Tag Archives: culture

It’s Time for Christians to Lead

designThis is the time for Christians to lead.

Our culture is suffering the effects of deficient leadership. The bar of expected decorum and etiquette has been lowered to the ground. Integrity and common decency are passé. There is deep division racially, politically and economically. Ideological rhetoric is drowning out reason. Few are naïve enough to trust authority, and skepticism about religion is at an all time high. Many are too jaded to even hope for hope. The world needs help, now.

This is the time for Christians to lead. We say we have the solution; His name is Jesus.

Step up.

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The Pain of Weak Leadership

designWe have studied the leadership principles that state, “the leader sets the pace of the team.” Another way of saying this is, the quality of the team is determined by the person who in charge. While there are a few exceptions to this rule, I believe the principle is true.

I firmly believe that the pain of our current culture is an indication of weak leadership. While no elected official has the power to stop a mass murderer or to prevent natural disasters, leaders have the responsibility to affect positive influence to the point that the culture shifts in a positive direction. The current trend of our culture indicates, in my opinion, weak leadership.

The world is screaming for stronger leaders, integrous leaders, leaders with character. And more leaders!

What happens if we don’t respond?

Proverbs 29:2 “When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.” NLT

This is a season of groaning. Our flags remain at half-mast much of the time. Rather than moving the people toward God, many leaders divide the people, bicker over political ideologies and posture themselves in an effort to look good. When things go wrong, people need someone to follow. Huston Smith said, “The most powerful moral influence is example.” People are desperate for someone to lead them out of this state of horror. Godly example is what we need. Where are the leaders that God has called?

We can’t blame the current leaders – they have simply stepped up to lead when other more qualified people have refused to do so. (See Judges 9:8-15) If we must blame someone, perhaps we should blame the strong people who are called to lead but refuse to do so.

And leaders – when we complain about our families, communities churches, or country – we must realize that we are incriminating ourselves. If the organization that I lead fails, I must assume the responsibility to fix it.

I’m calling out my friends. If God has compelled you to lead – please do so at the highest level possible. You’re not the leader of the free world but you lead your family. You can’t impact global change but you can lead your church to renewal. You can’t solve the world’s pain but you can lead yourself in being a stronger and better person. This is not a time for leaders to take a back seat. We can’t retreat. We can’t burn out and leave the task to others. The world can’t take much more of this.

“Someone must do something!” That someone is you.


Why Some Churches Don’t Grow

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It’s not a perfect science. Increasing the impact and influence of a church can be very difficult. We all agree that numerical growth does not necessarily mean spiritual growth. But it is vital that churches around the world reach more people for Jesus. The church is God’s “Plan A” to reach the lost – and we are surrounded by lost people.

Here are 10 simple reasons why churches don’t grow. The list is not complete and these reasons are not written in stone. This is not an attack on pastors who lead plateaued churches. I simply wish to provide some discussion for churches and church leaders who hope to grow.

No passion for growth. Some churches stay the same because there is no desire to reach more people. Possibly there is a lack of awareness or maybe there is a disconnect with the surrounding culture. Many churches seem to be okay with the status quo. It’s business as usual. The tendency is to rely on our abilities more than we rely on God’s miracles. Spiritual lethargy sets in and corrodes a church. Churches that do not want to grow won’t. A lack of intensity will ensure that we stay stuck. We must pray until we receive the fervor; it takes passion to get “unstuck.”

No strategy for growth. It is rare to hear a pastor say that he doesn’t want the church to grow. But without intentionality, a church is not likely to grow. Even when specific strategies are followed, there is no guarantee of increase. But no plan will quickly lead to stagnation. Rather than thriving, our goal becomes to maintain and survive. Have you outlined your blueprint to grow your church?

Unwillingness to change. Some churches know what to do in order to reach more people but they are unwilling to make the necessary adjustments in order to do so. We do the same things the same way – because of tradition. The past is more important than the future; our rearview mirror is bigger than our windshield. This kind of ministry atrophy is especially difficult to overcome. Lack of change will result in lack of growth. Lack of growth will result in extinction.

Lack of “know how.” Don’t believe the “experts” who tell you that church growth is a matter of taking “these 3 easy steps.” You can do certain things that will gather a crowd but true church growth is much more complex and spiritual than simply amassing warm bodies. Many pastors and leaders would gladly do whatever it takes to grow. Many times, church is a matter of doing the right thing the right way long enough that the results finally come. If you don’t know what to do, keep trying. And find out what to do! Leaders must approach the acquisition of this kind of expertise as a life-long ambition.

Intimidation about culture. The world is becoming a scary place for Bible-believing churches. There is now a level of resistance and animosity that many of us have never experienced. It can be easy to see the church as a fortress that serves as a safe place from the evil world. Jesus did not establish His church to be a hiding place. The church is to be a force in our culture. Only the ministries that are confident enough to engage our culture will impact it. Be bold! God has given you the courage you need to overcome.

Fear of increased responsibility. Some leaders dread the responsibility that comes with more people. Let’s face it – fewer people = fewer problems. However, God did not call us to an easy task. While a larger church equates to more pressure and stress, the rewards are that more people find Christ and experience the joy of being His disciples.

Desire to control. There are a few (or many) control freaks who must hold the reigns on everything that happens in their organization. Growth means shared responsibility and authority. Unless a leader is confident and competent enough to share control, new people will be a very limited commodity. A pastor who is in charge of everything won’t be in charge of much. Please don’t limit the size of your ministry to only a few.

Misidentifying relevance as compromise. This one is touchy. Some churches do not grow because they mistakenly think that if they connect with culture, they are somehow being less than true to the Gospel. This simply is not true. Jesus is always pertinent. The Gospel cannot be irrelevant. The church can, however, make the Bible irrelevant. Our job is to stay true to the Scriptures but to preach them in a way that makes sense to the people who hear it. That is not compromise, it is effectiveness. It’s what Jesus did and that seemed to work pretty well.

Ministry schizophrenia. This is where a church gets its identity from other churches. Whatever the next big ministry bandwagon is, they are jumping on! I am all for successful ministry models and I believe that there are principles that apply across the board. But God does not wish to duplicate in every church what works in well-known churches. Be true to yourself and to your calling. Know what will work in your neighborhood, and do it. Know who God called you to be and whom He called you to reach.

A lack of missionality. Churches that exist for their own good are doomed to fail. Inwardly focused ministry is a major turnoff for people who do not go to church. Jesus came, not to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28); the church must give itself to God and to the needs of the people He loves. We are on a mission from God; if we fulfill it, our churches will grow.

Here is the truth about church growth: churches that don’t grow will shrink and eventually die. In our post-Christian culture, church growth is getting more and more complicated. We need to pray and work like never before. It is possible that you can pray and work hard and your church may still not grow. But we do NOT want to be the reason our church doesn’t grow!

Let’s get on with the responsibility of reaching the world for Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19-20).


Reconnecting the Church with Millennials

Reconnecting the Church with Millennials

We’re hearing more bad news about how young America feels about organized church. Thom Rainer published this article about young church leaders; it also reveals the brokenness that exists between churches/denominations and a major portion of our adult population. While it’s sort of good news for church planters, it’s bad news for everyone for several reasons: The church is God’s plan to reach our culture. If the plan isn’t working, we’re in trouble. It reveals a lack of grace on the part of younger people. My friend Travis Johnson recently preached, “Flaws and all, the Church must be a central priority of our existence as Christians.” We can’t expect the church to be even close to perfect. The church has a lot of good to offer young adults but if we aren’t on speaking terms, nothing will be shared. We shouldn’t have to learn everything by personal experience. Elders have practical wisdom that is needed. Millennials have a lot to offer the church but if we’re not on speaking terms… And one of the biggest reasons this is bad news is – too much of what Millennials believe about the church is accurate. The church can be irrelevant. The church can care more about maintenance than mission. The church can be myopic. As a denominational leader, I can unfortunately respond: guilty as charged!

So, how do we repair the disconnect? I think that, if these breaches are going to be healed, the church has to do a few things; here are just a few:

We have to go to them. I am bothered by people who say/think, “Here we are, if they need us, let them come.” The title of this article reflects a strategy. The church must take the initiative to reach out. In case we haven’t noticed, no one is beating our church doors down to get in.

We have to be willing to talk. This can be intimidating because many 20 and 30 somethings are accustomed to critical thinking. They aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions. Sometimes their attitudes can be perceived as arrogant (and sometimes they are). But these open and honest conversations must take place. These talks are not lectures. They don’t happen during the preaching – they are over coffee. And they may not conclude with a neat little box with a ribbon on top. These talks can be messy, but they are necessary.

We have to be willing to change. Robert Quinn says, “People must surrender some of their previous attitudes, behaviors, positions, and comforts for their organization to advance.” An attitude we’ve heard in the church is, “This is our church, if they don’t like how we do things, they can just stay away.” I’ve heard this or similar attitudes from people who claim to know the exact way that church should be done and are unwilling to consider any adjustments. Without doubt, this is wrong. While the Spirit of Christ will never compromise on the Word of God, there is great flexibility on the part of God when it comes to reaching people. I do not believe that we should ever change the meaning of the Bible, but our methods of doing ministry must change. A church that refuses to change methods in order to connect with the next generation will soon be a former church.

We must do more than just include. My friend Mel Stackhouse recently tweeted, “There’s a big difference between being embraced, and being included; being welcomed vs belonging.” Millennials aren’t stupid; they know when they are being placated. We must care more about people than we do the compliance of the people. They must be valued and respected. We must embrace them; they must know that they belong. And young leaders want to lead! While wisdom and discretion is required for leaders, let’s not wait until someone is too old and tied to lead before we empower them to lead.

Most of all, we must be real. By real, I mean authentic. There is little tolerance for hypocrisy in today’s culture. Churches that preach what they live and live what they preach will find a following. Don’t be afraid to tackle tough topics and offer real-life hope.

I understand the fears of the boomers/leaders of the church. We fear losing something we love very much. If we do nothing about how Millennials feel about the church, that loss is certain.


Jealous Husbands Don’t Scare Me

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There is one reason why I am not concerned about a jealous husband coming after me: I have not been doing things that I shouldn’t be doing. I have not cheated with someone else’s wife nor have I cheated on my wife.  Please don’t take this as bragging and I know better than to get prideful; but there is a deep sense of comfort that comes from knowing that my conscience is clear.  I remember hearing my pastor talk about this topic when I was a kid and I didn’t really understand. He spoke of the freedom of walking down the street with confidence, knowing that no one was gunning for him because he’d been messing around – because he HADN’T been messing around! I understand now and I treasure the fact that God has taught me the value of relationship integrity.

I know too many guys who have been guilty of adultery and I also know many who have been victimized by it. While Hollywood normalizes these activities, the results in real life are always devastating; lives are being destroyed.

Let’s pray for men in general and husbands specifically. Pray for purity and fidelity among us. Pray that we older guys can model for younger guys what it means to be a man of purity. Pray that young men in America will not believe the lies being pushed by our culture that say manhood is determined by sexual activity. Pray for fewer reasons for crimes of passion. Let’s ask God for forgiveness of our sins and that He will help us to overcome our temptations and make us more like Christ.

I Corinthians 16:13 in various translations…

KJV: Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.

MSG: Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute.

Douay-Rhelms: Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, do manfully, and be strengthened. (I love that: “do manfully”!)

Whitter: Keep your guard up, dig deep in Christ, don’t be a weakling, win the war!


The problem isn’t those who’ve never heard of Jesus. The problem is those who refuse to tell them.

An age-old theological conundrum is: What happens to the people that die who have never heard the Good News of Jesus?  Does God hold them responsible for something they have not heard? We know that those who reject Jesus will not spend eternity in heaven (Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”). But will God send people to hell if they lived in a place where the Gospel has never been preached?

Without diving into a theological debate, we can rest in the fact that God is just and loving. He will do whatever is righteous and fair with these people.

Considering our cultural context, I think there is a more pertinent issue at hand:

The problem isn’t those who’ve never heard of Jesus. The problem is those who refuse to tell them.

I wonder what God will do with those of us who refuse to tell people about Jesus. What about those who are called to go to the parts of the world that have never been reached? What will God do with them (us)?

While we can’t say what God will do with those who have never heard, we should be concerned if He has asked us to tell them, and we refuse to do so.

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I Admit it, I’m an Alien

Spending most of our time with fellow Christ-followers can cause us to approach our lives as though we live in a bubble. One indicator is when our conversation centers on how shocked we are at the condition of the world and the depravity of the people around us. Christians are aghast that non-straight people want to get married.  We are stunned that some choose to end the life of a child while it is still in it’s mother’s womb. We are incredulous that everyone doesn’t agree with our political stance.

We have to stop expecting those who do not follow Christ to behave as though they do. Make no mistake: We are a minority and the majority is not impressed with our morals. They will continue to do as they do – regardless of how shocked we are or how much we complain about it.

Remember, we don’t belong here. I go back to 80’s Christian rock band, Petra, when they sang, “Not of This World”.  We are not at home here; we are citizens of another place. We are aliens. Not of the outer space variety but of the heavenly kingdom variety. Philippians 3:20 reminds us, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV)  No wonder we don’t feel at home – we are not at home.

While we must share the Good News of Christ, we will never change our unChristian culture into a Christian culture. The quickest we can expect things to get perfect is the moment we make it home.

So behave yourself as a short-term visitor – an alien. That’s what I am, I admit it.