Ministry Today – Serving and empowering church leaders
Many preachers are bound by a "patience" that keeps them from confronting the status quo. We need pastors to lead with passion. read more
With a sarcastic and somewhat jealous tone, my pastoral colleague grumbled, "This city doesn't need another church!" Often in the last 30 years I've heard a resident pastor complain about a new church plant in his or her area. The fear and concern behind such complaints arise from the fact that too much of modern church growth comes from membership transfer, not unbeliever conversion.
But the truth is that we need more intense evangelism from current churches, and more church plants in the United States and worldwide to keep pace with population growth. Consider these facts from the 2000 U.S. Census:
The U.S. population has grown 13.2 percent since 1990, reaching 281,421,906.
Nevada led the growth by 66.3 percent. Four other states (Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Georgia) more than doubled the U.S. growth rate.
According to the U.N. Population Fund, by Oct. 12, 1999, world population passed 6 billion. Other facts:
70 million people will be added annually to the world population in the next 15 years.
Of the world's 6 billion people, 1.04 billion are between the ages of 15 and 24.
Today's generation of young people making choices on family size will decide how fast the world grows. Experts project we could reach more than 10 billion by 2050.
Need more church plants? You bet. Need faster growing existing churches? Of course. The standard "rule of thumb" still holds: If a church doesn't grow annually by more than a tithe, it is slowly dying.
So what do we do with booming population growth? Pray, covert, disciple, equip and send them to reach others for Christ. We need healthy churches growing numerically and spiritually.
Recently I found myself privileged to teach and worship in Singapore. Church plants and growth are exploding there. In one Singapore congregation, more than 300 people are converted each week and 50 to 60 cells start monthly. In Nepal, one woman missionary has planted more than 40 churches in just 25 years.
Jesus' words are still true: "'The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest'" (Matt. 9:37, NKJV). Pray, evangelize, convert, disciple, equip and grow! We must continue this cycle until Jesus returns. No other option exists. read more
Quite frankly, I was bothered and self-righteously angered when I first saw it! A car sat in front of a local church with a banner underneath reading, "The Great New Year's Eve Giveaway." At their 1999 New Year's Eve service, the church would give away that new car.
"Hasn't the great giveaway already happened--the gift of God's Son Jesus?" I wondered.
Indignant, I spoke to fellow pastors about this sacrilege. We just knew that enticing people to come to church with such materialistic bait surely violated the ethics of God's kingdom. Or so it seemed to us.
Then the Holy Spirit reminded me that I had used "gospel dollars" to reward children in Sunday school for bringing their Bibles, memorizing verses and inviting a lost friend to church.
I began to ponder some of the more crass commercials for getting folks to come to church. Then I mused over the "Christian" product pitches and infomercials I encounter regularly on both secular and Christian television and radio.
Have you as a pastor ever had to draw the line in your congregation? Have you ever vetoed a fund-raiser or forbidden a rummage sale? What's an appropriate fund-raiser for ministry or "hook" for reaching the lost? Does Paul's "being all things to all men" extend to some of our contemporary schemes?
We rationalize that ultimately all we do to raise money is to reach the lost for Christ, but is it?
Where do we draw the line? Just a few simple questions might help us discern between evangelism or ministry-and-market manipulation of the gospel.
Is the outreach tool lifting up Jesus? (see John 12:32)
Does the fund-raiser serve God or money? (see Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13)
Will others glorify God or man when they see what we are doing, broadcasting or marketing? (see Matt. 5:16)
Could our church's or ministry's technique(s) be a stumbling block for others? (see 1 Cor. 8:9)
We must be careful not to judge others. However, we must also discern the line between righteousness and wrongfulness. If the church doesn't act with impeccable ethics in the world, then the world will be quick to see the hypocrisy in our ways. More important, Christ does judge our words and actions (see 2 Cor. 5:10). Hence, this must be our motivation in all our outreach and fund-raising: "Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him" (2 Cor. 5:9, NKJV, emphasis added). read more