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Archive for Church Growth

Barna Research has published a new report on the importance of church attendance among Americans. You can read the report HERE.

According to Barna, approximately 50% of believing Americans do not feel that church attendance plays a significant role in their spiritual formation. In fact, church attendance didn’t even make the top ten list of practices believers find helpful in growing their faith. The top two reasons people attend church are to learn about God and feel closer to Him. But according to the report, ” Adults are aware of their very real spiritual needs, yet they are increasingly dissatisfied with the church’s attempt to meet those spiritual needs and are turning elsewhere.” The irony I find in this research is that the more the church strives for cultural relevance, the more distasteful it becomes in the eyes of culture.

So what do we do with this information? First, I believe we need to be unapologetically biblical in our approach to worship and discipleship. When I go to a restaurant I expect food. I’m never surprised or indignant that food is offered to me. Along the same line, I believe people come to church and expect to hear and understand what the Bible has to say. We should not be apologetic to offer the “Bread of Life” to all ages. Second, I think we need to do our best to live the Bible authentically. One of the reasons people in the study cite for their withdrawal from church is the hypocrisy of the members. The word hypocrite finds its etymology in Greek theater. It means, “one who wears a mask.” The Christian faith must be practiced with deep intentionality. When we fail to live within range of Christ’s expectations, we wear the mask of something we profess but don’t actually believe. And that hypocrisy is what makes churches irrelevant.

Next month we celebrate Holy Week and Easter. My hope for us is that we will not limit our celebration to one week a year, but will discover the joys of the power of the resurrection each and every day we live!

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10 Symptoms of an Inwardly Focused Church.

Categories : Church, Church Growth
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Here’s and interesting post on the recent trend of millennials leaving evangelicalism for churches with high church traditions. You can read Jake Meador’s post on Mere Orthodoxy HERE.

Categories : Church, Church Growth
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Why We Resist Change

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I’ve been thinking a lot about change recently, especially wondering why people seem so swift to resist change. One reason I think we resist change at church is because of the chaos we have in other areas of our lives. We have unpredictable family members and uncertain careers. Our physical health is always in imminent peril and if we learned anything about our personal wealth in 2007 its that it can virtually vanish with one sudden downturn of the economy. Most areas in our lives are not in our control, leaving “church” as the one thing we can “control.” In turbulent times we look for security and predictability, and if our churches maintain the same week in week out, year in year out predictability, we can find comfort and tranquility. Therefore, even the smallest adjustments on the church landscape may be met with resistance just to maintain that one sacred space of sameness.

People may fight change in our churches simply because they cannot fight change anywhere else in their lives.

Categories : Church, Church Growth
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The 7 Last Words of the Church

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Years ago I heard a speaker remark that the seven last words of the church were, “We’ve never done it this way before.” I thought it was catchy, and to be confessional I even used it a time or three. After nearly three decades in ministry I think I would modify the seven last words of the church to, “We have always done it this way.” Let me explain. In my experience I’ve not found churches to be unwilling to try new things or undertake new ventures. Many churches are willing to experiment, even with a measure of risk provided the resources are available. The real problem is the refusal to let go of the things that have been done year after year after year. I suspect that the resistance to dismount the dead horses is based on a congregational felt need to have consensus. New things are permissible as long as the historical elements of the of ministry are maintained. This keeps the peace and approximates unilateral happiness.

Unfortunately, our need for short term peace comes with a long term price. Over the long haul resources are depleted and exhausted. Churches become slower and less responsive to immediate opportunities. Governance is heightened to ensure that everyone is treated equally. And, increased governance usually means fewer people are available to do the actual work of ministry. It’s hard to recognize this because many families live the same dilemma day in and day out–overcommitted and underbudgeted because we cannot stop ourselves from adding more activity without eliminating present activity. So what can be done?

1. Revisit the mission of the church. Sometimes we get lost on maintaining the clink and clank of church machinery to the exclusion of our real purpose: making disciples. Why do we exist? The answer to that question is the single most important guideline for our practice of ministry.

2. Understand the difference between history and tradition. History speaks of recurrent events in time. Tradition is more about culture, environment and style. It is critical to know the difference! Churches that refuse to stop certain programs and practices usually do so in the name of “tradition.” But its not tradition they advocate…its history. History is predictable, safe, and inflexible. Tradition, on the other hand, is like a fence that outlines the boundaries of a field wherein lies freedom and flexibility.

3. Take a programming fast to evaluate. I recently read of a church that intentionally closed its doors for an extended period of time to become reaquainted with God and one another. When they came back together they learned that there were things they were holding on to that they could live without after all. It also gave them the chance to explore new possibilities unencumbered by the weight of their habitual practices.

4. Commit to simplicity. Bigger is not better, its just more.

5. Find your niche. The church growth movement advocated becoming all things to all people to reach as many people as possible. Just as people have spiritual gifts, I believe churches have spiritual gifts. Find your niche and invest your resources. Its better to specialize in one thing and do it better than anyone else than do six things with mediocrity. If some other church has an outstanding program be kingdom minded enough to affirm it and support it. Don’t try to compete.

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Hope for the Vertically Challenged

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Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Mana came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:1-10, NLT)

Last weekend we dedicated a new parking lot edition that added 97 stalls to our campus. On Saturday we invited the neighborhood come and play on our new parking lot and enjoy pony rides, a bounce house, snow cones and an 80 foot long zip line. The local fire department brought a truck and the EMS crew was on hand to display their rescue unit. On Sunday I talked about how our new lot was nothing more than concrete. We weren’t really dedicating concrete, but rededicating ourselves to fulfilling our mission as a church. The text I selected for worship was familiar, the story of Zacchaeus from Luke’s gospel. Here are some of the bullets I attempted to drive home from the sermon.

* The fact that Luke points out Zacchaeus’ limited height is not to be ignored. I’m sure he was literally a short man, but the point Luke’s making is that each of us has fallen short of God’s standard of Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 3:23). We all have the DNA of sin that keeps us from connecting with God.

* When Jesus came to Zacchaeus he did two remarkable things: he called him by name and he committed to spend the entire day with him. Jesus is merely a couple of weeks from his crucifixion, and he chose to spend one of those days with this “notorious sinner.”

* Jesus’ personal mission statement was to seek and to save the lost. Seeking speaks of the heart of God, and saving speaks of the help of God. Jesus was interested in more than conversions. He was and is interested in disciples.

* Jesus saw who no one else saw. He saw a man who was loved and valued by God. When others saw Zacchaeus they saw a “bad” person. Jesus didn’t see “bad” people. He saw “broken” people in need of grace and forgiveness. Maybe if we changed our perspective to see people as more broken than bad, we’d be more aware of the human need around us.

* 34 out of 35 of Jesus’ miracles were NOT performed on the Sabbath. Why do we expect so much to happen in one hour on Sunday when Jesus did his work during the week?

* As a church we are like the sycamore tree. We have been strategically planted in our community by God to elevate and lift the broken so they can connect with God. In the story the tree served as the point of intersect between Jesus and Zacchaeus. We exist to serve the same purpose today.

Following the service we passed out sidewalk chalk to our congregation and asked them to go into the new lot and write the initials on the concrete of those they know who need to be elevated to connect with Christ. I was moved by the sight of our congregation–from the very tall to the very small–hunkering down to make their mark. My prayer for our church is that we will never lose sight of Jesus’ purpose. We have no other purpose than to serve his.

Categories : Church, Church Growth, Luke
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There’s a lot of concern today about why the Millennial generation (1984-2002) is leaving the church, thus producing a host of theories about how to reach the generation and get them back into the fold. Barna Group has published a new research report titled 5 Reasons Millennials Stay in Church. Perhaps our concerns are best viewed through the lens of those who haven’t departed. I hope you find this helpful.

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The State of Vacation Bible School

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As long as I can remember, Vacation Bible School has been the main staple of the summer church calendar. Barna research has provided a new report on the state of VBS in American church life. You can read the report BY CLICKING HERE.

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One of the blogs I follow is Tony Morgan Live. This week he posted some thought provoking comments about how healthy churches think about big events versus how unhealthy churches think about them. Check it out HERE.


The Millennials

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Barna Research Group has released a new study today regarding the 18-29 year old age group known as Generation Y or the “Millennials.” According to the report, 8 million members of this particular demographic will disengage from participation in church. The survey shares some helpful insights as to why they’re leaving the church and what might bring them back. You can read the article HERE.

Categories : Church Growth
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