Vision Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:36:53 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb What to Do If Your Children’s Ministry Becomes Stale

Is your ministry stuck in a rut? Attendance flat? Vision a word you once talked about? Volunteers just going through the motions? Baptistry is dry? Very few guests walking through the doors?

We all hit ruts in the road. The key is knowing how to get out of it.

Here's how:

1. Fix any glaring problems. Take a step back and look at your ministry. When did you lose your momentum? What caused it? Where are you weak?

2. Focus on solutions. Take one problem at a time, and focus on how you can solve it. Set very clear action steps and goals that will get you there.

3. Fresh eyes. Many times you can't see the issues because you're so close to the ministry. Invite someone from the outside to come in and evaluate your ministry. They may be able to see things you cannot.

4. Fear of failure out the window. Many ministries get stuck because they're afraid of failing if they try something new. Perhaps it's out of their comfort zone, or they're afraid they'll lose some families if they try it. Throw fear out the window. Step out in faith, and follow what God is calling you to.

Dale Hudson has served in children and family ministry for over 24 years. He is the director of children's ministries at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach, Florida. He was recently named one of the top 20 influencers in children's ministry. He is the co-author of four ministry books, including Turbocharged: 100 Simple Secrets to Successful Children's Ministry.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Dale Hudson ) Vision Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
1 Simple Thing That Will Make You a Better Pastor

What does it mean to be a master in the art of living?

If you asked a hundred different people, you'd get a hundred different opinions. That's understandable. It's a vague question. But recently I read a quote from author James Michener about the art of living that I just can't get out of my head.

I love his definition.

He says: "The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and play, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both." -- James Michener

I'm fascinated by this quote. I can't help but think about how living congruently like this might transform the way we lead and love those around us. Yet at the same time, I can't help but think that very few of us actually live this way.

Living with great vision and intention isn't easy, but it is so important. What vision do you have for your life? Could you articulate it? And how does this fit with your vision as a pastor? How about your vision for your church?

For each of us, vision looks different. But one of the best things we can do for ourselves, and for our churches, is to figure out who we are, what our hearts beat for, what our vision of excellence looks like, and to make sure our personal passion is congruent with the passion of our ministry.

Let me give you an example.

Have you ever met (or been) somebody who hates their job? Maybe they're a creative person, a dreamer, an artist, who is working a job that never allows them out from behind their desk. They're crunching numbers, or punching in data—something that doesn't require any of the fuel that lights their souls on fire?

That person is often miserable—at the job only for the paycheck, with their level of engagement, joy and fulfillment leveling out around zero.

We can easily agree this person isn't living up to his or her God-potential. And yet, in our own way, I find we do this sometimes as pastors, as people, and as churches. We operate in wheelhouses we weren't made for. We plug ourselves, and our people, into places where they don't fit. We think we're meeting a need.

But are we?

Like writing with our non-dominant hand, living outside of our strengths and gifts, outside of our passions and vision, feels frustrating and unnatural, completely counter to the way we were made and gifted.

And this is why it's so important for us to know what our vision is. When we can articulate our vision, what part of the body we are uniquely gifted for, what the focus of our church really is, or why we do what we do, we're able to devote ourselves to that mission in a way we aren't when we're running toward an arbitrary vision or one that just doesn't fit.

When we take the time to articulate our vision of excellence, we are able to live in a way where our passion, our body, our mind, our love, our religion, our information, our work and our play are all one. We're able to truly enjoy our lives, to be masters in the art of living, because we're working and playing in our wheelhouse, in the place we were uniquely gifted to make a difference.

And that changes everything.

Here's the hard part. This is the part I think prevents many of us from having these conversations with ourselves, with our volunteers and with our staff. When we can know and articulate our vision, when we begin to live congruent, oftentimes we realize for the first time that things need to change.

Maybe we need to rearrange our priorities.

Perhaps we need to end one season and begin another.

Maybe we need to change the way responsibilities are distributed.

Either way, the idea of these changes can be scary, and sometimes it can keep us from listening to and articulating what it is we actually want.

That is my challenge for you today. Figure out what you care about. Ask yourself questions like, "who am I here to help?" or "what am I actually passionate about?"

Figure out if, as a church, your heart beats for missions, or for the Holy Spirit, or for people who don't know Jesus. And do that thing.

Give people permission to live congruently, to live in their gifts. It is when you are pursuing your vision of excellence that you are able to make the greatest difference. And that place is worth finding.

With more than a dozen years of local-church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the founder of (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership and, all while staying involved in the local church.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Justin Lathrop) Vision Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
10 Numbers That Really Matter

Being loyal to a denomination, I'm no stranger to filling out forms and reporting stats. There are good reasons for this accountability, and we at 12Stone® Church are good team players in the Wesleyan Church. We report all numbers requested. I'm not saying it's fun, but it's a healthy practice.

We also keep a demographic spreadsheet of more numbers than you could imagine, from attendance to car counts. Again, these stats are kept for good and practical reasons. They help us in everything from decision-making to setting budgets. But I've been thinking about the things we care about, things that are more difficult if not near impossible to track, and started making a list.

I'm not sure how well we track all of them. Some we are good at, others we might need to improve. We do chase stories of life change, and that is a great practice, but I think there may be more to learn about strengthening a local church ministry by knowing some of these "other numbers."

How about you, how strong of a pulse do you have for these 10 in your church?

1. Serving the poor. Jesus speaks much about caring for those in need and those who are poor among us. A mark of a strong and healthy church is how it cares for people who may never attend and can do nothing for the church. Your church, and the one I serve, can't help everyone, but I believe there are certain ones in need that God intends for us to serve.

2. Visitors that don't look like you. When I travel to churches I'm amazed at how similar everyone looks. That's not bad; I fully understand natural connections, culture, and how people invite friends. All good. But recently I sat by a 20-something with some cool-looking tats, a full sleeve, piercings and he carried a well-worn Bible. He worshipped with passion and was warm and genuine when we said hi. He looked the opposite of me (and way cooler). I couldn't help but think that was a good thing and that God smiled.

3. Next generation called to ministry. I will admit a personal passion and bias for this one. It seems to me that for nearly 20 years or more, we are losing ground on young "sharpies" being called to full-time ministry nationwide. The church today is not attracting them enough for God to get a chance to capture their hearts. Yes, I know that God can call young leaders any way He wants, but He often uses the local church. The future of the church depends on the "best and brightest" being called and committed to vocational ministry. That's one of the reasons we are so fired up about our two-year post-college residency training program for ministry students.

4.  Restored marriages. Divorce is rampant. I think the accepted norm is that 50 percent of all marriages will end in divorce. (News flash: See this story for another view on that statistic.) We can't settle for that as acceptable. Each time the ministry of your church helps to prevent a divorce, that is a huge kingdom win! That really matters! From premarital training, to biblical teaching, to workshops and referrals to professional therapists--all your efforts for strong marriages are worth it!

5. New Christians/Baptisms. This may be the most common number on this list, but I couldn't write this article and not include it. Salvation is at the core of the Great Commission. A redeemed life is at the very epicenter of what we do! Each baptism represents an amazing story. I'm confident you feel the same about reaching people, and I want to encourage you to stay fired up about seeing people come to Christ.

6. Addictions broken and fear conquered. This may not be as common as divorce in our culture, but it's more prevalent than I would have imagined, and far more so than 20 to 25 years ago. I won't attempt to list addictions, the list is long, and we all understand fear. The point is that the freedom that comes from an individual breaking through and living out of bondage is incredibly powerful. Your church may not be equipped to deal with these complex issues, but there are organizations in your community you can partner with in order to help make a difference, even for a few.

7. First time tithers. When it comes to Christian maturity, the returning of a tithe from one's income is often the last thing to happen in a Christian's life. And for many, it never happens. It's not about the money. Yes, your church needs money to operate, but it's really about a surrendered life that chooses to trust God. Few things are more powerful than when someone realizes that they may be in charge, but they are not in control. Be bold in your teaching about trusting God with finances!

8. New leaders and volunteers. Next to the favor of God, everything rises and falls on leadership. My personal belief is that it's nearly impossible to over invest in leadership development. Leaders raise up volunteers, and volunteers make ministry possible. Recruiting, inspiring, encouraging, training and empowering your volunteers is essential, and your leaders will help you do that!

9. Hours devoted to prayer. I don't really think we should count how many hours we pray, but I can't help wonder what the correlation might actually be when you compare hours in prayer to the health and life-change impact of a local church. I don't think God is keeping score, but I do think He cares about what our heart treasures and how we chase after Him. Candidly, I believe prayer makes a huge difference, in fact, I think it is the true difference maker for any local church.

10. Kids treated with respect. Jesus had some very clear thoughts about how we are to treat the children. How strong is your children's ministry? Do you put as much effort toward the kids as you do the adults in "big church?" It's not a competition, but doing your best in children's ministry really matters. If your children's ministry needs a lot of work, don't stress over it, but commit to improving it a little bit at a time, and you'll be surprised at what can be accomplished in six to nine months!

So there you have it-–a list of 10 different numbers. How would you evaluate your ministry with these 10? Are there one or two that you want to focus on? What would you take off this list? What would you add?

Dan Reiland is Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. For the original article, visit

]]> (Dan Reiland) Vision Tue, 19 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
5 Dangerous Myths About Church-Wide Campaigns

There definitely are ways that church-wide campaigns can miss the mark, and there are keys to avoiding a church-wide campaign disaster. There are certain things you need to do to have a great church-wide campaign. See also, Top 10 Ways Church-Wide Campaigns Miss the Mark5 Keys to Avoiding a Church-Wide Campaign Disaster and 10 Simple Steps to a Great Church-Wide Campaign.

5 Dangerous Myths About Church-Wide Campaigns

There are certain myths about church-wide campaigns that set up bad expectations. Hope and optimism are good things, but wishful thinking can set up a congregation for big disappointment right when they need a boost of encouragement.

Some people will believe anything coming from pastors, and many think that a church-wide campaign is:

1. The solution for sagging attendance. Can a campaign help re-energize a congregation and help inconsistent attendees become more consistent? The short answer is yes, but only when the right groundwork has been laid. The right campaign can encourage more consistent attendance when participants are challenged to make and keep commitments to "be here each Sunday and join a group that's using the study that goes along with the message." Certain key ingredients make this commitment likely: a topic with broad appeal, a series of reasonable length (six weeks is just right), and a study that is easy to do (homework tends to be a barrier). See also, The Exponential Power of a Church-Wide Campaign.

2. The solution for reaching neighbors, friends, co-workers and family. The right church-wide campaign can provide the perfect invitation. Choose a cross-cultural topic from the easy end of the Easy/Hard Continuum, and the invite will almost make itself. Choose the wrong topic, and you won't be able to bribe your dearest friends to join your group. See also, The Easy/Hard ContinuumHow to Choose the Right Church-Wide Campaign, and The Latest on Church-Wide Campaigns (2014).

3. The solution for disunity. It is not actually the campaign that generates unity. Developing a prayerful attitude. A willingness to truly seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Opening God's Word together. Those are the things that bring unity. Still, choosing a church-wide campaign that encourages those things will move you in the right direction.

4. An easy way to launch a small-group ministry. The right church-wide campaign coupled with the right preparation and the right follow-through will go a long way in the effort to launch a small-group ministry. Still, it requires a lot of energy, resources and persistence. Do the right things. Do all of the right things...and when the dust clears you should have a great beginning--the kind of beginning upon which you can build a thriving small-group ministry. See also, What Is the Best Way to Connect the Largest Number of People?

5. An easy way to "get everyone on the same page." In much the same way that a church-wide campaign isn't a solution for disunity, it won't be an easy way to "get everyone on the same page." The right campaign won't hurt and coupled with a compelling vision may provide momentum that will move your congregation in one direction on the same page.

Mark Howell is the founder of, committed to helping churches launch, build and sustain healthy small-group ministries. He's also the Pastor of Discipleship Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church. You can read Mark's blog at or follow him on Twitter.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Mark Howell) Vision Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
2 Ways to Lead a Life Focused on God’s Glory

Last week, I wrote a bit about the importance of focusing our lives on mission for the glory of God. This week, we look at a couple of practical ways in which this can be done.

What does it practically look like to live a life of mission focused on the glory of God?

1. Reflect being with God. Many times what we bring to the leadership role is our education, experience and expertise. But if those are the only things we bring, we will fail to cultivate a true missional culture and effort in our churches. In Christ is ever-increasing glory.

In Israel's early days, Moses would return from the mountain with his face glowing from the glory of God. This was an encouragement to the Israelites, but Moses had to start wearing a veil so they wouldn't be discouraged when the glory in his face began to fade. Paul makes an important connection between this story and the glory of God in the presence of Jesus in 2 Cor. 3:16-18:

"But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

In Christ is ever-increasing glory. When you are spending time basking in Christ's glory, it will be evident to others. You won't have to create some veil to hide its absence, some sort of façade or illusion of competency or confidence. Your closeness to God will communicate volumes to your community about the transforming power of God's presence.

People need to be able to say of us what they said of Jesus' closest followers: "They've been with Jesus."

What you need to know is that it's a fool's errand trying to get people on mission who haven't been transformed by the Gospel. Our mission is God's mission, so any missional movement not rooted in closeness to God is not going to explicitly glorify Him. Pastors ought to seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness, and then minister out of the overflow.

2. No longer live for yourself. Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:14-15: "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."

When you are spending time basking in Christ's glory, it will be evident to others.

No longer living for myself sounds a bit like seeking God's glory and agenda, but it is more systemic. It is how you get to that focus. Paul speaks to "first things"—the root issues of our idolatry and the fertile soil for worship of God. He says we are "compelled" by Christ's love, and we have died to ourselves in Him. This is the wondrous work of the gospel in our hearts.

If you make your life about Jesus, your ministry will follow. And if your life is about Jesus, your life also will be about God's mission, redeeming the world through the saving work of Jesus.

Preaching well the crucified Christ means nailing ourselves to the cross along with Him. It means considering the benefits, opportunities and perks of your position to be loss for the sake of the gospel.

This isn't about martyrdom or feigned humility. As is often said: It's not about thinking less of yourself; it's about thinking of yourself less.

What would your ministry look like if you took more of yourself out of the equation and factored in more of Christ? We are instruments of God's glory, made for His glory and to proclaim His glory. The key concept is not "we" but "God's glory."

Remember, the church doesn't have a mission so much as the mission has a church. If we will take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Jesus, we will have fulfilled the call of Christ on mission in the world—and avoided the idolatry of self-centered mission.

Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ed Stetzer) Vision Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Is Your Ministry a Laser or a Light Bulb?

A light bulb can brighten up a dark room. A laser can cut through steel. Light bulbs disperse soft light in every direction for a short distance. Lasers can only be focused in a single direction but, theoretically, one beam can travel infinitely.

In the same way your ministry is either a laser or a light bulb.

After his Resurrection Jesus gave his disciples a laser-like focus to "go and make disciples of all nations ... (Matt. 28:19.) The book of Acts is the working out of this mission in real and tangible ways. Yes, part of this disciple-making process was gathering together on a regular basis (Acts 2:42 and prioritizing key values Acts 6:4), but the pulsating heart of the early church was active disciple making. The apostles were laser-like in their focus. As a result the church exploded from Jerusalem to Rome in less than 30 years.

What does this have to do with your ministry? Plenty!

There are far too many nice, little 60-watt ministries that do nice, little 60-watt activities and get nice, little 60-watt results. These ministries shine some semblance of light but usually it can't be seen outside the sanctuary they are meeting in (for the third time this week.)

But laser-focused ministries have a single obsession. Everything they do surrounds and supports this one thing. As a result the results of their efforts are visceral and powerful.

I can't help but think of my youth leader friends Jason and Laura Loewen in Michigan. For years they were a light bulb ministry, and that light bulb was about to burn out. Laura wrote, "Overcommitted and maxed out, we took our students to summer camps, winter camps, service projects and had a monthly outreach event. In conjunction with our Sunday morning and Wednesday night programming, we had far too much on all our plates and were headed for status-quo, soon-to-burn-out youth ministry."

Jason attended a youth leader training sponsored by Dare 2 Share where he had a "light-bulb" moment about their lack of a laser focus. According to his wife, "Jason then had somewhat of a light bulb experience: What if we scratched all the 'stuff' that wasn't producing much fruit and just focused on a couple things that had real potential for life change? With that, we vowed to not waste our or the students time with quick-fix, short-term programming."

As a result their ministry has experienced significant growth (both spiritual and numeric) because of their singular focus on making disciples who make disciples.

What's true of churches is true of para-church organizations as well.

The ministry I'm blessed to lead is called Dare 2 Share. We started in 1991 with the laser-like focus of "energizing a generation to evangelize their world." But, slowly, over the years we broadened our mission statement. We ventured into developing more tools and resources to help teenagers grow deeper in their faith, own their faith and live their faith. Of course these are all part of the disciple-making process but not part of Dare 2 Share's original mission statement.

About six years ago, our chairman told me bluntly, "We have four bull's eyes (know, live, share and own) and we only have one arrow. We need to focus down to one thing." This kind of sent me into a tailspin.

Our executive team had been working hard on developing and honing, not just our mission statement, but also our entire ministry around these four priorities. His one statement (and the board's concurrence) sent all of our plans back to the drawing board.

Thank God.

It's too long of a story to tell now but this singular decision saved our ministry from potential financial failure and prepared the way for expansion in ways we never anticipated.

That's the power of focus.

Does your ministry have a singular, obsessive focus? Does everything you do support that one thing? Does that one thing match the one thing Jesus gave his disciples?

If not, it may be time to focus.

Greg Stier is a husband, a father, a preacher, an author, a twitchy revolutionary and a fanatic for Jesus. He's the President of Dare 2 Share Ministries which has led thousands of students to Jesus and equipped thousands more to reach their world with the gospel. He blogs at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Greg Stier/Dare 2 Share) Vision Tue, 12 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
50 Questions Every Ministry Leader Should Ask

Leadership is an invitation to responsibility, and responsibility means hard work. Leadership also is a trust. Leaders—especially in the church—must tend to two fundamental, legal duties: to act with due care and to not pursue self-enrichment.

I've discovered on my leadership journey that managing this trust presents more challenges than I would ever have imagined. I've learned to regularly ask some key questions to help monitor my own progress. Whether you're just getting started as a ministry leader or are already well on your way, I hope the questions presented here will help you maintain godly balance:

1. Who are you called to serve in your present position? Make sure your servant attitude is in high gear, especially if you're longing to grow in leadership responsibility.

2. Whose personality do you think your church is being built on—yours or God's? Whichever is your answer, you know what to do.

3. What are the three greatest struggles you're facing right now? Ask God to show you specifically what He wants to accomplish in your life through these challenges.

4. Are you allowing any situations that could undermine your moral integrity? If so, what are the consequences if you don't stop?

5. When was the last time you prayed, "Oh, Holy Spirit, move in this town; move in this church"? If it's been awhile (or even if it hasn't), start a new habit by praying it every day for the next 30 days. See what happens. Then keep on praying it.

6. Do you get tired of hearing over and over about what you should be doing for people but aren't? While you shouldn't be an "errand boy" for every whim of everyone in your flock, you may need to ask yourself routinely whether you're ministering the way others really need you or just the way you want to.

7. Is your credibility running on empty, a full tank, or somewhere in between? Consider whether there are places you need to shore up your integrity.

8. Do your board members have confidence enough in your judgment to defer to you at times—and vice versa? Think about what you can do to build the mutual respect that may be missing.

9. How is your church doing on its missions commitments? If you've fallen behind, decide now what you will do to change that.

10. Are there elements of your church's ministry that need to be changed because they've outlived their purpose? Come up with a plan to eliminate these, taking into account the individuals who will be affected by the change and how these people should be included in the process.

11. Is there a vision God has laid on your heart but that you need to lay aside to wait for His timing? Turn it back over to Him and have confidence in the implementation schedule He has in mind.

12. Are there potential leaders in your church whose legitimate desire for a position of leadership—whether lay or full-time—needs encouragement? Make a list of those you think should be feeling a desire to lead and find a time to explore the potential with them.

13. Is there someone you know who has been where you want to go and could help you get there? Ask that person to mentor you in how to negotiate the road ahead.

14. Do you take joy in keeping your church looking its best, or does facility maintenance feel like a necessary evil? While you probably shouldn't be doing all the work yourself, you should be making sure it gets done.

15. Can you find what you need quickly on your computer, or do you spend as much time clicking through documents and emails as you do working on them? Organizing your computer may be easier than you think if you find the right person to help. Most every church has at least a computer geek or two who can help.

16. Are you spending enough time in the community? Consider the possibility that you should get involved in an outside organization or take some other initiative to reach beyond the walls of your church.

17. Do you have a specific mechanism in place by which you can get genuine feedback on how your ministry is being received by the congregation? Get regular input from your board, and if you don't have a church-wide feedback loop in place, you might want to consider implementing one like the pastor vote procedure described in this chapter.

18. What kind of shape is your church accounting system in? You don't have to be the one in charge of it (in fact, you probably shouldn't be), but you need to have a reliable person in place and maintain a sound financial system for your church on a computer.

19. Is your selection process for lay leaders effective? It is if it:

  • Allows for pastoral oversight and guidance
  • Assures that new leaders are routinely selected
  • Provides for rotation of leaders so that no one overstays his or her welcome.

20. Do you allow your lay leaders to participate in solving meaningful problems—even theological ones? Church members often have godly insights that may surprise you and that can serve you and the church well if they are allowed into a problem-solving situation.

21. Are you trying new things just because you're afraid not to? Do nothing out of fear.

22. Is there anything in your life or church that you think is so insignificant it would be beneath you to tend to it? Be very honest about this one. Pray about whether God might want you to pay more attention to whatever this is.

23. Do the children in your church need some special attention they've not been getting? Even Jesus was not too busy to give children the attention they needed.

24. Make sure you appreciate the good in what those around you are doing without its minimizing your own sense of mission. Think of another church in your area that is doing things you sometimes wish you could do. Make a list of all the good you see there. Then pray for the pastor and staff to continue under God's guidance to do all He's calling them to. You might even want to write that pastor a note of encouragement. Then make a list of what God is doing through your church, and set aside time to pray specifically to thank the Lord for what He has chosen to do through you and your people. Rejoice big time in this!

25. Be glad for what God has done in your ministry so far. List five things (10 would be better) you have started doing in your church in the past year that you weren't doing last year at this time, and remember: Little things count. Thank God for the progress you've made.

26. Are you getting dragged down or worn out by people who just won't be satisfied with what you do for them? Pray about cutting them loose emotionally so you can move on to more productive—and appreciated—ministry.

27. Have you established boundaries beyond which you know God doesn't want you to go in trying to help people who won't be helped? Think about people who have inappropriately drained your spiritual and emotional energy, and determine where they crossed the line between genuine need and leeching the life out of you. Let that be a line in the sand when you run into needy people in the future.

28. Are you focusing your ministry on people who are being productive for the Kingdom? Make a list of the top producers in your congregation, and be sure you're giving them their due.

29. Should you offload some of your counseling responsibility to someone who can legitimately spend the time working with people who need in-depth help? Perhaps your church should consider hiring a pastoral counselor, or perhaps you can simply develop a good network for counseling referrals.

30. Is there a continuing-education dream gnawing at you that you've ignored because it doesn't seem to fit into your current ministry? It may be God prompting you toward something that will be of great benefit later to you and those you serve. Pray about whether you should take action on the idea.

31. Are you afraid to pursue further education because you don't know how to pay for it even though you believe your educational goals are pleasing to God? Perhaps there are ways to fund your study—through the church, a personal donor or personal sacrifice—but "you have not because you ask not."

32. Is there something you need to do to get your financial house in order so you can pursue further education? Put together a plan for getting yourself where you need to be financially so you can do what God wants you to do.

33. Is God growing a vision in you? Write down your vision, and don't let it overwhelm or discourage you. Let it energize you. If the Lord of the harvest has pointed you toward a goal, believe that He is able and willing to bring it about.

34. Is your vision too small? You can't think too big for God, so consider expanding your expectations of the future.

35. Is there a message God is calling you to preach with which you're not comfortable? If so, double-check in prayer that you're hearing correctly and set your mind to obeying, no matter what.

36. Do you allow other ministry tasks to pull you away from study and preparation because you feel guilty doing something you enjoy so much? Being paid to study Scripture every week can sometimes feel too good to be true. But don't let that stop you from indulging fully in the blessing God wants you to enjoy—and pass on to your people.

37. How well do you mesh with the folks to whom you preach? Sometimes a preacher's mannerisms don't connect with the local culture. But if you're preaching to a congregation that doesn't offer the response you're used to, the worst thing you can do is keep saying, "Can I hear an 'amen'?" or "Can I get a witness?" Learn to adapt in healthy ways to your audience.

38. Which is your mindset: To hunker down and only do what you know your church can afford or move ahead with what you believe God has called you to do and trust Him for the resources? Moving ahead is better.

39. Do you know—but perhaps don't want to admit—God is calling you to take a step of faith in staffing for growth? Talk to your church leaders, and challenge them to move ahead with you.

40. Is there someone in your congregation who demonstrates ministry eligibility that you should seriously consider bringing on staff? Consult with your leadership team about whether to hire the person you have in mind.

41. How's your energy level holding out? If you're running on empty, consider going on a personal retreat to let God refill your spiritual tank.

42. When was the last time you saw God's hand giving specific direction to your ministry? Allow yourself to recall the details and appreciate how that has helped bring you to where you are now.

43. What challenge most makes you feel like quitting? Offer it to God—daily if you have to—and see how He wants to use that in your life.

44. Do you trust your church leaders to care about doing God's will? Pray for them to be conscious of what God wants to do in your midst.

45. Does love of money play a role in any ministry choices in your church? Introspection on this point is crucial to make sure no such evil intrudes itself in the work God wants to do.

46. Do you mind being the coach rather than the star? Do some soul-searching to make sure your ministry motives are pleasing to God.

47. How careful are you about what you put in writing? Your lack of circumspection may not have caught up with you yet, but it will.

48. Are you raising up spectators, or are you equipping the saints for the work of ministry? You may enjoy cheers from the crowd, but spectators don't help you win the game. How many people are actively engaged in ministry with you? Make sure you're sharing as much opportunity to serve as you possibly can.

49. Do you feel discouraged that you have to keep at it to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Try taking joy in everyday activities that contribute to overall health.

50. Have you thanked God for your spouse today? This should be on your prayer list every day.

What questions would you add to this list?

George O. Wood is the general superintendent for the Assemblies of God. For the original article, visit

]]> (George O. Wood) Vision Fri, 08 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
One Way Satan Devastates Missions Effectiveness

Mission is the opposite of self. That sounds simple and obvious, yet the sad truth is that we revert to non-mission—or self-centered mission—very simply and obviously.

The ease with which we slide into self-centered mission requires us to pay constant attention to be sure our ministries are focused on God's glory and mission. We must be diligent about centering mission around God—and ruthless about pushing ourselves out of the center and into orbit around Him.

Ascribing our self-centered mission to God is deceptively easy because we are never not worshipping. Idolatry comes very easy to us. Exodus 32 records how quickly the Israelites asked for an idol after Moses' departure. John Calvin cautioned: "The human heart is a factory of idols. ... Every one of us is, from his mother's womb, expert in inventing idols." We are constantly creating things to worship instead of God.

Idolatry emerges at the intersection of sinful hearts and nonstop worship. Even we pastors struggle with it. The Exodus 32 passage pointedly reveals how quickly Aaron attached the worship of the golden calf to a festival for the Lord. We also are good at idolatry that looks like mission.

This devastating truth means idols can be anything. They aren't just connected to immorality or addictions or other "obvious" infidelities but can be anything pastors may hold dear. Prestige, professionalism, the desire to be treated specially or separately—all these things can be idols.

One way Satan devastates the missional effectiveness of pastors and leaders is luring them into idolatry that looks like mission. That means we must identify the idols that tempt us, resist their pull on our hearts, and truly live the mission—to make it about God's glory and His agenda.

How do we lay our temptations and inclinations before God and lead the people God has given us into true mission? I'll share just one way today and two more next week.

]]> (Ed Stetzer ) Vision Thu, 07 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Here Are Some Metrics for a Different Kind of Church

"How do you want your church to be different two years from now?" The typical answer is, "We want more people."

That can be expressed in different forms such as, "We want our auditorium full!" or "We want to start more small groups!" or "We want to see our attendance grow by 10 percent" or "We want to start additional services so more people can attend!"

Everyone wants more people, and having more people is good. Jesus wants more people, and we should count people because people count. The problem is when the numbers become the target rather than the means to a greater end.

It is interesting that we do not hear the following very often: "We want to see more people desperate for Jesus!" or "We want to see our homes strengthened and more families having devotions together!" or "We want to see our students on fire for God and living on mission to reach their campus for Christ!" or "We want to see more members building meaningful relationships with people who are far from Christ!" Yet, despite a wide variety of many biblical and gospel-centered answers, it seems the default answer is, "More people!"

It seems that the focus of many churches is on where they can find their next church member instead of how they can equip, empower and release their members to take their communities and cities for Christ. Being different will require refocusing your church on the biblical mandate given by Jesus to make disciples. Will Mancini says this about discipleship in churches, "We traffic in loving lingo and making disciples mantra. We allow generic output language to validate our intent, while we use input data to validate our success."

We can no longer allow good numbers and good programs to validate our good intentions of making disciples. The question then is, "How do we and can we measure that?" How will we know two years from now that we truly are different?

There are three metrics that will help you determine your effectiveness in the area of making disciples. 

Remember that discipleship is not a program but rather a lifetime adventure. It is more about doing life together than it is a curriculum and is measured more by life transformation than information transfer.

1. The involvement of people. This measurement has been described as the three B's; bodies, bucks and buildings. These areas are what is measured the most because they are the easiest to keep track of. Keeping track of nickels and noses is important, but it is only the beginning point not the end. We have not arrived by how many we have attending but rather by what we are doing with those who are coming. Does your church have a clear biblical process of how to move someone from spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity? Do you?

2. Individual transformation. What kind of product is your church producing? Is there ample evidence of life transformation in the lives of those who are being discipled? The attendance board is fine and dandy, but the bigger question is what are those attending doing for the furtherance of the gospel? Are they daily in the Word of God and developing a powerful consistent prayer life? Are they daily striving to build relationships with those far from God so that they might be able to share the love of God?  Are they being "salt" and "light," and are they involved in discipleship?

3. Impact on the community. The natural (actually supernatural) outcome of people getting involved and their lives being transformed is the impact it will have on their communities and cities. The by-product of being a "different" kind of church is that it will not only transform its members' lives, but it also will transform the lives of those to whom they minister.

The number of homeless people will decrease. The percentage of teenage pregnancies will be reduced. The high-school graduation rate will increase, and the crime rate will decrease.

Our effectiveness is not measured solely by how many we have in attendance, how well our offerings are doing, or whether our facilities are adequate or not. The real metric is the transformation of our communities and cities that comes when we are walking with Christ and conforming to His image.

So, how do you want your church to be different two years from now? What's at stake? The mission God has given us is to make disciples.

Dallas Willard says, "Instead of counting Christians, we need to weigh them." Healthy churches rejoice when people become involved but are not satisfied until every member is involved in making disciples.

Larry Barker serves as director of North American Missions for the Baptist Missionary Association of America. For the original article, visit

]]> (Larry Barker) Vision Fri, 01 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
'Follow Your Heart' and 3 Other Potentially Dangerous Theories About Knowing God's Will

Where do we find God's will? Is it in one of the following theories?

1. The Tightrope Theory

This teaching declares God's will is like a tightrope where one wrong move will ruin your life and require you to start all over again--or worse, be eternally out of God's will. This view assumes God is powerless to work through the faults of man.

The tightrope theory has a difficult time explaining how Moses could lead the children of Israel out of Egypt with first-degree murder on his record (Exodus 2:11-12) or how Peter could preach powerfully at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41) when months earlier Jesus rebuked him and called Him Satan (Matt. 16:23). It seems God is not wringing His hands worried that imperfect men will mess up His will.

2. The Perfect Will of God Theory

Another theory describes a state of being where everything magically lines up to put you in God's perfect will. (Of course this implies that God also has an imperfect will--which sounds really strange for God.) "Those who [espouse] this view [seem] to think that there [are] a range of possible choices that [are] acceptable to God, but that our main goal should be to hit God's bull's-eye."

This view leaves God at our mercy by assuming He has to take the decisions we make and do His best with them.  Isn't it funny how we never hear Jesus speak this way to anyone?  "I'm sorry Andrew, the healing you performed was good, but if you would have been in my perfect will, it would have been great!  Try to do better next time."

3. The Open Door Theory

Many people believe that if a door of opportunity opens in life, it must be from God. Quoting Revelation 3:8, "... I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut ... " they take this passage totally out of context. But even if the interpretation were correct, it would still leave a difficult question: which door? Every situation in life has multiple possibilities for open doors.

Apparently Peter picked the wrong door when he tried to free Jesus by cutting off a Roman soldier's ear. Jesus rebuked him saying, "Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than 12 legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:53)  Translation: "I'm going through a different door." I wonder how many of us would have chosen the same one.

4. The Follow Your Heart Theory

Some misguided believers have spiritualized the secular adage to "follow your heart." The only problem, according to Jer. 17:9, is "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Samson may be the first to say, "Amen!")

Sometimes this view comes in the form of the phrase "You'll just know," which is code for "I don't have a clue." Other times someone may refer to having a "peace" about a situation. But Jesus wasn't experiencing emotional peace in Luke 22:41-44 when He sweat drops of blood in the garden. And there is no doubt He fulfilled God's will.

It Shouldn't Be Confusing

All of the theories about God's will have caused many to feel anxious about making any decisions without some sort of divine guidance, so they begin to believe that every hunch or feeling must be God's way of trying to tell them something.

Many times, the feelings they interpret as divine revelation are merely reflections of their circumstances. Jennifer's attraction to Tim's guitar skills may be the real reason she thinks God is leading her to date him. The test Craig bombed in his business class could account for his desire to change majors. And Jim's rough week at the office may have shaped his desire to move to California. Just like Jonah stumbling upon a boat headed to Tarshish, opportunities can seem providential when we already have a desire for them.

All of the stress and strain of trying to stay on the tightrope or in the bulls-eye of God's will seems strange for those who have been promised "... my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:30)

The constant feeling that God's will is always dangling just out of reach seems at odds with "... ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (Luke 9:11)

But where do we find God's will?

The preceding is an excerpt from Scott Attebery's book, "Navigate: Understanding & Pursuing God's Will."

Scott Attebery is executive director of DiscipleGuide Church Resources, a department of the Baptist Missionary Association of America. You can read his blog at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Scott Attebery) Vision Thu, 31 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Apostolic Keys for Activation and Implementation from Nehemiah

The book of Nehemiah is an outstanding book that depicts going from a compelling vision to its activation and implementation. Nehemiah was a type of a master builder apostle (1 Corinthians 3:10-14) who knew how to utilize teams, motivate the masses, and bring commitment through conviction. His leadership ability resulted in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, and--important for us--his methods can be replicated.

The following are some of the key apostolic principles he used:

1. He assessed the true conditions of his people and nation (Neh. 1:1-3). Many people are delusional or in denial regarding the true state of their nation, church and community. Leadership involves bringing self awareness to those under their care and influence. Without knowing the truth, there can never be a path to true freedom (John 8:32-46).

2. He was moved inwardly and received a compelling vision to meet the need (Neh. 1:4). All leadership is driven and motivated by vision. All true vision must emanate from the heart and have passion. Vision merely articulated via strategy on paper is never enough. Spirit-inspired passion is the engine that drives heaven-sent vision.

3. He prayed his vision through before he attempted to implement it (1:4-11). Godly leadership is a partnership with the divine, since we are living both on the Earth and in heavenly places (Eph. 2:4-6). Like Nehemiah, today's leaders must pray their vision through in the Spirit before attempting to implement it in the natural.

Without consistent seasons of individual and corporate prayer, vision will fail because the spiritual warfare and natural circumstances of this world will offer too much resistance without giving God opportunity to speak and move.

4. He gathered all the human resources he needed based on his relationships (1:11--he was cup bearer to the king). Successful leaders pull on all their relationships to gather the supplies and connections needed to implement their vision. Everyone has a constellation of relationships, and within that circle is usually the provision for the vision. Instead of always looking on the outside for your answers, most of the time the people and resources you need to fulfill your vision are already in your midst.

5. He succinctly articulated his compelling vision in a few sentences (2:17-18). All vision and mission should be collapsed down to brief mottoes, acronyms or statements that succinctly describe the vision and motivate the people. Vision and/or mission statements that are too long or convoluted make it difficult for the average person to wrap their brain around it. God told Habakkuk to write the vision down and make it plain so that the messenger could run with it (Hab. 2:2).

Hence, every person in an organization or congregation should be able to convey the vision of the house. Consequently, when people do not have the vision or know the vision, they are scattered and aimless (Prov. 29:18).

6. He refused to be distracted by opposition (2:19-20; 6:2-4). Every leader and organization will have to contend with competing voices and loyalties that demand focus and attention. One of the great keys to the vision is to be able to stay focused and keep the main thing the main thing, and keep first things first. If Satan cannot destroy you, he will try to distract you with good or appealing things that can lure you away from God's best plan for your life. (Satan doesn't come in a red suit and pitchfork but appears as an angel of light according to 2 Cor. 11:14.)

7. He utilized a team of volunteers committed to the cause (3:1-32). No growing organization can survive if it depends merely upon a few people. Every successful vision requires a team of committed people to fulfill the dream

For example, the two model churches of the New Testament (in Jerusalem and Antioch) both had a great team of leaders and layers of other leaders who worked together.

8. He instilled courage during times of testing (4:8-12, 14). There will always be opposition, high stress, drama, unforeseen events and crises that oppose godly vision. Leaders have to remain calm, speak peace, have courage and continue to function with high capacity during times of stress, duress and testing.

If you want a church or organization without stress or spiritual warfare, then ask God to take you home to heaven right now. (That's the only place where there is no more crying, sorrow or pain).

9. He set up systems of communication to unite all for battle (4:13, 16-22). The people were not only committed to their vision but were committed to protecting and advancing their vision. To fulfill vision, every person on the team must be trained for battle and be mobilized instantly when an attack comes that threatens the vision. Every church especially needs intercessors in place that can be contacted instantly, and all leaders need to be able to mobilize for strategy with little notice.

10. The people were all bound together with a written covenant (9:38; 13:1-31). People need to be bound together by a written covenant that lays out everything expected. Whatever people don't sign on to, they will not be accountable to.

Generally, people don't do what you expect; they do what you inspect. Nehemiah had to follow up on the covenant by inspecting and enforcing the application of the covenant in chapter 13.

Leaders are not primarily called to be your friends; they are called to push you, hold you accountable and to challenge your complacency if you are not growing.

11. The leaders were all committed to living in the place of their mission (11:1-2). Nehemiah made all the leaders live within the walls of Jerusalem even though it was dangerous. Leaders are called to live in the community they are ministering to, so they have the same care and concern for the wellbeing of the people they live among. Nehemiah celebrated all those who lived in the community and sent a tithe of the people to live there.

I have been living in proximity to the community and city I was called to serve since 1980, even though many of my friends have larger houses with much property outside our city region. I believe Nehemiah demonstrates that our goal should not be comfort but conforming to the will of God in our lives.

12. He was a great fund raiser for the house of God (13:10-12). Without provision, the vision is only a dream and will never be a reality. All successful leaders have to be successful fund raisers! The apostle Paul only wrote one chapter devoted to love (1 Cor. 13) but wrote two whole chapters devoted to raising funds for his ministry (2 Cor. 8 and 9).

Furthermore, I believe every church should have enough income from tithes and offerings so that the lead pastor does not have to work outside the church. This way their time is not divided, and they are not too tired to serve the congregation.

Finally, there is much more in this incredible book that God gave us to teach the principles of organization, teamwork and city building. Nehemiah illustrates that preaching the word isn't enough for community transformation.

If that were the case, then all he needed was to let Ezra, the biblical scribe, do his thing, and it would have happened automatically. No, we need to have a partnership between the marketplace and full-time church leaders for city building.

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

]]> (Joseph Mattera ) Vision Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:30:00 -0400
3 Hard Questions for Preachers

Preaching the gospel is privilege. It is also a burden, and a calling.

I have been a preacher since 1982. I love my job. I love to read, study, teach and preach. Every day I am thankful that I get to do what I love. I am not a natural communicator. I have had to work hard to develop whatever teaching and preaching skills I have.

Over the years, my preaching style has changed a few times. Originally, I was a topical list preacher. I would find random verses about grace, faith, or whatever the topic, and preach away.

After about 10 years of that, I started exegetical teaching/preaching. I spent two years preaching my way through the book of Mark on Sunday mornings. I spent a year on Acts, and six months on 1 Corinthians.

Then I taught my way through shorter books like Jonah, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians and James. For the past 10 years, I have done team prep and team preaching. Hopefully each change has been an upgrade. If you are a teacher or preacher I hope you are constantly upgrading your craft.

Before getting on my Manila-to-Tokyo-to-Minneapolis-to-Nashville flight recently, I met with some of our best Filipino preachers to discuss concerns and pitfalls of preachers and preaching. Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves.

1. Are our preachers making disciples? Are preachers doing the work of the ministry? Are they ministering to people and making disciples in small groups? Or are they spending all week in their study with a pile of books? I am not suggesting that study is unimportant. Quite the contrary, but we must study people as well as the Bible. The more we connect with people and their pain, the better preachers we will become. The goal is to make disciples. Preaching is an important part of the disciple-making process, but it is only a part not the whole.

2. Are our preachers carrying the burden? Are preachers carrying the weight of the ministry? Are they shouldering the pressure of the budget, the vision, the values, the mission? Or are they simply communicating pre-packaged points? Last Sunday while preaching at Victory-Makati, I felt an overwhelming burden that I had 35 minutes to connect with those in the congregation. I had a heavy burden because the topic was so important. I was not just communicating information, I was preaching a sermon that had the potential to shape, redirect and change lives. That is a heavy burden.

3. Are our preachers preparing their own hearts? Preparing a sermon to preach is the easy part. Preparing our hearts to preach is difficult and often painful. I sometimes wonder if the time preachers spend working on slick Powerpoint and Keynote presentations, would be better spent on their faces before God. I also wonder if modern preachers spend too much time researching illustrations to make people laugh, rather than time searching the scriptures for the original meaning of the text. Powerpoint pictures and funny stories do not change lives. God's Word brings change because it is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness."

I get to work in Nashville, Manila and around the world with some really great preachers. The reason they are so good, is because they constantly ask themselves the hard questions.

"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness" (James 3:1 ESV).

"It pleased God through the folly of what we preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21)

Steve and Deborah Murrell went to the Philippines in 1984 for a one-month summer mission trip that never ended. They are the founding pastors of Victory Manila, one church that meets in 14 locations in Metro Manila and has planted churches in 60 Philippine cities and 20 nations. Currently, Victory has more than 6,000 discipleship groups that meet in coffee shops, offices, dormitories and homes in Metro Manila. Steve is co-founder and president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, a family of churches focused on church planting, campus ministry and world missions.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Steve Murrell) Vision Wed, 09 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400