Ministry Outreach Sat, 25 Oct 2014 16:36:25 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Church Planting: How Will You Gather People?

There are a number of models for gathering people. For instance, will you develop a small or large group model?

Small groups permit a closer, more relational, focus, which allows small group leaders to develop more easily. Large groups allow the focus to be on the planter who directs the programs, projects and systems. It is important to consider in the pre-launch days whether or not you intend to gather and train people in one large group or split them up into differing groups as more people become involved in the ministry.

You can either take the approach of training all the people at once or focusing on your initial leaders in order to grow the team. In other words, will you lead from the front or will you mobilize individuals to spread the workload? How you decide this will play a huge part in determining what kind of church you are going to be.

Will you meet in your home initially? This is a model that will certainly attract the middle classes, but it is a bit of a cultural no-no in schemes (however, there are always exceptions). You may get better traction by meeting in a public building which, in the schemes anyway, would mean that the locals would view you with less cult-like suspicion than in a home.

Obviously, meeting in your home keeps down costs and means less work than paying for renting a building and the hassle of packing and unpacking every week. Of course, you have to weigh up the benefits and negatives of each situation. Remember, always keep your options open on the ground.

In gathering people, it is always best to know yourself well. What kind of person are you? What kind of people are naturally drawn to you? What kind of people are you normally drawn to? These will help you understand your weak/blind spots. Whom do you need to recruit in order to achieve balance? If you are a man in your 50s, then the chances are you are unlikely to attract anybody under the age of 30.

That is a problem, and so you would need to recruit a younger team member to fill that gap. If you are only good talking to drug addicts and the unemployed, then you will need a member who can reach the more educated demographic. This is not to say that we cannot reach people outside of our own culture (God can and will use all people), but it just means that we have to be realistic when gathering in the early days because time is precious.

Talk to people. Many church planters fail to gather people simply because they fail to talk to people. If you want to figure out a balance between reading, prepping, doing newsletters and making a cool website and meeting people, then DROP EVERYTHING and meet with people. Here are some tips:

1. Go to places where people naturally congregate in your community. So, for example, is there a local cafe?

2. Join a local group with which you share some sort of affinity (then it won't be a chore but something you take great delight in).

3. Always establish contact with the extended family of new friends. Remember names and pray for them.

4. Have a good sense of humor and be able to poke fun at yourself. Humor carries so much weight in the schemes that it is practically a prerequisite for acceptance as part of our interview process.

Here is the number one tip when gathering people: Don't be a creepy, axe-murdering freak. Just chill and be normal with people. If you are awkward around people, then they will be awkward around you.

A church planter will gather people around his godliness, character, vision and likeability. You can be as godly and disciplined as you like, but if you are a social plum then you will find it difficult to gather a group around you who will take momentum into the schemes.  

Mez McConnell has been the Senior Pastor of Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh, U.K., since September 2007. Prior to that he spent four years with UFM Worldwide working with street children in Brazil, and planted the Good News Church in one of the most deprived parts of the country.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Mez McConnell) Church Growth Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
What Does an Empowered Church Look Like?

It was a privilege to preach at City Bible Church during their Purple People (Purple Book) campaign and to teach WikiChurch discipleship principles at the Ministers Fellowship International (MFI) Focus Conference.

I was glad to see Pastor Frank Damazio on the road to recovery in his fight of faith to defeat cancer. His book, The Making of a Leader, is on my top 10 book list. And I was glad to meet so many MFI leaders who asked me to say "hi" to my good friend Joey Bonifacio.

As I prepared to teach the "Same Ole Boring Strokes" (aka discipleship) to these MFI leaders who do an amazing job of equipping, I decided to focus on the empowering part of the discipleship process. No matter how effectively we equip people to minister, the discipleship process is incomplete until we empower every disciple to make disciples.

A quick read through Acts shows us what an empowering church looks like:

1. The Holy Spirit empowers believers to be His witnesses. Acts 1:8 (NIV) says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you."

2. Rather than doing all the ministry themselves, apostles empowered others. Acts 6:2 (NIV) says, "The Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, 'It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.'"

3. Empowered churches grow. Acts 6:7 (NIV) says, "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."

4. Persecuting or killing top leaders does not stop an empowered church. Acts 8:1 (NIV) says, "On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria."

5. Empowered people minister as they go, and they minister wherever they go. Acts 8:4 (NIV) says, "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went."

6. Empowered people become leaders of people. Acts 8:5 (NIV) says, "Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there."

7. Empowered people preach the good news even if they are not apostles or pastors. Acts 11:19-21 (NIV) says, "Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord."

8. Barnabas empowered a new believer named Saul when no one else believed in him. Acts 11:25-26 (NIV) says, "Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."

9. Empowering does not mean there are no authority lines. Acts 15:24 says, "We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization."

10. In an empowered culture we will always have people who are ministering/preaching who don't really have a full understanding of theology. Acts 18:24-26 (NIV) says, "Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately."

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

For the original article, visit

]]> (Steve Murrell) Discipleship Thu, 23 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
15 Characteristics of Today’s Unchurched Person

If you're like many Christians, you have an authentic desire to share your faith with people who don't yet follow Jesus. I know I do.

One of my deepest longings is that every person would come to know the love and salvation that Jesus extends to them.

Our vision at Connexus, where I serve as lead pastor, is to be a church that unchurched people love to attend—a vision we share with all North Point strategic partner churches.

But unchurched people are changing.

Even since I started in ministry 18 years ago, there's been a big shift in how unchurched people think. Particularly here in Canada, we are a bit of a hybrid between the U.S. and Europe. Canadians are less "religious" than Americans but less secular than Europeans.

Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman have outlined helpful characteristics of unchurched people in UnChristian, and David tackled it again in You Lost Me. I won't repeat those characteristics here. (Both books are fantastic reads.)

Post-modernism has a deeper toe-hold here north of the border than almost anywhere in the United States—except perhaps in the Northwest and New England, where it might be about the same.

Here are characteristics of unchurched people that I'm seeing today:

1. They don't all have big "problems." If you're waiting for unchurched people to show up because their life is falling apart, you might wait a long time. Sure, there are always people in crisis who seek God out. But many are quite content with their lives without God. And some are quite happy and successful. If you only know how to speak into discontent and crisis, you will miss most of your neighbors.

2. They feel less guilty than you think. They don't feel any more guilty about not being in church on Sunday than you feel guilty about not being in synagogue on Saturdays. How many Saturdays do you feel badly about missing synagogue? That's how many Sundays they feel badly about missing church.

3. Occasional is regular. When they start coming, they don't always attend every week. Giving them easy, obvious and strategic steps to get connected is important. Disconnected people generally don't stick. (I wrote more about the declining frequency of church attendance here.)

4. Most are spiritual. Most unchurched people believe in some kind of God. They're surprised and offended if you think of them as atheists—as they should be.

5. They are not sure what "Christian" means. So you need to make that clear. You really can't make any assumptions about what people understand about the Christian faith. Moving forward, clarity is paramount.

6. You can't call them back to something they never knew. Old-school "revival" meant there was something to revive. Now that we are on the second to fifth generation of unchurched people, revival is less helpful, to say the least. You can't call them back to something they never knew.

7. Many have tried church, even a little, but left. We have a good chunk of people who have never been to church—60 percent of our growth is from people who self-identify as not regularly attending church. But a surprising number of people have tried church at some point—as a kid or young adult. Because it wasn't a good experience, they left. Remember that.

8. Something is generous. Because even giving 10 percent of your income to anything is radically countercultural, the only paradigm of giving they have is a few dozen or hundred dollars to select charities. I hope every Christian learns to live a life of sacrifice and generosity, but telling them they are ungenerous is a poor way to start the conversation. They may already be more generous than their friends.

9. They want you to be Christian. They want you to follow Jesus, authentically. Think about it: If you were going to convert to Buddhism, you would want to be an authentic Buddhist, not some watered-down version. Andy Stanley is 100 percent right when he says you don't alter the content of your services for unchurched people, but you should change the experience.

10. They're intelligent, so speak to that. Don't speak down to them. Just make it easy to get on the same page as people who have attended church for years by saying "this passage is near the middle of the Bible." You can be inclusive without being condescending.

11. They hate hypocrisy. Enough said.

12. They love transparency. When you share your weaknesses, everyone (including Christians) resonates.

13. They invite their friends if they like what they're discovering. They will be your best inviters if they love what you're doing.

14. Their spiritual growth trajectory varies dramatically. One size does not fit all. You need a flexible on-ramp that allows people to hang in the shadows for a while as they make up their minds and one that allows multiple jumping-in points throughout the year.

15. Some want to be anonymous, and some don't. So make your church friendly to both. Also see the previous point. This is huge.

What are you seeing? What describes your friends and the people you're reaching at your church? Let's grow this list.

In addition to serving as Lead Pastor at Connexus Community Church north of Toronto, Carey Nieuwhof speaks at conferences and churches throughout North America on leadership, family, parenting and personal renewal.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Carey Nieuwhof) Evangelism Fri, 17 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
5 Ingredients That Build Pervasive Community in Your Church

If you believe that unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again, then you have all the motivation you need to invest in building a pervasive sense of community in your church. See also, What's Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People? and This Is Why We Need Community.

There are five essential ingredients that will build a pervasive sense of community in your church:

1. A thriving small-group ministry. If you want to build community in your church, you must understand that not only does life change happen best in circles (not rows), so does community. A thriving small-group ministry is an essential ingredient that builds community in your church because unless your church is flat-lined, you will always need a growing number of new groups to connect a growing number of unconnected people. See also, 10 Powerful Benefits of a Thriving Small Group Ministry.

2. Build steps into community that are easy, obvious and strategic. Building a thriving small-group ministry is an essential ingredient. Still, putting energy and resources into small-group infrastructure without making the hard choices that create first steps and next steps won't build community. To build pervasive community it is essential to design steps that are easy for unconnected people to take. In addition, the steps you design will need to be obvious—not hidden in a buffet of options. Finally, the steps you build will need to be strategic, eliminate sideways energy, and lead only in direction of the preferred future.

3. Build glimpses of community and connecting opportunities into your weekend service. Although the desire to belong is innate in the human heart, the longing for community is not always obvious to unconnected people. In order to whet appetites and persuade tentative first steps, a steady diet of satisfied customer stories coupled with low-risk connecting opportunities is essential (think auditorium section hosts and friendly ushers on a mission). See also, How to Develop Video or Live Testimony that Recruits Members or HOSTs.

4. Introduce friendlier and stickier points of connection from street to seat. Community building begins on the website and in the parking lot. Introducing an all-out effort to humanize every point of contact is an essential ingredient. Until you can truly empathize with the unconnected people in your crowd and community, you can't expect to build a pervasive sense of community. It will always be insider vs. outsider. See also, Learn to Empathize with Your End User.

5. Cast vision for community with every opportunity. Website, newsletter, video, bulletin, welcome, announcements, sermons, greeters, parking team, ushers, worship team, children's ministry, student ministry, counseling, recovery and care, outreach, etc. Everything must cast vision for community.

How would you diagnose your church's capabilities when it comes to building pervasive community? Is it happening? Is it only a fantasy? Is it just a couple ingredients away? Is it even on your agenda or in the conversation?

It is true, you know: Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again. In my mind, that ought to make building a pervasive sense of community a number-one priority for all of us.

Mark Howell is the founder of, committed to helping churches launch, build, and sustain healthy small group ministries. He's also the Pastor of Discipleship Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Mark Howell) Community Thu, 09 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
5 Steps to Reaching Westernized Muslims for the Gospel

If you could travel back in time a hundred years and share some of the discussions we're having in the 21st century about Islam, the folks there probably would not believe you.

Back then, Islam was on the decline, reduced to a somewhat marginalized religion in many parts of the world. The Ottoman Empire was falling, and Islam's future looked dim.

But, things have changed. During the 20th century, there was a resurgence of Islam. We are still dealing with that resurgence today.

Why the Resurgence?

Are we as eager to build bridges to reach Muslims as we are to build walls to protect ourselves from them?

Certainly, the ever-increasing demand for oil around the world has, in part, fueled the comeback. Funds from the oil trade have provided the means for much of the Muslim mission. Just go to parts of Africa and you will find petrodollar-funded, government-directed mission outposts all over.

That's easy to see.

Yet, it's not all about petrodollars. The fact is that part of Islam's growth has come from people of all stripes freely embracing the religion around the globe, including here and in the rest of the Western world.

Global Engagement Matters

There has been much debate and discussion of that question—not to mention controversy.

The big issue here is engagement, and I am thankful that there are missionaries seeing to engage Muslims with the gospel. I recognize that some will go to far in contextualization, while people back home doing nothing to reach Muslims will complain about them. That's part of it, but we need more, not fewer, missionaries contextualizing gospel communication to Muslim contexts if we want to see a movement among Muslims.

Thus, the future of missions will include a contextualized church on mission in its context in the Muslim world. It will look different than the church in the West, but it will share the same gospel.

So, we have a global evangelistic challenge with missiological implications. But, and my primary point for this article, we also have a local evangelistic challenge as well.

And both matter.

Growth in the West

You see, the issue most pressing to most of us is not the contextualization of missionaries in Bangladesh. Rather, it is the evangelization of Westernized Muslims here.

It is worth noting that the unexpected spike of Muslim growth in the Western world during the last 50 years often came as people freely engaged Islam. Yes, the news is filled with examples of people who've engaged radical Islam from Western contexts—but many, many more have become Muslims and are not radicalized. They are just our neighbors—our Muslim neighbors.

They are just local Muslims, via birth or conversion.

Of course, immigration played a significant role in the increased Muslim presence in the West. But, with some ethnic enclave exceptions, Muslims adopt much of the values of their context. Like Christians, they become contextualized.

So, if you encounter a Muslim today, he or she will probably be like my neighbors—kind people who dress like us (with the exception of a head covering for the wife), who speak English, and take seriously their faith.

We need to love them as our neighbors, as I wrote in this USA Today editorial.

But, we also need to reach them for the gospel. And that takes intent and action.

Muslims Neighbors Need Jesus Right Here

So, as we increasingly encounter Muslims in the West, and in other parts of the world, we meet a free people who have chosen Islam, either to continue in the faith or as new converts.

Islam is not ISIS and, where we live, Muslims are Muslims by choice—and they continue to be Muslims by choice.

So, I get the geopolitical issues. But, that's not all there is. There are evangelism issues to consider.

And we cannot let the geopolitical realities undermine the gospel commands.

So, now the question becomes with resurgent Islam: Are we as eager to build bridges to reach Muslims as we are to build walls to protect ourselves from them?

Our Muslim neighbors need Jesus right here.

Evangelistic Challenges

As much as we might hate to admit it, we Christians have not been all that successful in evangelizing people of the large world religions. We have seen conversions, of course, but there has not been a significant outbreak of Christianity among devout Hindus, Muslims, etc.

The challenge of fake Muslim converts has hindered our work and reputation, but part of the reason they are so easily embraced is that there are just not that many actual high-profile converts from Islam.

Now, there has been global progress. But, we've not seen as much impact in the West, so I address my comments to Christians reading this: What should we be doing right now, right here, in regard to reaching Muslims in our communities?

Furthermore, with the rise of radical Islam, the conflict between Islam and the West is a regular feature on the 24-hour cable news networks. That breeds hate and fear, and you cannot hate a people and reach a people at the same time.

With all of this noise in the background, how can we, as Christians, reach out to Muslims in our communities?

We Must Figure It Out

Why do we need to talk about it? Because I believe that Hindus and Muslims, Catholics, Baptists and Lutherans all have one thing in common: They all need Jesus.

As we announce the good news to a world in need, we must seek to do so in the most effective ways, right where we are, and also the the places where we send missionaries.

So, what does a strategy to reach Westernized Muslims look like? I'd suggest five steps to consider (and will address this more later):

1. First, understand your Muslim neighbors. Not the Islam of Afghanistan, but the Westernized version that still probably does not eat pork (or marshmallows), observes Ramadan, and evidences modesty.

2. Second, be friends. Not just for a project, but for a relationship. Muslims will already have much in common with devout Christians. They see us as people of the Book and know we share concerns about the state of the world around us.

3. Third, have spiritual conversations. Talk about what you believe. Ask about what they believe. Answer questions and common objections—you will find there are many.

4. Fourth, bring them to church. Let them see what a Bible-teaching church is like. You might also choose to visit their mosque and talk about what you see.

5. Fifth, share resources as appropriate. You'll find several at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton. Many denominations have resources to share as well.

At the end of the day, we need to reach Muslims living in contexts far different from our own. Yet, I think we often miss the fact that we need to reach Muslims as our neighbors.

Instead of being solely outraged at Muslim migration, let's seize the opportunity for Muslim evangelism.

Ed Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research, one of the best and most-quoted Christian research organizations in the world. He has planted churches in multiple states; trained pastors across the US and on six continents; and taught at 14 seminaries.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Ed Stetzer ) Evangelism Mon, 06 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Loving the Lost: Churches Without the Broken Are Broken Churches

It is a natural thing for Christians to want to be around other Christians. Something special happens in the fellowship of believers.

We can worship freely, study deeply, and communicate clearly. Hanging out with like-minded people who (appear to) "have their stuff together" can be a wonderful thing.

But how well are we engaging those who aren't as spiritually stable as (we think) we are?

I've been fascinated by the fact that a lot of Christians don't seem to like non-Christians—otherwise known as "the lost," "the unchurched," or whatever other term you may want to use. They want to keep away from the messy people—perhaps missing the obvious that we are messy as well.

Who Is on Your Friends List?

It is kind of interesting that after coming to Christ and growing in knowledge, we often end up distancing ourselves from some of our former friends. And then, as we begin to grow in spiritual maturity, we find that we have less and less time for the hurting and struggling.

We have found the one thing that meets the need in our lives, but we keep our distance from those who need the very thing we've found. I don't think this separation is intentional, but it does happen, and in the end our intentions don't matter.

Our needs get met, and we move on—often oblivious to a world that is falling apart all around us. That is not the way of Christ.

Jesus lived differently. One of the common criticisms Jesus faced was that He spent so much time with sinners. He associated with the unwelcomed and unappreciated of society. How many of us could be accused of spending too much time with the "riff-raff?"

It wasn't that Jesus was waiting for Paul to write, "Bad company corrupts good morals" in 1 Corinthians. No one better understood the importance of spiritual maturity, scriptural knowledge, a robust prayer life, and positive influences than Jesus.

But He also knew that these things were not just for His personal benefit. These disciplines and lifestyle choices need to be shared with those who are lost. The Christian life is not about finding safety and comfort; it's about finding yourself in a dangerous place of vulnerable compassion.

Separated From the Separated

Personally, I came from a dysfunctional family—I could list our issues, but that does not illuminate my point. One day, I was talking with one of my daughters about the dysfunction I experienced growing up. That kind of life is hard for her to imagine because of how our family works today. Though we have our own issues, we just don't have the same kind of dysfunction I had growing up.

She asked why some families go our way and others go the way of dysfunction. I told her there are several factors that determine personal and family stability, but in our case, we were changed by the power of the gospel.

But in talking about that, I was struck by the fact that having grown up in a broken home, I know what it looks like to be in the mess of day-to-day living. But my daughters, they know it a lot less.

I praise God they don't have to deal with some of the problems that come through such brokenness. But I think my daughters may, in a sense, be representative of what many Christians have experienced: They don't know what it's like.

The Danger of Growing Up Christian

Many Christians are "generational believers," as they have grown up in a Christian home. That is their reality, but there is a bigger reality. Sometimes we can easily forget there's a hurting world out there. We drive through it on the way to church, or on the way to work. But at the end of the day, we don't come to terms with the vast brokenness that surrounds us.

Serving and Saving: The Way of Christ and His Church

Sometimes the hurting make their way into the pews and, by grace and through faith, respond to the good news of salvation. But all too often, the only connections Christians have with broken people are made outside of church.

That's why I love to hear a pastor say, "You know, we're going to be a church that cares about the hurting and serves those in need, showing the love of Christ to the lost."

The true test of our maturity is not measured in how much we leave behind but how much we love.

I'm struck by the fact that Jesus talks about His ministry in two ways. In Luke 4:18, He says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me." He goes on to talk about preaching the good news to the poor and the captive.

Jesus came to serve. In fact, this type of ministry was a sign that He was the Messiah. Prophecy was being fulfilled as He showed kindness to those who were hurting. Throughout Scripture we see the work of Christ among the widows, the blind, the broken—whoever had a need. Jesus served with compassion.

Jesus came to save. In Luke 19:10 He says He came to seek and save the lost. And the same Jesus who came to serve and to save then says to us in John 20:21, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."

We have been sent by Jesus to join Him in His mission. He came to serve and to save, then so must we. We are to serve others in His Name, and we are to share the good news of salvation so that people might trust in Jesus' work on the cross—His death in our place, for our sin.

Serving and saving were marks of Christ's life on Earth. They should be marks of His people as well.

But to do that, we must engage the broken and hurting people around us. I want to be a part of a church where broken people are welcome—a church where perfect people aren't allowed, a place where people can embark on this journey without having everything figured out from the start.

That's hard. But it's what we were called to be. A church without the broken is a broken church.

How does your church engage the hurting? What have you done in your own life to avoid insulating yourself from the brokenness around you?

Are we so concerned about how people view us that we'll never be accused of spending too much time with sinners?

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

]]> (Ed Stetzer ) Community Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Witness the Transforming Power of Small Groups

If you think community is an important part of healthy church life, and I hope you do, then small groups should also be important to you. They are actually crucial to the life of any church. I'm not the only one who thinks so, and I have the research to back it up.

Be sure to read our research reports on Transformational Groups. I've written several:

Ways to Grow Your Group (Part 1): Five Ways to Connect with Disconnected People

Ways to Grow Your Group (Part 2): Seven Ways to Reach out to Your Neighbors

Ways to Grow Your Group (Part 3): Reaching Neighbors through Group-Sponsored Events

The Right Culture for CommunityGroups Matter: My Interview with Eric Geiger on Transformational Groups

The Surprising Truth About Discipleship and Spiritual Disciplines

You can't build community by way of programming, but you can use a program to create a pathway through which community can happen. Maybe you should read that sentence again; the difference in the two is subtle. Programs do not community make. However, programs can create the pathway–the opportunity–for birthing community.

Depending on the culture of the church, community normally happens, or at least begins, in small groups of some sort, including Life Groups that meet in homes, discipleship classes, and Sunday Schools. However it is organized and participated in, believers intentionally put other things aside in order to be together, because life change happens via relationship. We join our lives together for the purpose of maturing in the faith and engaging in God's mission, both of which are key elements in effective and long-lasting small group strategy.

Small groups can become agents of both individual and community change when they are organized around, bathed in, and focused on living out the gospel together. When we are honest, open, and vulnerable with one another, there is opportunity to bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2) and spur one another on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24).

When we preach the gospel to one another in close-knit community, there is spiritual growth that changes us individually and as a whole. We can also begin to position ourselves with an outward focus and encourage gospel transformation in the communities outside the church walls.

As much as I love gathering with the whole of the local church for corporate worship, there is something powerfully unique about an intimate gathering around a living room or a small classroom or a dining room table that forces us to think differently than when we are in the sanctuary for a time of preaching.

Small groups, in fact, are where much of the theology taught in our pulpits begins to be fleshed out in conversation and action. If you want your church to be on mission, teach it from the pulpit and equip your people to wrestle with it in small groups. It's messy that way, but it's fruitful.

The obvious question is how many should be involved in groups. Well, it depends. Here are some suggested rules of thumb.

If you are in a home group church, compare your Sunday morning attendance with your home group attendance (if you count everyone Sunday morning, do the same for small groups, if just adults, do the same ...). Then, look at your ratios:

50 percent passing: Is a passing grade, just getting by

60 percent working: The small groups are working and getting to stronger community

70 percent thriving: Small groups are beginning to thrive and are more and more at the center of church live

80 percent excelling: Small groups are firmly established as indispensable in church life.

I'd add 10 percent to each of these numbers if I had a Sunday School based church because it is easier to come to church and to stay than it is to go on a separate night. I'd subtract 10 percent from each if my groups were primarily defined by mission as that's a greater challenge to participation (see my discussion about Missional Communities with Matt Carter for more on that here).

I would say that 50 percent is passing because it is getting to a majority, but all of the people who are involved in your church should also be plugged into small community in whatever form you offer it. Realistically, though, I don't think that 80 percent is an unreachable goal for churches that rightly emphasize small groups. I've been an interim pastor at a traditional church with 94 percent of their Sunday morning attendance in Sunday School.

Yes, that's a lot, and it's doable. Now, it is likely easier to grow the percentage of participation when implementing a Sunday School-type methodology, because it is more convenient for people than other methods.

Meeting before the worship service and offering childcare gives a distinct advantage over small groups at other places and times. Either way, churches should work toward a healthy involvement for the good of their people and the mission.

Set some goals, cast some vision, and work towards a greater participation in group life—move people from sitting in rows to sitting in circles to see better life transformation.

By the way, Eric Geiger and I have launched a resource to help people start new groups. You can find more here. Tens of thousands of groups have already been registered.

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

]]> (Ed Stetzer) Discipleship Fri, 26 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Labeling People as This Might Turn Them Away From Church

Some leaders try to figure out what attracts younger people to a church. But it's another thing to actually provide belonging for them. Let's look at that from a little different perspective.

Just getting two people from two different generations to sit in the same room at the same time does not mean they are connecting in meaningful and sustainable ways. There is much more to ministry with people. We all know that. We just need to embrace it at the most practical levels.

I do a lot of consulting and much of that is with churches or denominations that are trying to figure out how to "reach" younger generations. Some people say "millennials," some say "college students," and I've recently had a leader tell me they were trying to reach Gen-X.

Regardless of terminology, there seems to be a heart to include younger people. It's encouraging to see people of "older" generations not satisfied with few younger people being around them.

But I would say if we view younger generations (whatever term we use to describe them) as a "target" to reach or hit, we will surely miss. In the church world, I often hear phrases like "we are targeting ..." and I get questions worded this way where someone is asking me about the "target audience" we are trying to reach in our church. But, dare I say, this dehumanizes people and reduces them to a stat that fits a desired metric that justifies our position. 

We are talking about human beings—not a demographic to be reached.

Now, I certainly understand the idea of "demographics" and generational distinctions (I've written a bunch about generational distinctions.) and using these terms does not necessarily mean we care more about our quantitative metrics than we do relationship. However, I am always concerned about the heart for people being lost in how we talk about and evaluate and program how we go about things in the church today.

I will follow this up with another post sooner rather than later, but for now let me just say this: If we want to help younger people gain a sense of belonging in the church, we have to take the time to treat them as human beings. And that starts with how we describe them.

Chuck Bomar planted and is Lead Pastor of Colossae Church in Portland, Oregon and is founder of both CollegeLeader ( and iampeople ( He is author of six books, with the most recent being Better Off Without Jesus (2012).

For the original article, visit

]]> (Chuck Bomar) Evangelism Wed, 24 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
The Untold Story: Why the US Church Is Not Growing

One question continually being asked is, "How can the Christian church grow?" This issue is particularly relevant as we consider the harsh realities being imposed upon us today.

How does the church find a way to advance in such an antagonistic environment?

In an earlier post, I recounted that, though the church was conceived in the wicked constraints of the Roman Empire, it still found a way to grow exponentially. Reflecting on this, Mark Galli, the editor of Christian History Magazine, noted that by AD 350 "about 56 percent of the population claimed to be Christians."

Within a short period of time, the followers of Jesus literally overtook this violent, unforgiving empire.

Historians such as Ramsey MacMullen of Yale and Peter Brown of Princeton acknowledge this expansion happened, principally, through healing and deliverance. In a time of intense persecution and evil, numerous conversions were ignited by these compelling signs and wonders.

Many would readily acknowledge this truth. Yet, they are reticent to accept this as a contemporary approach for evangelism and engagement, particularly in America. I certainly comprehend the skepticism and uncertainty. Yet the supernatural not only enabled growth in the tumultuous beginning, it is also facilitating growth right now.

This kind of expansion is currently evident throughout the third world. Many testimonies and demographic reports reveal that healing, deliverance and the gifts of the Spirit are facilitating a great expansion of the church. Luis Lugo points out that "Pentecostal beliefs and practices are literally reshaping the face of Christianity throughout the developing world."

For the most part, these things obviously are lacking in the American church, which explains a lot.


Signs and wonders have proven to be a catalyst for a significant number of conversions in Mozambique, Kenya and other parts of Africa. The Pew Research Report acknowledges that, "The share of the population that is Christian in sub-Saharan Africa climbed from 9 percent in 1910 to 63 percent in 2010." Similarly, J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, Ph.D., professor at the Trinity Theological Seminary, Accra, Ghana acknowledges that:

"The ministries of healing and deliverance have thus become some of the most important expressions of Christianity in African Pentecostalism...the movement has defined itself in terms of the recovery of the experiential aspects of the faith by demonstrating the power of the Spirit to infuse life, and the ability of the living presence of Jesus Christ to save from sin and evil ...Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity has proven successful in Africa because of its openness to the supernatural ..."

Latin America

It's not just Africa that's bursting at the seams, but a similar impact is now being felt throughout Latin America. It has been recently reported that over 40 percent of the Guatemalan population closely identifies with Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity. In the same way, Argentina has multitudes filling up soccer stadiums and transforming the ethos of their nation. It would be difficult to find a South American nation that isn't being impacted by the ministry of healing and deliverance. One Catholic detractor exclaims:

"Not only does Pentecostalism claim at least 70 percent of all Latin American Protestants, but it also exerts great influence on many 'renewed' mainline Protestant denominations, such as Presbyterians and Methodists, who have had to adopt pneuma-centric practices [i.e. Healing, deliverances, tongues] in order to remain relevant."

In Brazil, they're experiencing accelerated growth due to supernatural displays of power. Pastor Marcio Valadao of Lagoinha Baptist Church acknowledged in 2011 that his church was experiencing immense growth due to healing and deliverance. He exclaimed, "In 1998 there were more or less 5,000 members. Today we have surpassed 35,000." Similarly, Paul Strand observes that,

"Christianity is increasing in Brazil. If the trend continues, it is predicted that more than half of all Brazilians (109 million Christians out of 209 million citizens) will be evangelical Christians by 2020. ... Brazil is a land in revival ... It's a place where belief in miracles and healings are high."

These factors are even more amazing when considering the fact that prior to the 1970s less than 3 percent of the Brazilian population was evangelical. To go from 2.5 percent to 50 percent of the population in a rigidly Catholic nation in 50 years is unprecedented.  


Signs and wonders aren't just bringing extraordinary growth in Africa and Latin America; they are also transforming the vast continent of Asia. China only had around 1 million Protestants in 1949. Now there are conservatively "more than 58 million Protestants in China." Professor Yang, a noted religious researcher in China, believes this number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. He says, "By 2030, China's total Christian population...would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world."

Much of Christianity's growth in China is due to the labors of the "illegal underground house churches, which hold unsupervised services—often in people's homes—in an attempt to evade the prying eyes of the Communist Party." The underground services are often punctuated by healings, prophecy and supernatural expressions. Typically held away from urban centers, researcher Jason Kindopp notes that, "faith healings are particularly common among the rural populations, accounting for up to 90 percent of all conversions to Christianity in rural areas."

Similar to the experience of the early church, Christianity around the world is now being spread through the miraculous. Signs and wonders did not die out in the third century. In fact, where healing and deliverance are being expressed, the church is increasing.

In my opinion, the only things that will awaken the American church and lead to sustainable growth are miracles such as healing and deliverance—which are rarely seen these days in our churches.

Jesus said: "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12).

In addition to writing and speaking, J.D. King serves as the International Director of World Revival Network of Ministries in Kansas City. He enjoys connecting with leaders around the globe to provide resources and encouragement. For more posts like this, you can visit his blog at Follow J.D. on Twitter @worldrevival.

For the original article, visit

]]> (J.D. King) Church Growth Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Where is the Miracle Healing in the US?

With all the traveling I do these days with Impact Nations, I get asked a lot of questions about a lot of issues. However, there is one question that I am asked more often—by far—than any other. In fact, in the past two weeks, I have been asked it in England, New Jersey and Canada: "Why don't we see the same kind of healing here (in England, the U.S., Canada) as you do in Africa and India?"

I usually respond to this in several ways. First of all, I do see God heal in the same way in the West as in the developing world. I have watched in North America, Europe and Australia as deaf ears were opened, cataracts dissolved, cancer instantly disappeared (verified by doctors), and paralysis and pain have gone.

In my living room, the Lord healed a woman who had been totally blind in one eye for 20 years. He is the same God in Canada as Kenya, in the U.S. as Uganda, in England as India.

Although I have seen the Lord open the ears of nine deaf people—one after another—in North America, in fairness, I would say that although the quality of healing that I see is the same everywhere, the quantity seems higher in the developing world. However, I need to clarify this statement.

It is not that I see more people not being healed when prayed for; it seems to me there are fewer people looking to be healed in the West. (To clarify once again, I am not saying the people on the streets of our cities do not want to be healed; it is just that they are not being asked and therefore do not think of healing as an option in their lives.)

This leads to what may be the biggest single issue: expectation. Jesus always looked for faith in people. This is why He sometimes asked, "Do you want to get well?" or "What do you want?" Jesus expected people to be healed, and they expected the same thing.

When I am asked "the question," I usually answer with a question of my own: "Do you expect people to be healed?" One of the ways we can discover how we really feel about this question is to examine how often we step out and ask others if we may pray for their healing.

After all, more people are healed if we pray for them than if we don't. In many cases, we simply don't have a real expectation that God will move, so we stay in the safe zone of keeping quiet when presented with the opportunity to pray for healing.

One of the reasons I take people from the Western world to the developing world to do the gospel is to change their expectations. Again and again I watch as they discover a whole new level of truth about the power and compassion of Jesus and of who they really are because they live in Christ.

How can anyone experience being used by the Lord to heal the sick day after day on a Journey of Compassion and then go home unchanged? Back home, as these men and women continue to pray and expect, God continues to heal.

He is the same God in Canada as Kenya, in the U.S. as Uganda, in England as India. And so is His kingdom, where it seems that what you expect is what you will receive. 

Steve Stewart is the founder of Impact Nations, a Christian organization that brings hope and restoration to the poor and vulnerable in the developing world through both supernatural and practical expressions of the kingdom of God.

]]> (Steve Stewart) Healing Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Is Growth or Control More Important to You?

He may not be Solomon, but David Chrzan often drops nuggets of wisdom that sound as if they could have come from the book of Proverbs. In the five years or so that I've known and worked with David, he's repeatedly dropped advice that has shaped my own philosophy of leadership. For example, in a recent conversation, David said, "You can have growth, or you can have control. And you have to decide how much of each you want."

Wow. So true. David wasn't implying that control is a bad thing. In fact, some level of control is essential. And "control" really refers to the amount of institutional structure and machinery required to guide a movement forward within protective boundaries.

On the weekend before I wrote this, Grace Hills set a new attendance record for the third time this year. And on that Sunday, 36 people came to our Newcomers Lunch, which is more than we had in our first public meeting two-and-a-half years ago. Angie and I go home on Sundays and talk about how humbling—and scary—it is.

Scary? Growth? Isn't growth good? Yes, growth is good for a church if it's the result of God's response to a healthy body. But with growth can come the feeling of a loss of control. Suddenly, we don't know everyone anymore. We can't remember all the names and match them up with all the faces.

We are scrambling to staff our kids' rooms and other areas with enough volunteers to keep things working well. It costs more money to minister to more people. People from different backgrounds are converging, which brings a broader array of philosophies into our small groups.

Our gut reaction to rapid growth is to immediately try to control it. We need more systems. We need more machinery. We need to stabilize the institution. I know ... let's form some committees ...

As David shared the principle of how growth and control are fierce enemies, he also pointed out that as a church grows, some level of control is necessary. Systems are good. They help us keep people from falling through the cracks and getting left behind. But if a movement is gaining momentum because of the involvement of the Spirit of God, then who can really stand in its way?

So here's a good plan to follow when growth comes:

1. Celebrate the wins, changed lives and the steps forward happening in the lives of people.

2. Try to get in front of the movement with a framework for making disciples that will scale with growth.

3. Have a solid theological framework for doing ministry before you start.

4. Focus on developing leaders who can create healthy systems—not systems for which you desperately need leaders.

5.Go with the flow. Follow the Holy Spirit's movement, which can be as unpredictable as the wind.

6. Realize that growth should be multidimensional. How will you turn this new crowd into a committed congregation?

7. Never shift from an outward focus. It's never time to "stop reaching new people and start discipling those we have." Discipleship, by its nature, involves reproducing, so remaining outwardly focused is the best way to make disciples. 

Brandon Cox has been a pastor for 15 years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church.

]]> (Brandon A. Cox) Growth Tue, 16 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
6 Major Benefits of the Growth of Multisite Churches

It is one of those topics that almost always engenders lively discussion. Some church leaders are incredibly and positively excited about the multisite church movement. Others view the movement with many questions if not some level of suspicion.

But, recent studies tell us that we should not ignore this movement. It appears to be here to stay for years to come.

The Current Research

LifeWay Research has looked at multisite churches in recent years. Scott McConnell, the director of LifeWay Research, wrote Multi-site Churches in 2009, an excellent analysis of the movement.

Now a study by Leadership Network and Generis, led by Warren Bird, provides new, head-turning information. Simply stated, the multisite church movement is growing at such a pace that we would be negligent to ignore it. I encourage you to read the full report, while I offer six summary implications from the data.

The Study

Because the concept of multisite churches typically engenders strong opinions, it is not always easy to look at the data objectively. This study, called the Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard, however, looked at 535 multisite churches. Of those churches, 91 percent were located in the United States. The breadth of the research is such that we must study the information seriously.

As a point of full disclosure, I led a church in Birmingham, Alabama to become multisite in 1992. I had very few models to follow back then, and the challenges were many. The church I served as pastor was landlocked, and starting a new campus seemed logical to me.

I am now a member of a multisite church, Brentwood Baptist Church. I have seen up close an intentional strategy to reach many areas around Nashville and Middle Tennessee through the multisite approach.

The Implications

The implications of this study are many. For now, let me share six key issues that jumped to the forefront when I read the report:

1. Multisite as a growth and evangelistic strategy seems to be successful thus far. One of the most incredible data points in the study was the percentage of multisite churches that are growing: 85 percent. Such a high percentage is unprecedented in almost any previous approach to evangelism and growth in the past century. These churches are also much more evangelistic than those in most other studies, certainly those represented by studies I have led.

2. More struggling churches see merging with a multisite church as their best option for health or even survival. The leaders of the multisite churches noted an increased frequency in contact by leaders of struggling churches. One third of all the sites started in the study were the results of mergers. Stated simply, many struggling churches are seeking to be acquired by multisite churches. This new reality has both practical and ecclesiological implications for the future.

3. The campus pastor is likely the fastest-growing position in local churches, especially in the United States. We have focused for years on training pastors and, often, age-specific or ministry-specific ministry leaders. What type of training does a campus pastor need? Who or what will provide it?

4. Multisite churches are more likely to hire staff ministers internally. While this trend is growing independent of multisite churches, it is certainly being accelerated by multisite churches. Again, the implications for ministry and theological training are many.

5. An increasing number of smaller churches are becoming multisite. The trend of multisite churches has been mostly the work of larger churches, primarily megachurches. Now the median worship attendance of a multisite church is around 1,000, and churches as small as 100 to 400 in attendance are going multisite as well.

6. More churchgoers are attending multisite churches. Currently about one in 10 Protestant attendees is in a multisite church each week. That number will continue to increase.

The Future

I am thankful for the work of Warren Bird, Leadership Network and Generis. They have uncovered many new findings about multisite churches. For those of us who love local churches, we must stay informed about such developments. God is using new churches, established churches and multisite churches all across the world. But, at least from this study, the multisite movement is making gains we had not seen in other segments.

What is your feedback on these findings? What is your perspective on the multisite movement? Let me hear from you.

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

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Church Growth Tue, 16 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400