Tag Archives: Love your neighbor as yourself

Were Churches in Orlando Prepared?

Jun 15, 16
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New York, USA - June 12, 2017: Memorial outside the landmark Stonewall Inn in honor of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando in New York City in 2016.

Horrific tragedies fling the doors open for the Church to embody and portray the love of Jesus.  When that tragedy involves the murder of those who feel rejected by the church by a zealot who vehemently hates the Church, the potential power of a radical display of unconditional love is magnified exponentially.  The grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ should compel His followers to step up and step in.  Some churches are doing so as we speak, but few prepared in advance for the possibility…

This week, we’re wrapping up our 5 part series analyzing responses pastors are often heard giving when asked about community engagement.  We’ve discussed the church’s Perception, Purpose, Priority, Passion – and today will delve into the final “P”…Platform.  Churches have the people, the (Holy Spirit’s) power, and the world’s greatest platform – but are losing their impact and influence because they lack preparation…

Prepared for Prayer

The first response from pastors we’ll address today is “How big of a difference can we really make?”  In other words, the issues in a community seem too daunting for any one church to move the needle.  Many pastors aren’t sure where to start, feeling there’s little they can do beyond prayer.  Last Sunday morning, that was the request of nearly every pastor in Orlando and across the country – “please be praying…”.  However, James 2:15-16 tells us that words without action – even words of prayer – aren’t the full extent of what we should do for those in need.  Yet that’s all church leaders typically know to ask of members when trouble brews in the community.  Pastors and members in Orlando know they should do something – but aren’t prepared or knowledgeable enough to mobilize the church into action.

Prepared to Care

How many churches have an emergency response or disaster relief plan in place – not for themselves but for the local community?  How many have invited experts in to train members on how to be effective for the Kingdom when the unexpected happens in their city?  Your church has prayer warriors, but does it have designated grief counselors, chaplains, and crisis managers – not just to serve the church but to serve the local area?

No, it’s not necessarily the responsibility of the church to be on the front lines when tragedy strikes.  But the church is the hands and feet of Christ – His bride.  If the Lord intervened in countless dire circumstances throughout scripture, shouldn’t His church follow suit.  The church did play that role during much of its history.  In fact, studies show many still expect the church to lead the way – despite acknowledging that few churches actually do so.  Wouldn’t society see churches in a very different light if Christians were the first ones on the scene and the last ones to leave?  Regardless of how that would impact public perception, disciples of Jesus Christ should find it hard to resist swooping in to love others – following Jesus’ example of demonstrating His love before telling them who He is.

Unfortunately, churches can’t make a big difference in Orlando right now if they haven’t invested time and energy into planning ways to make a difference.  Few have prepared in advance – and it’s too late now.  Poor preparation is a natural consequence of our repeated contention in this blog series that today’s church has redefined itself and its “customer”.  Few consider the lost in the community to be their target “customer” and most aren’t willing to challenge members to “BE the church” between Sundays because it would require significant life change.   Therefore they aren’t likely to prepare well to be a light at the darkest time in their communities.

Prepared to Share

The redefinition of the church’s “customer” has also resulted in churchgoers who are less prepared to share their faith when they arrive on the scene there in Orlando.  Church leaders expect less of members and hesitate to challenge them to step too far out of their comfort zones.  Replacing personal discipleship with small groups has meant fewer Christians today are comfortable sharing (or even know how to share) Christ with others, particularly with friends or parents of a homosexual murder victim.  What about the opportunity Orlando presents to show love and share Christ with Muslims?  What percentage of church members understands how to make the case for Christ to a Muslim?

Most would default to the meager goal pastors set for them nearly every Sunday – invite them to church.  However, what are the odds that a gay person or Muslim would accept that invitation?

Christians don’t have to support the causes of homosexuality and Islam to love on those individuals.   Our job is to live out the Great Commandment to love our neighbor and the Great Commission to make disciples.  Those two imperatives reveal how compassion is integral to evangelism.  Jesus modeled both deeds and words.  How can we love the Lord so much and not tell others about him?

In other words, Private Christians is an oxymoron – but they exist.

The labels Christian and Disciple should be redundant – but they’re not.

The blame lies largely with church leaders who haven’t prepared congregations to leverage the tremendous platform the body of Christ has for bringing hope and faith to a world drifting away from the Lord.  Churches should provide all levels of “education” to members – not just the elementary school training fostered by small groups.  All Christians should be prepared to answer the tough questions, not stop at giving their testimony and inviting folks to hear from “professionals” who attended seminary.

…or Prepare for the Worst

No doubt, if most members were truly challenged to live up to the literal Great Commission standard, most would head for the doorways of your church.  That shouldn’t stop pastors from investing heavily in preparing their congregations to respond to a huge opportunity to show and share the love of Jesus – but it does.  There’s so much to lose in asking members to substantially disrupt their comfortable lives.  Why risk it all after the blood, sweat and tears it took to build a church?

The answer lies in the cost of maintaining the status quo.  The final response we’ll address from pastors asked to engage more in their communities is “Our church is on the right track.  Why rock the boat?”  First, consider that only a small fraction of churches are growing and fewer are healthy – if measured by the percentage of members that are truly disciples of Jesus Christ.  Are things really going well with the Church today?  Comfort is not an excuse for complacency.  Rocking the boat is worth reversing several rising tides…

  • Declining influence of Christianity and increasing influence of Islam in America
  • Increasing perception that Christians are judging the sinners, not just the sin of homosexuality
  • General belief in society that churches are looking out for their own interests and care little about the welfare of others

It’s Your Turn

In retrospect, what changes in the Purpose, Priorities, and Passions of Orlando churches would have prepared them to fully leverage their Platform this week?

Why Many Churches Do the Unthinkable…

Jun 02, 16
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Alone in a crowd ... image was intentionally softened and colors muted to all but the alone person.

The Good Samaritan story begins with a question by an expert in religious law – likely a leader in a church – about the first and greatest commandment.  In response to his follow-up question, Jesus defines the man’s “neighbor” not as someone who goes to his church, but a random stranger.  The first person to pass by the beaten robbery victim was a pastor, presumably hastening off to take care of his responsibilities at the church.  The second person to step over the wounded, suffering man was a church staff member – likely also heading back to work. 

When church leaders in the story failed to take responsibility for helping someone clearly in dire need, a non-believing Samaritan (someone church leaders in those days disliked and avoided) stepped in to show compassion. 

Jesus could have used anyone as an example in that story of what not to do.  Why did He choose a pastor and a church worker? 

He could have chosen anyone as an example of what to do.  Why did He choose a person reviled by the religious establishment?

It appears Jesus crafted the Good Samaritan story to speak directly to His questioner – a church leader.  Jesus appeared to be cautioning churches against simply taking care of their own and not showing compassion to those around them. 

For the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing objections many church leaders use for not engaging more in serving their communities.  We covered the common Perception that action and evangelism is an either/or decision.  Next we showed how a church’s Purpose is to Transform and Release rather than Attract and Retain.  Today we’ll delve into Priority – the emphasis churches place on taking care of their own versus those outside the church…

The Priority Paradox

Galations 6:10 tells us “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”  That verse clearly says to take care of our Christian brothers first.  However, at first glance the Good Samaritan parable seems to say the opposite – stop to take care of others on the way to church.  So does the warning Jesus issued to church leaders who took money they could have used to help their aging and ailing parents and instead gave it to their church.

How do we reconcile Paul’s command to take care of fellow church members first with Jesus’ repeated cautions that He “desires compassion” (even for those outside the Church) “more than sacrifice” (e.g. obligations inside the church)?

One point of reconciliation is the overwhelming emphasis of Jesus and Paul on relationships versus religion – people versus principles.  Caring for ALL people (Christians and non-Christians alike) is far more important than caring for responsibilities within the church.  In that case, shouldn’t church leaders and members today be more focused and aggressive in pursuit of the church’s Biblical “customer” – the hurting and lost in their communities?

How Churches Set Priorities

How a church defines itself and its “customer” establishes its priorities…

The mere concept that the potential exists for church leaders to “cater” to members (to keep them from leaving) implicitly defines those pastors and staff as the church (“insiders”) and members as “outsiders” (i.e. “customers”).  However, we all believe deep down what so many pastors often say (yet too infrequently live out) – that members ARE the church (“insiders”).  Members can’t be both the definition of Church and also its “customer”.  Someone else has to be the “customer” – those who churches should invest the bulk of their time, energy and money to pursue and retain.  By that standard, Jesus, His disciples and the early church clearly saw the poor, hungry and lost as their target “customers”.

A church that has defined the wrong “customer” will quickly lose sight of the need to show compassion to those outside the church.  In other words, if church leaders prioritize institution building over disciple building, they run the risk of becoming the pastor and church worker in the Good Samaritan parable.  It’s a slippery slope.  Those in churches that don’t see the hopeless and helpless as their “customer” can unwittingly develop the tunnel vision it takes to do the unthinkable – step over them on their way to do “church chores”.

In the Good Samaritan parable, you have a recipe for disaster – a church that has as its highest priority caring for its own while at the same time seen by outsiders as condemning anyone who isn’t one of its own.  Doesn’t that fairly accurately portray the current state of the church in America?  How many homosexuals feel welcome by the Church and would dare venture into one?

Jesus accuses the church of that double-standard by specifically inserting a hated Samaritan as the “good guy” in the story – and church workers as the ones who kept walking on the other side of the road.  The moral is that if people who churches considered “heathens” had the decency to stop and help, shouldn’t the church do the same?  Moreover, the Good Samaritan did all that for someone who labeled him a “heathen”, turning the other cheek.

Jesus told that parable as instruction for not just the first century church, but for the church today.  Pastors and church workers should prioritize compassion toward all “neighbors” (even those who want nothing to do with church) above responsibilities within the church – to stop and help rather than pass by and miss the opportunity to be Jesus to them.  Churches should serve the community where they are planted, reaching out to even its most alienated “neighbors” as Jesus did – using loving acts of service to demonstrate His love and then telling them who He is.

And that is what the Church did for 1900 years – and it experienced exponential growth.  It’s no coincidence that the growth of the Church in America has slowed to a crawl now that churches no longer reside on the front lines of compassion.  Most non-Christians no longer believe churches care so they don’t care what we have to say.  Our commentaries on society sound to them like condemnation and our preaching sounds like proselytizing.  They fall on deaf ears.

How to Reset Your Priorities

  • Realize that the secret to church revitalization is not a program or a process – it’s your priorities!!
  • Redefine and truly treat members as the “church” – not meaning less investment in them but different investments in them.  Rather than worrying about whether they’ll come back next Sunday, prepare and equip them to BE the church to “customers” who have felt ignored by churches for far too long.
  • Take care of fellow believers as the top priority but commit greater church resources to meeting the material and spiritual needs of the community and world.  A rule of thumb is to care for churchgoers when they’re in need and challenge them to care for others when they’re not.
  • Understand that caring for one another within the church first presumes but does not supplant the Great Commission or second half of the Great Commandment.  In other words, let us love each other in the church but make sure that love bleeds out into the streets so it truly will attract our “neighbors” around us.
  • Measure church health by the number of churchgoers living a Prayer-Care-Share lifestyle – not stopping at compassion but maximizing Kingdom impact by openly sharing their love for the Lord

It’s Your Turn

Is your church a Good Samaritan to your community, lovingly serving year round, breaking down the walls of cynicism surrounding churches and Christians today?  How should your church’s priorities shift such that its impact in your city could increase further?

What’s Your Church’s True Purpose?

May 27, 16
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A giant swallowtail butterfly in a man's hands.

Our Purpose is helping you align with Your Purpose.

For a church, it’s easy to slip into building a comfortable environment where complacency is acceptable.  Pastors regularly challenge members to connect, volunteer and give – building the institution.  Yet pastors are more reluctant to challenge them to the level of life change required to effectively minister, serve and witness to those around them – in other words, building disciples.

The purpose of a church is not to attract and retain people to worship and do life together.  Attraction and retention are business principles.  Businesses advertise, innovate and serve customers.  They don’t dare ask customers to step out of their comfort zones.  However, churches are called to do exactly that:

  • Transform vs. Attract – Lead people to love and look a whole lot like Jesus, whereby they feel compelled to disrupt “life as they know it” for the sake of bringing people to Christ – the Great Commandment
  • Release vs. Retain – Prepare and equip them for ministry in their sphere of influence, their city and the world – the Great Commission

The basis upon which most pastors make decisions today is whether it will attract or retain.  Yet ironically, Transforming lives and Releasing into ministry in the community do a far better job of attracting and retaining (and growing a healthy church) than America’s prevailing Attraction and Retention strategyInvite, Involve and Invest.

Yes, inviting friends to church and getting them plugged in socially and financially within the church is “sticky”.  The Bible says some will be attracted to groups of believers by their love for one another.  But in an era where there is so much skepticism about churches and Christianity, it’s far less likely that a non-Christian is going to venture into a church building just because they are invited by a friend or looking for new friends.

In other words, chances are they’ll be more attracted to a Christian than to Christianity – to an individual than to a church.  Church members are called not just to love each other but to love their neighbors too (which we will discuss more next week).  As they do so, those who are not Christians will become more receptive to Christianity.  Churchgoers need to be the first encounter for non-Christians with “church” – and need to be much better trained by their churches to become more powerful embodiments of church between Sundays.  Yet churches have pulled back on discipleship and ratcheted up requests to simply invite neighbors and leave ministry to the professionals.

What is Your Church’s Purpose?

To see if your church’s purpose is more aligned with Attract and Retain or Transform and Release, let’s go back to the blog post before Meet The Need’s launch.  We were looking at how some pastors respond to books or articles about increasing their churches’ engagement and impact in the community (i.e. Transform and Release):

  • “Oh, that’s the Social Gospel – but we’re about evangelizing.”
  • “We teach salvation by grace alone, not by works.”
  • “How is that going to grow my church?”
  • “Maybe we’ll get a few good ideas for community outreach.”
  • “The Bible tells us to take care of our Christian brothers first.
  • “We’ve got too many issues right now to focus on external ministry.”
  • “We don’t have enough budget for projects in the community.”
  • “How big of a difference can we really make?”
  • “Things are going pretty well right now. Why rock the boat?”

We discussed the first two responses in our two posts on the Social Gospel.  We challenged the Perception of many pastors that Caring and Sharing is an either-or decision.   The next two bullets touch on our topic today – Purpose.

Reaching a community for Christ is not the sole purpose of church – but it’s certainly up there somewhere.  Therefore, it’s concerning that so many pastors respond to articles about local missions with “How would addressing social issues in our community grow our church?” or “Maybe doing a couple service events will be a good way to build awareness of our church.”

Jesus acted out of a genuine concern for the welfare of those impoverished or ill.  He knew that His witness would be more powerful if He demonstrated His love and compassion before telling them who He is.  Yet churches rely primarily on occasional events in their local missions efforts.  Events make a big splash yet don’t convey a sincere heart for those who are still hurting and hopeless long after the event is over. 

In those cases, community outreach becomes more of a tool for Attraction (brand awareness) and Retention (checking the box to make members feel better about having done something).   In fact, the very word “outreach” has been redefined in recent years generally to mean church advertising rather than personal caring and sharing.  Churches will see local missions primarily as an attraction and retention strategy unless they:

  • Truly define members as the church and the community (not members) as the “customer”
  • Believe all hands should be on deck pursuing that “customer” (the hurting and lost)
  • Understand that loving their city to Christ is integral to its operations, e.g.:
    • Assign a staff person to lead local missions (a material portion of their job)
    • Give that person a meaningful voice in the direction of the church
  • Prepare, equip and challenge members to effectively carry out the Great Commission – i.e. Transform and Release

Getting Back on the Path to Purpose

Aligning with your purpose requires an honest review of what the Bible says about the purpose of church and not what conventional wisdom, seminaries and church growth consultants are telling you.  It also requires an openness to change (despite certain resistance) and possibly an entirely new way of thinking in three areas:

  1. your role in leadership
  2. the role of members
  3. the church’s role with those outside the “4 walls”

Meet The Need provides extensive advice in those areas – putting churches on a path to health, not just growth.  The importance of reversing the decline of the Church in America is why we give away all that content for free:

Meet The Need also provides personal coaching to churches that aren’t growing or having a great deal of impact in their communities.

And we don’t stop there…

Meet The Need provides tools to back up our coaching.  Many church consultants identify issues but don’t provide an effective, Biblical means to get churches back on the path to health.  However, Meet The Need spent over a decade and millions of dollars developing systems to help churches equip and mobilize their members to pursue their intended “customer”.  The consequences of churches continuing to ignore their “customers” are so serious that we give all of those systems away!

It’s Your Turn

Worshiping the Lord as a collective body is clearly a core purpose of a church.  Does your church treat Transforming and Releasing into ministry as key purposes as well?

By the way, in the coming weeks we’re going to continue evaluating that list of objections.  We began with Perception, today addressed Purpose, and are moving next into Priority, Passion and Platform

Exciting News!! Releasing Revamped Software and Coaching Next Week!

May 11, 16
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Blog Post 46 - Bell Shoals MTN

My Story…

Meet The Need began fifteen years ago, during a long drive back home to Atlanta from a vacation in Jacksonville.  Weeks earlier, I had asked my church where I could serve somewhere in the community.  I told them my passions and interests, hoping for direction.  I was surprised but they weren’t sure where to point me in the city.  As I was driving, I was thinking about how the Fortune 500 corporations I consulted all had those types of answers – they knew where to direct people when they wanted to buy something.

As I dug into the issue, it didn’t take long to figure out…

  • it wasn’t just my church that had this problem
  • the Church had been the food bank and homeless shelter for its first 1900 years, but was no longer on the front lines of compassion

So, how could churches, even one as large as mine, be so disconnected now from the needs in the community?  Jesus, His disciples and the early church modeled the power of demonstrating love in sharing the gospel.  They knew people don’t care what you know until they know you care.

Meet The Need’s Mission

To MOBILIZE and EQUIP the Church to lead millions more to Christ
by following Jesus’ example of meeting those in need exactly where they are.

That was the mission statement we came up with soon after I got back to Atlanta that day.  And it remains the same today.

We heard from many churches that they wanted to engage much more in the community but had no efficient way to share local (or even internal) needs with their members.  So we spent years and millions on the EQUIP portion of our mission – designing, building, testing and rolling out systems that empower churches and charities to communicate needs to those who could help.

EQUIP – New Enhanced Software!

Our commitment to EQUIP your church and charity continues to this day!  In fact, we’ve just completed a 2 year project to make all of our tools EVEN MORE accessible, user-friendly and state-of-the-art.  

We’ll be rolling out our brand new systems next week, including…

  • Smart Phone & Tablet Compatible – Displays conform to the devices being used!
  • New Functionality – Best practice features around group signups, real-time reporting, live check-ins and customizable emails!
  • More Simplicity – Faster registration, easier administration and automated self-service!

MOBILIZE – New Strategies and Coaching!

We developed Meet The Need’s comprehensive suite of software based on the assumption that churches would move beyond seasonal events (which often do more harm than good) if MTN could be the first to bring tools for them to manage and communicate needs on a year-round basis.  For many churches that has been the case.  MTN expanded nationwide and has had tremendous success in many cities.

However, the general trend among churches in America today is not toward unleashing members into year-round ministry in their communities.  Systems don’t change heart and minds.  We continue to see far too many unmet needs in cities across the country.  The greatest source of help and hope available to those hurting and lost resides, largely idle, in the pews of America’s churches.  

That’s why we plan to spend much of our time going forward on the MOBILIZE half of our mission encouraging churches to follow Jesus’ example of demonstrating His love before telling them who He is.

As many of you know, my background was in management consulting – solving strategic problems for large companies.  So for the past couple years I’ve put my management consulting hat on and done extensive research, trying to find out why:

  • the role of the Church in communities across America has fundamentally changed
  • American church growth models encourage internal, not external, focus
  • the Church (overall) in the U.S. is not succeeding on any significant metric – growth, impact, influence, or public perception

After all that digging, it turns out that organizational behavior best practices, which align very well with Biblical principles, held the key all along to why the Church is struggling.  There is a flawed assumption underlying most decisions churches make today.  The modern American church is violating one of the most basic tenants of all successful organizations, including the early Church.

Making that groundbreaking discovery would not have been possible without extensive experience in consulting followed by years of work with churches of all sizes.  Little did I know the Lord was preparing me all that time to understand and disclose the root cause issue behind the Church’s decline.

Next week, we’ll be unveiling those findings to you and launching our new coaching offering on our NEW WEB SITE in hopes of fulfilling the 2nd half of our mission – to MOBILIZE the Church!

Are You Ready?

If your church could get its hands on a Biblical roadmap to increase in size, impact and influence and perception, would you be willing to take a look?  What if your church or charity could get a complete suite of best-practice tools for managing all of its charitable activities – all at no cost?  Would you be open to checking out what we have to offer?  If so, get ready for MTN’s launch of our new tools, materials and web site next week!

3 Keys to Effective Evangelism

May 04, 16
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Blog Post 45 - Yelling (iStock_000024257625_Medium)1

Part 2 (of 2)

Based on the invitation I received to yesterday’s pastors’ luncheon, I thought the topic was uniting around the social issues facing our city – like homelessness and hunger.  I should have known better.  Each time I’ve joined a gathering of prominent Christian leaders about America’s “culture war”, the discussion has quickly evolved from a “ground war” of love and compassion to an “air war” aimed at our nation’s escalating immorality.  It’s a path quite similar to the evolution of the Social Gospel movement.  The word “Social” in the movement largely came to mean ensuring society obeyed God’s laws – rather than making sure society felt God’s love.  Never one to believe in coincidence, it seemed providential that I was seeing that same evolution of the “Social Gospel” played out right before my eyes while writing blog posts on that topic.

Last week we made an argument for removing the term “Social Gospel” from the Church’s vocabulary.  The actual Movement largely died out a century ago.  Utilizing the outdated term has become an excuse for churches to make an either/or decision between “words” and “action” when it comes to evangelism – a distinction that shouldn’t exist.  Today, many have adopted the version of the Social Gospel that the original movement was never intended to become – more about imposing (social) standards and less about sharing the gospel.  Unfortunately, speaking out about what’s wrong with society is always easier than “caring” or “sharing”.  That evolution from caring to criticizing shortly preceded the Movement’s demise – and foreshadowed the struggles the vast majority of America’s churches are having today.

“Gospel” in the Social Gospel

Most pastors say their churches are about evangelism and not the Social Gospel, but then provide inadequate training and impetus for their members to share their faith.  The “pew potatoes” most churches cultivate rarely bring anyone else to the Lord.

What percentage of church members actively witness to acquaintances and coworkers?  How many are disciples, taking on the attributes of Jesus – like vigorously pursuing the lost?  Are there more than a handful of true disciple-makers in your church, not counting those on staff?

Most pastors give members a free pass on evangelism, reducing it to handing out invitation cards or “telling your story”.  Challenging churchgoers to take on the uncomfortable task of personal evangelism risks losing them to countless other churches who would expect much less of them.

Clearly, we’re not doing evangelism well. 

However, most churchgoers are vocal in expressing their opinions on the state of our nation.  Like the church leaders I met with at the luncheon, they’re upset at how few seem to be following God’s laws anymore.  They believe that having a bigger megaphone, shouting from the top of each of the 7 Mountains (government, media, religion, education, entertainment, family and business) will turn this country around.

Why did “Social Criticism” or “Social Commentary”, the final phase of the Social Gospel movement, not work at the turn of the century in America?  It failed for the same reason legalism didn’t work in Jesus’ day and why it isn’t working now.  Applying our moral standard to those who do not subscribe to that standard is illogical.  Peter and Paul knew better than to take Jewish law and try to apply it to the Gentiles – it’s a cultural legal system that was completely foreign to those who weren’t Jewish.  Why would we expect those who don’t believe in Christ to live according to His laws?  Attacking society’s moral failures misses the point that they need Christ first.  Once they accept Christ then we can evaluate them according to His standards.  We can’t expect them to change their behaviors unless they first accept our foundation for right and wrong.  Until then, they likely don’t even recognize what they’re doing as sin.  Yet we judge and condemn non-Christians for not obeying laws they don’t acknowledge.  Therefore, they see our Social Criticism as irrelevant, unfair and inappropriate – as anger or possibly hatred, but certainly not love.  We succeed only in creating and widening a chasm between “us” and “them”.

So the question is how do we get them to accept Christ?  Jesus didn’t do it through words alone, but first made sure people paid attention to what He said by demonstrating His love, compassion and power.  In fact, Jesus spent far more time criticizing those who criticized “sinners” than criticizing “sinners” themselves.  Yet we continue to try to institute our way of thinking in a world that doesn’t like what they believe we stand for, nor respect our institutions.  Is it any surprise that such a small percentage of churches today are growing – in size, impact, influence or public perception?

“Social” in the Social Gospel

Not only are churches sliding down the same legalistic slippery slope that ended the Social Gospel movement, but they’re also failing at the original intent of Social Gospel – caring for the pressing needs of those around them.  As we’ve discussed throughout this blog series, churches are no longer on the front lines of compassion and most have limited year-round involvement in alleviating pain and suffering in their cities.  Our eBook The 5 Steps to Revitalize Your Church makes a solid case that churches no longer follow Jesus’ model for evangelism and provides action steps to dramatically increase your church’s impact in your community.

Combining the two sections above (“Gospel” and “Social”), it seems churches today aren’t excelling at either words or actions – the two components of evangelism.  First, pastors choose sides – believing evangelism and concern for social welfare are incongruent they select words or works.  Then they dabble in the one they chose while maybe doing a little of the other – but not doing either one very well.  Then pile on top of that widespread criticism of society by churchgoers and you have a recipe for disaster…

Rarely Showing We Care (by Serving) + Infrequently Sharing (the Gospel) + Loudly Criticizing Non-Believers = Shrinking Churches

Imagine a company following that model…

Poor Customer Service (remember, churchgoers are not “customers”) + Limited Sales or Marketing + Employees Criticizing Those Who Aren’t Customers = Bankruptcy

3 Keys to Effective Evangelism

1. Change our Perception

…that churches must choose between words and works.  Christ didn’t separate words and works, nor did the church during its first 1900 years.  Compassion and evangelism are inextricably linked and core purposes of any church.  The words “Social” (care) and “Gospel” (share) are redundant – you can’t effectively share the gospel without showing you care about people and their problems.  “Social commentaries” certainly won’t be heard in the right light if we haven’t first earned the right to voice our opinions.

2. Redefine the Church’s “Customer”

If members viewed themselves as the church and the lost in the community as the “customer” then:

  • Pastors would be more aggressive in equipping and mobilizing them to reach the church’s true “customers”
  • Members would be more willing to step out of their comfort zones and live out the Great Commission

3. Live a Prayer-Care-Share Lifestyle

In Mark 9, Jesus modeled this for us:

  • Prayer = Jesus said His disciples couldn’t heal the boy because it required prayer
  • Care = Had compassion on the boy and his dad
  • Share = Jesus asked the boy’s dad to proclaim faith in Him before healing his son

Powerful Christians live accordingly, not content simply to invite people to church or stop at “telling their story”.  They understand that bringing people to Christ involves taking personal responsibility for all 3 – praying, caring and sharing.  Yet today’s churches are reluctant to challenge churchgoers to become and make disciples – producing generations of Passive, Pensive and Private Christians who act as consumers of church and not as the church personified.

It’s Your Turn

Please share any examples of churches that are doing a great job with the 3 Keys to Effective Evangelism.  We want to hear your stories and possibly highlight them in future blog posts.

What’s wrong with the “Social Gospel”?

Apr 27, 16
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Blog Post 44 - Let Your Light Shine (iStock_000000153399Small)

Part 1 (of 2)

It’s tempting to put concepts into a mental box.  Many pastors and other church leaders see articles or books about the importance of serving their community and think…

  • “Oh, that’s the Social Gospel – but we’re about evangelizing.”
  • “We teach salvation by grace alone, not by works.”
  • “The Bible tells us to take care of our Christian brothers first.”
  • “How is that going to grow my church?”
  • “Maybe we’ll get a few good ideas for community outreach.”
  • “We’ve got too many issues right now to focus on external ministry.”
  • “We don’t have enough budget for projects in the community.”
  • “How big of a difference can we really make?”
  • “Things are going pretty well right now. Why rock the boat?”

Today, we want to address the first couple objections…

Misuse of the Term “Social Gospel”

Social Gospel was a movement that peaked around the turn of the century led by pastors who got involved in the pressing social issues of that day (e.g. workers’ rights).  Factions of the social gospel movement drifted into legalism, shifting their battlegrounds from injustice to issues like prohibition and prostitution.  Over the past few decades, we’ve seen the church make a similar shift – largely replacing proactive compassion with reactive outcries against legalized immorality.

We hear the term “Social Gospel” frequently today.  Yet most do not understand its roots.  Some assume it advocates salvation by works, likely citing Matthew 25Others associate it with the secular Social Justice movement – and therefore infer that the Social Gospel does not involve sharing one’s faith.  Many of those equate it to the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

Is the term “Social Gospel” still applicable today?  Church historians do not consider the Social Gospel movement to still be viable.  However, the term is still widely utilized by church leaders, largely because it introduces an EITHER-OR variable into the equation.  In other words, by associating “Social Gospel” with belief in salvation through works or action without evangelism, churches can ignore what is good and Biblical about the concept.  Those pastors contend “Well, we’re about preaching the gospel using words”, and thereby feel justified in remaining on the sidelines in the fight against injustice and poverty.

Yes, the math is:

Salvation = 100% by faith through grace + 0% works

…where works don’t save you but are only evidence of your salvation, proving the sincerity of your profession


Evangelism = Prayer + Care + Share

…where works do matter as a door opener for sharing the gospel

Both equations are true.  Works can’t save you but they are critical for bringing others to Christ.  We will unpack that delineation in more detail next week in Part 2.

Both/And, not Either/Or…

Due to the misuse of the term “Social Gospel”, many pastors think they must choose between evangelizing via words or works.  Some believe too much emphasis on doing good things for others will creep into the psyche of the church – causing many to question salvation by grace alone.  Others don’t push members hard to do either – share their faith or serve outside the church.

Applying the label “Social Gospel” allows pastors to categorically dismiss the responsibility their church has to play a role in dealing with injustice and poverty – disposing of it in their mental wastebasket because “Social Gospel” is not aligned with their philosophy or mission.  Throwing around the term “Social Gospel” and calling it a movement makes it sound like an ongoing school of thought – but it’s not.  For all those reasons, I believe the term should be removed from our vernacular.  Its ongoing (mis)use opens the door for too many churches and Christians to abdicate the role Jesus expects them to play in society.

Look at the life of Jesus, His disciples and the early church.  The words “social” and “gospel” went hand in hand.  Of course they taught salvation by faith in God’s grace alone, yet they healed, fed, and fought injustice at every turn.  Jesus had a special affinity for the downtrodden and abused.  He loved and had compassion for them.  He wanted to draw all men to Himself – and knew words alone were not going to do that.  He gave the apostles power to heal, knowing their words would never be enough either.  Likewise, churches were the food bank and homeless shelter for 1900 years – and the Church grew exponentially because people “cared what we knew because they knew we cared.”

Pastors can’t outpreach Jesus or those who were with Him personally.  However, that’s exactly what they inadvertently try to do when they preach without accompanying acts of service.  Imagine going to an unreached people group to share the gospel without doing some good.  How much trust would those missionaries engender?  How would the unreached view them, waltzing in spouting off religious beliefs without demonstrating concern or providing assistance?  Planting a church in a community is no different.

What if we stripped off the “Social Gospel” label and simply applied Jesus’ model for evangelism as the standard for all churches and Christians?  What if we believed that caring about injustice and for the poor, all while sharing our faith enthusiastically, is the best way to reach those who don’t know Jesus – simply because that’s what He did.

Unfortunately founders of the Social Gospel movement had to come up with that term because too many pastors were ignoring injustices.  Business owners of that day who were guilty of violating workers’ rights were attending their churches, and often were the largest contributors.  In other words pastors were afraid to lose them and therefore treated them like “customers” – hesitant to challenge them to follow Jesus’ example in their workplaces.

Before we scoff at those pastors, consider that we’ve had to come up with a similar term today – “Externally Focused”Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw coined that phrase because so many churches are once again too interested in retaining “customers” – hesitant to challenge them to step out of their comfort zones and follow Jesus’ example of serving and seeking the lost.

It’s Your Turn

Does your church consider caring a necessary precursor to sharing, or view those as distinct approaches to evangelism?

The 5 Cures for Pastor Burnout + a Bonus

Apr 20, 16
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WESTLAKE, TEXAS - OCTOBER 18, 2014: A 1941 Packard 120 (One-Twenty) Convertible Sedan is on display at the 4th Annual Westlake Classic Car Show. Front side view.

We understand what you’re facing.  Being a pastor is one of the toughest jobs out there.  Church leaders are burning out in record numbers.  However, we have great news!  There is a path to more growth, more people coming to Christ, more fulfillment and less frustration.

Here’s what I told him…

Last week we told the story of the former professional golfer turned pastor who found himself asking the same question in both professions – “Is this all there is?”  We went through the primary sources of pastoral burnout in that blog post.  Now, as promised, here’s the rest of my conversation with that pastor, including 5 steps to revitalize his ministry and his church:

  1. Remember the Vision – “Think back to when it all began. The Lord gave you a clear picture of what He wanted to accomplish through your church.  You probably wrote down a vision statement that involved building disciples and impacting the city and world for Christ.  Maybe it was something like, ‘Leave no soul in our city untouched by the love of God’.   You envisioned a church that would make a tremendous difference and be sorely missed if it ever closed its doors.  Then it sounds like you got caught up in the day-to-day of running a church – personnel, factions, building projects, obligations to members and staff meetings.  None of those were why you got into ministry.  Somewhere along the way, those began to dominate your schedule.  No leader ever intends to deviate from their mission but it happens to pastors and entrepreneurs alike.  Maybe it’s not a big deal in business, but a pastor losing sight of the original vision from God is huge.  Can you get back to fulfilling that initial vision?  Wouldn’t that reinvigorate and get you excited again?  Yes, it would rattle some cages, but you started or joined the church with that vision in mind, so refocusing everyone on it shouldn’t be a big surprise.  One of your primary jobs as pastor is to protect and promote that vision, and that’s what this suggestion is all about.”
  2. Only Do What Contributes Directly to that Original Vision – “Can you let go of anything that distracts you from what the Lord gave you to do?  Look at your calendar and see what directly relates to the vision God gave you for the church – hang on to those.  See what indirectly relates and think hard about any you can offload.  Then, figure out which activities don’t contribute to the vision and role God assigned you and delegate or eliminate them entirely.  You’re not called to spend so much time ‘waiting on tables’.  Ask other leaders and members to take greater responsibility for handling non-urgent needs of members.  Most pastors try to do too much in order to accommodate every request, concerned about upsetting members if they opt out.  Every leader must prioritize the strategic over the tactical.  Yes, being there for members in their times of urgent need is strategic – yet impossible in a larger church.  Maybe what’s more ‘strategic’ is to give others opportunities to lead in those situations.  For example, if the number of weddings, funerals, and visitations prohibits you from building disciples and impacting your city for Christ – then you have to trade in good for great.  The more you equip and leverage others, the more your church will grow – so you can get off the hamster wheel and make real forward progress.”
  3. Be Yourself – “Part of why it takes a special person to be a pastor is the need to be equally effective from the pulpit and one-on-one. Pastors are teachers but also shepherds.  That means they are called to speak well yet listen better.  Yet as many become better organizers and preachers, they often become worse listeners.  Pastors are typically wired to be intensely relational.  Yet the demands of the job and growth of churches often leave less time for personal relationships with many members.  Interactions become shorter and more sporadic.  In a church your size, it’s easy to slip into the position of a public persona, particularly when many members and staff are reluctant to speak frankly with the pastor.  Do you miss the honesty of hanging out with close friends and hearing what’s really on their hearts?  Most pastors don’t even have other pastors they can confide in.  It can be lonely at the top.  Other pastors begin to believe their own press.  They’re the object of so much reverence and adulation that they lose touch with the vision, accepting elevation to a higher, less accessible position.  Somewhere in their dark recesses they know they’re unworthy of that status and crave deeper, real relationships.  Trying to be something we weren’t meant to be always eventually burns us out.  It’s hard work living up to the expectations of others.”
  4. Define Members as the Church – “Walking on egg-shells is no way to go through life. Yet most pastors are concerned about what they say, even if it’s biblical, for fear some may be offended.  Many take on too many responsibilities because members expect them to step up.  Yet as we’ve contended throughout this blog series, members are the church – ‘insiders’ who are much more like employees than ‘customers’.  So expectations should be reversed.  Rather than overburdening pastors by putting the onus on them to care for members and run a complex institution, we should be boldly equipping and challenging members to BE the church.  They should be assuming greater responsibility (and accountability) for pursuing the real ‘customer’ – the hurting and hopeless in the community where the church is planted (i.e. ‘outsiders’).  Imagine how that would alleviate the burden on pastors – a less ‘codependent’ body sharing much more of the discipleship, service, administrative, evangelism, counseling, caring, etc. load.  But far too many pastors are concerned about losing people to the church down the road.  Therefore, far too many underutilized ‘workers’ sit idly in the pews, ready to walk away if they’re not happy with the sermon, music, demands on their time, etc.  Pastors, staff and buildings do not define the church, yet that perception by most churchgoers today is a key source of pastoral burnout.”
  5. Rekindle Your Willingness to Take Chances – “Remember when you had nothing to lose. Often we look back on those as the ‘good old days’.  When you first planted your church, you had a vision but few members or bills.  You stood by that vision and knew your core group had to be fully aligned around it.  You had to challenge “insiders” and get out in the community to meet people or your church would never get off the ground.  Most entrepreneurs start that way too – very aware of customers’ needs and engaged in the marketplace.  The trick for pastors is to maintain the same principles, external focus and fearlessness when there is something to lose.  Just because there are more members and financial commitments at stake, the focus and resolve shouldn’t change.  Challenging members to live out the Great Commission risks losing church ‘consumers’ – which is scary when they may be key contributors or patriarchs.  Yet Jesus preached His most challenging sermon near the height of his popularity.  What Jesus was left with were a few disciples who changed the world.  Church growth is not always healthy.  Like people, churches often need to lose some weight to get healthy.  The trajectory of a thriving church is typically down before it follows the hockey stick back up.  Fear of taking chances is why so many pastors never get to relive the excitement they felt back when the church first started.”

Bonus: How to Respond to Adversity

“So Jim, I already spend so much of my time dealing with internal issues.  Your recommendations would spark a lot of contention and controversy within my church.  People like the way things are now.  No one’s complaining, but they will if I follow your suggestions.”

“Yes, there’s always calm before a storm.  When challenges hit, most pastors shift their focus inward to fix problems, asserting more control.  But rather than turning in, I think you should turn your attention outward.  Lead by example.  Get the minds of your members and leaders off of their own interests by showing them what it means to BE the church to those around them.  Confronting opposition, arbitrating internal differences, upgrading products/services and increasing advertising are what business leaders typically do.  Those attempts to ‘fix’ the organization distract them from truly engaging customers and seeking new opportunities.  Likewise, individuals who dwell on their own issues only drive themselves deeper into a hole.  The best advice for them is often to get out and serve others who may be worse off to put everything back in perspective.  Yet most pastors ‘dwell’ when the going gets tough.  They seek advice from ‘successful’ pastors, but most articles and books promote the same flawed model touting better internal leadership rather than redefining the church’s ‘customer’.  Instead of leading more (which increases burnout), pastors should be leading less and getting out more to advance the mission in the city (which is invigorating).

It’s Your Turn

If you’re a pastor, would these steps help alleviate any burnout you’ve been experiencing?  If you’re a staff or church member, how would you feel if your pastor followed those 5 suggestions?

Why are so many pastors burned out?

Apr 13, 16
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Blog Post 41 - Burnout2 (Unsplash photo-1456318019777-ccdc4d5b2396)1

He had it all.  Life as a professional golfer took him from one swanky country club to the next posh resort.  He had big paychecks and a bright future.  But as a Christian, he often wondered – “Is this all there is”?  That question nagged at him for years.  He had finally accomplished his dream, only to find that reaching the top was unfulfilling.  His prayers grew more frequent and desperate, until one day he made a radical decision – to quit the pro golf tour and go to seminary.

He envisioned a more impactful life – leading a congregation, bringing many to Christ, seeing lives change and making a significant difference for the Lord.  Now he’s arrived – at the pinnacle for an aspiring Christian leader.  He’s the Senior Pastor of a large and (by most accounts) thriving church.  But to his surprise, and to mine when he shared with me one day during a round of golf – that same question has now reemerged.  “Is this all there is?”

Here’s what he told me…

Rather than achieving all he’d hoped, he now finds himself:

  • “Preaching to Christians” – the same ones who’ve come nearly every Sunday for years
  • Running an organization – stuck in “administrivia” and countless internal meetings
  • Concerned about keeping the peace – answering criticisms and arbitrating differences of opinion
  • Surrounded by leaders who like the way things are – or were
  • Juggling constant demands on his time by members – like counseling, funerals, weddings and visitation

He left professional golf to see lives and a city changed.  Yet that original vision has been clouded by the complexities of managing an institution with many moving parts.  That’s what seminary taught him how to do – to preach solid messages and oversee a church body.  What seminary didn’t teach him is how to maintain focus on the Lord’s vision when the pressure to keep all the “plates spinning” mounts.

For those ready to offer the advice touted by most articles and books, no amount of delegating tasks or leading better is going to fix this pastor’s burnout.  The issue is much more fundamental.  The problem goes all the way down to the “root cause” for the church’s decline in growth, impact, influence and perception in America today…

He’s not alone…

A conference taking place in a couple weeks advertises that “96% of senior leaders feel burned out”.  Christian publications cite ministerial dropout rates approaching 50 percent.  A New York Times article from 2010 about pastor burnout opens with, “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans.  In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen.  Many would change jobs if they could.”

Shouldn’t the job of a pastor be one of the most thrilling and rewarding?  What could be more energizing than leading people to Christ and watching them grow in their faith?  True, but that’s not what made the career path so stressful.  The redefinition of “church” and its “customer” is the source of rampant pastoral burnout in America:

Energizing – Defining members as the church & the community as the “customer”

  • Deep Discipleship – Seeing once Pensive, Passive and Private Christians undergo radical life change
  • Closer Relationships – Your church family uniting around common external causes, reducing the infighting typical of internally-focused churchgoers
  • Effective Evangelism – Your congregation bringing their neighbors and friends to the Lord in large numbers
  • Equipping and Empowering – Increasing leverage by encouraging and training your members to take initiative and lead ministries
  • Members Mobilized – Sending Powerful Christians from your church into local and international missions
  • Successful Outreach – Seeing many new faces in your pews every week
  • Networking with Local Leaders – Increasing in influence in your city as you learn about how to help address local needs
  • Having Impact – Making a tangible difference in the material and spiritual welfare of your city
  • Improved Perception – Becoming a church widely regarded as compassionate and caring, convincing those skeptical of church to find out what makes yours so full of love for others

As opposed to the new definitions evident at most churches today…

Stressful – Defining members as the “customer” & pastors/staff/buildings as the “church”

  • Worrying about Paying all the Bills – Many churches have financial issues due to running more complex institutions with higher budgets than necessary.  Ironically, churches would see greater giving and growth if they invested more of their budgets into discipleship and community engagement.
  • Dealing with Personnel Issues – Greater complexity means more staff members.  Alternatively, more willingness to challenge members to be all that Christ intends would mean more of them acting as the church and assuming leadership roles voluntarily.
  • Overseeing Building Projects – Elaborate facilities are largely underutilized all week.  It would be irresponsible of a charity to pay for a facility which was only needed for a 2-3 hours per week or for a family dependent on government support to pay for a second home they only lived in one day per week.
  • Trying to be Someone You’re Not Meant to Be – As the definition of “church” has centralized, pastors have elevated to a level of control, authority and celebrity that God did not intend.  Accordingly, pressure has mounted on pastors to take on great responsibility and maintain a persona because the church’s success hinges largely on that one person.
  • Expected to be Several Places at One Time – Too many obligations to serve members for a single individual to possibly manage, yet too concerned about losing them to not meet their expectations
  • Playing Referee – Mediating differences among churchgoers, which are inevitable but would diminish if they were discipled to the point of seeing themselves as the church, making them less concerned about their personal interests and preferences
  • Running Hard but Seeing Limited Progress – Despite all those efforts to fulfill the pastor’s “obligations” above, the vast majority of churches aren’t growing or having much impact, and their members aren’t undergoing substantial life change
  • Fewer Close Relationships – As churches grow, pastors become increasingly removed from personal contact, unable to find time to invest in fulfilling, enriching relationships with many members
  • Getting Away from the Original Calling – Pastors presumably enter the profession to shepherd a congregation and impact a community for Christ, but find themselves one day overwhelmed with pastoral duties and trying to keep the ship afloat (or manage growth)

“Missed Expectations” – that’s the simplest way to summarize the primary cause of pastor burnout.  Expecting one thing and then getting less than you bargained for is demotivating.  Pastors go into ministry anticipating more of what energizes and less of what stresses, only to find out that there’s a great deal of more pressure to attract, retain and appease (i.e. treat members as “customers”) than they ever imagined.  Likewise, they soon learn they must live up to unreasonable expectations placed on them – caused by most members viewing pastors and staff, and not themselves, as the embodiment of church.  Churchgoers today are more apt to ask “what will the pastor and church do for me?” than “what can I do for the Lord to advance the Kingdom?” – a nerve-racking dynamic for a pastor who entered ministry expecting to build disciples and leverage them to reach a city for Christ.

Here’s what I told him…

What specific actions steps did I give that pastor who for the second time in his life found himself asking, “Is this all there is”?

I’ll share the rest of our conversation next week…

It’s Your Turn

Were you aware of how taxing the mental and physical toll has become on pastors today?  Paul carried the weight of concern for all the churches, but did the Lord expect the position of Senior Pastor to be so stressful or have today’s churches expanded the job description?

New Strategic Planning Workbook for Church Leaders!

Apr 06, 16
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Workbook Pic for Blog Canva

Download Your Free Workbook Now!

There are many church consultants today.  Each promises revitalization and rapid growth.  Renowned pastors publish articles and books giving advice from their experiences turning small congregations into thriving megachurches.  Conferences feature speakers and promise ideas sure to intrigue and excite any pastor whose congregation is not growing – which applies to an astounding 93% of America’s churches.

With all that information at your disposal, who should you listen to?

It also begs the question – with all that advice available how can such a high percentage of churches not be growing?  At Meet The Need we believe it’s because nearly all of the consultants, articles, books and conferences are working under and perpetuating essentially the same fundamentally flawed assumption.

Given that the Church grew at a rapid clip for 1900 years, why has growth ground to a halt in recent decades?  Something foundational has changed.  We believe we know what that is.

In fact, a number of leading church advisors believe Meet The Need has come up with the “root cause” for why such a large majority of churches in America are in decline in terms of not only growth, but also in impact, influence and public perception.  We contend that the church in America has gradually adopted an unbiblical and detrimental baseline assumption – one which has caused the demise of countless organizations of many different types.

Our Commitment

This workbook will:

  • dive deep into that “root cause” issue and explain how the prevailing church growth models won’t produce what they promise – at least not healthy growth
  • be instrumental as a guide for your strategic planning exercises
  • move your church’s leadership team quickly and productively through on-site or off-site planning sessions
  • allow for rapid planning (e.g. a 2 day off-site) or more extended strategic planning efforts
  • help your executive team analyze where your church is now, envision where the Lord wants you to go, and then plot the path to get there
  • give you a roadmap to take you through the transformation process from your current state to your desired future state
  • provide suggestions yet enable your team to come up with its own plan based on a common, shared set of guiding principles
  • facilitate buy-in to the changes, increasing the likelihood of successful implementation
  • focus on translating knowledge into action, not leaving you with just strategy

What to Expect

This Workbook is an exercise in self-discovery.  You may be surprised by some of the realizations you make about your pastors, staff and members.  Meet The Need questions the underlying model for how most churches are run today, believing they don’t align with Biblical mandates, the early church or the best practices of successful organizations of any kind.  Therefore, be open to an entirely new way of thinking about your role in leadership, the role of members, and the church’s role with those outside the “4 walls”.  Without openness to change, strategic planning is unlikely to produce meaningful progress.

Some concepts that this Workbook asks you to consider will be challenging, but warrant honest, careful debate.  For example:

  • Is your church more oriented toward building an institution than building disciples?
  • Are you fully leveraging the capabilities of your members or underutilizing the “power in your pews”, concerned about what would happen if you challenged them to live up to their full potential for Christ?
  • Do your members and attenders act more like “consumers” of church than the living, breathing embodiment of church between Sundays?
  • Are your actions and behaviors inadvertently feeding the perception that your church is not very interested in caring for the church’s intended “customer”?


The Workbook structures your strategic planning exercise around the following 15 modules, each addressing a different component of how leaders manage churches:


  1. Time Allocation
  2. Budget Allocation
  3. Role of Pastors Versus Members
  4. Expectations of Members
  5. Organizational Structure


  1. Marketing
  2. Retention
  3. Discipleship
  4. Programs/Ministries
  5. Local Missions


  1. Member Engagement/Service
  2. Impact on the World
  3. Influence in the Community
  4. Perception by the Community
  5. Success Metrics

The outline for each module consists of 4 sections:

  1. Topic Insights – Thoughts to frame discussions and reset thinking in preparation for step 2
  2. Current State – Assessment and scoring on our Proficiency Model
  3. Future State Vision – Ideas to help your leadership develop your church’s go-forward strategy
  4. Gap Analysis – High level recommendations and detailed implementation planning

The Workbook utilizes an interactive approach – starting with readings and then presenting questions to facilitate open discussion on your end.  Unless pastors, key staff, deacons and elders each believe they’ve been given an opportunity to draw their own conclusions and provide input, your likelihood of success dissipates.  We make recommendations based on our work with thousands of churches but we believe you are well qualified to develop specific action steps for your church.  Only you fully understand the vision the Lord gave you, the people He has led to you, and the community where He planted your church.

Download Your Free Workbook Now!

3 Verbal Cues to Watch out for at Your Church

Mar 30, 16
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Lifeguard chair sitting empty with a red flag streaming in the wind, showing unsafe conditions for swimming, before the background of an overcast sky.

Scott is a dutiful husband, a devoted father and a diligent worker – both in his job and in his church.  A friend invited him to church in his early 30s.  He accepted Christ during an altar call one Sunday and quickly got involved in serving at the church.  Scott senses the Lord’s presence – whether it’s the joy of watching his son run the base paths or the good news from the doctors when his wife had that health scare.  Although Scott’s not the kind to wear his faith on his sleeve, he tries to live an exemplary life hoping others will notice, opening the door to invite them to church.  By setting a good example, caring for his family and serving at the church, Scott feels he’s doing everything he’s supposed to as a Christian.  His church doesn’t ask or expect more of him and frankly, Scott has little time for much else anyway. 

However, what if God expects more – much more? 

It’s hard to argue with Scott or others like him.  How can there be anything wrong with working hard all week to provide for his family, spending every Saturday at soccer games and cheerleading practice with his kids, and volunteering at his church every Sunday?  Why would anyone see an issue with experiencing God most during church services and in special moments with his children – the two places where Scott spends his spare time?

Churches reinforce Scott’s perspective by continually emphasizing serving at the church and taking care of your family.  Entire sermon series are devoted to marriage, child-rearing and relationships – often tying back into opportunities like leading a small group or working in the children’s ministry.  Few services go by without requests for volunteers.

But what about the Great Commission?  What about evangelism, the poor and the lost in the community?  That’s who Jesus, His disciples and the early church spent nearly all of their time pursuing.  What if your children follow suit and only take care of their families and church?  Then your children’s children do the same when they grow up?  Who will ever look out for the hungry, hurting and hopeless?  And what about life transformation?  That’s what Jesus’ disciples experienced.  Where are our broken hearts for those who die without knowing the Lord?  How can we restrict our time and attention to our family and church while those in our workplaces and neighborhoods have contracted a fatal illness for which we have the cure?

Yes, churches have bred a generation of Passive, Pensive and Private Christians.  But do pastors have the courage to tell people to spend less time serving at the church and caring for their families?  How many churches are willing to make that sacrifice, calling members to become less devoted to the church and more committed to making a dramatic impact in their world for Christ (i.e. Powerful Christians)?

Scott’s story resembles far too many churchgoers and churches in America today.  Before you stop reading, thinking that what I’ve shared doesn’t apply to you or your church, scan through the following verbal “red flags” to see if any sound familiar…

Red Flags – Is Your Church Selling Christianity “Lite”?

Listen carefully next Sunday for 3 verbal signals that your church is likely reluctant to challenge the congregation to live up to the Lord’s expectations of them.  If you hear these 3 phrases tossed around, your church is probably calling members to something short of the Great Commission and Jesus’ model of relentlessly pursing the lost, in both word and deed.

1.  Initiation to Faith – “Repeat after me…”

Pastors give the invitation, some every Sunday.  They ask new believers to repeat the sinner’s prayer or raise their hands if they prayed the prayer silently.  We celebrate salvations, as we should.  Then pastors encourage them to get involved in the church – small groups, volunteering, giving, and becoming a member.  Expectations are high for church engagement but low for life transformation.  Rather than the radical conversion the disciples experienced, willing to give it all up for Christ, most churches hand-hold new believers hoping to plug them in and bring them along slowly.

Soft pedaling the Great Commission and emphasizing involvement in church activities turns the sinner’s prayer into an initiation pledge.  Repeating the words look like rights of passage into a “club”, where the commitment is to the church family and not to set the world on fire for Christ.  Rather than encouraging new converts to share their excitement with non-believers, leaders indoctrinate and assimilate them into the church body.  Rather than quickly discipling them and sending them out into the mission field, we tell them to Invite their friends, get them Involved in internal ministries and Invest their income in the church.  After reciting the pledge, the new believer’s degree of life change, evangelism and discipleship are not monitored by church leaders, yet attendance, giving and volunteering are tracked meticulously.

2.  Invitations to Church – “Tell your friends…”

…”to come to church next Sunday”.  The sinner’s prayer is initiation into personal ministry.  It’s a calling to bold evangelism – not passive invitations to a church service.  It’s a responsibility to follow Jesus.  Jesus didn’t simply invite people to church – He demonstrated compassion and then revealed who He is.  He served and preached everywhere He went.  He backed up words with actions.  So why are so few churches engaged integrally in their communities?  Why do so many church members leave it to the “professionals” to bring people to Christ?  How can Christians miss countless opportunities to witness to those around them through loving acts of service?  Why are so many bashful about sharing their faith with those almost certainly bound for hell?

I wonder how sincere our professions of faith are if our lives are consumed by work, family and church.  I wonder whether the Lord is pleased with Christians who only talk about Him with their immediate family and church friends.  Did we ever fully recognize the true value of God’s grace and the consequences of sin without forgiveness if we stand idly by, not doing all we can to bring people to Jesus?  I even wonder whether many in congregations who’ve said the “pledge” and never miss a Sunday (yet don’t respond to the dire plight of the destitute and those destined for eternal damnation) are the goats Jesus says never fed, clothed, or gave him a drink.  How can we invite strangers in if we rarely leave the confines of our homes, churches and workplaces?  Encountering strangers requires stepping out of our comfort zones and into the world around us, hoping to rescue some through our loving actions and bold words – not our invitations to church next Sunday.  We’re saved by what Jesus did for us, not in any way by what we do; however, what we do (or don’t do) is evidence of our salvation. (James 2:14-18)

3.  Introductions to Christ – “Tell your story…”

If church members do take the next step, most churches advise them to share their personal testimonies.  No one can argue with “my story”.  Pastors understand the few congregants are prepared to defend their faith against tough questions.  However, instead of providing intensive apologetics training and deep discipleship, churches encourage them to present what cannot be refuted and then default to extending the invitation to church.  Asking members to present the gospel themselves and answer all objections requires a greater level of Biblical understanding than most Christians are willing to acquire.  In that respect again, pastors treat members as “customers”, afraid to challenge and adequately prepare them to BE the church to those outside the “4 walls”.  As a result, few feel qualified to do much more than tell their story.  Yet conversational, personal and inquisitive evangelism by a trained army of evangelists (who understand that compassion opens that door) would be far more effective.

Keys to Removing the Red Flags

If you’ve heard those 3 verbal cues at your church, then chances are it’s not producing a sanctuary full of Powerful Christians.  Truly challenging members to be the hands and feet of Christ to those around them will risk losing some who don’t believe they signed up for that degree of disruption.  However, the path to reversing the decline in a church’s growth, impact, influence and perception hinges on providing:

  • Perspective – Convincing members they are “insiders” and the lost in the community is the “customer”
  • A Burning Platform – A sense of urgency about those perishing in their sins
  • A Wall to Climb – A challenge to step up and step out.  We talk about what we love – our kids, sports, etc.  We love the Lord most of all – why wouldn’t we talk about Him with everyone too?
  • Education / DiscipleshipGraduate members to progressively deeper levels of Biblical knowledge and relationship with the Lord
  • A Call to Life Change – Isn’t it interesting that Jesus nearly always put an enormous stipulation around the offer to “follow me”?  He prefaced “follow me” with either “come” or “take up your cross”.  In other words, the call means leaving where you are, not just following from where you are.
  • Strategy – Teach Jesus’ model for preceding words with actions
  • On-the-Job Training – Toss members “into the pool” to learn how to swim by doing, both in serving and in sharing their faith
  • Ongoing Opportunities – Show internal and external ministry needs year-round through Meet The Need
  • Advice and Cautions – Train members to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” in how they help individuals and families.  There are genuine risks to practicing kindness toward strangers these days – and best practices to help keep them from taking advantage of you.

It’s Your Turn

The “sheep and goats” parable is a scary one for many churchgoers.  Do you believe some who made professions of faith, are model parents, and are active in their church, yet do little to bring people to Christ personally through caring and sharing, could be “goats”?