Ministry Life Mon, 15 Sep 2014 22:49:23 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Pastor, What Does Your Future Look Like?

I was raised in Texas. When I was a young pastor, I had no idea what my future would be. Quite honestly, I still do not.

When I surrendered to God's calling to come to my church more than 27 years ago, I would have never dreamed I would be here this long. Growing up, it seemed our small church had a new pastor every two or three years. Frequent transition was all I knew.

Therefore, it is quite amazing that I find myself at this point in life, having served the same church for 27 years. Years ago, when I surrendered to ministry, I did not imagine much at all about my future. All I knew was that I wanted to be where God wanted me.

A Basic Conviction

I have operated by a basic conviction throughout my ministry: I want to go wherever God wants me to go, anytime, anywhere. After all of these years, I still live by this conviction. I am drawn to one basic thing: I want to be where God wants me to be.

I have told this to other pastors—and I mean this with all my heart—when you surrender to God's calling to go to a certain place, always live like you are going to be there your entire life.

At the same time, always have your bags packed, ready to follow God's calling for your life. My wife, Jeana, and I still live with this zealous desire to follow God and His calling for our lives. We truly believe we have fulfilled that calling in northwest Arkansas.

How a Pastor Should Navigate Toward His Future

I want to challenge each pastor and minister of the gospel to keep these things in mind as they navigate toward the future God has for them:

1) Be 100 percent willing to go anywhere at any time to do anything God calls you to do. Are you willing? When He calls, will you follow Him? Will you operate so much by this conviction that it does not matter if the geography is your preference, the timing is to your advantage or the ministry is not what you have ever seen yourself in as a God-called minister?

I am reminded of my friend, Dr. Jeff Crawford, president of our Cross Church School of Ministry and teaching pastor of Cross Church. He is gifted, educated and called. He could be in the academic realm elsewhere or be serving as a pastor of a large church, just like he was a little over one year ago. Yet, God has called Jeff to be here. It seems all of his gifts, training and passion merged in this position with us. Just think what it would be like if Jeff had held on to his position so closely that he would have refused the calling of God to come here.

2) Live with your "yes" on the altar. When is the last time you placed your "yes" on the altar? I mean, you said, "God, whatever it is you want me to do, my answer is yes. Whatever you are calling me to do, the answer is yes."

There is something liberating about living with your "yes" on the altar. Oh yes, I have been somewhat sobered by this statement when there have been moments I sensed God was about to do something new with me. I mean, while exciting on one end, it is extremely sobering on the other end.

3) Be willing to stay as much as you are willing to leave. Pastoral ministry is hard. It is much easier, especially in today's world, to leave after three or four years than it is to stay. People are hard to please.

Many times, we are like football coaches: Not only are we judged by our wins and losses, but we are also judged and scrutinized by the way we win.

My point: It is easier for a pastor to leave than to stay. Pastors, some of you may need to stick it out where you are. God will use it all to work in your life powerfully. Sometimes God does something fresh in us not when we leave but when we once again realize that He wants us right where we are.  

Dr. Ronnie Floyd, the senior pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas, has been a pastor for 36 years.

]]> (Ronnie Floyd) Legacy Mon, 15 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
4 Things Millennials Need From Their Church

It's no secret that millennials aren't exactly flocking to churches these days. There are theories and statistics, but the fact remains the same: Our churches aren't a place millennials tend to call home.

Instead of tackling the problem on a grand scale—instead of diving into theories and ideas as to the cause and the solution—I want to move in closer, to what millennials need from us in our churches today. While I'm not a millennial, and while this is not a comprehensive list, these thoughts are derived from some of the conversations I've had with millennials about this very topic.

Here are four things millennials need from their church:

1. A realism about the state of the world. I once heard someone say that churches have a tendency to put band-aids over bullet wounds, treating serious problems, hurts and issues like they can be solved with a parable and a pat on the back.

Millennials aren't so easily pacified.

Millennials, as a rule, tend to be activists—aware of the hurt in the world and passionate about solving it. One of the chief complaints I hear millennials give about churches is that they're out of touch with the realities of the world and that they're not finding realistic solutions.

Millennials want honesty about the problem so they can help find honest, helpful solutions.

2. A safe place to work through issues. Millennials don't get a social badge for going to church anymore. Even in the Bible Belt, you don't get a gold star from anyone but your mom for being a good church kid.

Millennials need more than this from their church.

They need a place to honestly work out the questions in their lives, a place to be open and honest about the issues they face, and a place to find out what God actually has to say about them. They're unlikely to invest deeply or get a lot out of a church that stays on the surface about the hard issues, and they're likely to be frustrated by people who are putting on a front of perfection.

Millennials don't need a gold star for being a good person. They need a safe place to work out their stuff.

3. The Truth. A lot of churches tiptoe around the hard truths of the Bible for fear of offending people. Millennials especially have the reputation for being church-averse, which makes seeker-friendly churches steer toward topics that are less likely to offend their fence-riding visitors.

But contrary to popular belief, this is not what millennials are looking for.

As a whole, millennials are not afraid of being passionately sold out for something. While they may be offended by some of Jesus' teachings, they wouldn't be the first ones, and they prefer a church that is passionate and authentic about what they believe.

Millennials are more likely to be zealous for something that they believe matters than drawn in by something that feels lukewarm and non-threatening.

4. Social activism. A point of contention for many millennials is the amount of good they see happening outside of the church in contrast to the bad things they see happening within the church.

Often, millennials see more good coming out of secular philanthropic organizations than they do churches.

Millennials are a passionate, socially active generation, and they want to be a part of a solution to the needs and hurts of the world. A great way to get millennials involved is to work on solving those problems. They'll be able to see the heart of God through your actions and then will want to join in.

All in all, millennials want to be part of a church. They just want to be a part of a church that helps them rather than hinders them. They want to feel that their church understands the value they bring, allows them to live out their gifts, and doesn't stop them from stepping into the empowered life in the Spirit.

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 ) Relationships Fri, 12 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
4 Reasons to Not Give up on Youth Ministry

We live in a church culture where some quadrants are starting to second-guess the value of youth ministry. Books, articles and blogs have been written decrying its effectiveness and calling out for action steps that range from small tweaks to a complete trashing of it.

And, yes, if we're honest, we all know down deep inside that something is wrong. Teenagers are leaving the church before or after they graduate. As Mike Yaconelli, one of the founders of Youth Specialties, said back in the day, the typical youth group has fewer seniors than juniors, fewer juniors than sophomores and fewer sophomores than freshmen. In the 11 years since Mike went to be with Lord, teenagers have become even busier and more distracted by technology and less impressed with the fun and flash of typical youth-ministry programming.

Something needs to be done for sure. Systemic change needs to happen. But I want to challenge you to take giving up on youth ministry altogether off the table of options. Here are four reasons I'm not giving up on youth ministry:

1. It gives a safe place for broken teenagers to be healed. There are those who say that the primary responsibility of raising teenagers to become men and women of God lies with their parents. And they are correct. But the problem is that most of the young people in America today now come from broken homes. Many of the parents in these homes are either not spiritually mature believers (or not believers at all), and so they cannot take the lead when it comes to the spiritual development of their own children.

I was one of those kids. Raised in a broken home by a single mom in a tough urban neighborhood, I didn't have a mom who could pour into me spiritually...because she wasn't yet a believer herself.

But thank God for a church that took me in. It took hundreds of kids like me in. The youth leaders in this church loved us, taught us and did what many of our parents were spiritually incapable of—discipled us.

Of course believing parents need to take the lead when it comes to discipling their own children, but unbelieving parents are incapable of that. An effective youth group can be a powerful change agent in the life of a teenager in these situations.

2. It provides an opportunity for Titus 2 relationships to be built. Titus 2:3-8 tells us, "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us."

In the first-century Jewish culture many girls were married off in their teen years so this passage was a call for older women (who could be in their 20s or 30s) to disciple the younger women (teenagers.) This passage also assumes older men are pouring into younger women ("similarly, encourage the young men...") In other words this passage is a powerful indication that in the early church men poured spiritually into teenage boys, and women poured into teenage girls.

This is exactly what happens in the healthiest youth ministries I've witnessed. Lone Ranger-type youth ministries that hinge on the personality of a single youth leader eventually implode. But youth leaders who raise up men and women to disciple teenagers in and out of the youth ministry context tend to thrive. And, of course, these same youth leaders are equipping believing parents to be central to this discipleship process as well.

Yes, this can happen in churches that don't technically have youth groups but, in my opinion, it is far less likely. Youth ministry provides a powerful context for these relationships to be developed and nurtured.

3. It gives teenagers the chance to connect with a like-minded tribe for a common cause. Something wonderful, exciting and a little dangerous takes place when teenagers gather with other teenagers. Pent-up adrenaline, idealism and twitchiness swirl together to unleash a hurricane of good (or, in some cases, not-so-good). But if harnessed and focused, this powerful cocktail can change the world.

Mormons have perfected the art of harnessing teen angst and adrenaline to advance the message of Mormonism. As I type these words tens of thousands of young missionaries are going door-to-door around the globe spreading the works-based "gospel" of Mormonism to the world. Say what you will about Mormon theology, but the Mormon philosophy of bringing young people together for a cause that seems greater than themselves and focusing it to advance a message is powerful.

I believe that the youth group should be a gathering place for Christian teenagers to be inspired to share the true gospel with their peers. It should be the place where a local and global vision of making disciples who make disciples is cast and actuated. The healthiest youth ministries I have seen use their youth-group meeting as a recruiting ground for campus missionaries who go back to their public schools and share the message of Jesus with their peers.

The energy in these youth-group meetings is palpable because the youth groups are filled with unbeliever cynicism combined with new believer excitement. These youth groups feel a little dangerous because they are pulling the tail of the lion by ripping souls from the domain of the Devil. But this tension creates a dependence of Jesus that ultimately overwhelms everything and everyone.

When youth groups are the primary gathering place for like-minded teenagers to accomplish the ultimate cause great things happen.

4. It offers teenagers a place to openly explore the Christian faith. Let's be honest, it's tough in a church setting for a teenager to explore their faith. After all, the action is on the stage and there's not usually a question and answer time after the sermon (although maybe there should be!)

But the youth group setting is typically much more fluid and interactive. This can be a great place of teenagers (both believing and non-believing) to explore the Christian faith more deeply. Years ago Dare 2 Share did a reality series called Gospel Journey Maui where we brought together young people from various faiths (Buddhist, Mormon, Jewish, etc), put them on a plane to Maui and had a week's worth of spiritual discussions and activities that we put on film. Thousands of youth groups across the United States have used this to create spiritual discussions in the youth group context. More recently, Youth Alpha put together a film series to explore these key spiritual questions as well.

But, whether it's Gospel Journey Maui, Youth Alpha, another curriculum or just asking great questions that open up spiritual discussions the youth group setting can and should be a safe place for teenagers to explore the Christian faith.

These are four reasons I'm not giving up on youth ministry. They're not the only reasons but these are the strongest ones in my book. I believe the best days of youth ministry are ahead. Actually, I'm convinced that the more confusing the world gets, the more broken families become and the more deeply the gospel is embraced as the solution the more we will need youth groups to be the centrifuge of community wide transformation one teenager at a time.

Have you given up on your youth ministry? Why?

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) Youth Thu, 11 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Reassessing God's Expectations of Our Worship

What type of worship honors God?" or, to look at the question another way, "After all, theologically speaking, what is it that actually makes worship worshipful to God?"

Even though I have practiced, led, studied and preached about worshiping God for over five decades as a Christian leader, I still refuse to suggest I have any expertise on the subject. A lifetime of entering and experiencing His presence has a way of keeping me mindful of how little I know, and how dependent I am on Him for today's guidance in leadership—not my experience.

I open with that context for what follows—my offered answer to the above pair of questions presented to me, with the request: "Set forth the theological basis for our thematic study of worship." At first a certain reticence tempted me to conform to what I supposed was expected—a treatise on the glory of God, and the propriety of humankind bringing worthy expressions of worship before His Throne. Of course, His grandeur and greatness does recommend our humble and our highest expression of praise as well as our utmost in devotion and adoration, but I felt the need to get to "the heart" of worship. So I have chosen to press an issue—not less theologically correct, to my view, but one that might seem unacceptable for failing to parrot the usual reply when a "theology of worship" is proposed.

To my perception, most theological presuppositions about worship focus on the cerebral, not the visceral—on the mind, not the heart. In most western Christian tradition, a virtual scorning of either the subjective experience or the mystical nature of encountering God finds common approval. A usual theology of worship centers on an objective analysis of God's revealed person, nature and attributes, with the accompanying presupposition that worthy worship is essentially constituted of our reciting this information back to Him. This focus on the mind's ideas about God, rather than the heart's hunger for Him, overlooks the truth that worship is actually a gift from God to us more than one of ours to Him; that He is more interested in helping us so that we are capable of interpreting Him.

We have been inclined to conclude "mind" and "spirit" are synonyms, when the Bible shows the "heart" is a more likely candidate to answer to the meaning of "worshiping in spirit." That in truth is a companion phrase that indicates the active participation of the intellect as well is undeniable, but it is also inescapably second—and dependent upon the heart's fullest release in worship first. This priority is usually held suspect, if not resisted outright, because our intellectualized value system minimizes the worth of emotions, and our hearts, as the more emotionally motivated center of our human response sources, is deemed less worthy for being governed more by affections than by reason; seen as more vulnerable to deception than the intellect because of the heart's pro-emotional bent. But to turn on these terms, from "heart-begotten" (i.e. "spiritual") worship to an intellectually based approach is to entertain a dual delusion: first, that the mind is less subject to deception than the heart (an unsupportable concept—2 Corinthians 4:4); and second, that the mind is ever the means by which God is "contacted" in worship (which is denied in the Bible—Job 11:7).

This is not to denigrate the priceless value of God's gift of human intellect, nor to deny that human intelligence is contributive to worship. But our quest is for an answer to, "What kind of worship God prefers from us," and honesty with the limits of any human being's brainpower forces the issue. In the last analysis, His Word indicates that He is not looking for something brilliant, but something broken: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise" (Psalm 51:17).

It is not that our minds are unworthy vehicles to receive divine revelation but that they are too limited to respond to the divine invitation. The intellect may discover truth about God's worthiness of worship and may choose to do so. But to fully enter into the dimensions of our Creator-Redeemer's presence—to open to the intimacy to which He invites us, as well as to that ecstasy with which Eternal Love desires to enthrall the human soul—only the spiritual capacities of the worshiping heart will suffice. The exercises of our enlightened minds may deduce God, but only our ignited hearts can delight Him—and, in turn, experience His desire to delight us. That is His desire, without question.

So, I would contend that what is on God's mind when we worship Him is not how many grandiose thoughts we have about Him, but how passionately our hearts desire Him; and that what He most wants to achieve in the intercourse of our spirits with His is the transmission of love, life and joy.

Thus, I tread the risky territory of seeming to minimize "worship" by not focusing first on "God's holiness and our unworthiness" by proposing that, from God's viewpoint, worship is a means designed to unlock the human heart that God may answer to human need and serve His own heartfelt interest in the well-being of His most beloved creatures. Of course, I also hasten to emphasize that God's excellent glory and man's sin and need are not in question or subject to debate here: He is holy, and we are unworthy. But once the redemption provided through Jesus' Cross has been received by faith, I want to assert:

That the worship God most welcomes is neither essentially or primarily intellectual (though it is certainly not unintelligent); and

That God's primary focus in giving us access to worship Him is to provide an exposure and experience intended for our benefit, not His (though it is unquestionable He delights in our coming to Him.)

I propose such a "theology of worship" upon the evidence of His pleasure with worship we find offered to Him in settings reported in His Word, as well as in direct statements He has made, revealing that the worship that God welcomes and honors is:

1. Worship that treasures His presence. First and foremost, God welcomes those into His presence who want Him. Their quest may be one of desperation or of delight, of frantic need or of a loving hunger for fellowship, but the motivation is clearly focused—and so is His pleasure with it.

2. Worship that humbles the heart. Perhaps the most memorable encounter between God and man in all the prophets is the occasion of Isaiah's call (Isaiah 6:1-8). The abject cry of a sinful man, "Woe is me, for I am undone," was not an achievement of intellectual analysis, but of a self-discovery faced upon entering God's presence with unabashed passion and with childlike openness. "I saw the Lord...," he says with neither apology or arrogance, as a breakthrough of grace produces a breakup of pride—a viewpoint even more deeply affirmed later in the same book (Isaiah 57:15).

The starting place for confronting pride is in how we approach worship. Isaiah, who is known to be from the cultural, educated elite of Judah describes a childlike humility and teachability that can only attend an unpretentious entry into God's presence. His cry, without a vestige of style-consciousness and revealing an unreserved availability to God's revelation of Himself, is the very thing to which Jesus calls us all:

"Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven ... Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 18:3, 10).

3. Worship that sacrifices and expects something from God. Hebrews 11:6 puts it clearly: "He that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who humbly seek Him." The text is based on the proposition that worship always brings a sacrifice to God—that "he that comes," whether with praise, an offering, or in the laying down of something being asked by the Holy Spirit's call, is presenting something of themselves to Him. But simultaneously, we are told that the worshipper is with equal faith to believe something will be given in return by God Himself—something rewarding, enriching, benevolent and good.

The tension between these two—bringing a sacrifice and expecting a reward—provides a venue to common argument today. Some feel obligated to "defend God" against human selfishness and would refuse the balance in proposition the text declares. But the truth is, God does freely offer the rewards of His blessing—and delights to do so.

4. Worship that extends God's love by every means. If indeed God-pleasing worship addresses human need more than it supplies a divine one (if, indeed, there is such a thing as a need on God's part), it is to be expected that worship which honors the desires of the Almighty will beget reaching hands. It is, thus, unsurprising that our Savior's summary definition of the "greatest commandment" issues into "the second, which is like (in importance) unto it." The vertical mandate, which focuses on our worshipping God ("You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength"), issues in the horizontal ("...and your neighbor as yourself"). Basically, the only true divine approval our worship will find is when it results in our hearts being focused on such things as:

  • Forgiveness toward others, with peacemaking and reconciling efforts evident in our day-to-day agenda for living;
  • Gracious, life-style evangelism characterizing our conduct and communication, so that the glory found in His presence is manifest in our shedding a warm, attractive "light as a believable, winsome witness."
  • Unselfish, servant-minded availability to assist in human need—seen in a heart of care for victims of neglect and injustice, nourished by a merciful mindset toward those whose cheapened values reveal their blindness.

It is this conviction that drives an inclusion of "prayer circles" in nearly every worship at our church. "Ministry time" is the formal name we use for an approximately 10-minute segment of small group interaction and prayer, usually following an extended season of sensitive, intimate and praiseful worship to God.

The habit was formed decades ago at the same time my thinking about worship was being revolutionized. The four to five minutes of that time, during which three to six people share their personal need or concern and then pray for one another, is an estimable key to our effectiveness as a congregation.

Over the years, the bottom line of worship seems to have been and continues to be served as we pursue these values on the basis of the theological viewpoint I have presented. We have never lost sight of Him as First and Foremost, but we have not based our approach on the supposition that we understand anything more than the splendor of His love shown to us in Jesus—and that love-gift ignites our worship. What begins, in treasuring Him, proceeds to humble our hearts, awaken our sacrifice and release our service. What is birthed in the heart finds expression in the hands—hands that rise in humble praise and serve with gentle grace.

With such sacrifices, God seems to be well pleased.  

Jack Hayford is the founding pastor of the Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, where he served as senior pastor for more than three decades. He is also founder of The King's University in Dallas, Texas, and the author of more than 100 books.

]]> (Jack Hayford) Worship Thu, 11 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
3 Steps to Leading the Most Incredible Worship Service Ever

"Wow, that worship service was amazing."

It's a phrase we all hear, all the time. Whether you're leaving the arena after a Jesus Culture concert or driving to the buffet after Sunday's worship, we've all said it.

But what is it, I wonder, that constitutes "incredible" worship? Because you may be reading this article and thinking, "My church's worship is far from great. Matter of fact, it's terrible."

Oftentimes, our judgment of a worship service comes down to how it makes us feel. If it was charged with emotion, we like it. If the band has it together, we like it. If it's not so loud that our eardrums hurt, we like it. If they sang "Oceans," we like it.

That's also what scares me about our modern worship culture. We attend concerts, idolize artists, and chase experiences because of how they make us feel.

But it can leave us discontented with the local church God has called us to and distract us from asking the most important question of all.

The Most Important Question

The question?

"What kind of worship is incredible to God?"

That truly is what matters, because worship is for God. Worship is an offering that rises to Him. It's for His praise, glory, adoration, fame, honor, renown, exaltation.

Can you hear it? Romans 11:36 echoes throughout the world:

"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen."

"What kind of worship service is incredible to God?"

The question is important for various reasons. First, it puts the responsibility on the worshiper. It undercuts consumerism.

Great worship isn't just the performance of a great band, it's God's holy people laying their lives down. I have a responsibility. You have a responsibility. We are all called.

Second, it reminds us that God is the only One who can judge the quality of worship. It's not based on how many top CCLI songs you cover as good as the artists. It's not about how well your worship set flows.

It's "was my heart, soul, mind and strength fully engaged in the exaltation of God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, by Jesus Christ?"

3 Steps to Leading Incredible Worship

So people of God, what is a great worship service? And how can we do our part to make sure it happens every time?

1. Spirit and truth. When the Bible says, "These are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks," we should be paying attention.

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23).

God desires worship that is based in truth and led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads our hearts to the true knowledge of God. We must worship God for who He is in all of his glory, wonder, goodness, terror, beauty, tenderness and grace.

2. Obedience. On the other hand, when God says, "Away with the noise of your songs. I despise your sacred assemblies," in Amos 5:23, we should also be listening. In this passage, Israel, God's chosen people, were having worship services. They were celebrating, singing and lifting praise to God.

The problem with this celebration was that they were a disobedient people. They were singing praises while ignoring God's commands to meet the needs of the marginalized. "But let justice roll like a river, mercy like a never-failing stream."

Incredible worship will always be rooted in a singular desire to obey God. We want to do what pleases Him. That is the truest expression of our worship. Don't allow yourself to raise your hands at a worship concert while ignoring the will of God the next morning.

3. Fear. Consider this: "Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in his steadfast love" (Psalm 33:18).

If you want God's attention during worship, you must fear Him. Without the fear of God, our worship is flippant. It keeps us humble, gazing, bowing, trusting (For more on this idea of fear, check out this post).

But the verse doesn't stop there. It seems to equate fearing God with hoping in his steadfast love. Which tells me that the fear of God isn't just a mental assent to respecting His majesty and holiness. A true fear of God will take action, place hope, bank its life on Jesus.

I know this post didn't outline some practical pointers on what songs to sing, instruments to use, DB level to run, and how many musicians to have on stage.

Why? It's because a great band or a great song doesn't make an incredible worship service. It's about what God seeks, what God desires, what God has said.

God is seeking spirit-and-truth worshipers. He is after an obedient life. His eyes look to those who fear Him. This is the most incredible worship service to God's heart.

But the answer is far from exhaustive. I need your help. What would you add to the list?

What, in your opinion, is the most awesome worship service ever?

What are the qualities? The characteristics?

David Santistevan is the worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh. For the original article, visit

]]> (David Santistevan) Worship Wed, 10 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Are Singles as Qualified for Ministry as Married People?

The overwhelming majority of church leadership in the United States is married.

Married people are the overwhelming majority of voices with the power to influence church decisions—and marriage is celebrated above almost anything else in a Christian's life. But just like racial and gender inequalities within our governing bodies are cause for concern, the fact that our church leadership is weighted so heavily toward married people is cause for concern as well.

The perspectives of single people and married people, while they can be similar, are at times vastly different. Single people face different challenges than married people do, and their perspective and needs are largely ignored.

Not only that, but we often communicate (even if unconsciously), that there's something wrong with you if you're not married.

We talk about marriage as the end point—the reward awaiting a spiritually healthy and mature Christian.

We reinforce that message by hiring married people almost exclusively to hold the most important roles in our church communities.

According to a New York Times article, single pastors in conservative churches are outnumbered by married pastors 1:19. Even in more liberal churches, only one out of every six pastors is single.

We're missing out on an experienced, talented and passionate group when we don't hire single people. And I think it's about time that changed.

Here are four assets single people offer to our ministries that married people can't:

1. Time. In Scripture, Paul says it's better to be unmarried than it is to be married.

He's not knocking marriage, he's just pointing out that if you're single, you have the ability to pursue the Lord and His work without distraction.

By only hiring married people, we're hiring a team of people who are naturally divided in their focus. By hiring single people for our ministry staff, we're benefiting from their undivided focus, passion and time.

2. An understanding of singleness. Married people like to believe they know everything there is to know about the struggle of being single. But just like we need female pastors to minister to women, and the same to men, we shouldn't expect married people to be able to understand, relate and minister to single people as well as a single person would.

There are unique challenges and hardships that come with singleness, just as there are in marriage. It's important that we provide resources and support for people going through those challenges, just as we would for any other members of our congregation.

3. A different perspective. No governing body would be able to accurately represent the needs and desires of its constituents without having a diverse group of voices making the decisions.

The same is true in a church.

If every person making the decisions has the same life experience, particularly in the arena of marriage, it's going to be impossible to accurately speak and serve the needs of people who aren't. People who aren't married bring a needed perspective that's different from the voices represented today.

4. A reliance on Jesus. Married people have a built-in support system single people don't have. When something happens, husbands and wives rely on each other for love, support and help. When you're single, you don't have that same luxury, which is a different kind of luxury in itself.

I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but when I am totally relying on the Lord, I get to see Him do far better, more miraculous things than I do when I'm going at it on my own. While married people reflect the relationship between Jesus and his church, single people rely on it—a reliance that leads to closeness with God that our whole congregation would benefit from.

Our churches suffer greatly when groups in the congregation aren't represented. Our single members of the congregation are not only being under-represented, they're being marginalized. But even more than that, we're missing out on the contribution of some of our most talented, passionate and creative members.

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) Singles Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
10 Ways to Double Church Volunteer Recruitment

Without volunteer labor and ministry, our churches would not exist. The recruitment and retention of volunteers should be one of the highest priorities of church leaders.

While we typically honor our paid labor force on Labor Day, I want to take the opportunity to focus on volunteer labor in our congregations. Specifically, I want to share with you 10 ways the most effective churches are recruiting and retaining volunteers.

In many cases, they have more than doubled the success of churches where these approaches are not taken:

1. Tie their work to the vision of the church. First, the church must have a clear and compelling vision. Then leaders should redundantly express how different volunteer ministries tie in to that vision. Such a clarification gives purpose to the work of the volunteers. And without purpose, volunteer ministries struggle.

2. Consider recruiting with specific end dates. If possible, recruit volunteers with a definite term of service. They are much more likely to say "yes" if they know they will have a time when the work is done. At that time, they can renew their commitment or move to another area of passion.

3. Recruit toward a member's passion. Find out areas where members are already passionate and gifted. If not, you will have to recruit with compulsion or guilt. Volunteers recruited in that manner are not only likely to quit their work at the church, they are also likely to leave the church altogether.

4. Honor your volunteers at least once a month. A number of churches have annual ministry-appreciation banquets. That's not sufficient. Leaders should find ways, even if it's as simple as a phone call, email or letter, to recognize volunteers at least monthly.

5. Volunteer recruitment and retention should be the priority of the pastor. While pastors should by no means do all the work, they should make certain it is a priority focus of their ministries.

6. Get your best leaders to oversee volunteer recruitment and retention. It's just too important to hope oversight happens without strategy. Your best leaders should have the responsibility of oversight of these ministries.

7. Communicate openly and frequently with volunteers. Indeed, a clear strategy should be in place for such communication. That is one reason number 6 is so important.

8. Recruit through relationships. Strategically ask people who already have healthy established relationships to work together in a ministry. Those relationships will be vital in keeping people motivated. After all, we all prefer to work with people we like.

9. Provide periodic checkups. A critical part of the communication process should be a checkup to see how each volunteer is doing. It should be open, transparent, affirming and non-threatening.

10. Allow volunteers to quit honorably. Burnout is always a possibility. Members may discover that their ministry actually is a bad fit for them. They should have the prerogative of quitting, taking a break, or finding a new area of passion.

We honor all church volunteers who give, go and serve sacrificially. You are truly the heroes of our congregations.

Let me hear from you about your church's approach to volunteer recruitment and retention. We all can learn from both your successes and failures.

How do you honor your volunteers? What methods of recruitment work best in your ministries?

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Relationships Tue, 09 Sep 2014 15:56:44 -0400
10 Myths About Biblical Prosperity

There has been much written in recent years about the Christian's role in producing wealth on the earth. The following are common misconceptions in the church regarding prosperity and wealth creation that need adjustment for us to have biblical balance and integrity and experience transformation in our families, communities and nations:

1. Prosperity is automatic for all Christians. Although God desires prosperity for all His children (3 John 2) nowhere in the Bible does it say that saints are automatically blessed financially because they are saved. The book of Proverbs is replete with principles of wealth creation which deal with activating the laws of sowing and reaping, wisdom, and integrity to produce financial wealth--principles redeemed people do not necessarily practice after their conversion to Christ (read Prov. 6:6-8; 10:4-5; Gal. 6:7; 2 Cor. 9:6).

2. God only claims 10 percent of our finances. There is a common misconception that God claims only 10 percent of our finances and that we can do what we want with the remaining 90 percent of our money. The truth of the matter is, God claims all of our money; the tithe is simply a minimum of 10 percent that should go directly to the ecclesial realm for the spread of the gospel.

Luke 14:33 teaches that disciples of Christ are to relinquish ownership of 100 percent of their possessions because we are merely His stewards of what we own when we make Him our Lord. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (Psalm 24:1).

The Bible not only teaches us to tithe, but to get out of burdensome debt (Prov. 22:7; debt that causes a depreciation of our wealth), to invest wisely (Matt. 25:27), to be shrewd in our business dealings (Luke 16:8), to save for our future generations (Prov. 13:22), and to create business plans (Luke 14:28). The Bible also teaches us against co-signing for those you do not know well (Prov. 11:15) and to deal honestly with others (Prov. 11:1).

So you see, how we steward 100 percent of our money will determine how wealthy we will become, not just how we steward 10 percent of our money.

3. God wants us prosperous so we can be happy. God tells us clearly in Deuteronomy 8:18 that the primary purpose of wealth is so that we can finance the spread of His covenant on the earth. The deal is this: If we seek first His kingdom with our finances, then He will give us what we desire anyway (read Matthew 6:33; Psalm 37:4). Biblical prosperity has more to do with pleasing the Lord and making Him happy than obtaining wealth so we can experience personal happiness.

4. All Christians are called to be very wealthy. Although God has called the corporate Body of Christ to leverage great wealth, not all individual Christians or even pastors can handle large amounts of money. God will only give a people that which they are able to properly manage and administrate (read Deuteronomy 7:22).

Taking it a step further, some pastors and churches could even be damaged if certain billionaires came into their churches and gave them their tithes. The tithe on a billion dollars is $100 million. How many small to mid-sized churches can properly steward that kind of wealth? Also, how many people who have won the lotto have kept their wealth, health, and family?

Jesus came to give every person an abundant life (John 10:10) but not every person has been given the same amount of talents (Matthew 25:14-15). Some have been given five talents, some two, and some one, all according to their God-given ability and assignment. Hence, not everyone in your local church is called to be a multimillionaire.

5. All pastors are called to be in business. Because Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3) many pastors think they are called to be entrepreneurs and wheeler-dealers in the marketplace (real estate, the stock market, venture capital, etc.) and many of them have had disastrous results and lost their shirts! It is one thing for a pastor to be bi-vocational because their church cannot afford a full salary. It is another thing for a pastor to think they are called to create much wealth by starting their own business because they think Scripture makes it normative.

The context regarding Paul is this: Since he was receiving many accusations because people were trying to insinuate that he was an inferior apostle, Paul preached the Gospel without receiving an offering from the Corinthian church to silence his critics (read 2 Cor. 11:7-15; 1 Cor. 9:18) even though he had the full right to make a living from the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:9-14). Also, he came to an area that was filled with clergy corruption because the temple priests in Corinth peddled religion and sex for money. So Paul did his best to distance himself from any semblance of clergy greed and vice (1 Cor. 4:12).

In light of this, I believe that only some pastors are called to have their own lucrative business; not every pastor has the grace to multitask between marketplace and ecclesial business and be successful. Only some are hyphenated ministers with calls to both the business and ecclesial realms.

6. Prosperity is the right of all those in Christ. It is high time we in the Body of Christ go from a "rights-centered" gospel, which has its historical roots in the American fight for independence and Jeffersonian preaching, to a "stewardship-centered" Gospel, in which we view our gifts, calling, and resources as a responsibility to serve and bless others, not something handed to us because we have the "right" to it as a Christian.

Matthew 25 shows the great balance in this because it talks both about the command to properly invest our talents for an appreciation of assets that results in multiplication, and then illustrates that the reason for the talents is so that we can feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit the prisoners, and be hospitable to the strangers and aliens (Matt. 25:14-46). This and other passages clearly show that the primary purpose of wealth is a matter of stewardship to serve humanity, not a matter of our "right" because we are Christians.

7. Wealth creation is the key to breaking the spirit of poverty. Creating more money has never been the main key to breaking poverty. According to Gen. 1:27-28, the church must produce strong and stable marriages and biblically trained children, which is the first key to replenishing the Earth, subduing our enemies, and having dominion (great influence).

True prosperity is never only about money. Wealth creation is merely one of the by-products for people who walk in their assignment with integrity, humility, focus, and diligence, all of which should be modeled at home by parents before a person reaches adulthood.

8. The only way to take a city is to buy it. Although amassing great wealth and real estate holdings is something that will leverage great influence (for example, Robert Moses was the main powerbroker of New York because of real estate and other assets), one size does not fit all for every community and city. Something like this is much easier to accomplish in poverty-stricken areas where the civil government and community boards want to give or sell property to local churches so the neighborhood can be redeemed. (Some churches purchase whole blocks and open up numerous businesses in impoverished or needy areas.) But in high-end areas something like this can take a church multiple generations to accomplish.

For example, my local church in New York City sits on only a quarter of an acre of land that is worth $4 million to $5 million!

The easiest way for a local church to leverage great power, influence and transform a community is by loving and serving their community and city. When a local church has an army of paid and unpaid volunteers who educate at-risk children, help young people excel in the arts, sports, and life skills, provide much-needed services for the poor, the fatherless, and aliens, and minister to community leaders and elected officials, then God's favor rests on that church, which opens up more doors and buildings than money could buy! Community and business leaders will do whatever it takes to allow that church to have any facility and resource they need to further bless their community.

This was the primary method the early church used to spread the gospel. Instead of purchasing buildings, they filled everyone else's buildings (except the pagan temples) with loving, sacrificial Christians who risked their lives to care for the diseased, nurse abandoned babies, and bury rotting corpses left in the town garbage dumps. Truly, when the church goes after those nobody wants, God will give them those everybody wants! Taking a city does not just happen with a top-down approach of amassing wealth and speaking to power; it also involves a bottom-up approach with effective compassionate ministries.

9. It only takes faith to release prosperity. Those of us who "named and claimed" prosperity found out the hard way that we not only have to speak faith and think positively, we also have to read books on wealth creation, work hard, and receive proper coaching from those who have already gone financially where we feel called to go. It is not just about faith and it is not just about sowing money; it is about working hard and learning how to get, how to manage what we get, how to save, how to invest money where it appreciates and multiplies the most, and how to disciple and empower others so they can also learn how to produce wealth for the kingdom.

10. Prosperity only relates to our present. Most preaching today regarding prosperity only has an "I," "me," "my" emphasis which is a one-generation approach. God revealed Himself not only as the God of Abraham, but also the God of Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 3:6) because He has called us to plan for at least three generations in everything we do. I pray that the days will come to an end when the preaching is only on individualistic topics like "How you can write your own ticket with God" or "How you can receive your miracle"! Those of us maturing in the faith message and prosperity realize that God has called us to corporately think in terms of our present and future the same way He does (Exodus 20:5-6; 1 Chron. 16:15). We realize that God will transfer the wealth of the wicked only to those righteous who leave an inheritance for their grandchildren (Prov. 13:22).

After all, most of the money today is in "old" money, not "new" money (with the exception of Bill Gates and some others who have blazed the technological trail in this present information age), which means that wealth was accumulated over the course of multiple generations and kept in families (think of the Rockefellers for example). This is one reason why the Fifth Commandment (Eph. 6:3) tells us that if we honor our father and mother it will go well for us and we will live long on the earth.

Those who only think in terms of their present life are no better than economist John Maynard Keynes, who influenced the present American economic strategy with debt financing. He and those like him were not thinking of future generations but only about indulging their lust for the temporal present. May God deliver the church from such a mindset!

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

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Money Fri, 05 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
10 Ways to Edify Your Pastor

I've been participating in the life of a local church for over four decades. For most of these years, I've either been the pastor's kid, the youth pastor's wife, the children's pastor, or the elder's wife.

In all of these roles, I've had the privilege of witnessing the beauty that happens when the members of the body of Christ work together to proclaim the Good News. At the same time, I've also had a front-row seat to some less-than-beautiful moments that left some people hurt, confused and wondering if they would ever want to be a part of a local church body again.

Despite some of the pain I've witnessed and experienced, I remain an absolute believer that God has chosen His church—the body of believers around the globe—to be the hands and feet of Christ to a lost and lonely world.

One of my deepest passions is to help local churches become healthy growing bodies. Here are 10 positive ways that church members can support their church leadership.

1. Pray for your church leaders—both the paid staff and the volunteer leaders.

Pray that their fervor—for God and His Word—will increase daily. Pray for wisdom in their leadership and decision-making. Pray for their marriages to be strengthened and renewed. Pray for their kids.

Pray. Pray. Pray.

Become an intercessor on behalf of your leaders. We don't need to know all the details of every matter in order to pray. The Holy Spirit already knows how to pray. Follow the Spirit's lead.

2. Give your leaders permission to be less than perfect.

No one is perfect. Leaders are real people. Church leaders have a human nature they wrestle with too.

And no one's family is perfect either. Church leaders have strong-willed kids too. 

A healthy leader leads from a posture of humility and doesn't try to present a picture of perfection. And a healthy church will allow its leaders to be a little less than perfect too.

3. Understand the actual role of each leader and the function of the church.

Church members oftentimes place unreasonable expectations on their leaders. Yes, pastoral leaders are there to serve, to teach, to equip, and to protect the flock.

But they're not there to solve all of our problems. They're there to walk beside us through our valleys and celebrate with us on our mountaintops. But no one person can be everything to everyone—except, of course, Jesus.

The best way to understand the role of each leader and the function of the church is to do due diligence before signing on as a member.

  • Are you familiar with your church's Statement of Faith?
  • Are you aware of your church's denomination and/or its affiliations with other denominations?
  • Do you understand and accept how your church's leadership structure works?
  • Do you know the story of how your local church came into existence?
  • Are you knowledgeable of your church's constitution and bylaws?

A wise church member will do their homework before joining a congregation.

4. Remember your lay leaders.

Smaller churches may have more lay leaders than larger churches, which can afford larger paid staffs. Try to remember that your lay leaders have jobs outside of their volunteer positions in the church. This likely includes the elders. They aren't available 24/7 for phone calls and meetings when they have to be at their places of work 40-plus hours per week in addition to the time they serve at church.

The next time you cross paths with a lay leader at your church, tell them how much you appreciate the way they serve and their personal sacrifice of time and energy.

5. Honor your leaders' commitment to confidentiality.

There's a big difference between secrecy and confidentiality. Secrecy is the attempt to hide information. Confidentiality is the way to care for a person with grace and common courtesy. Pastors and elders are oftentimes in a position where they know about deeply personal and private matters that are occurring in the lives of church members, or even other staff members. 

Yes, we live in a Facebook-driven culture, where people seem to have less and less of a filter these days, but that does not mean that church members are entitled to know every detail of another person's private life. Neither are church members entitled to know every detail that may have been behind a leadership decision. Such details are sometimes an HR issue. And all legal issues aside, there's a common decency factor that leaders must abide by. These kinds of situations especially need discernment and sensitivity. That's why the leaders are there. They're there to lead with wisdom through difficult times. 

6. Allow your leaders to worship on Sunday morning.

Do you have something you need to discuss with a pastor or an elder? Please don't corner them in the foyer or in the courtyard on a Sunday morning. Let them worship with their families. And let them complete the job they are supposed to do on Sundays. Make a phone call or send an email during the week to set up a time when you could meet.

Choose the right time to discuss your issue.

7. When you have a grievance with another church member or one of the leaders, follow Matthew 18 and go directly to that person after having given the matter much prayer.

Do not discuss your grievance with your small group as a "sounding board." That's gossip.

Do not meet with a friend at Starbucks to "ask for their wisdom" on the matter. That's gossip.

Do not offer up a "prayer request" on the matter with your friends. That's gossip.

When you have a grievance, pray first; then go directly to the person your grievance involves. Follow the order set forth in Matthew 18.

8. Never send criticism in the form of an email, or worse, an anonymous letter in the offering basket.

If you have a concern, do as #6 and #7 says: 1) Set up a time when you can meet, and 2) Go to the person directly. And, of course, #1 is always imperative too. Pray. Pray. Pray.

Maturity involves a face-to-face conversation whenever possible. Difficult conversations should never happen in an email or a letter.

9. In times of crisis, be present.

Sometimes the negative people draw the most attention because they're the loudest. But instead of being loud, let's be strong, let's be courageous, and let's be present.

Your leaders need the body of Christ to surround them with love and encouragement, especially in trying times. A crisis either brings out the best in a person or the worst. When a crisis hits your church, pray. 

Pray and be present.

10. Encourage your leaders with words of affirmation.

You'd be surprised at the burdens your church leaders often bear, and they bear them silently out of their desire to honor confidentiality—and sometimes they're honoring the confidentiality of the very person who is slandering them!

Be a positive presence in their lives. Speak words of encouragement.

Reprinted with permission from  Missional Woman. Denise J. Hughes  teaches writing at a Christian university, where she enjoys connecting with students and sharing her faith in Christ. She's the author of On Becoming a Writer: What Every Blogger Needs to Know, and she devotes her blog to helping others develop their craft and deepen their faith. You can connect with Denise on her—or on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

]]> (Denise J. Hughes) Relationships Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
MEV: ‘It’s Staggeringly Good’

This is the Word I know and love, rendered both more poetic and clearer.

I have to admit to a little cynicism about the MEV being yet another new translation and whether or not it was just going to be about revenue. But publisher Passio and the translators clearly have worked hard on this, and they are clearly worth their wage. I don't begrudge them their hard-won revenue.

Far beyond all that, though, is this Work. Much like Harry Connick Jr. said about his favorite kinds of Steinways, I enjoy a book that's unafraid to "fight me" a little.

The MEV translation, in the short time I have spent with it, reached out and slapped me around. Romans, in particular, was unlike I'd ever read it. Paul is infamous among followers of Christ for his tangled rhetoric at times, and I've heard it said by more than one Christian that they understood Paul's intent not because of his writing but rather in spite of it and with heavy empowerment by the Holy Spirit. I'm telling you, if you're looking for a new way to understand what Paul meant, you need to read the Modern English Version. It's staggeringly good.

This is a translation wherein words are on full display for their deep meanings, without apology, and the translators haven't shied away from the rich ones. I had mistakenly assumed their use of the word "Modern" was going to mean we would be burdened with yet another NIV: tepid stale milquetoast. The MEV is nothing like it. It's punchy. It will wake you up and make you pay attention, especially in those certain favorite passages where you think you know what's coming.

And it's not just the translators' word choices that set the MEV apart. It's how those words come together at the sentence, even at the paragraph level. All in all, the effect is provocative because it makes one stop and consider everything anew.

I highly recommend to you this translation, this approach to the Word of God. And I look forward very much indeed to spending more time with it, more time in it, soaking in the richness, the goodness, the meaning. This is, as pastor Trevor says, "good grazing."

Chris White is an award-winning author and editor and  co-author of the Airel Saga with Aaron Patterson. Chris also writes historical literary fiction under the pen name Austen John, and has also penned some short stories as C.P. White.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Chris White) Marketplace Wed, 03 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
The Secret Sauce: How You Can Be a Successful Youth Pastor

You could spend months debating the best strategy for your group.

But the truth is, it doesn't matter ... if you're not around long enough to make it happen.

Culture change and systematic growth are things that take years, not months.

Does that mean that the secret sauce of youth ministry success is just hanging around for a while?


There is fruit to be gained from longevity, if you stick around long enough to pick it.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the length of time it takes to become really successful at something. His answer?

Ten thousand hours.

It sounds like a lot of time, but 10,000 hours is actually represented by just five years of full-time employment.

On average, a youth worker lasts about four years. Does that mean that too many of us are getting out of ministry just before we make it over that tipping point?

It's possible.

One lesson from Moses is this: Sometimes the only way to get across the desert is to keep walking.

It takes time—a lot of time—to truly understand and become a part of the larger community that surrounds your congregation.

It takes a long time to change the culture of your volunteers, students and especially parents.

It takes a very long time to raise up an immature bunch of sixth-graders into excellent upperclassmen and phenomenal leaders.

More than that, sometimes sticking around through tough times is just faithfulness to God for placing you in that position in the first place. Generally, I've found that this kind of faithfulness is rewarded.

Bottom line: The length of time you invest into your ministry might be more important than the strategies you choose to invest your time in. If you're looking for overnight success, you're not going to find it.

But ... burnout is the enemy of longevity.

This is the reason I study burnout and why I write the kinds of things that are designed to help you stay in ministry forever.

Jesus was in public ministry for three-and-a-half years. But for many of us, we pack up sometime before year two, frustrated with the lack of results we've seen. We begin by wanting to change the world and leave upset that it didn't happen as quickly as we would have liked.

That's why it's massively important to protect yourself, your family and your passion for ministry.

Because here's the thing: The greatest fruits of our labors are waiting for us just beyond the point when so many of us give up looking for it.

My prayer for you is this: Continue in the ministry to which you've been called. Seek Christ as the source of strength for your efforts. Then continue on again. Amen. 

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth-worker burnout. He writes at Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations—things like leading volunteers, managing money, and communicating effectively. He is the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Aaron Helman) Youth Tue, 02 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
How to Release Creative People for Effective Ministry

It's impossible to have a healthy church that experiences multi-dimensional growth without trusting people enough to delegate leadership to them. Having said that, this remains one of the greatest bottlenecks to growth for thousands of churches. And delegation remains one of the hardest challenges for pastors and church staff members.

One of the reasons we fail to delegate leadership is our fear of wildfire. We're afraid things will get out of control—and indeed they will—but limiting control is actually what often fuels growth. We often encumber leaders with too much red tape. Policies and procedures have their place, but we can easily add so much structure that people don't feel free to lead and make decisions.

The key to motivating creative people to lead ministry effectively is granting ownership. At Saddleback, as much as possible, each ministry makes its own decisions without a lot of oversight from the staff. We believe that the implementers should be the decision makers. When everything has to be passed by a committee or board, we tend to ask why about every decision. But our initial response to the ideas of creative people should actually be why not?

There are three ways to bring out the best in others and release creative leaders for ministry:

1. Give them a challenge. People love to live up to a big challenge. Jesus demonstrated this with the Great Commission. He took a dozen average guys and challenged them to go tell the Gospel to the entire world. He knew they couldn't do it alone and they couldn't do it quickly, but He knew they could do it over time as the church expanded under their leadership.

2. Give them control. People need permission. I often say that you can have control or growth, but you can't have both. At least you can't have a lot of both. You must have some control, obviously, but there's always a trade-off. Growth happens in an atmosphere of freedom where leaders are encouraged to dream, to try, to experiment, and even to fail and move forward. Burnout happens when we squash every new idea with a skeptical attitude.

3. Give them credit. It's extremely important to affirm and encourage those who serve. Pointing out successes, providing guidance and comfort through failure, and reminding people of their calling and giftedness in Christ matters greatly to the accomplishment of the church's mission. We are wired to respond positively to encouragement, and we're usually motivated to keep going even when things get difficult if we know that our labor is appreciated.

Would you like your church to be stronger and healthier and to grow multi-dimensionally? You must die to self, give away ministry, and empower leaders with permission. And if you're reading this as a non-pastor, you absolutely must give your pastor and staff the freedom to lead and feed by taking the responsibility of ministry.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren) Relationships Tue, 02 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400