As I have had the opportunity to speak to groups of pastors over these past few years, I have identified five different traps I believe churches often fall into—traps that prevent our churches from realizing their full potential to change the world for Christ.
Most churches will find they have slid into one or two of these traps to one degree or another. Some will have avoided them all. Either way, just being aware of a trap helps keep one from falling prey to it in the first place.
Below are the five traps to consider. Do one or more characterize you or your church?
“There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him...” 1 Kings 19:9 (NIV)
These sobering words penetrated my soul one day in prayer. It was a typical Thursday morning at the office. I was performing my daily routine of checking messages, answering phone calls and sorting mail when I heard a faint, but distinct noise coming from an area near the sanctuary. Knowing that I was the lone person in the building, I went to check to see if someone was attempting to break in.
As I walked down the hallway, I felt compelled to enter the sanctuary and pray for a few moments. This decision would forever change my life. I made my way to the front of the sanctuary and knelt at the altar.
We have a moral responsibility to engage the largest humanitarian crisis in history
The AIDS pandemic remains today as the largest humanitarian crisis in history, and the church has a moral responsibility to become engaged. Every church, whether large and affluent or small with little in the way of financial resources, can make a significant impact in its community. Here are five practical steps to launch an HIV/AIDS ministry, based on the acrostic START.
Seek support from the pastors, elders or deacons of your church. Church leadership must understand why it is important to begin this ministry. Without their support, the ministry probably won’t succeed. Inform the leadership team about the number of people infected and affected—locally and globally—and about the reasons the church is best positioned to care for people who are HIV-positive. Write a purpose statement that clearly explains the aim of this ministry and how it fits within the scope of the church’s overall vision.
Talk about scriptural foundations for this with the congregation. Human emotion is insufficient as a rationale for beginning an HIV/AIDS ministry. It must rest on a scriptural foundation.
God’s adoption plan provides the church with the perfect ministry model
At the heart of orphan care at Saddleback Church is the desire to end the orphan crisis. We believe every child deserves a loving, lasting, legal, lifelong family of their own—and we believe this is doable. If every church empowered their members to care for orphans in ways that helped and didn’t hurt, the orphan crisis could be over.
Unfortunately, though there are still more than 163 million orphans and vulnerable children in the world today, little has been done yet to help orphansstop being orphans. As a culture, we’ve spent years trying to put Band-Aids on the orphanage institution. But children need more than food, shelter, clothing and education. We don’t want children to just survive, but to thrive—and children thrive in family.
At Saddleback, we began asking ourselves, “How can we end the orphan crisis, and is there something every church can do?” Here are what we believe are the answers to those questions.
What every church can do about human sex trafficking—now
Can I be blunt and say that I’m sick and tired of churches and ministries that are committed to “raising awareness” about sex trafficking?
We’re living in a time in which the world has more modern-day slaves than ever before. The United Nations crime-fighting office estimates that at any given time, 2.4 million people are being trafficked—and of those, half are children. Nearly 80 percent of those 2.4 million are being exploited as sexual slaves.
Although it’s difficult to cite an exact figure, we know that no country is providing more girls per capita than Moldova, where I’ve worked for more than 20 years. Right now, 450,000 women and girls have simply and mysteriously vanished from the tiny country—more than 12 percent of the nation’s total population!