Monday, March 14, 2022

Ryan Burge on Gen Z Religiosity

Here are some sobering statistics from Ryan Burge, author of Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are and Where They Are Going

1. The reduction of protestant and increase of “nothing in particular” is clearly reflected in subsequent generations.

2. Gen Z is now majority “nothing in particular”, 79% non-protestant.

3. Gen Z “belief in God” is plummeting down to almost 30%. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

The Difference Between Growing and Declining Churches

Here's the new church Unstuck Church report by Tony Morgan. Here are his findings on the difference between growing and declining churches. 

Even though overall attendance at physical gatherings is down 30% year-over-year in the churches that were assessed, there are several churches that are starting to grow again on this side of the pandemic. Of the 102 churches that were surveyed, 35 churches have experienced attendance growth when compared to the previous year.

What’s telling, though, are some of the distinctions between the churches that are growing and those that are still experiencing attendance decline. Here are some of the key differences we identified from the data:

  • The majority of growing churches were non-denominational. Declining churches are 40% more likely to be connected to a denomination than growing churches.
  • Growing churches have smaller boards and fewer committees than declining churches. Churches that streamline governance also streamline decision-making. That makes it easier for these churches to make changes in ministry strategy when it’s necessary because of the changes happening in the world around us.
  • Growing churches have less debt than declining churches. It appears that growing churches are more efficient in how they’re investing Kingdom resources to reach new people.
  • Growing churches are baptizing a higher percentage of people than declining churches. In other words, the growth isn’t happening because churches are only swapping Christians. A portion of the growth is coming from more new faith conversions.
  • Growing churches are reaching more younger families than declining churches. We know that because kids and students attendance is 28% of total attendance in growing churches and only 22% of total attendance in declining churches.
  • Declining churches are more likely to offer multiple styles of worship services. Think combinations of traditional, contemporary, blended, modern and so on. In other words, the more worship styles a church offers, the more likely the church is experiencing a decline in attendance.
  • Declining churches have significantly bigger staff teams than growing churches. Declining churches employ 56% more full-time equivalent employees than growing churches.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Requirements of Eldership

In this post Justin Taylor provides an excellent grid that that combines the requirements of eldership with descriptions written by John Piper. This is a helpful tool in detailing clearly what qualities are to be seen in the life of a qualified elder.

1 TimothyTitus
3:1one who has aspiration to the officeHe aspires to the role
of being an elder, bishop, overseer, pastor, shepherd. This does not exclude
the possibility that he is sought out and urged to be an elder. But no
pressure should be used that would result in an unwilling, half-hearted
3:2above reproach1:6, 7above reproachHe lives in a way that
gives no cause for others to think badly of the church or the faith or the
3:2husband of one
1:6husband of one
question is probably one of notoriety. What is this man’s reputation with
regard to whether he has had one wife or not?



not a drunkard




not . . . a

He exercises
self-control and mastery of his
prizes freedom from enslavements to such a degree that no bondage is yielded
3:2self-controlled1:8self-controlledHe is sensible. He is
prudent. He is reasonable. He has good judgment. He sees things as they
really are. He knows himself well. He understands people and how they
respond. He is in touch with reality, such that there are no great gaps
between what he sees in himself and what others see in him.
3:2respectableHe is honorable and dignified. He
comports himself in
situations so as not to step on toes unnecessarily. He does not offend
against propriety.
3:2hospitable1:8hospitableHe loves strangers. He
is given to being kind to newcomers. He makes them feel at home. His home is
open for ministry. He does not shrink back from having guests; he is not a
secretive person.
3:2able to teach1:9able to give
He is an apt teacher,
skilled in teaching. He knows biblical doctrine well and is able to explain
it to people. He is astute enough theologically that he can spot serious
error and show a person why it is wrong and harmful.
3:3not violent1:7not . . .
He is not pugnacious or belligerent. His temper is under control. He is not given to quarreling or fighting. He has a conciliatory bent. His feelings are not worn on his sleeve. He does not carry resentments. He is not hypercritical.
3:3gentleHe is not harsh or mean-spirited. He is inclined to tenderness. He resorts to toughness only when the circumstances commend this form of love. His words are not acid or divisive but helpful and encouraging.
arrogant or quick-tempered
He is
is lowly in his demeanor, not speaking much of himself or his achievements.
He counts others better than himself and is quick to serve. He sincerely
gives God the credit and honor for any accomplishments.
3:3not a lover of
1:7not . . .
greedy for gain
He puts the kingdom
first in all he does. His lifestyle does not reflect a love of luxury. He is
a generous giver. He is not anxious about his financial future. He is not so
money-oriented that ministry decisions revolve around this issue.
3:4–5a good manager of his
own household; cares for God’s church; keeps his
children submissive
1:6–7a steward; his children are
faithful, not insubordinate
He is the leader of a
well-ordered household. If he has children, they are submissive (not perfect,
but well-disciplined, so that they do not blatantly and regularly disregard
the instructions of their parents). His children revere him. He is a loving
and responsible spiritual leader in the home. He respects and tenderly loved
his wife, if he is married. Their relationship is openly admirable.
3:6not a recent
is a mature believer. There are evidences in his life that humility is a
fixed virtue and not easily overturned.
3:7well thought
of by outsiders
meets the standards of the world for decency and respectability (as the
standards of the church are higher).
1:8a lover of
He loves to be
involved in doing good. More than merely doing good, he has a bent and love
to see goodness done. He is an expansive person.
1:8uprightHe cares about whether
people are treated fairly. He wants to see justice in the world at all
1:8holyHe is a person of
devotion to Christ with a life of prayer and meditation. He loves worship and
has a deep personal relationship with the Lord.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Sample Sabbatical Policy

The following is a sample sabbatical policy that can serve as a reference for churches working to implement a sabbatical policy for the overall health and flourishing of pastors and their families. 


Thom Rainer gives a helpful explanation as to why sabbaticals are important for pastors. 

The word “sabbatical” has different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. It has one meaning in the academic community, another meaning in its biblical usage, and still another in many secular settings.

For the purpose of this article, I define sabbatical in simple terms. It simply means time off for rest and/or study. The time can be a few days, a few weeks or, on rare occasions, a few months. The pastor is given paid leave for rest, rejuvenation and, perhaps, deeper study. I would love to see churches of all sizes provide this requirement of their pastor, even if it’s only for a few days.

I have the opportunity to work with lay leaders and pastors. I have a pretty good view of both perspectives. And I am convinced that more lay leaders need to insist their pastors take regular breaks even beyond vacations. Allow me to provide five reasons for my rationale.

  1. A pastor has emotional highs and lows unlike most other vocations. In the course of a day, a pastor can deal with death, deep spiritual issues, great encouragement, petty criticisms, tragedies, illnesses, and celebrations of birth. The emotional roller coaster is draining. Your pastor needs a break—many times a break with no distractions.
  2. A pastor is on 24-hour call. Most pastors don’t have an “off” switch. They go to sleep with the knowledge they could be awakened by a phone call at anytime of the day. Vacations are rarely uninterrupted. It can be an exhausting vocation, and a sabbatical can be a welcome time to slow down.
  3. Pastors need time of uninterrupted study. It doesn’t usually happen in the study at church or home. There is always the crisis or need of the moment. Church members expect sermons that reflect much prayer and study. The pastor’s schedule often works against that ideal. The sabbatical can offer much needed, and uninterrupted, study time.
  4. Pastors who have sabbaticals have longer tenure at churches. Though my information is anecdotal, I do see the trend. And while I cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship, I feel confident that pastors who have sabbaticals are much more likely to stay at a church because they are less likely to experience burnout.
  5. Pastors who have sabbaticals view the time off as an affirmation from their churches. I have heard from many pastors who share with me a sentence similar to this one: “I know my church loves me because they give me a sabbatical.” Pastors need affirmation. Sabbaticals can accomplish that goal.

I estimate that only about five percent of churches offer sabbaticals. In almost every case where I am familiar, the relationship between pastor and congregation is very healthy. I do think at least one of the reasons is the sabbatical.


The pastor requesting a sabbatical should complete a written request to be submitted to the elder board for discussion and approval at least six months prior to the intended start date of the sabbatical.

  1. The written request should include the goal(s), plan, and time period for the sabbatical.  Generally speaking, sabbaticals should last around six weeks.  Exceptions to this (shorter or longer) can be considered with written explanation in the request document. 
  2. The pastor taking sabbatical will work with the elder board in identifying responsibilities that will need to be filled by other leaders in the church for the period of the sabbatical.
  3. The pastor taking sabbatical will agree with the board of elders on a peer who will provide accountability. They will also agree on the frequency of the peer accountability meetings.  (See Bob Thune’s comments on “spiritual director” below.)
  4. The elder board shall announce and explain the sabbatical to the church including the reason(s), goal(s) and guidelines for the sabbatical. It should also be communicated to the church the time period for the sabbatical and the temporary change in the pastor’s role(s) in the church.
  5. Upon re-entry, the pastor returning from sabbatical shall address the church and summarize the results of their time of rest including: goals accomplished, value of the time away from regular duties and any personal or professional development.
  6. The sabbatical will not take away from the pastor’s normal pay or vacation time during the year. 
  7. Pastors are eligible for sabbatical after every five years of service at The Vine. 


We would recommend the following “best practices” from Pastor Bob Thune. 

Stay in one place. A sabbatical is not a vacation. The goal isn’t to pack as much “fun” as possible into the allotted time. Rather, the goal of a sabbatical is whole-person rest. And for you to really rest deeply, you need to be in one place for as long as possible. Every time you have to travel or prepare for a new experience, your mind, body, and soul go back into action and activity. Only the settled, serene passivity of being somewhere can facilitate the kind of rest you need.

Set simple rhythms. The simpler your life rhythms, the deeper your rest and renewal. For instance, we set a 7-day meal schedule for the entire six weeks, so we didn’t have to plan for what we were going to eat (every week was the same). In addition, we set rhythms our kids could look forward to: Wednesday was “field trip day.” Saturday morning was “walk to Dunkin Donuts” morning. Sunday night was pizza at the pizza parlor, where we became “regulars” with Nick the bartender and Megan the waitress. If setting predictable rhythms sounds too boring and routine… might I submit that you may be so frenzied with activity that you’ve never experienced Sabbath?

Get a spiritual director. I stole this from Eugene Peterson’s fantastic little book “Working the Angles.” He said every pastor should have a spiritual director. I took his advice. And I’m a better man for it. A spiritual director is someone who directs you spiritually – not in an authoritarian way, but in a “coming alongside” way. He or she helps you pay attention to what God is doing in your soul. A wise director listens well, asks good questions, and looks for traces of God’s work that you might be missing. My spiritual director on sabbatical was my friend Gardner, who graciously gave two unhurried hours every week to serve as my pastor/adviser/counselor/friend. Make it a high priority in your sabbatical planning to find a spiritual director – ideally one who can sit with you face-to-face. If you still need convincing, read Peterson’s book and then consider the number of pastors you know who are long on ministry skill and short on heart renewal. Ask yourself if you want to be one of them.

Go to church (but not yours). I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to just GO to church. With no expectations: no one asking you who’s preaching today, no one seeking out your wife for on-the-spot counseling, no one running to you about the crisis in the nursery. Give yourself and your family this gift – you’ll be grateful. We attended a church of about 100 people that met in an elementary school within walking distance from our house. It was entirely different from Coram Deo – refreshingly. It wasn’t the way I would have led things. But it didn’t matter. It was the people of God gathering to worship God and live on mission in their city, and that was enough. The Lord humbled me, taught me, encouraged me, and graced me through that local church in ways I never could have experienced in my own context.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

5 Things to Do Before Leaving Your Church

Here is a helpful article by Thabiti Anyabwile on "5 Things Every Christian Should Do Before Leaving Their Church". In our church we had numerous opportunities to share this article with those considering leaving. It was one of the better resources we used to shepherd people considering this difficult decision. The main points follow, to read the full article click here

1. Share Your Thinking/Reasons with the Leaders

2. Resolve Any Outstanding Conflicts

3. Express Your Appreciation for the Church’s Ministry in Your Life

4. Say “Goodbye” to Friends and Family

5. Be Honest with Yourself about Your Own Efforts, Motives and Failings

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Africa, the New Center for Global Christianity?

In the August 18, 2020 email update from the Gospel Coalition, editor Colin Hanson wrote, citing historian Philip Jenkins...

If a country has a fertility rate of 2.1 or fewer children per woman, the population will age and contract. And those contracting societies around the world, despite many differences, all tend to be secularizing rapidly. That includes the United States, with a rate of 1.7, which mirrors secular Scandinavia.

You don’t need to debate causation or correlation in order to recognize Jenkins’s point. If trends continue, Western leadership in global Christainity will continue to diminish, at an even more rapid pace than Jenkins had first predicted back in 2002 with his seminal book, The Next Christendom. Current trends suggest that Africa will be home to more than 1 billion Christians within the next 30 years.
Bottom line, the US is becoming increasingly secular and Africa is quickly becoming Christianity's global center. When you add in the rapid growth of Christianity in Asia and South and Central America, it proves the point that, far from a western religion, Christianity is the most diverse religion in the world.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Redeeming Retail Space

Here's a great little guide from the Brown Church Development Group on how churches can redeem abandoned retail space for church use. Brian Connor writes, "The decline of "bricks and mortar" retail presents an opportunity for many churches to redeem space for God's Kingdom." You can download the entire document at this link.