Ministry Outreach Sat, 30 Aug 2014 02:11:11 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb How Do God’s Mission and Man’s Salvation Relate?

In June 2014, David Platt, Frank Page, Trevin Wax and I discussed the topics of salvation and the mission of God.

The panel was sponsored by The Gospel Project, an intentionally Christ-centered and mission-driven curriculum that Trevin and I edit. We think that conversations like this matter—people need more theological discussion, not less. In fact, The Gospel Project 2014-15 winter study for adults and students is titled "The God Who Saves" and explores the biblical doctrines of election, calling, conversion and our union with Christ.

The purpose of our discussion was to address some debates about how Christians, who disagree on the order of salvation or the extent of the atonement, can work together (or not).

Now, we are not saying (for example) that Calvinists and Wesleyans should necessarily be in the same denomination. The fact is, doctrinal statements and standards matter. And, the beliefs we have (and sincerely hold) need to be passed on in our church plants and our mission efforts. (Thus, Arminian Pentecostals like the Church of God I was with last week should plant, well, Arminian Pentecostal churches. You would not hear me making a case there that they should plant Calvinist cessationist churches. More on that here.)

However, in my denomination, Calvinists and non-Calvinists (the new word is traditionalists), have always been in the same denomination. The doctrinal statements have just about always been accommodating to both groups. So, the question is, in this case, can traditionalists and Calvinists exist in the same denomination, if the doctrinal statement so allows, or is it doomed to failure?

The panel participants included Frank Page, who was writing against Calvinism before it was cool to do so. His book, The Trouble with the Tulip, was provided to all the attendees of the panel. Frank is now the president of the Executive Committee of the SBC. Yes, the President of the SBC's Executive Committee wrote a book against Calvinism. Let that sink in.

David Platt is, well, a Calvinist. And, he has riled people up saying some Calvinist-y things, like criticizing the Sinner's Prayer (and then clarifying here). He is crazy about missions, too, but he definitely thinks he's going out to find and gather the elect.

Trevin Wax is an Amyraldian, an obscure position that makes him sound smart, but really means he just can't pick a team. I'm obviously just a confused hybrid, as my drug-induced comments will make clear to you in the audio.

I hosted the panel and, explaining my comment about drugs, I had just broken my tailbone and was on not one, but two, narcotics. So, I was—shall we say—a bit loose. (Listen to where I called Frank Page "Pelagius," made fun of David Platt's teenage face, and said offensive things to Trevin.) I am sure that it will give some listeners something to include on their blogs—enjoy.

But, seriously, these kinds of discussions are relatively useless if you won't ask hard questions and push the respondents. I did—I assure you! And, I think it was a good discussion.

I think it is time that people both acknowledged differences and then talked about how they can, or perhaps cannot, work together.

Here are some of the things we addressed:

  • Does one's belief on the extent of the atonement affect their understanding of mission and the offer of the gospel?
  • Can two Christians disagree on soteriology and partner in ministry?
  • Does the order of salvation affect how one does evangelism?
  • When it comes to the theological particulars of salvation, what is the difference between compromise and cooperation?

We did our best to approach the issues in the most respectful manner we could. You be the judge—and a few of you go rant on your blog post about how terrible it was. We are here to help.

For the rest of you, we hope you are encouraged and challenged by the audio of this important discussion. Click here to listen to the panel discussion.

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

]]> (Ed Stetzer) Evangelism Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Church Growth Depends Upon These Essentials

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) asked its board of directors, which includes denominational leaders, pastors and other evangelical leaders, for the main characteristics they notice in growing churches. Biblical teaching, an outward focus and a strong vision or mission are the most common answers in the June Evangelical Leaders Survey.

"Some say churches must have a dynamic pastor or an engaging worship band or the best technology for them to grow," NAE President Leith Anderson said. "But there is no one golden ticket for church growth. There are some qualities—mostly things that aren't easy fixes—that are very common among growing churches."

As did many others, Carl Nelson, President of Transform Minnesota, observed that biblical truthfulness and authority are key.

"Churches that faithfully and winsomely proclaim the hope of the gospel and hold true to biblical teaching are the churches that are growing. While not every church that upholds biblical authority is growing, it seems that very few—if any—churches that have abandoned biblical authority are seeing any conversion growth," he said.

In addition to biblical teaching and an emphasis on Scripture, evangelical leaders said that an outward or others focus, demonstrated by the pastor or leadership team, is evidenced in growing congregations.

Ken Hunn, executive director of The Brethren Church, said that churches with a shared outward vision are so focused on the needs of their community that they are not "touchy" about what might be lacking in meeting their own needs, and inward tension is minimized. People are attracted to people who care for them.

Evangelical leaders noted that growing churches not only serve those in their community, but also demonstrate a passion for evangelism and missions beyond their local ministry.

Leaders emphasized the importance of a shared vision or mission to the health of the church, using phrases like "mission driven," "visionary leadership," "clarity on mission, values, vision, goals and strategy," "clear vision" and "focus" to describe the characteristics of growing churches.

The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations, including missions, universities, publishers and churches.

]]> (Sarah Kropp Brown) Church Growth Fri, 15 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
8 Reasons a Church Plant May Not Grow

I've worked with a lot of church plants. And, I've been involved in two—as a planter. Every planter goes into the process hoping to see lives changed with the gospel. Hoping to grow. Some work. Some don't. 

Why is that? 

Well, of course there are spiritual factors at work. Some sow seeds, and others reap harvest. Sometimes God uses the plant in a unique way—that doesn't produce huge numbers of attendees. And, frankly, sometimes the planter had no business planting. It was never really what they were called to do. It looked "exciting" from the outside—all the "cool" people are doing it, but God had a different plan for the planter's life. 

But, speaking specifically about strategic type of reasons a church plant doesn't grow, I've observed a few things. 

Here are eight reasons a church plant may not grow:

1. You live by someone else's rules. I've seen it so many times. A church plant has the rules of the denomination or an association and they simply don't work where they are located. The plant doesn't contextualize the structure to the culture and community around them. The exact same model won't always work in two different church plants—even across town from each other. Principles are often transferable, but practices aren't necessarily. 

2. You try to be like everyone else. This is similar to number one but has to do more with the planter. The planter has a vision but it's someone else's vision. They have a desire to look just like someone else they admire. Every plant needs it's own vision birth by God in the heart of its own planter. The truth presented should be the same as every other church plant, but the style of deliverance will have some uniqueness to the planter.   

3. You depend too much on outside funding. Rather than developing givers and volunteers from with inside the plant, the plant waits for the outside checks to come. The problem with outside funding is that it eventually disappears. It is rarely sustainable long-term. And, if not careful, the planter becomes dependent on these resources. Obviously there are exceptions. Some plants may never be able to fully fund themselves. But, in my experience, many times this problem exists because the planter has not discipled the people attending in the area of giving. 

4. You build programs over relationships. This is a common problem I've seen too. A church planter enters an area, implements a few programs, and believes that people will naturally acclimate to those programs. And they may for a short time. But in the end programs will not sustain people. Relationships will. 

5. You worry too much about structure. You'll get there. And you need structure. But, especially in the initial days, focus more on loving a community. Then building structure. My advice, is to have some basic structure in place, but not have that structure so rigid or controlling that you can't adapt quickly to the needs of the community. Then spend your greatest energy loving people. 

6. You waited for them to come to you.  You thought "new" would be enough. Build it they will come works in the movies. But, that doesn't even work in established churches anymore, why would it work in church plants? The future attendees in any church are usually outside somewhere waiting to be asked. And, sometimes they don't even know it. It's our job to go find them.

7. You didn't protect yourself and your family. We can't count the number of church plants that never really accomplished all that they could have because the planter wasn't healthy enough to see it through. It could be a moral failure, burnout, or a family that is falling apart under the stress of the plant. (Let me speak specifically into this one. Every planter needs mentoring, discipline and accountability. From the start. Not after the need is discovered.)

8. You held too tightly to your way.  Church plants can recruit entrepreneurial leaders. It's a natural attraction. Given the authority to actually lead this can be one of the most powerful benefits of the church plant. When the planter ignores this and keeps people from feeling empowered, growth is limited to the church planter's abilities. The planter should certainly control—or maybe the word is protect—the theological foundation, but implementation of vision should be shared with others. 

Those are only a few observations. As with the purpose of this blog, they are meant to be helpful. If God has called you to a church plant—plant well. I'm pulling for you.

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Church Growth Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
7 Ways Your Church Can Project the Message ‘You’re Not Welcome’

I was running recently on a route I've run many times, but I missed this sign until this particular run. It was too "good" not to stop and take a picture with my phone.

I saw the sign and the first word that popped in my head was "closed." As another sign I saw in a store window said recently (which I don't completely understand) "Closed for Business." How can you be closed "for" business?

None of us would intentionally place a sign like that on our church doors. "Closed for business." I'm sure that's not the intent this church has with this sign. Yet, I'm certain that some of our practices serve the same purpose.

Over the years, Cheryl and I have visited dozens of churches. Whenever we travel we try to find a church. I've spoken at and consulted with a lot of churches of all types and sizes.

From personal experience—here are some ways you can place a closed sign to visitors on your church.

1. Only do "church" on Sunday. Don't attempt to build community with people who attend—especially not with someone new to "the community." Let people know by your actions—or lack of actions—that you're comfortable with the people with you now and there is little room for new friendships. Don't reach out to people you haven't seen in a while. We recently visited a church, filled out a visitor card, and only placed our email and phone number on the card. Two months later we have yet to hear from anyone.

2. Don't act like you're happy to see people. Have no one greeting in the parking lots or at the doors. I once was the guest preacher at a church. Not one person greeted us in the church. I literally had to go find somebody to tell me when to preach. Not one other person besides the person I found ever spoke to us. I realize that's the extreme but I wonder how many times visitors feel that same way in our own churches.

3. Confuse people. Display confusing signage or, better yet, none at all. And, don't think about using people as guest hosts. I can't tell you how many churches we have been to where it was very confusing which door to enter and where to go once we entered the door. At times, if I weren't the speaker—as an introvert especially—I might have left. Just being honest. I have to be honest even more and say that was somewhat true of the church where I am pastor now. Hopefully we are making strides towards correcting that with signage and people.

4. Make it uncomfortable for visitors. If you really want a closed sign up, everyone should talk to the only people they know. It's either that, or you could make visitors feel very conspicuous. Have them stand up maybe—or raise their hands—and keep them up until an usher comes by.

5. Have your own language. Use acronyms. Yes, acronyms please. Just pretend like everyone already knows what you're talking about. Don't differentiate between VBS and vacation Bible school. Everyone knows that, right? And, use names during the announcements that no one knows but the regulars without any explanation of who they are.

6. Have closed groups. And don't start any new ones. When any small group has been together more than a few years—with no new people entering the group—it's a closed group. A new person coming in will not feel welcome. They won't know the inside jokes. They don't know the names of everyone's children's. They feel left out when personal conversation begins.

7. Beat people up without giving them hope. Be clearer about how bad they are than how great the gospel is.

Those are a few of my suggestions—if you're looking for a way to put up a closed sign.

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Communication Wed, 13 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Small Group Involvement Can Change Lives

At NewSpring Church, we believe that you can't do life alone.

Honestly, I would say that the single most important thing for me in regards to me staying connected in my walk with Christ has been having godly friends in my life that could laugh and cry with me when I needed them the most. 

I hope that one day every person at NewSpring Church is connected with other people and doing life with them. One of the best ways to get connected to other people at our church is through NewSpring Groups.

We have groups launching all across the state in the month of September. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to be able to meet with people, have a bite to eat and have a time of what I call "spiritual refreshing" during the week! 

I have heard countless stories from people about how being involved in a group has changed their life. This is one of the ways a big church can feel small. Groups are not something we do—it's who we are. I've always said that a church is not effective when the pastor ministers to the people but rather when the body ministers to the body.

Being in a group allows you to do life with people on a consistent basis. Groups are people who can come alongside you when times get tough and to celebrate with you when times are happy.

And for all of the singles out there, groups are a great way to meet other single people (Always trying to help). There are several people that I know of that met each other in a group who are now married with kids ... just saying.

Our NewSpring Groups team has made it as easy as possible to get plugged into a group according to their location and age/stage in life. Check out our website to see how we are doing it, or contact the Groups team directly with questions. 

Pastors, if you don't have a small groups ministry in your church, please look into the possibility. It can change the lives of the members of your congregation.

We purchased the study we are doing at NewSpring this September at LifeWay Christian Bookstores, so if you are interested in doing this group study, you can pick it up at your local LifeWay store or order it online here.

Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina. The church averages 25,000 people during weekend services at multiple campuses throughout the state. Perry is a gifted communicator and teacher, convicted about speaking the truth as plainly as possible. God has given him a vision and a passion for helping people meet Jesus, and each week he shares God's Word and its practical application in our daily lives.

]]> (Perry Noble ) Ministry Outreach Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Are You Using This Template for Church Planting?

A template is a pattern or mold used as a guide to form a piece or product. There certainly is a template in what happened when Paul met up with the nominal 12 believers at Ephesus.

Here is the background. The great preacher/orator, Apollos, preceded Paul to Ephesus. Apollos was a learned Alexandrian Jew, thoroughly knowledgeable of Scripture, filled with great fervor, and taught accurately about Jesus. However, he knew only the baptism of John, so Priscilla and Aquila privately taught him more accurately.

Apollos' deficiency appears to be a lack of knowledge concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit. That deficiency is reflected in the 12 believers Paul finds at Ephesus. They were probably converts of Apollos since they, too, only knew the baptism of John.

Paul asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when [or after] you believed" (Acts 19:2)?

The question Paul asked is crucial to Pentecostal theology of Spirit baptism and empowerment. His question contains an aorist participle (having believed) and an aorist main verb (did you receive). In the Greek, when an aorist participle is used with an aorist main verb, the action described can be simultaneous or subsequent.

For example, Judas said, "I have sinned (aorist main verb), having betrayed (aorist participle) innocent blood" (Matthew 27:4, my translation). Clearly the sinning and the betraying are simultaneous events.

However, look at Matthew 22:25: "Having married (aorist participle), he died (aorist main verb)" (my translation). Clearly the marrying and the dying are sequential and not simultaneous.

In Acts, Luke describes Spirit baptism as sequential (Acts 2:4; 8:17; 9:17) to conversion, and simultaneous with conversion (Acts 10:44–48).

Clearly the Ephesian 12 were followers of Jesus inasmuch as they are called disciples. Paul does not treat them as pre-believers. He does want to know one thing: Did they either receive the Spirit when they believed or after they believed? Their answer is clear: "No" (Acts 19:2).

In his first meeting with them, Paul immediately knew where the problem lay — why the believing community in the teeming city of Ephesus only had 12 unproductive disciples.

Paul knew that, if the church at Ephesus was to grow and have a powerful impact on the city, it had to start, as did the Jerusalem church, with the template of Spirit-baptized believers. He needed a fired-up core to begin with.

G. Campbell Morgan, even though he was not a Pentecostal, said in his commentary on Acts: "Apollos, a Jew, an Alexandrian, learned, mighty in the Scriptures, fervent in spirit, careful in his teaching, bold in his utterance, could only take the people as far as he had come himself, not one yard beyond it, not one foot above it. ... Paul came, and not because he was a better man than Apollos, but because he had fuller knowledge, a fuller experience, he lifted these same 12 men to a high level."

We need to recognize that church planting involves far more than having the right demographics, leadership, skill set, gift mix, finances, and planning. We need the Holy Spirit. Let us be like the apostle Paul who was not afraid to ask the starting nucleus of his church: "Having believed, did you receive the Holy Spirit?" Non-Pentecostals do not ask that question. We must, if we are to see apostolic results.

Let us begin new churches with a core template of Spirit-filled believers.

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

]]> (George O. Wood) Community Fri, 01 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Should You Write 'Pastor Books' or 'Serious Books'?

When most pastors write books, you can bet they're compiled from sermon notes and manuscripts. Preach a series on fear, and they end up with a book on the subject. Same with marriage, prophecy, grace, epic Bible stories—whatever.

If you're a pastor or Christian leader, you know what I mean. The truth is, I don't discourage that, but don't think for a minute that's a serious book. Writing is different from speaking, and editing sermon notes into a readable manuscript and then calling it a "book" isn't very impressive. If you're a pastor or ministry leader, here's what I recommend:

1. Go ahead and do these books I call "pastor books."  After all, content should be maximized, and when you preach, that should be available online, through radio and TV, podcasts, and other places—including book form. But understand where these books line up on the food chain. These are books that will mostly help your congregation and other members of your social media or broadcast tribe. These books often can be good but rarely make a big impact.

2. Next, focus more on your life's work, or what I call in my book, your "One Big Thing." Every three to five years, create a book that you pour your life into. Do the deep research, interview expert sources, and do everything you can to make it significant. Sit down and actually write it—don't just preach it. This kind of book deserves serious planning, a real publisher, marketing campaign, and possibly an agent. It should be something you're incredibly proud of and will stand the test of time.

Pastor books are good for teaching, as fund-raising premiums, or product offers through your media platforms.

Serious books change people's lives. But you'll never write one if you think transcribing a sermon magically becomes a book.

If you're serious about your message, you need to think about writing serious books.

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media strategist and the author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do. Find out more at

]]> (Phil Cooke) Evangelism Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
21 Mistakes That Can Prevent a Church From Growing

I was once asked to help a church process how to get younger people to attend. After we discussed some recommendations for change, a man pulled me aside and said, "Son, we don't need no fancy ideas around here. We like being a small church."

I soon learned he represented the feelings of the church as a whole. They thought they wanted to reach younger people, but the truth was—when faced with change—they were really satisfied with the church as it had been for many years.

There's nothing wrong with being a small church. Let me say that again. There is nothing wrong with being a small church. In fact, in some communities, what is considered small is actually large by comparison to churches in larger cities. I'm not opposed to small churches, but I do have a problem with some small-church mentalities.

I think there is a difference.

As long as there are lost people nearby, I believe the church has much work to do. And any organization, Christian or secular, that refuses to accept some changes will stop growing and eventually die.

The fact is that growing a church is hard work. It's relatively easy to keep things small or stop growth. In fact, I've seen lots of things that keep a church from growing.

Here are a 21 of those:

  • Make the entry to serving in the church lengthy or complicated
  • Develop followers not leaders
  • Squelch any dream except the pastor's own
  • Refuse new people a voice at the table
  • Make sure everyone knows who is in charge—and it's not Jesus
  • Cast your vision—but only once
  • Only do "church" inside the building
  • Demand that it be done the way it's always been done
  • Give up when change is resisted
  • Make excuses when things go wrong
  • Quit dreaming
  • Resist any organized system, strategy or plans to grow the church
  • Stop praying
  • Insist you have all the answers before you "walk by faith"
  • Never challenge people
  • Treat new people as outsiders
  • Always refer to the past as the good times
  • Put more energy into structure than serving
  • Allow gossip to fester
  • The ministerial staff does everything
  • Be stingy investing in the next generation

Whenever I do a post like this, I get a common—and expected—question: If these are ways not to grow a church, then what are some ways to grow a church? That is one of the main topics I write about in other posts. But for simplicity's sake, try doing the opposite of some of these things I've listed and see how they help the church to grow.

What am I missing? What else will keep a church from growing?

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Church Growth Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
6 Traits of Effective Missions Programs Guaranteed to Impact the Future

Ever wonder what missions might look like 10 years from now? Will we be supporting digital missionaries that holographically appear to unreached people groups using technology that interprets their spoken words into a remote people group's previously untranslated language?

I never would have imagined at OneHope that we would be creating digital missions tools that put God's Word in the hands of kids around the world through apps like the Bible App for Kids. Or that we would create a platform where users can type a text to send money to support a church or organization. Or that we would be developing gamificiation strategies for children's ministry using cutting-edge programs.

I don't know exactly what the future is going to look like, but I do know what every church ought to be doing today to poise their missions momentum to be successful in the future.

Intentionally maximize the role teens play in the life of the local church. Many church-going American teens are falling into the category of ""Moralistic Therapeutic Deists" when it comes to the depth of their faith. Unless we instill a sense of destiny into our spiritually homeless youth, giving them avenues to exercise and increase their involvement in the mission of the church, there won't be a next generation of believers passionate about or equipped to carry out the Great Commission.

Instill a strong missiology that reflects your ecclesiology. While most American churches believe they are God's institution for reaching the world, they have separated this ecclesiology from their missiology. This belief must be expressed as a core value in your missiology so that the mission, vision and core values of your church are reflected and connected to your missions strategy.

Be proactive instead of reactive. Are you intentionally partnering with the highest caliber of people and "best in class" to carry out your missions programs, or are you merely continuing to draw from your existing pool? Saying "yes" to every opportunity that comes along is not going to allow you the freedom for blue-sky sessions in the future, where you dream around your purpose and begin establishing relationships to build the dream team so you can collaborate with the best of the best and cultivate fruitful ministry.

Cultivate the spiritual gift of giving. Do we recognize and appreciate those who have been given the spiritual gift of giving? Ministries who intend to be successful five, 10 or 25 years from now need to understand how to properly serve those who have been gifted with the ability to make money and generously give it in support of God's Kingdom. Rather than shying away from them, you need to be nurturing major donor programs with the same intensity that you put toward pastoring people and stewarding resources.

Implement means to measure your outcomes. In the past, most programs were built to attract attendees to events and count the bodies in the room but failed to seek out and measure true life change. We have seen how implementing an outcome-based ministry model—where we start with the end in mind, design programs to that end, then measure for effectiveness—has revolutionized the fruitfulness of our ministry.

Teach missiology. Any discipleship vehicle—from small groups to seminars, weekly classes and teaching—should be used to do more than evoke people to respond out of emotion. They should be leveraged to integrate missions discipleship theology throughout the entire calendar year. Teaching a theology of mission informs the mind. When you help people understand the "why", they will then be inspired to become the "who" that is excited to be a part of the "how."

I feel like this list could go on and on, but if you are a new church, if you have inherited an old program, or are proactively assessing your programs because you want to be a game changer, going through this list will provide a pretty accurate gauge of whether or not you are set up for missions success, no matter what the future looks like!

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rob Hoskins ) Missions Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:58:28 -0400
5 Ways You Can Build Transformational Small Groups

Saddleback Church might seem like a large church on Sunday, but what's really amazing is that we're actually larger when we're smaller. We're larger during the week.

On a recent weekend at Saddleback, we had over 25,000 people gathering on our campuses in southern California for weekend worship services, but there were about 35,000 who met in small groups from Santa Monica to San Diego.

Our model for ministry isn't found in the list of largest or fastest-growing churches on earth. Our model for ministry is actually the very first church in the Bible. In Acts 5:42 it says this, "The first church met day after day in the temple courts and from house to house." We come together on the weekends for a large group gathering of everyone in the congregation. And then we scatter all week long for small group gatherings from house to house.

This matters a great deal if you want to see lives transformed. On the weekends, people come together and experience God's powerful presence, hear teaching from the pulpit, and serve others within the life of the church. But it's during the week, in small groups, that people find themselves in the kinds of relationships that help them stick to the church and to keep on growing spiritually and experiencing transformation long term.

There are five habits of truly transformational small groups that you must model as a leader and that you must challenge people to practice as they gather in their homes in small groups:

1. Make your small group a priority. This starts with you, as a leader. If you're not doing life with a few other believers in a small group, it will be rather difficult for you to get others to do life together. So make small group a high priority in your own life, and challenge people who are members of groups to do the same.

Small groups need to meet with consistency and frequency. It needs to become a priority for the group's members. Our tendency is to get busy and stressed and then to flake out and come up with excuses for not meeting together. And it's so easy for that to become habitual and before long, we don't really have a group anymore. Meeting must be a priority.

2. Share your thoughts with humility. The Bible says in Romans 12:16, "Don't try to act important but enjoy the company of ordinary people. (That's what a small group is. Just a bunch of ordinary people) And don't think you know it all!"

Nothing ruins a small group faster than one person in the group being a Bible scholar who claims to have all the answers. Humility means being teachable. You can learn from anybody if you just know the right questions. Everybody in a small group can teach you something.

3. Respect others' ideas with courtesy. Small groups will teach you how to be a better listener. I learned how to listen by attending small groups. When you show respect with courtesy it means you listen to people. You look them in the eye.

Proverbs 18:2 says this "Fools have no interest in understanding. They only want to air their own opinions." That sounds like a talk show, doesn't it? Fools don't care about anybody else's ideas or thoughts. They only want to share their own opinion.

The Bible says this in Romans 14:1 in the Message paraphrase, "Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently."

We're always judging people by how far they have to go instead of thanking God for how far they've already come. So we share our thoughts with humility and we show respect to others with courtesy.

4. Share faults with honesty. When I say faults I'm not just talking about faults. I'm meaning your stresses, your problems, your pressures, your trials and your troubles you're going through, the difficulty you're experiencing.

Here's what the Bible says in 1 John 1, "If we live in the light, [That means we're authentic. We're honest. We're open. We're not trying to cover up. We're not fakes. We're not phonies. We're not wearing a mask to small group.] then we can share fellowship with each other... [Fellowship requires authenticity. It requires integrity. It requires honesty and humility.] (But) if we claim we have no sin, [Everything's perfect in my life. Everything's great.] We are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

When you share your weaknesses, when you share your faults, it makes people love you more. Not less. Why? It's because it's so unusual. Everybody is trying to pretend they've got a perfect life. And we know it's not true. On top of that, sharing your strengths never helps anybody else. You actually help people more by sharing our weaknesses.

If you want to be forgiven, all you need to do is tell God. But if you want to be healed, you need to tell it to somebody else. Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing. You are only as sick as your secrets. You need to tell one other person. You don't have to tell everybody. Just find somebody you know you can trust who's going to love you unconditionally.

5. Share the burden of others' problems with sympathy. Galatians 6:2 says, "Help carry each other's burdens. In this way you will follow Christ's teachings." Colossians 3:12 says, "As holy people whom God has chosen and loved, be sympathetic, kind, humble, gentle, and patient." And 1 Corinthians 12 says "If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it." God never intended us to bear the full weight of our suffering alone. He gave us the community of God's people – our forever family – to bear that weight with us.

The body of Christ works the way it was intended in the intimacy of transformational small groups.

When we did the 40 Days of Purpose campaign at Saddleback Church, I stood up and said, "I don't want anybody to miss this. So I want everybody in our church in a small group for the next six, seven weeks. In order to do that I need everybody here to be a host." I said, "You can attend one group and you can start a group at work during the day for your people at work. If you're not in a group I'll help you start a group. I need three thousand of you to start a small group this week."

Three thousand two hundred people took a card and signed up to host a group. So we taught them the "HOST" model for small groups, which is 1. Have a heart for people, 2. Open your home, 3) Serve a snack, and 4) Turn on a video.

You can gather a crowd on Sunday but the church really becomes what it was intended to be when we also scatter in smaller groups.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, 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) Community Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:00:00 -0400
10 Ways to Measure Your Success Making Disciples

I've often heard people say you can't measure discipleship. I don't know if that's true.

It is true that you can't necessarily put a number or percentage on discipleship growth, but you can tell—over time—if it has happened or is happening.

Here are 10 indications a church is making disciples:

1. Those who have been in the church the longest complain the least. – "Do everything without complaining or arguing" (Philip. 2:14).

2. The leaders of the church are most likely to give up "their" seats, park farther from the building, or do whatever is necessary to help the body. – "The greatest among you must be a servant" (Matt. 23:11).

3. The church celebrates most when those far from faith come to faith. "In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed away" (Luke 15:7).

4. Members care that others' needs are met more than their own. "Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too" (Philip. 2:4).

5. The church is willing to make sacrifices to attract the lost. – "And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God" (Acts 15:19).

6. There is joy even during suffering. – "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2).

7. The teaching is a balance of truth and grace. – "Jesus came full of grace and truth" (John 1:17).

8. The financial needs of the church are funded, with people willingly sacrificing. No one begs for money. – "Each person should do as he has decided in his heart–not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).

9. There are no petty disputes and grudges among the people of the church. – "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up" (1 Thess. 5:11).

10. The church takes care of each other well. – "There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold" (Acts 4:34).

Let's keep this going. These are a few that come to my mind; there are others. Prayer. Forgiveness. I'd love to post again — maybe "21 Indications a Church Is Making Disciples." Add one of your own in the comments. (And, give your Bible reference.) I may choose yours for my next post.

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Discipleship Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Want an Evangelism Explosion in Your Community? Try These Tools

Churches desire to make disciples and they want people to be actively sharing their faith and interacting with unchurched people. That's a good thing.

Many believers would like to be bold about witnessing for Christ, but there is often a disconnect between aspiration and action. Many Christians are aspirational witnessers—always feeling good about wanting to share Christ.

My experience is that many Christians can be helped along the way, and that getting them started helps them keep going.

As such, sometimes people need tools or resources that help them to be more evangelistically engaged. Evangelism is not an natural activity—it often needs prompting to grow within a person's life.

One way to do that is to provide them with tools and times of evangelism to help them engage in sharing the gospel. Last Monday, I shared about the times for strategic opportunities. Today, let me share about some tools.

The Changing Strategy of Billy Graham

Billy Graham, the most respected evangelist in the world, used big crusades as an evangelism tool. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association claims that over 3.2 million people have been converted at those events.

I am personally grateful for this method, as I planted my first church in Buffalo from the impetus of the Billy Graham Crusade. I requested all of the poor people in the inner city that no other church wanted. They pointed them all to our baby church. We sat down, shared the Gospel, saw them come to Christ, and baptized them. We used the tool of a crusade to reach people and start a church.

While the large crusade was a useful tool at that time, in America and Canada, most observers would say it is much less so today. However, that's not true everywhere. There are churches that are still using such approaches here in the west, and in Africa and South America, however, it can still be extremely useful in reaching large numbers of people with the gospel.

As crusades have declined, Billy Graham's ministry has witnessed home-based evangelism increased. So, in conjunction with Graham's 95th birthday, the BGEA launched a new tool: My Hope Campaign. It is a nationwide effort to reach people across the United States for Christ.

Through My Hope, Christians are encouraged to open their homes to share the Gospel message with friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors using one of several new evangelistic programs featuring life-changing testimonies and powerful messages from Billy Graham.

The message stayed the same, but the tool—from stadium crusade to the home couch—changed.

Many churches have used Evangelism Explosion—we talked about it recently in my class at Wheaton College Graduate School. It's a mainstay. They have training opportunities that allow leaders within your church to become certified to teach volunteers. If you have not done so already, you might be surprised at its effectiveness (and its new versions).

New Tools for Evangelism

One of the things that seems to happen, however, is that people tire of the tools provided and they seemingly need new tools to help them reengage with those who are not yet believers. This is a common occurrence among churches of all sizes. Hence, there is a new version of Evangelism Explosion, or whatever is out there.

Here are a number of tools that are relatively new or may be new to you that you can use in your attempts to help church members be involved in evangelism.

The Story is a fairly new evangelistic tool. It is designed around the four parts of the gospel story: creation, fall, redemption and restoration. They have a colorful and visually stimulating tract in print and in digital form. They now have an accompanying Bible with the tool embedded in it.

It's a helpful resource, and the people that produce it do more than just produce the tracts and Bibles—they even offer significant training and guidance in the use of The Story and how to go about sharing Jesus with others.

This is a valuable resource when it comes to sharing the gospel with our friends and family.

I Am Second is a tool produced by E3 Ministries that uses celebrity testimonies as its impetus. They claim it is "the shallow end of the pool that helps get people in a proper relationship with Christ." On their website, you can see numerous celebrities explain why they are second and not first.

I Am Second writes about its ministry:

"I Am Second is a movement meant to inspire people of all kinds to live for God and for others. Actors. Athletes. Musicians. Business leaders. Drug addicts. Your next-door neighbor. People like you. The authentic stories on provide insight into dealing with typical struggles of everyday living. These are stories that give hope to the lonely and the hurting, help from destructive lifestyles, and inspiration to the unfulfilled. You'll discover people who've tried to go it alone and have failed. Find the hope, peace and fulfillment they found. Be Second."

Life on Mission is a resource for all Christians, regardless of profession, to live on mission and share the gospel with others. They write on their website:

"The content is adaptable to any context and can function well as an individual study or within a small group environment. Life on Mission not only delivers a robust gospel base with daily mission practices, but it is threaded with engaging stories and powerful questions that help individuals to take their next steps to living Life on Mission."

Sometimes, there are tools that may be less known in the United States, but better known in the rest of the world. For example:

Over 22.5 million people have attended Alpha courses, making it the most widely used evangelistic tool in the world. It is an evangelism tool in 169 countries in 112 languages. It explores the basics (alpha or first) of the Christian faith.

Christianity Explored is another basic evangelism course. CE originated at All Souls Church in London where John Stott served as pastor and is available in 20 languages and 60 countries. Their courses help people understand from the Bible who Jesus is, why he came and what it means to follow him.

Two Ways to Live is a course from Australia that breaks the message of the Gospel down into six simple points in a way that is easy to understand both for the Christian and the non-Christian.

The God Test is, as its website states, "being used around the world as a groundbreaking tool for Evangelism. From New York to Cape Town, it has not only sparked tens of thousands of gospel conversations, but it is also helping believers to be more equipped and secure in their faith." It helps facilitate discussions about the difficult issues surrounding the Christian faith.

What Tool Should I Use?

That is a question that can only be answered by knowing well the people in your church and the community. Then you can determine which method and tool will resonate with your congregation and connect with the unchurched in your neighborhood.

Actually, as you look into the tools, you may find that you prefer one because of theology, another based on approach or another because of timing in your church.

My point is that tools can help—they can prime the pump, leading to a more natural life of evangelism.

So, look for ways to encourage and train church members. People need tools to help them to do what they desire to do. The church should seriously explore the varying evangelism tools and use them to share the gospel to a world in need.

Feel free to recommend other resources in the comments. I'm making a list. My list is not intended to be exhaustive—just some off the top of my head. There are lots of great resources out there.

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

]]> (Ed Stetzer ) Evangelism Mon, 21 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400