will do in your life.

Question: What other benefits can you think of? Please comment below in the "Leave a Reply" box. Thank you.

Messy Christianity

One of my spiritual hero’s was John Wimber. He is widely known as the founder of the Vineyard movement of churches. One of the things I respect most about him is that it was said of him when he pastored his first church, he created the substantial growth of 7 other churches in his city because he was leading so many people to the Lord. He was a very enthusiastic evangelist, right from his own conversion in the early 1960’s.

John Wimber was a famous producer in the music industry in the early ’60’s before he became a pastor. Within a few years of his conversion to Christ, he was approached by the Beatles and asked to produce one of their albums. He consulted with the church he was attending and was told that he shouldn’t associate himself with them and strongly advised to not accept the offer. Knowing the type of passionate believer and evangelist John was, what if he had taken the gig? What could have happened if he had been allowed to work with and influence the world’s most popular and listened to group?

Have you heard the statement, “We are in the world, but not of the world?” What does it mean? I grew up in a Christian school. We were taught it meant to remain separate from the world. We were not allowed to dress like them or look like them. I was told that my hair shouldn’t touch my collar. We were taught to never listen to the world’s music. In fact, we were taught that rock ‘n roll in general was evil, even if it had Christian lyrics. It created an us vs. them mentality.

Of course, my teachers had many scriptures to back up their claims. Verses like 1 John 2:15, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."  And James 4:4, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

But what do we do with scriptures like John 3:16-17, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him."  Or John 9:5, "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."

Is the Bible setting a double standard? Have you ever battled this tension? Have you ever felt that to be more “holy” you had to further distance yourself from the world and especially those who think like the world? I know I have. And then I read about Jesus, who was called a “friend of sinners”, and hung out with those who were some of the most worldly thinkers of the day. And He led his disciples to do the same!

I know for me, I’ve always been afraid of being tainted by the world, of slipping into sin, of backsliding, of losing holiness and of disappointing God. But in the Bible we get an incredible insight into the private thoughts of Jesus. We get to listen in on one of his prayers in John 17:13-18. He doesn't share these same fears. Instead He prayed, "But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”

There it is! There’s the tension we’re talking about. The tension of being “in the world" but "not of the world." What do you think it means? How do we effectively reach the world without being tainted by it? Does Jesus expectation of us living clean mean that we avoid the messiness of the lives around us?

Are Our Traditions in the Way?

I think one of the most entertaining chapters in all the Bible is Acts 15. It tells the story of the one of the early churches first Board Meetings. And you'll never believe what the topic was!

The Apostle Paul was in the height of his church planting ministry and he was traveling from city to city seeing huge results. Many were being added to the church. Many leaders were being raised up. And there were many miracles. However, a group of zealous Jewish believers were following behind Paul and taking it upon themselves to "disciple" the new converts. One of their main objectives was to ensure that all of the believers, Jews and non-Jews, understood that Christianity was a Jewish religion and that it required every believer to adhere to the full Jewish law. And yes, this included circumcision.

What a crazy notion! And yet, it caused such a stir for "the Way" that the leadership of the early Christian movement had to gather together in Jerusalem to debate the topic. Everyone attending was passionate about preaching Jesus and no one was questioning the message of Christ. The major discrepancy was over their methods of discipleship.  There were those on one side, who believed that the Jewish law was the inspired Word of God and was to be adhered to by all men, Jew and Gentile. And then there were those on the other side, who understood the law to be for the Jewish people predating the arrival of the Messiah. And that while it was to be valued, it was not pertinent to salvation and believing in Jesus. After all, Jesus Himself had said He fulfilled the law. So, who was right?

I want you to take a moment to read the minutes of this meeting yourself. (Acts 15)

There is one verse in this chapter that leaps off the page at me every time I read it. Did you catch it, too? It's verse 19. After all of the discussion and the arguments back and forth, James the brother of Jesus, stands up and says, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God."

As ridiculous as it seems to us today to be debating over physical circumcision as a requirement for salvation. There's something about this chapter that is eerily familiar. Verse 19 in particular caused me to ask, "What traditions do I hold dear today that are making it difficult for outsiders to believe in Jesus?"

I've moved past the surgery or no surgery part of the discipleship process, but I have my own church traditions that I value. Are any of my "methods" hindering others from entering a relationship with Jesus?

When Mahatma Gandhi was asked how Christian Missionaries could make more of an impact on his nation of India, he replied “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Do you think that is true? What traditions do we, the Church, have that could be hindering outsiders from coming to Jesus? I know our message is sacred, but do you think it's time we start messin' with our methods?

Do We Need to Lose Our Religion?

“The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”

~ Dr. Timothy Keller ~

There are many differences between Jesus' ministry and my own, but one really stands out to me. Jesus had an uncanny ability to attract the outcasts, outsiders whom the mainstream of society rejected. He loved them and they loved him.

If I am to be honest, the people I feel most comfortable with and the ones who are mostly attracted to me and my ministry are not the same types of people that were drawn to Jesus. According to Dr. Timothy Keller, I must not have the same focus Jesus had or be preaching the same message Jesus preached. Have I been too concerned about keeping the insiders happy? Have I been too focused on my own comfortability and preferences? Have I become religious instead of relational?

Most outsiders are opposed today to religion, and to the church - but the fact is, Christianity was never designed to be a religion. It’s hard for us to realize this today, but when Christianity first arose in the world it was not called a religion. It was the non-religion.

The Roman’s used to call the early church “atheists” because what the Christians were saying about spiritual reality was unique and could not be classified with the other religions of the world. The irony of this should not be lost on us. To most people in our society today, Christianity is religion. The only alternative to it (besides some other world religion) is secularism. But from the beginning it was not so. Christianity was something else entirely.

The crucial point here is that, in general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him. We see this through many New Testament accounts of Jesus’ life.

One time, after Jesus first called Matthew to be his disciple, he encouraged Matthew to throw a party for all of his "outsider" friends. The religious crowd was really upset that a Rabbi would behave in such a way. The story reads;

"Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew's house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. 'What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?' Jesus, overhearing, shot back, 'Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.'" (Matthew 9:10-13 Msg)

Jesus had a clear focus. A clear WHY. He was focused on outsiders. He desired relationship, not religion. If we're not having the same effect, is it because we do not have the same focus? Should we check our motives, our WHY? Do we need to lose a little religion?

How to Create an Inviting Environment

Wayne Dyer, a well known author said, "All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won't succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy."

One of the most valuable foundational breakthroughs for me as a Senior Pastor occurred the day I realized that I am responsible for the environment of my church. I couldn't blame the community I was in, the people I inherited, or the money (or lack thereof) in the bank account. I couldn't be frustrated with my people any longer for not inviting the unchurched. I was responsible.

Lou Holtz, the famous Head Football Coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, said, "The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it."

I was tired of making excuses as to why my church wasn't growing and why we weren't reaching the unchurched and why our community was "such hard soil." It was time to take responsibility and do something about it.

The first thing I looked at was our services. What was the purpose of our Sunday morning service? I asked our leadership team in my first church in Canmore to study our services. We realized that we were trying too hard to please everyone. So, we decided to give our Sunday service the specific purpose of becoming a "bridge" to the unchurched community. Dr. Thomas Rainer claimed in his article Ten Surprises About the Unchurched, "Most of the unchurched prefer to attend church on Sunday morning if they attend. Perhaps the unchurched responded this way because that is the time they have always heard church should be. But when we asked the formerly unchurched (new Christians attending church) the same question, they gave us the same response."

Our focus, therefore, became to "set the table for guests" Sunday mornings. What did that mean? We all put our best foot forward when we invite guests into our homes. We clean the house, use our best china, and prepare our best meals. We decided to have a similar focus Sunday mornings. We began to evaluate our services through how effectively we were reaching outsiders.

What changed? Almost everything, to be honest.

  • We shortened the length of our service. Not because we liked it better, but because the visitors are more comfortable with a concise format.
  • We changed the type of songs we sang and became cautious of the language we used. We tried to avoid songs that were too "Christianese" in their verbiage.
  • We moved the offering to the end of the service and instructed our visitors not to give.
  • We formed a "creative team" that met weekly to plan our services and add unique elements that enhanced the message.
  • I shortened my messages and went from preaching 3-5 points to a one point sermon with a doable takeaway.

These are just a few examples of methods we messed with in our Sunday services when we gave it a purpose. The result? Not only did we become more effective at reaching outsiders, we noticed an almost immediate change with our own people. They began to attend with a purpose. We saw an increase in volunteers. There was less complaining and our church became friendlier.

What is the purpose of your Sunday services? Who are you trying to reach with them? What ideas have you used that have grown your weekly attendance?

The Secret to Exponential Growth

Pastors, what if I could give you a secret that would increase the income in your church by 416%? What if I could guarantee a way to increase your parishioners sharing their faith with others by 228%? What if the same secret would be a key to increasing the discipleship in your church by 231%? Would you be interested? Do I have your attention, yet? Bible_Reading_Guy

These numbers are taken from a study conducted by the Center for Bible Engagement released in August 2012. It was a survey conducted on the Key to Spiritual Growth. You can find the survey at www.centerforbibleengagement.org. The secret? These astounding numbers were caused by simply increasing the number of times individuals read the Bible in a week. The results showed a dramatic climb in spiritual growth and just as dramatic decreases in struggles and bad habits if an individual would engage in the Bible 4 times a week or more!

This begs a question be asked. If simply increasing the number of times a week an individual reads the Bible can have such a dramatic effect on their lives and on the life of a church, how do we encourage our parishioners to engage more in the Word?

You see, I think we have a major problem in our churches. For the most part, our programs and systems are producing lazy, dependent Christians. They are so dependent on Pastors and Teachers feeding them the Word, that they have stopped feeding themselves. There is nothing wrong with being fed from great preachers, I make a habit of listening to 2-4 sermons a week myself. However, I've noticed that over the last few decades there has been a steady decline in the emphasis of daily devotions and personal Bible study. More and more, I am finding believers who struggle with a daily routine of reading the Word. Yet, such a habit can be life changing. Just read the above survey and read the results yourself!

But we don't need a survey to tell us these things. The Bible, itself tells us the same. Look what James wrote in James 1:25.

But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

James tells us there are 4 things we need to do if we desire to be blessed in all that we do.

  1. We need to READ the Word intently. (whoever looks intently in the perfect law) What if we helped our parishioners engage in daily reading plans? It could change their lives!
  2. We need to REVIEW the Word. (and continues in it) Reviewing the Word is studying the Word. It's a step deeper than just reading. One of the best ways to examine the Word and study it is by engaging in meaningful discussion with others. What if we helped our people establish small groups to do just that, discuss and study the Word together?
  3. We need to REMEMBER the Word. (not forgetting what they heard) One of the most significant spiritual practices is Bible memory. Quoting verses like Jesus did to his tempter, is one of the best ways to overcome temptation. The only way to do that is through memorization. What if we encouraged people to memorize a verse a week?
  4. We need to RESPOND to the Word. (but doing it) This is an active faith. What if we created opportunities for our people to act on the Word they've just been taught?

These steps and corresponding questions are something me and my staff are discussing right now. We are trying to discover the best way to encourage Bible engagement among our people. Because we believe, as the Bible tells us that it is the best way for them to be blessed in what they do.

Question: How many times a week do you read the Bible personally?

How to Invite Your Friends to Church

"Ninety-six percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if they are invited." Dr. Thomas Rainer made this claim in his article Ten Surprises About the Unchurched - Understanding their Hearts and Minds posted 7/11/2007.

The next obvious question is: Are Christians inviting non-Christians to church? The heartbreaking answer is "no." Rainer claims that only 21 percent of active churchgoers invite anyone to church in the course of a year. But only 2 percent of the church members invited an unchurched person to church. That's sad! Why do you think this is? A simple invite can go a long way.

One excuse might be that we're too afraid to invite. I like a basic four-step relational formula that helps remove some of my fear because it's so simple.

It's based on a concept I heard a while ago that explains four levels of relationships:

  1. The Sidewalk Stage This is the basic stranger relationship. If you took your trash to the curb and someone was walking by on the sidewalk in front of your house, how would the conversation go? It would be primitive, shallow, and probably about the weather. You may not ever get their name, but you smiled, were friendly, and conversational.
  2. The Porch Stage If the sidewalk contact were to happen on a regular basis, eventually you would get the individual's name and the conversations would begin to extend beyond just the weather. They would extend in length and eventually the person may enter your yard, just to connect with you. The relationship is developing and may or may not go any further.
  3. The Living Room Stage If a porch relationship continued to develop, a friendship would begin. At this point you may invite this new found friend into your home. The conversations would continue to go deeper and yet, still not intimate. At this point, you are serving your friend and they are welcome guests into your home and life.
  4. The Kitchen Stage As the relationship continued to develop and the Living Room visits became more frequent, the conversations would become more intimate. At this point, you move beyond serving a guest and into close friends. Close friends and family are welcome into the kitchen and begin to assist in preparing the meal and helping with clean-up. Isn't it true? When we have family over for Christmas dinner, don't you find that often the best and deepest conversations occur in the kitchen as we work together toward a common end.

I've applied these four levels into my own life and experience and I have taught them to our church. I encourage people to invest in a relationship so that it progresses through the levels, stressing not to extend an invite to church until the relationship has at least comfortably moved to the Living Room stage. It's simple. It's comfortable. And, I've found that it works.

When is the last time you have invited an unchurched person to church? It could make the difference in the eternal destiny of a person. Try the four levels. It may be that simple, and it may be that profound.

Three Keys to Consistently Reaching the Unchurched

We recorded 415 salvations in our Sunday morning services in 2014. How have we done that? Here are a few HOWs to our WHY of "reaching every available person by every available means at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

  1. Create a welcoming "grace-based" culture. We often quote the slogan "No Perfect People Allowed." It is based on John Burke's book by the same title. It is a constant reminder to us that none of us are perfect and have it all together, and therefore we shouldn't expect every one entering our church to be perfect either. Being judgmental is one of the greatest repellants for the unchurched. Our job isn't to convict sinners, that's the Holy Spirit's job. Our job is to lead people to Jesus. We don't want our desire for "neatness" and perfection in the church to hinder anyone from coming to Christ. Our determination to err on the side of grace is based on James' declaration to the early church leaders in Acts 15:19 when he said, “we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God." Is the culture you're creating judgmental or is it safe for the unchurched?
  2. Just ask. I had a friend in High School commit suicide when I was 18. His death rocked my world. But what was most difficult for me was the haunting feeling I had when I realized that in our 3 year relationship, not once had I ever told him about Jesus! I knew the Hope he was looking for and I was too embarrassed and too afraid of his rejection to tell him. I determined, from that point on, I would dedicate my life to introducing people to Jesus, the Hope of the world. I try not to allow a service to go by where I don't invite people to pray the prayer of salvation. Even when I know everyone in the audience, I still pray the prayer with the people. Why? Because I want our church to know that without exception, every single service provides an opportunity for their friends, family members, or co-workers to meet Jesus. The result? Our people feel comfortable to invite their unchurched loved ones to church and many are saved. I know it's not very earth shattering, but a great way to begin seeing salvations in your church is to just provide the opportunity.  Just ask.
  3. Teach people to invite. Our people love inviting people to church because they know it's safe and that every service provides an opportunity for salvation. However, we go out of our way to teach them how to invite. We have a saying we use called "Invest and Invite." And it simply means to authentically invest in a relationship with someone who is unchurched and when the time is right, invite them to church. Thom Rainer published a statistic a couple of years ago that claimed 96% of people would attend church if they were invited by a friend. It is worth teaching our people to invite.

There are a myriad of other little things we do on a regular basis to attract the unchurched, but these are the main three elements. Notice, it's not about fancy advertising or big budgets. These are transferable to any church. So, how's your reach?

10 Ways to Attract and Keep Volunteers

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Church growth expert and mentor to over 4000 pastors, the late Jack Whitesell, once told me that for every one active volunteer, the church has the ability to effectively minister to 6-8 people! In other words, the church cannot function or grow without volunteers. But volunteers are often difficult to lead and even more difficult to recruit. This is one of the greatest frustrations and problems pastors face. So, here are 10 ways to attract and keep volunteers. 10 Ways to Attract and Keep Volunteers:

  1. Identify their strengths and find the right fit for them. A volunteers growth potential is unlimited inside their strength zone, however outside of their strengths their growth potential is nil. Therefore, as early as you can try to discover your volunteer recruit's strengths and match them to the appropriate tasks.
  2. Recruit them with a personal ask. Many believe the best way to recruit volunteers is from the pulpit. In actuality, the most proven method of recruiting is still the personal ask. The majority of individuals will say yes when approached personally and are asked by a trusted individual.
  3. Tell them the difference they can make by getting involved. Don't just announce a position vacancy. This by itself is not enough to compel most people to become involved. Everybody wants to know that what they are giving their time to is making a difference. When you recruit someone personally, make sure you tell them how they will be making a difference. Often the best way to explain this is with stories and testimonies.
  4. Resist the urge to be need focused. Don't fill a position with just anybody because there is a need. If you don't have the right person with the right set of skills to fill the position, I have found that it is simply better to not run a program in that area of lack than it is to fill it with the wrong person.
  5. A positive atmosphere from current volunteers will attract others. Your best recruiters are your current volunteers. Everybody is attracted to places where there is fun and excitement. If your current volunteers are having fun, are positive and excited about their current roles, others will automatically be drawn to join your team. Therefore, it is vital to treat your current volunteers right and to make their job as positive an experience as you can and when you do, you will seldom lack recruits.
  6. Effectively skill develop the recruited. One of the best ways to keep your current volunteers happy and engaged is with proper training. There is nothing more frustrating than being asked to do a job and then not being adequately equipped to fulfill your duties. Treat your volunteers as you would your most valuable staff (because they are!) and provide the highest quality of training you possibly can.
  7. Maintain a high motivation of the recruited by celebrating their victories. Catch your volunteers doing something right and then make sure you celebrate them and their achievements! But, I would caution you to reward individuals privately and teams publicly. If you make a habit of rewarding individuals publicly you will create a culture of unhealthy competition among the rest of your volunteers and your efforts to motivated will back fire.
  8. Link new volunteers to their team and supervisors
. Another common frustration among volunteers is problems that arise around communication or the lack of it. It is imperative that your new recruits are clear as to who is their direct overseer. There is nothing more frustrating for a volunteer than receiving direction from multiple sources and being unclear as to which one you are accountable to.
  9. Provide regular supervision of the deployed. A common practice in churches that frustrate volunteers is that when we find a person to fill a vacant position we think our work is done and assume they will take care of everything from here on out. This causes immense frustration for volunteers because like everyone else, they have a desire to know how they are doing and if they are doing what is expected of them.  It is imperative to provide every volunteer with ongoing training, supervision, and feedback.
  10. Creatively reward the productive.
 What gets rewarded gets repeated.
 Volunteers don’t get paid but they don’t work for free either. Find creative ways to reward your volunteers just for the time they willingly give regularly for the cause.

Question: What have you found that helps attract and keep volunteers in your organization?

Great Vision Requires Great Partners

The prophet Elisha spent a great deal of time learning from his predecessor Elijah, being mentored by the old prophet, seeing him stand up to wicked kings and queens, watching him preform extraordinary miracles. Then one day God raised the stakes for Elisha himself. 2 Kings 2:1-2 (NIV) When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

Two more times the old prophet asks his young apprentice to stay behind. And twice more, Elisha refuses to listen and continues on with the old man. Sometimes good things happen to people just simply because they continue on and refuse to quit, even when everything and everyone is telling them to.

page_image_partners The Bible tells us that Elisha wasn’t the old prophet’s first apprentice. Elijah’s first servant abandoned him in 1 Kings 19:3 when he was running from Jezebel.

1 Kings 19:3 (NIV) Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there,

The key word in this verse is the word “servant.” There’s a big difference between a servant and a partner! In 2 Kings 2 Elisha goes on to inherit Elijah’s ministry and double his anointing. I can’t help but think, what would have happened if Elijah’s first servant would have stuck with Elijah no matter what? Maybe we would know his name, too.

Here is what we can learn from Elisha:

1. Servants commit but partner covenant.
 Covenant is a word we often associate with marriage. And so we should. A marriage isn’t a contract between two people that lasts until something goes wrong. It’s a covenant that stands “until death do us part.” This was Elisha’s stance. He covenanted to Elijah to stick with him through thick and thin, and he did and he received Elijah’s highest blessing because of that stand.

2. Servants live for immediate return but partners see the big picture.
 Servants obey. It’s their job to obey. It’s interesting that Elisha directly disobeyed Elijah’s instructions. He could have been severely punished for this behavior, but he was willing to risk it for the bigger picture. Elijah needed him even if Elijah didn’t know it at the time. Elisha was willing to risk short term loss for long-term gain.

3. Servants will be there in the good times but partners will stick with you through through the bad times, too!
 It’s easy to stand by someone when things are going good. I’m sure Elijah’s first servant loved being seen with Elijah during his stand on Mt. Carmel. But as soon as Jezebel turned on Elijah his servant was morn than happy to part ways. Similar uncertainty surrounded Elijah and Elisha in our story, and yet Elisha refused to abandon his master. And his loyalty was justly rewarded!

4. Servants are in it for themselves but partners sacrifice for each other and for the greater cause! If you read further on in 2 Kings 2, you will discover that 50 prophets were following Elijah and Elisha at a distance. They were more than happy to chime in their concerns to Elisha about his master Elijah. Yet, Elisha ignored their rebukes and pressed on for his master. Elisha wasn’t looking to be popular with the prophets, he was committed to a great cause. And the greater cause in the moment was Elijah. Elijah needed him, so he stayed.

I was with Dr. George Hill in Nairobi, Kenya recently and we saw a billboard that read, “Great Vision requires Great Partners.” How true! In fact, the greater the vision, the greater the partners it requires. Elijah had a great partner and the vision carried on with greater strength because of it.

Question: Are you a partner to your church and pastor? or just a servant?

How to Create a Positive Growth Environment

In one of his latest podcasts, Dr. John C. Maxwell briefly touched on a list he had written years ago on the 10 ways to recognize a healthy growth environment. I found the list inspiring and it reminded me of Paul's challenge to pastors in Ephesians 4 when he instructed us to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry." The word equip means skill development. In short, our role as pastors is to create a positive growth environment for our people to develop in the skills of ministering to their community. growth environment

Here is Maxwell's list with a few of my thoughts thrown in.

10 ways to recognize a healthy growth environment:

1. Others are ahead of you.

We as pastors need to continually push ourselves ahead of our people. This means we must be personally growing. We are to be the models and examples of ministry to our people. Do you do all of the ministry in your church, or do you develop your people to do the work of the ministry?

2. You are continually challenged.

There are many pastors who are afraid to challenge their people. They feel if they challenge them, they will lose them. What I have discovered is you will lose people either way, it's just the nature of ministry. However, you chose who you lose. If you challenge them, you will lose the uncommitted follower types. If you don't challenge them you will lose your committed leader types. When is the last time you challenged your church?

3. Your focus is forward.

Too many pastors lead by reaction rather than leading with vision. If you are constantly making decisions based on your past or current problems you are leading by reaction. If your church celebrates it's past more than it's future, you have a major problem. The best leaders focus ahead and lead with foresight. Where is your focus?

4. The atmosphere is affirming.

One of the greatest ways to repeat your vision is by celebrating your victories. What is celebrated will get repeated. It's easy to see what is going wrong, but what if you could catch your people doing something right?  When you do, celebrate it! It will get repeated.

5. You're often out of your comfort zone.

I go to the gym 3 times a week to be worked out by my trainer. The reason I still employ a trainer, after years of being at the gym, is because a trainer has the ability to push me further than I think I can go on my own. In the same way, I believe we as pastors are called by God to challenge our people to ministry they wouldn't necessary feel comfortable doing on their own.

6. You wake up excited.

How would you rate the expectation of the people in your church? Are they excited about what you're doing and for what is coming? Or, do they attend out of pure obligation? It's important to keep a pulse on the expectation level. If it drops, you may need to shake something up to keep their anticipation up.

7. Failure is not your enemy.

In the church world, we are guilty of thinking that failure is fatal. When we do, we stop moving forward. As my mentor, Dr. George Hill often says, "the greatest risk of all is a life of riskless living." In your church, are people willing to take risks?

8. Others are growing.

The Bible calls growth "fruit." In fact, it says that we should judge everything "by it's fruit." How is your fruit? You can judge your ministry right away by the fruit it is producing. Are people growing? If so, celebrate their growth! Use their examples in testimonies. Again, what you celebrate will be repeated.

9. People desire change.

To most churches, change is a four letter word. The last thing they want is change. Yet, John Maxwell says if you are in a growth environment, people will desire change. It is a good idea to get your people used to change. This takes creativity. Being creative means to be consistently inconsistent, predicably unpredicable, to be on the radical edge of change. When is the last time your church did something for the first time?

10. Growth is modeled and expected.

I am shocked how many pastors and churches are content with maintaining what they already have. Jesus gave us a huge warning about this mentality in the parable of the talents. He called the one who maintained "wicked and lazy", took what he had and gave it to one who doubled what he had, and then threw the maintainer into a place where there was "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Yikes! I don't want to be a maintainer!

Based on this list, how would you rate your church? Pastors, I would recommend asking your board, staff, and/or key volunteer leaders to rate each point on a scale of 1-10. How effective is your church at raising up leaders?

10 Surprises from the Unchurched

On July 11, 2007 Dr. Thomas Rainer posted these 10 statistics after undertaking an extensive study among thousands of the unchurched. He called them the 10 Surprises. And they are truly surprising! Here they are: invite

Surprise No. 1 Most of the unchurched prefer to attend church on Sunday morning if they attend.

Surprise No. 2 Most of the unchurched feel guilty about not attending church.

Surprise No. 3 Ninety-six percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if they are invited.

Surprise No. 4 Very few of the unchurched had someone share with them how to become a Christian. And Christians have not been particularly influential in their lives.

Surprise No. 5 Most of the unchurched have a positive view of pastors, ministers and the church.

Surprise No. 6 Many of the unchurched have a church background.

Surprise No. 7 Some types of "cold calls" are effective; many are not.

Surprise No. 8 The unchurched would like to develop a real and sincere relationship with a Christian.

Surprise No. 9 The attitudes of the unchurched are not correlated to where they live, their ethnic or racial background, or their gender.

Surprise No. 10 Many of the unchurched are far more concerned about the spiritual well-being of their children than themselves.

The one that stands out to me the most is Surprise No. 3. Imagine if 9 out of 10 people you invited to church responded positively! Would you be more confident to ask a coworker, family member, or neighbor to church?

This weekend is Easter Sunday. It is one of the best opportunities of the year to invite people to church. More people attend church on the Easter weekend than any other time of year, even more than Christmas. So, I want to encourage you, wherever in the world you are reading this, don't go to church this weekend alone! Invite someone who is unchurched to go with you. There's no rush quite like it!

I'm praying for you and believing with you for souls saved and lives changed this weekend! The Apostle Paul said that the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith. It's the defining proof that Jesus truly is God. Regardless of the style of your church or it's focus, I guarantee this weekend that the Gospel will be preached and that your friends and family members will hear the message and they will have an opportunity to make a decision for Christ. All you need to do is invite them!

Question: Will you message me and let me know if the person you invited this weekend to church made a decision for Christ? I would love to celebrate with you!

How Should Christians React to Starbucks

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sent a clear message of his support for gay marriage at the annual shareholders meeting last Wednesday in Seattle, telling an investor if he disagrees he should sell his shares and invest in some other company. This statement has created quite a stir among Christians on Facebook and other Social Medias. Although I don't agree with Mr. Schultz's opinions on marriage, I would like to take this opportunity to weigh in on an issue that I believe has plagued the Christian Church for some time. nf_starbucks_schultz_0325

The problem is this; most people outside of the church are more familiar with what Christians stand against than what we stand for. I know it's important for believers to make a stand for righteousness. However, Jesus made a major point to a group of Pharisees who were making a "stand for righteousness" against a woman caught in adultery. He said to them, "He who is without sin cast the first stone." In other words, we cannot demand perfection in the life of another when we ourselves are far from perfect. And we should not ever be shocked when the lost act like they're lost!

The Pharisees were notorious for their unrealistic demands for perfection, even boycotting the "sinners" and proudly labeling them as outcasts. Jesus treated these outsiders differently. He shamelessly befriended Matthew and Zacchaeus, both of whom had betrayed their Jewish roots to collect taxes on behalf of Rome. It was common practice for these tax collectors to take more from their countrymen than what Rome required so that they could line their own pockets. These men were known for their corruption and vile business practices, yet Jesus associated with them and even made Matthew one of his twelve disciples. Jesus was often seen in the company of these outcasts, tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, zealots and other notable sinners. This wasn't common behavior for a "religious" teacher.

Before we react to Mr. Schultz's comments by boycotting his company we should consider Jesus' example and follow his instructions in Matthew 5:14-15, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."

Darkness is simply the absence of light, therefore it makes sense that if we are the light of the world we should not remove ourselves from the dark places but instead invade them. A candle does not impact a room full of light, yet if you turn the lights off that same candle will brighten the entire room. We were not instructed by Jesus to boycott places where there is darkness, we were commissioned to go to them and be the light!

Am I endorsing Christians to frequent Starbucks? Not necessarily, and that's not my point. My point is simply to make us think as Christians before we react to reports like these. We need to make decisions and choose our battles in light of our mission - the great commission - and ask ourselves if taking a stand against Howard Schultz and Starbucks will help or hinder our ability to lead more people to Jesus?

Question: Do you think Christians should avoid Starbucks and other companies that make stands for gay marriages?

How to Lead Someone through the Salvation Prayer

I have been asked many times, "how do I pray the prayer of salvation?" or "How do I lead someone through the prayer of salvation?" What people are really asking is what are the right words to say? 338414875_640

Paul gave us the answer in Romans 10:9 when he penned these words,

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

In other words, there are two important parts of the prayer. 1) proclaim Jesus is God; and 2) let what you are saying come from your heart. Simply believe.

Here is an example prayer you can pray. I lead our congregation through this prayer or something similar every single Sunday in our church. Notice, how it covers the main elements of Roman 10:9 and how simple it is.

Dear Jesus, I believe that You are God, and that God raised You from the dead. I ask You now to become my God, my Savior, my Lord, and my friend. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins, for making my past past, and for giving me a fresh new start with You today. I give my heart completely to You. I am Yours. Amen.

Question: If you prayed this prayer for the first time, would you please send me a quick comment below in the "Leave a Reply" box and let me know you made this amazing decision?

Mission & Vision: Our Past and Our Future

In my last blog post, I began to describe a series of discussions me and my staff have been having in order to solidify that we are on mission. We determined that our mission was the non-negotiable mandate given to the global church by Jesus in Matthew 28:19, to "go and make disciples." Once our mission was clear and we had started with "WHY" our church existed, we turned our attention to "HOW" we would go about accomplishing this mission. Our "HOW" became our vision. mission-and-vision-your-past-does-not-need-to-be-your-future

I began the discussion by defining our vision as the contribution our congregation would make to the global church. What problem were we called to solve? What role would we play in the world-wide church?

As we began to discuss this, we quickly realized that our church has already made major contributions to the global church! We had released our founders and world-class leaders Drs. George and Hazel Hill, who have gone on to launch one of the world's fastest and most effective church planting organizations, Victory Churches International. VCI has planted churches in more than 40 nations, plus has started multiple Bible Colleges, orphanages, slum schools, safe houses, and much, much more!

Our church was also responsible for launching our nation's first and only 24 hour Christian television station, the Miracle Channel. And, played a major role in the launch of the Christian political organization the Canada Family Action Coalition. Yes, in our short 33 year history, we have had a major impact already on the global church. But was that it? Have we done our duty?

We emphatically answered, no! As we discussed what we had to contribute in the future, we noticed a clear theme from our past. When Drs. George and Hazel had planted this church, it quickly grew to be one of Canada's largest churches at the time. But it's growth was different than how other churches were growing. The majority of our growth wasn't transfer growth from other churches, it was a revival of new souls that caused this ministry to explode! We had a strong urge to go back to our roots. To recenter ourselves on the original mandate - to reach every available person, by every available means, at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We would verbalize this commitment to reach outsiders by saying "Our vision is to create a church unchurched people love to attend."

Why do we say it that way? Well, it's simple really. We believe that the natural gravitational pull on every local church is to become insider focused. Every church fights this pull. We felt the best way to keep our vision focused outwardly was to continually create environments that the unchurched would love to be a part of. Another way to say it would be simply, we desire to create environments that our members feel comfortable inviting their unchurched friends and family to. To us, this would be living with the same resolve James, the brother of Jesus, had when he declared to the early church leaders in Acts 15:19  “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God." In other words, we (the church) should not stand in the way of people coming to Jesus because we are only focused on ourselves and our wants and desires.

We felt, as a staff, that this was our contribution to the global church. This was our call and our anointing. We witnessed that last year when we held our first Redesigning Church Conference. Every church that attended boasted of immediate results in effectively reaching the unchurched. We know that we will see the same results at this year's conference for those who attend. God has given us strategies to share, strategies that gave us the ability to lead over 350 people to Jesus in 2012 and we are anticipating many more in 2013.

We're excited about the future, about creating a church unchurched people love to attend!

Question: If you have not registered for Redesigning Church Conference 2013, Feb. 1-2 - register now by clicking HERE.

Living on Mission

Is your church moving or simply meeting? Is it making a measurable difference in your local community or is it simply conducting services? Is it organized around a mission or is it organized around an antiquated ministry model inherited from a previous generation? living_on_mission

These are pretty unsettling questions, huh? Try kicking off your next staff meeting or leadership meeting with a couple of those questions and watch where the conversation goes. As uncomfortable as they are, questions like these reorient us to the mission Jesus intended when he announced the formation of his church.

Since the beginning of the New Year, me and my staff have been laboring through questions like these and more. We have been attempting to recenter ourselves on the mission. You see, I believe that the natural gravitational pull on every local church is towards it's insiders. Just read the book of Acts! The first century church that included many eyewitnesses to the resurrection, often struggled to maintain their focus and mission. What makes us think that we won't struggle with the same issues? I believe it takes great effort on the part of us as leaders to fight this natural drift and to keep the church mission focused.

Here's how we have been working it through with our team:

The first thing a local church needs to come to agreement on is the MISSION. I described the mission to our staff as the non-negotiable mandate of the global church. There wasn't much discussion over this point. We all quickly agreed that the mission for the global church was clearly given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." It's hard to argue with that! The mission of our church would simply be to make disciples.

We did however, have to discuss at length what a disciple was. How could we go and make disciples if we are unclear about what one is? We settled on a four-step process of making disciples as described by the Apostle John in 1 John 2. In his book he clearly addresses 3 distinct groups in the church. He wrote to "little children," "young men," and "fathers." We talked about each of these as being stages in a person's spiritual growth.

  1. But firstly, they must be born again.
  2. Next, they become little children. What characterizes a little child is that they are completely dependent on others feeding them and taking care of them. According to John, their biggest struggle is against sin.
  3. Those who overcome become young men. Young men are commonly characterized as independent. They have the ability to feed themselves, plus they are fighters. John characterized them as bold warriors who's biggest battle was against the evil one. He called them strong because they were full of the Word, and that's how they got to this stage.
  4. The last group he addresses is fathers. It's interesting that John didn't categorize them as old men, but instead chose to use the term father. Apparently, this category had nothing to do with age or length they had been saved. What makes a young man become a father? Simply, he has reproduced. This is a disciple who has led someone else to the Lord and this new believer is dependent upon him and he is responsible to see to it that they are fed. His battles are no longer for himself, but he fights on behalf of another.

The deeper we went into discussion about "making disciples", we became more and more confident that this was our overarching purpose as a church. Making disciples was our "WHY'. Next we would discuss "HOW" we could effectively follow this mandate.

I will go into detail of those discussions in my next post.

Question: Read 1 John 2. In which one of John's categories of maturity would you place yourself? Do you see how you could move to the next category?

Grow Yourself - Making Everyday Count

One of the most fascinating verses in the Bible is Luke 2:52. It says, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Grow-Yourself-Final

Did you catch that? It actually says that Jesus grew in wisdom. Think about that. Jesus - God in the flesh - increased in wisdom. If Jesus can grow in wisdom then how much more do I need to grow in wisdom?

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived said, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom" in Proverbs 4:7. It's interesting that Solomon placed so much value on wisdom that he actually called it the "principle thing." In other words, he is telling his readers that it should be of utmost importance in their lives. Then he says, "go get it" indicating that the pursuit of wisdom is each individual's responsibility. This seems to hint that wisdom won't automatically come with age or even with experience. No, Solomon seems to be encouraging everyone to make a life habit of the pursuit of wisdom. The fact that the Bible claims that Jesus grew in wisdom would then indicate that he made a habit of it's pursuit as well.

Leaders are called leaders because they are influential in the lives of others and as we learned from Uncle Ben in the movie Spider-man, "with great power comes great responsibility." If Solomon instructs everyone to make a habit of pursuing wisdom then it would make sense that it is of greater importance for leaders. The fact is, the moment a leader stops growing is the moment the organization stops growing.

So what does it mean to grow in wisdom? Wisdom is applied knowledge. Knowledge doesn't come for free, it must be pursued. The getting is up to us. But, just gaining knowledge is not enough, it must be appropriately applied to our lives, then it becomes wisdom.

So, the question must be asked of each of us. What are we doing daily to pursue wisdom? If our daily habits don't reflect the pursuit of wisdom, how do we get started?

I think the first step to the pursuit of wisdom is to be confident in your purpose and calling. If you are not confident in what you are called to do, you will be less passionate about the pursuit of wisdom. If you are unsure of what you are called to do, I would encourage you to answer the 8 questions Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy ask in the Life Plan Summary as a great start to defining your purpose.

I would encourage you to invest the time to answer these 8 questions and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you in this process. For many of you, this may be a pivotal moment in your life, so don't take it lightly. Be as thorough as you can be.

Once you have a Life Plan clearly established, you will be able to make daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly habits that will greatly enhance your pursuit of wisdom. Your daily habits form your future. So get started today on developing the future you have only dreamed about.

Question: How do you regularly grow yourself in knowledge and wisdom?

Recommended book: The 15 Invaluable Laws of Personal Growth by John Maxwell

Redesigning Church - Part 4

“Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”~ Dr. Timothy Keller ~

Since it's inception, the church has struggled with the natural pull toward insiders. Acts 15 reveals this natural pull. Church history tells tales of this insider focus. Today, we struggle with the same natural pull and as a result we are less effective in reaching outsiders than we should be. So, how do we combat an insider focus? How can we continue to reach outsiders while at the same time minister effectively to those already inside our churches?

I believe one of the best ways to maintain a healthy tension between effectively reaching outsiders while ministering depth to insiders is by focusing on a balanced growth in these 9 areas.

  1. Grow Yourself - the leader must grow. John Maxwell says, "Everything rises and falls on leadership." It is true. When the pastor stops growing the church will stop growing. It is therefore imperative that the leader continually grow.
  2. Grow Your Leadership Team - the staff and chief volunteers must grow. It has been said that "One is too small a number to achieve greatness." If this is true, and I certainly believe it is, then it is vital our teams grow as well. This is only possible if there is an intentional leadership development. It doesn't just happen.
  3. Grow Your Systems - as the organization grows the systems must grow with it. Systems don't grow churches, leaders do. But poor systems can certainly hinder churches from growing.
  4. Grow Your Numbers - numerical growth should be expected. While many place their sole focus on numerical growth, it is only one of the 9 areas that must grow. At the opposite end of the spectrum their are some who minimize the importance of numbers, yet Jesus and the disciples seemed to think it was important. They counted everything. There were 12 disciples, 70 in the inner circle, 500 at his ascension, 120 in the upper room, 3000 were saved in Peter's first sermon, and of course the feeding of the 5000. You get the point.
  5. Grow Your Income - the finances of the church must grow. Having an abundance of finances certainly doesn't guarantee your church will grow, however, a lack of finances will hinder your church's ability to grow.
  6. Grow the Expectations of your people - do your people come expectant to your services? Have you ever noticed that their seems to be a deeper anointing on the worship at a conference than what you experience during a regular Sunday morning service? I certainly have witnessed that. I believe it has little to do with the quality of the musicians and everything to do with the expectancy of the congregation. When people come expectant to receive, it draws on the anointing of God. The greater the expectancy, the greater the anointing.
  7. Grow Your Facilities - your facilities must expand with the growth of your church. Church growth experts say that when your facility has reached 80% capacity, your church will stop growing. This is true of the sanctuary size, the space in your children's ministry, and the parking lot. Having a large facility doesn't guarantee numerical growth, but having one that is too small will stop your church from growing.
  8. Grow in the Word - your church must grow in understanding and in the practice of the Bible. The Word of God is a "lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path." Without an ever increasing knowledge and passion of the Word, a church will lose it's focus and direction.
  9. Grow in the Spirit - your church must grow in the experience and power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples to wait to start the church on this earth until they had received the Holy Spirit. What makes us think we should do church today without His presence and power to guide us?

Over the next number of blogs, I will dig deeper into each of these 9 areas of growth and will show how increasing in each of these areas will help churches manage the tension between reaching outsiders and caring for insiders.

Question: Which of these nine areas is your church's weakest link?