Monday, December 22, 2014

P0rnography's Effect on Marriage Rates

An interesting article here citing the potential effect p0rnography is having on the decline in marriage rates. I think we're just scratching the surface when it comes to the problems this issue will cause in the lives of future generations. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How to Create a Spark for Multiplication

What does it look like to have a multiplication minded church? I highly recommend the e-book Spark by Todd Wilson as an important book for pastors and painters that answers this question with clarity. I believe the e-book is free when you register at the Exponential website by following this link.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Avoiding the Anti-Elder

I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that many churches and church plants implode because leaders are too hasty or reckless in the appointment and empowerment of the wrong leaders. Just because someone is passionate about the matters of mission, shares your vision for church, or has experience as a business leader does not make them a good candidate for eldership or any other form of leadership. Here's a good article from Challies on the anti-elder and how to identify them. A fresh take on the Biblical qualifications.

Monday, November 24, 2014

5 Ways to Be a Church Planting Church

It is so important for new church plants to work hard maintaining this kind of DNA for church planting. Existing church plants can take several years transitioning their church toward these practices. Below are a few ways to be a church planting church. You can read the whole article here

1. Talk About Being a Church-Planting Church
2. Save for a Future Church Plant
3. Adopt a Church Planter in Another Country
4. Support and Partner with a Local Church Plant
5. Partner with a Network or a Denomination’s Church Planting Efforts

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Is Your Purpose?

As with all illustrations, this does breakdown at some point, but this is an interesting way to understand purpose. Though not all are "paid" for their purpose, the aspiration to align these four broader categories in order to live in a purposeful way could be helpful.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reflections on the Mars Hill Culture

As a former leader in Mars Hill Church Dave Kraft has some reflections here on what went wrong that lead to its recent demise and how we as pastors and planters can avoid some of these similar pitfalls in our leadership. Here's a good summary of his advice.

As l live my own life as a leader and as I coach other leaders, I am much more aware of doing what I can to make sure there is:

  • Good and genuine accountability, coupled with vulnerability and transparency.
  • A clear value in keeping short accounts, with sin being quickly confessed and owned.
  • An attitude of being teachable and open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
  • A culture of pacing that is realistic and sustainable, resulting in good morale and joy.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Did You Come Here to Die?

This article poses an interesting questions for planters to consider as they establish new churches. It's worth reading and pondering the whole article, but here's a quote.
It’s an intriguing exercise not only to ponder the answer, but to muse on why the Ghanaians would even ask the question. For them, did the credibility of the missionaries’ message depend on the willingness of the missionaries to give their whole life for its sake? It is a question that has pierced by heart, and agonised my soul, and pounded the treadmill of my mind more than any other. What if this was it? For life. All of it. Till death. What if the Lord asked me to give the whole of my life to model discipleship that perseveres until the very end?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Advice for Pastors

Here's some really good advice from Eugene Peterson to his seminary students. A small quote is below, but you should read the whole thing here.

“I’d tell them that pastoring is not a very glamorous job. It’s a very taking-out-the-laundry and changing-the-diapers kind of job. And I think I would try to disabuse them of any romantic ideas of what it is. As a pastor, you’ve got to be willing to take people as they are. And live with them where they are. And not impose your will on them. Because God has different ways of being with people, and you don’t always know what they are."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Planting Churches, Planting the Gospel

I love this quote by J.A. Medders from this post on why we need to be about planting Gospel-centered churches.

The planting of gospel-centered churches, filled with gospel-centered people who live as grace-leaking, missional monsters as lights in the darkness, inviting the dead to come alive in Jesus Christ and to dwell in the Kingdom of God—that is the hope of your city and mine.

Our cities don’t need more shows. The movie theaters, stadiums, and Redboxes have that covered. Our cities don’t need the planting of services, but they need the missional going of Christians, our disciple-making, our witnessing—that’s church planting.

We have the power of God that makes demons shudder, that sets captives free, that can save a thief on the cross, that can comfort a prostitute, that can redeem a drunk, that can restore a religious hypocrite—that can fulfill all that we are looking for, made for—that power, that word, that name, that person is Jesus.

That is the number one missional strategy of the New Testament. Nothing has changed since Acts 28. We cannot improve upon what Dr. Luke has chronicled. And for us to put more weight behind any other strategy might be the most idiotic thing we could do. This strategy is old, normal, and completely supernatural.

And maybe, just maybe one day we’ll hear, “There is much joy in that city” (Acts 8:8).

(HT: J.A. Medders)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

EFCA Vision Statement Before and After

After unveiling the first version of the new EFCA vision statement during last year's national summit, the national leadership held scores of conversations with denominational leaders around the nation and world and today unveiled our updated version.

VERSION 1: From last year's summit.

We are praying that God would grant us one million disciplemakers impacting one hundred million people with the gospel along with one hundred million people with the gospel along with one hundred Acts 19 locations globally where the gospel is transforming whole cities and regions rather than simply a neighborhood. 

VERSION 2: From this year's summit.

We are praying that God will raise up one million disciplemakers impacting millions with the gospel and transforming entire cities and regions globally. 

Though I think the statement is missing the communal implication of the Gospel in forming churches,  I do think the updated vision is much clearer, easier to understand, and motivating. Though the forming of churches is not in the vision statement, it does continue to be a vital element in our mission statement, which guides our overall direction as a movement.

The EFCA exists to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Depression of a Pastor

Many pastors battle with depression. In light of this reality, I was greatly encouraged this morning reading the classic lecture given by C.H. Spurgeon entitled, "The Minister's Fainting Fits" which was part of a series of lectures given to seminary students. The lecture can be found at chapter 11 in this linked document. Below are a few of my favorite quotes:

Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock. Disembodied spirits might have been sent to proclaim the word, but they could not have entered into the feelings of those who, being in this body, do groan, being burdened; angels might have been ordained evangelists, but their celestial attributes would have disqualified them from having compassion on the ignorant; men of marble might have been fashioned, but their impassive natures would have been a sarcasm upon our feebleness, and a mockery of our wants. Men, and men subject to human passions, the all-wise God has chosen to be his vessels of grace; hence these tears, hence these perplexities and castings down....

Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength....

My witness is, that those Who are honored of their Lord in public, have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil....

Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. Live by the day — ay, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. Trust in God alone, and lean not on the reeds of human help. Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world. Never count upon immutability in man: inconstancy you may reckon upon without fear of disappointment. The disciples of Jesus forsook him; be not amazed if your adherents wander away to other teachers: as they were not your all when with you, all is not gone from you with their departure. Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret. Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. Set small store by present rewards; be grateful for earnests by the way, but look for the recompensing joy hereafter. Continue, with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide. Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head. In nothing let us be turned aside from the path which the divine call has urged us to pursue. Come fair or come foul, the pulpit is our watch-tower, and the ministry our warfare; be it ours, when we cannot see the face of our God, to trust UNDER THE SHADOW OF HIS WINGS.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

New Findings on the Multisite Movement

The growth of churches via multisite is continuing at significant rates. In this post Thom Rainer discusses a recent study on this movement. No matter your opinion on multisite, these findings pose some interesting questions regarding the future of this growing trend among churches.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Spirit is Willing but the Schedule is Tight

Some good reminders here for busy pastors and planters. You can't help everyone, but this is hard for many pastors to accept. Here's some good thoughts when the spirit is willing, but the schedule is tight.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Multiplication Movement

Is a multiplication movement possible? Ed Stetzer thinks it is, but believes it will take some intentional steps on the part of movement leaders. He's a quote from the first of several articles on the subject.
To lead a Church Multiplication Movement, you need movement leaders. Find a persuasive leader and others with a passion for multiplication. A plan and a strategy can help, but people follow leaders. Having the right person leading is vital to move a movement toward multiplication. The movement will never happen unless key pastors are modeling sacrifice and calling others to the same.

Friday, March 21, 2014

FLD Spring Conference Live Blog 2014

For the next two days I'll be live blogging from the Forest Lakes District, EFCA Spring Conference 2014 located at Highlands Community Church in Wausau, WI. The keynote speakers are Gordon and Gail MacDonald speaking on the theme of Shepherding: Ourselves, Our Families, & Others. Check back for updates as we go!

Gordon MacDonald

Session 1:
  • Thank you for the invitation to be here...I met Gail 53 years ago in Feb…4 weeks later we were engaged, and 4 months later we were married…my first experience with an Evangelical Free church was in college in Colorado...When did pastoral ministry first come to me? Growing up as a child in a Christian home…renewed vision of what it means to follow Christ in college. How was I to follow Christ? At first, the last thing I wanted to do was become a pastor...During a discussion in college, “bashing” the church and pastoral ministry, a professor called our attention to Ac 20:28 (NIV), "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” The professor asked, “What do you hear in those verses?” We saw in this passage the great importance of the church, which was purchased by the blood of Christ...Suddenly, I saw how important the church and the work of pastoral ministry was to God and how important it should be to me.
  • It’s interesting in the Bible that there is a picture of an infinite, holy, and righteous God dealing with people…how do we understand this relationship? There are places that use metaphorical images to help us understand God: God as a Father…King…Judge…Deliverer, etc. One of the greatest metaphor for God is that of a Shepherd. In both OT and NT, God is pictured as a Shepherd. (Ps 23:1-6) Every line from Psalm 23 sinks into the soul. You could read it 1,000 times and get something new every time. Ps 23 tells us a lot about how ancient people saw the role of a shepherd. It’s hard to think of anyone in those times who wasn’t familiar with the role of shepherd. Shepherds didn’t have a positive image in the culture of that day. Beware of glamorizing shepherds as beautiful, tender people...these were tough guys. What do we learn from Ps 23?
    • The Feminine Side of Pastoral Leadership (Ps 23):
      • He makes me life down
      • He leads me beside quiet waters
      • He restores my soul
    • The Masculine Side of Pastoral Leadership (Ps 23):
      • He guides me
      • He’s with me in the valley of the shadow of death
      • Your rod and your staff they comfort me
  • Ezekiel 34 is the opposite of Ps 23. In Ps 23, the Lord gathers the sheep in a quiet place but in Eze 34, the shepherds of the people were scattering them in a harsh and brutal place. In the rest of Eze 34, the Lord describes negatively the role that which we as pastors are supposed to positively take (look after, rescue, gather, heal, feed, search for the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the injured and strengthen the weak)...A painting from Peter Brueghel called Unfaithful Shepherd illustrated the shepherds of Eze 34.
  • In Ac 20, Paul exhorts the elders of Ephesus to shepherd the flock that God cares so much about. Not to be the unfaithful shepherd of Eze 34, but the faithful shepherd of Ps 23...By the way, I don’t limit the work of the shepherd to the ordained, trained clergyman, but also to the lay women and men who do the work of the shepherd in the local body with the shepherd’s heart of the Lord.
  • 9 Traits of Effective Shepherds:
    1. They are “first-followers,” modeling the way of spiritual growth
    2. They point people to Jesus
    3. They lead people in worship
    4. They identify teachable people and “build” them
    5. They offer hope to the struggling or the failing person; present in chaos]
    6. They encourage, bless, and unite people to live faithfully
    7. They detect danger, offer correction
    8. They inspire faith
    9. They are street-faith rated

Session 2:
  • This evening’s talk is something that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time…who are those who lead people through the uncertainty and danger of life? (people facing these things like a bug facing a row of stomping boots) The shepherds among us. Could anyone have had a more difficult job than Moses in leading a complaining people through a land of uncertainty and danger? Ex 33:7-11, when the people watched their shepherd speak with the Lord (face to face!), they would worship. The privilege of the shepherd is to quiet the sheep to be able to experience the peace of God. What are some of the things that people are seeking when they come to our places of worship on Sunday? What if you had a “TSA” scanner as people were coming in to worship to see what the prevailing moods and difficulties? What if you knew what percent who…had a fight…were in anxiety…etc.? Would it in any way affect the way we preach? pray? speak encouragement to people? What if we used that scanner as people left the worship service? Would they look any different? What would you like people take out of the worship service? Do we know as much about our people (on a Sunday morning) as a shepherd knows about their sheep?
  • Seven Possibilities in Worship:
    1. A "vision" of triune God
    2. Grace and growth
    3. Gratitude
    4. Intercessory prayer
    5. Sense of belonging
    6. Courage & hope
    7. Faithful presence

Gordon and Gail MacDonald

Session 3:
  • Snippets of conversation between Gordon and Gail MacDonald...
    • Gordon: We’ve been married for 53 years and I would have to say that shepherding has really been a common component through all those years.
    • Gail: part of the shepherding role that a wife has is to listen to your husband’s dreams…this is sometimes scary, but is really important.
    • “We build each other!” Gordon: do you remember how we came to this phrase? Gail: When our children were young, there was a time when our kids were really after each other. Gordon: we were so frustrated that I went to them and said, “No matter what’s going on out there in the world, in this family, we build each other.” There are many examples from Scripture where we are exhorted to build each other.
  • Importance of gratitude…thank you notes…maybe the loss of gratitude is the reason many relationships die…when gratitude goes away, that’s when the walls go up.
  • Gordon: What you may do when you say the wrong thing in a relationship, you may squelch the relationship for years...In the moment, I was thinking, “There are ways of loving Gail that I haven’t even discovered.” Over the years Gail was so supportive of my sermon prep…I realized that I never asked the question, “What is Gail’s ‘sermon’ that I could be supportive of?”
  • Gail: We have to think of love like electricity going around in a circuit. The more we love the more goes through the whole circuit of a relationship.
  • Gordon: Building each other up is a day by day by day objective.
  • Gail: It has to be two people. It won’t work if one person stops.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Short On Sleep?

Church planting (and pastoring) is a high demand, high stress job and sleep deprivation is a common problem for those in ministry. Like John Piper in the following quote featured on Zach Nielsen's blog, I am learning that my body can no longer accommodate my ongoing pattern of not getting enough sleep. I wonder how many conflicts, fits of depression, and wasted hours of distraction could have been avoided with adequate rest? A caution worth heeding...
” … I am emotionally less resilient when I lose sleep. There were early days when I could work without regard to sleep and feel energized and motivated. In more recent years my threshold for despondency is lower on less sleep. For me, adequate sleep is not just a matter of staying healthy. It’s a matter of staying in the ministry – I’m tempted to say it’s a matter of persevering as a Christian. I know it is irrational that my future should look so bleak when I get only four or five hours of sleep several nights in a row. But rational or irrational, that is a fact. And I must live within the limits of fact. Therefore we must watch the changes in our bodies.” (John Piper, When I Don't Desire God, 205)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Time Management Tips

How are you at managing your time? Everyone's life is "busy" but is everyone's life healthy and fruitful? I think the answer to that question is no. For the church planter and pastors this post from the Resurgence blog has some great tips on how to manage your time well. The priorities include.
  1. Stop: "Most young leaders do too much..."
  2. Sabbath: "Eventually you need to find what you are uniquely able to do that others can't..."
  3. Set Priorities: "You are actually more productive when you take time to rest..."
  4. Save Space: "Ministry to people happens when you least expect it..."
You can (and should) read the whole article here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Resources on Multi-Site

One of the growing phenomena in church multiplication over the last 20+ years has been multi-site. According to Wikipedia, in 1990 there were 10 multi-site churches and in 2012 there are more than 5,000 in North America alone. If you are interested in learning more about how to multi-site, here are a few of the more prominent resources you may find helpful.

The Multi-Site Church Revolution

A Multi-Site Church Road Trip

Multi-Site Churches

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Ways to Distribute Authority

Team leadership from day one. This is one of my goals for church plants, even in the earliest development stages. This upholds both a Biblical model of leadership and is strategically smart for the church planter and pastor.

In this article we see how Mark Dever empowers team leadership by distributing authority to others. In the second part of the article Jonathan Leeman helps us to also see how Dever’s leadership creates a positive church culture. Below are a few highlights of the article. To read the whole article go here.

Ways to Distribute Authority

  • Build the church on the gospel. 
  • Establish a plurality of staff and non-staff elders. 
  • Limit the percentage of main-slot preaching. 
  • Give young teachers the chance to make mistakes.
  • Let others steal your ideas. 
  • Be willing to lose elder votes. 
  • Be devoted to one thing in the church and give freedom elsewhere.
  • Don't micromanage. 
  • Review weekly services. 
  • Be willing to receive criticism. 

How Giving Away Authority Shapes a Church Culture

  • It helps to keep the gospel uppermost. 
  • It promotes "real" relationships. 
  • It destroys natural social hierarchies.
  • It cultivates teachability and the willingness to receive criticism. 
  • It helps a church to be outward focused. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Top 10 Church Planting Tips from 2013

In this article Aaron Damiani identifies his top 10 church planting tips from 2013. Some helpful thoughts for those of us in the trenches of planting. Here’s a summary.

  1. Sustain high learning agility.
  2. Go slow to go fast.
  3. Gather a Launch Team instead of a Core Group.
  4. Jesus builds his church, so stop watching the door and start feeding your people.
  5. Finding worship space is an uphill spiritual battle; start praying.
  6. Identify your motives for church planting, and be vulnerable enough to communicate them.
  7. Collaborate with your fellow planters and pastors; don't compete with them.
  8. Don't be afraid to ask for money and people.
  9. Be flexible with how people grapple with your vision.
  10. Follow Jesus on the journey he has planned for you, and invite your people along.