Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What to Do Before You Do Anything...

I have begun a new sermon series from the Book of Acts and I want to attempt to share some of what I am learning about the church and how Jesus designed it to function without "preaching" the sermons. I read somewhere that people don't want to read sermons on blogs. So, in order to spare both of my readers from discomfort, I'll try to simply pass along the teaching as more of a discussion.
To begin with--why Acts? Simply put, "Acts" records the birth of the church and the early days of this infant world-changer. The new-born church was simply amazing especially when compared to the contemporary coma-like organization we generally refer to as "the church". You would think that the fully grown mature church would dwarf the effectiveness of the baby version and yet we find just the opposite to be true. The church's greatest days appear to lie behind her in the pages of Acts. We have much to learn and rediscover from those who have gone before us and have effectively taken the Gospel around their known world.
Let me just key in on five things that Jesus said to the apostles on the day that he rocketed into space right in front of them. Read the story for yourself in Acts 1:1-8 and then note the five instructions from Christ.
1. Don't leave Jerusalem (v4).
2. Wait for the promise (v4).
3. You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (v5).
4. You will receive power (v8).
5. You will be my witnesses (v8).

(more tomorrow)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Biblically Defined Growth Barriers

One of the things that I appreciate about Ed Stetzer's newest book, Comeback Churches, is that he places an emphasis upon the spiritual as well as the methodological causes of church effectiveness. Included in the book is a list of 30 spiritual barriers to conversion growth within the church. I have found myself going through the list several times now looking for deficiencies in my church. I really think that Ed has hit upon a key to the ineffectiveness of the contemporary church in his list. Let me list just a few of his biblically-defined growth barriers. Consider whether any of these might be true of your church. These are just the ones that I am most concerned about in my church.

Churches aren't concerned about God's glory, believing the church is just for them (Isa. 42:8; 48:11).

Pastors are more concerned about self-interests than about God and His people (Phil. 2:21).

Traditional practices are done without a heart for God (Mal. 1:6).

Sin is not dealt with, bringing weakness to the church (1 Cor. 5:5-7).

A lack of love for Christ devastates the church (1 cor. 16:22; Rev. 2:4).

A lack of unity brings division (John 17:23; Col. 3:12-15).

A lack of love within the body creates strained relationships (John 13:35).

Lukewarmness in the church becomes prevalent (Rev. 3:16).

Lack of true and earnest prayer in the church leaves people powerless (Matt. 6:9; 2 thess. 3:1).

Saints are not doing the work of service in the body (Eph. 4:12).

People are not growing spiritually (Eph. 4:12-16).

Pride in a church will always bring it down (1 Pet. 5:5; Prov. 6:17).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Hacienda

This is the amazing house that we are staying in, "The Hacienda". It's huge! There is a pond, complete with boats from which to fish, as well as a large game room. There are four bedrooms, five bathrooms, and everything that you might want to enjoy during a time of relaxation. It's awesome. Did I mention that it is "FREE" to pastors and missionaries?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On Vacation...

My family and I are on vacation this week in beautiful Durango, Colorado. We are staying at the incredible "Hacienda" which is made available to pastors and their families free of charge by a ministry called Rocky Mountain Renewal. You can read more about this ministry and how you can participate at their website: I'll have plenty of pictures to share in the next few days.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ed Stetzer 2007 SBC Annual Meeting

Ed Stetzer gave one of the most exciting communications at the SBC Convention this year.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

USA Today on The Problem with Church...

USA Today reports, "Protestant churches are losing young adults in "sobering" numbers. Seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 — both evangelical and mainline — who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23."
The recent study was done by LifeWay Research and is the latest offering by Ed Stetzer. The article notes that, "Dropouts were more than twice as likely than those who continued attending church to describe church members as judgmental (51% for dropouts, 24% for those who stayed), hypocritical (44% vs. 20%) or insincere (41% vs. 19%)."
Also of note, "The survey found that those who stayed with or returned to church grew up with both parents committed to the church, pastors whose sermons were relevant and engaging, and church members who invested in their spiritual development."

Read the USA Today article online here.

Read the entire LifeWay Study online here.
Read Ed Stetzer's Blog at

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Criteria of a Biblical Church...

Ed Stetzer writes in Comeback Churches that there are six biblical criteria for defining church. Each of his criteria can be found in the early church as described in the early part of Acts. I believe that the main problem with irrelevant and declining churches can be found in the deviation of the modern church from the biblical example found in the infant church of Acts chapter two.

Scriptural Authority--Everything of substance should be based on the biblical record. Methods borrowed from the world should be politely returned and Holy Spirit empowerment should be passionately begged for. What can you find in our churches that is foreign to the biblical record? What can you find that is drawn from the early church? Perhaps we should forget how smart we are and just do church as described in Acts 2. We spend way too much time talking about the Bible and not nearly enough time doing it!

Biblical Leadership--"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Ephesians 4:11-12). So let's get this straight...God says that we need all of these leaders in order to build up the body of Christ. So, if we leave some out (like maybe apostles and prophets), then we will get less than what God desires. what we have now! By the way, I would hold to the opinion that apostles (apostolos = sent ones) are missionaries and church planter types. You'll find plenty of examples of prophets (truth tellers with special insight) in the scriptures. I suspect that all of our churches could use a few.

Preaching and Teaching--The communication of the authoritative Word of God should be central. It's part of our marching orders (Great Commission, Mt. 28). If you want to have some fun--just start challenging structures and rules by asking for their biblical basis. Most of what we do isn't biblically based because most of our decision makers aren't spending time in the Word.

Ordinances--Try this little exercise--Imagine that you know nothing of baptism. Read every New Testament passage containing a reference to baptism and see if it looks like what happens in our churches. Do the same with the Lord's Supper and see what you come up with. What a novel idea it would be to base our ordinances on the biblical examples.

Covenant Community--We really miss the boat here! Acts 2 provides a startling contrast with the modern church. When is the last time that someone sold their stuff in order to provide for a needy family?

Mission--The mission of the church is to make disciples (Mt. 28). Any church that does not baptize at least one person in a year should disband, sell their property, and give the money to missions. It's the height of denial to call yourself a church when you don't do what churches are created to do.

Friday, August 03, 2007

We've Got Problem...

Across the Southern Baptist Convention we saw an increase in worship of more than 86,000 people while at the same time we baptized 7000 fewer people than the year before. It currently takes 45 Southern Baptists to baptize one person in a year. That's completely ridiculous! We may be growing slightly in numbers but our churches are more disfunctional than ever. Can you imagine a bakery that doesn't sell bread? Can you imagine a farm that doesn't grow crops? Can you imagine a church that doesn't make disciples? No need to imagine--just take a look around!

Read the LifeWay analysis of the 2006 Annual church Profile here.

A New Focus: Church Health...

Since my blogging debut, I have struggled with a lack of "blogging-focus". There are a great many issues and subjects that are of importance to me but I have failed to find my "blogging purpose". That is--until now! I am going to begin anew with a laser focus on the area of Church Health. This is without a doubt one of my key passions and a subject on which I believe that I have something to contribute. I am going to keep my current blog address so that I don't lose both of my readers. My goal will be to post something every-other-day of value to the discussion of Church Health. I currently pastor a "Comeback" Church and I have had good success encouraging comebacks in other previous ministries. Check back tomorrow for the first of many "Church Health" postings.