Thirteen Issues for Churches in 2013 Continued

13-issuesThom Ranier finished his blog postings entitled Thirteen Issues for Churches in 2013, with issues 7-13 today.

Here are the trends in churches that he is noticing.

  1. Innovative use of space. More and more churches are not letting the lack of space keep them from ministering to great numbers of people. It used to be that a church sitting on 3-5 acres could expect to grow to about 500 people maximum on that property. Ranier states that the younger leaders that he is working with say that they can see a church growing to 2,000 in such a space, because they are using the space creatively, offering services at multiple times and in multiple ways. Millennial pastors are not as tied to traditional service times and this opens up opportunities to use space in new and innovative ways.
  2. Heightened conflict. As younger leaders continue to assume leadership roles in more and more churches, the conflict between the needs of generations emerges. Ranier attributes this in part to those in the Millennial Generation asking tough questions that people in the the Boomer and Builder generations did not want to address. I am challenged and inspired by some of the difficult questions that folks coming into our church ask on a regular basis.
  3. Adversarial government. Ranier believes that churches will have less access to public schools and other public facilities. He has noticed that some local governments around the country are governments are “resisting approval of non-tax paying congregations expanding their facilities. New churches and existing churches that are expanding their venues will be forced to become more creative as they look for new locations.”
  4. Community focus. Ranier feels that one of the most positive changes in the younger generation of church leaders is a focus on community needs. Churches are increasingly getting away from programs tied to the church building to engage the community where they are at.
  5. Cultural discomfort. Ranier speaks of the growing divide between the value of culture and the traditional values of the church. This is a divide that will continue to grow in the 21st Century. I view this as a great opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ to shine bright in our day and age. The early church was radically counter-cultural. Somewhere along the line we became so culturally sensitive that we began to look a lot less like the “aliens and strangers” of Scripture and a lot more like the Joneses.
  6. Organizational distrust. Ranier speaks of the growing distrust in our culture towards the institution. We live in a day and age when distrust in government, business, and the church is very high. My prayer is that we as the church won’t give people a reason to distrust us. We ought to be the model for what it means to conduct ourselves with the utmost of ethics.
  7. Reductions in church staff. In a difficult economy, more and more churches are not hiring new staff when a position becomes vacant. On a positive note, Ranier writes of the fact that “in many congregations there is a greater emphasis on laypersons handling roles once led by paid staff.”  That sounds a whole lot like Ephesians 4:11-16 to me. In other words, “It sounds biblical, and that is good!”

    11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped,when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Ranier’s trends and see if you have any more that you would add.

You can read Ranier’s entire post here.

Thirteen Issues for Churches in 2013

13-issuesThom Ranier has a fascinating post at his blog today entitled Thirteen Issues For Churches in 2013. will face in 2013. He deals with issues 1-6 today and will post the next seven issues in two days.

In today’s post Ranier opines that in 2013 we will see:

1) The impact of the “nones” – The percentage of the U.S. population that claims no religious affiliation increased from 15 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2012.

2) Migration back to small groups – I’m thrilled when I read this. Ranier has some good thoughts about this. He writes, “There is an increasing awareness that those who are in groups have a higher level of commitment in almost all areas of church life.”

3) Accelerated closing of churches – Ranier predicts that 8,000-10,000 churches could close their doors for good in 2013.

4) More churches moving to multiple venues – Ranier writes, ” the number of congregations moving to multiple venues is staggering. Indeed that issue may be the single greatest distinguishing factor in growing churches.”

5) The growth of prayer emphasis in local congregations – This one thrills my soul as well. I believe that God loves when we move from being human-centered to God-dependent. It’s so easy to try to do things our way expecting things to happen on our timetables in church. When we sincerely seek God’s direction, His wisdom, and His timing, He has room to work.

6) Fickle commitment – Ranier has some interesting thoughts on the low commitment level of the American church.

These are interesting thoughts. I’m looking forward to reading his other seven issues for the church in 2013. Care to guess what some might be? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

God Answers Prayer

Prayer is the FuelThe life of a pastor is an interesting one. In a normal week I will meet with dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of people in a variety of settings. There is an endless stream of meetings – from monthly ministry team meetings, to staff meetings, to board meetings, to vision meetings, to counseling meetings to meetings with denominational officials and other pastors, to meetings with vendors, to meetings with people in crisis, to meetings with those I mentor, to meetings with . . . you get the picture.

There is also a lot of activity that is produced as a result of those meetings.

There is sermon preparation, hospital visitation, mission trips, volunteering in ministry at my church and in the community. There is planning and vision casting. There is studying and reading.

There are periods in my life where I intentionally take a look at all that I am involved in and pray over what needs to be cut out. It is a freeing thing to stop doing things that are really good so that others can step up and fill my shoes in fresh new ways that more often than not outshine anything that I have done in that area.

Perhaps the most important work that I do on any given week is to pray. The older I get the more I learn that prayer is the fuel that drives the church. All of our meetings, all of our planning, all of our busyness, will amount to nothing of lasting value if God isn’t in it. 

In 2012 I have witnessed God answer prayer in such powerful ways. I have seen the Lord give clarity in areas where apart from Him there would be confusion. I have seen God heal the sick (I just got back from a hospital visit that was so encouraging, where I saw God’s healing on an individual in such powerful ways). I have seen marriages restored. I have seen children walk back to God. I have seen new people coming to faith. I have seen financial worries alleviated.

God answers prayer. He is at work! There are some big personal prayer requests that I am laying at God’s feet as we end this year. I know our God can do miracles and I am praying for Him to do so in these circumstances, encouraged by what He has already done.

What’s a way that you have seen God work in your life this year?

Great Day Meeting With Pastors

2012 Haiti Trip 008 It has been a good first day for us in Haiti. After what felt like a very short sleep, we awoke at 6:00 to the sound of dogs barking. After a quick and cold shower I took a walk around the property of the home that we are staying in. The home is leased by World Wide Village and serves as their base of operations here in Haiti. There are banana and mango trees on the property and from the rooftop there is a beautiful view of the mountains.

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We had a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast and then set off for our first day of ministry in the town of Williamson. Williamson is a community of about 60,000 Haitians where World Wide Village has a substantial presence. It is in this community where World Wide Village operates a wonderful school that is currently educating over 260 Haitian children ranging from Kindergarten-Ninth Grade. The school has grown by over 100 children this year.

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Such rapid growth has created a need for more supporters to come alongside the work of World Wide Village in this community. More students required hiring more teachers which translates to more that is needed to make ends meet each month. The students at this school are provided with two meals a day. I heard that some of these students come from backgrounds where the rice that they are fed at home is mixed with rocks to make it more substantial. There just wasn’t enough food for some of these children to receive a healthy meal at home. The feeding program provides kids with healthy meals.

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The students at this school have fantastic instructors. One of the things that I appreciated was that World Wide Village has partnered with a local pastor and church to make the school possible. All of the students receive a Christ-based education. WWV also works to ensure that teachers receive ongoing training.

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The pastor of this particular congregation has a big vision for his community. He wants to see the school continue to grow. He would like to open a high school within the next year. The picture on the left is the group of seven pastors from the States with this dear Haitian brother. He is a godly, capable, and faithful servant of the Lord.

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While touring his school, we also took a look at some of the homes next to the school that WWV has helped build. WWV is also working to help create income for the school through a chicken project which would allow the school to raise and sell chickens. This would also provide food for some of the students.On our tour, we met the dear woman on the left. She is 89 years old and lives with a grandson. When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, she was living in Port au Prince with her daughter. She was on some concrete steps in her home, walking downstairs. Her daughter was under the steps. The steps collapsed, killing her daughter. This woman has such a sweet demeanor about her, despite all that she had been through.

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After our trip to the school, we visited the House of Hope Orphanage. There are over 400 students at this school, with about 45 true orphans. The rest come to the school for an education. These are not orphans that will be adopted from Haiti. The church associated with this orphanage has an emerging relationship with WWV. This school and orphanage is located about two miles away from the school run by WWV.

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We were immediately greeted by eager children who wanted to spend as much time with us as they could. Their smiles and joy were infectious. A couple little boys grabbed Darrin Geier and my hands and didn’t want to let go.

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While at the orphanage we took a bit of time to listen to our Haitian friends share about their hope for their nation. Randy Mortensen, who runs World Wide Village asked them to share their dreams for the nation in ten years.Themes that emerged were the desire for better education, health care, a government that could be trusted, and infrastructure needs.

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From the orphanage we went to meet with another pastor in town. This young leader receives no support from any outside organization. He runs a concrete company to help makes ends meet for himself and the church he runs. He works with two smaller churches in the mountains as well.The church he pastors sustained damage in the earthquake and meets in Unicef and Samaritan’s Purse tents that have been put together. 250 worshipers gather each Sunday.

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We listened as this pastor shared his dreams for his city. In the next ten years the city is expected to explode in population. He dreams of a church of 5,000 worshipers. God has provided the land for him to build a large church. A foundation has been poured, and they will build as God provides.What became so clear as he spoke was that the greatest need for Haitian pastors is training. He would like to bring together 50 or so Haitian pastors for training once every couple of months for two years. Right now there is only one training that he knows of for his region and that comes only one time per year.

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There are lots of ideas that pop into my mind when we talk about what could be done here. In our church alone, God has provided many who could help with this type of training. A couple of other pastors on the trip have also resonated with the idea of training these pastors.The building on the left is the old church building which was damaged in the hurricane.

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It is impossible to drive through this country and not be struck with the awesome need that is here. Even though Haiti is the country that has more missionaries than any other, it seems like the needs are just so great. World Wide Village has chosen to focus their efforts on a couple of communities. In order to get to those communities we drive past so many more. Each community has need. We passed by the largest tent city in Haiti today. We saw some of the tragic results of promises that were made but not kept by Christian organizations. We saw people who had lost hope. But, we also saw the wonderful work being done by a select few that is making a big difference in the lives of the next generation of Haitians. God is at work in this nation. I’m looking forward to learning more tomorrow.I took over 150 pictures today, that I’ll post on my Facebook account later today.

Good Things Come in Small Packages

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A Radical Idea: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God (10-Pack)
A Radical Idea: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God – Kindle Edition

 There is an old axiom that states, Good things come in small packages. I haven’t always believed it. I certainly haven’t believed it when it comes to booklets. When I received a package that contained ten review copies of David Platt’s booklet A Radical Idea I was initially disappointed. I’m not sure that I have ever read a tiny booklet and been overly impressed. So, to say that I was surprised to find myself delighted, challenged and convicted in just 52 short pages is a bit of an understatement.
As he has done in his books Radical and Radical Together, Platt challenges readers to move beyond the complacency and consumerism of the American church and into true discipleship. In his opening pages Platt writes, “God-exalting men and women do not have the time to waste their lives pursuing a Christian spin on the American dream.” He then begins to unpack his vision of what the church could look like if together we pursued radical obedience to Christ’s mission to make disciples; which he repeatedly calls “impacting the world with the Spirit of God for the glory of God.”Platt, who pastors a mega-church in a multi-million dollar facility, challenges American Christians to rethink church. Increasingly uncomfortable with the massive amounts of dollars that western churches throw into buildings and ministry, Platt challenges us to think about how we are unleashing people for ministry that happens apart from the building. Platt has asked his church leaders to ask themselves how they would do church if they didn’t have the luxury of a building. It is clear that much of Platt’s thinking on church has been developed by his trips to parts of the world where being a follower of Jesus is illegal.He writes on page eleven that, “the goal of the church is never for one person to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ. The goal is always for all God’s people to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ.” He then discusses how Jesus used eleven men, who would have been considered the “wrong people” by many in the modern church, to transform the world for Christ.I like to keep a journal when I read books. One of the phrases that I wrote down while reading this book is, “Building the right church, then, is dependent on using all the wrong people” (page 12).Modern churches in other parts of the world and certainly the early church have not been built around great communicators, fantastic programs, state of the art facilities and worship. These churches have grown because of a desire for the people of God to gather together no matter the cost, for the glory of God. Platt asks his readers to consider, “What if the church itself – the people of God gathered in one place – is intended to be the attraction, regardless of who is teaching or singing that day? This is enough for our brothers and sisters around the world. But is it enough for us?” (page 18).Platt spends the remainder of the book detailing the need for churches to “make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples, and together multiply the Gospel to all peoples” (see page 47).In the church that I pastor we’ve encouraged each of our members to follow the example of Jesus when it comes to discipleship. Jesus had a core group of three men that He discipled in a greater way than anyone else. He spend three years building into the twelve disciples. He had a group of 70 that he poured into at a lesser level. And, He had the multitudes who he poured into at an even lesser level. Platt’s book challenges us to do a similar thing. He encourages each member of the church to be involved in a discipleship journey with those whom God has brought into their life.

I will be giving A Radical Idea to all of the small group leaders, church staff and elders at our church. It’s nice to have a booklet that can easily be read in 30 minutes or less to give to the core leaders of our congregation. A Radical Idea is a great companion to a discipleship program that seeks to “unleash the people of God for the purpose of God.” (Platt’s terminology, not mine — but I sure like it!) I highly recommend this resource.

To read an excerpt of A Radical Idea, follow this link and click the excerpt tab.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Are You a Trader?

BluefishTV.com has some fantastic videos that they are allowing people to download for free right now. I wanted to share three of them with you today.

The first is called “Definition of a Trader.”  Check it out – I think you’ll be inspired:

The second video is called “History of Traders.”

There is a third video that I can’t embed on this page called “Church and the Racetrack.” You can watch it by clicking here.

So, how do you feel after watching these videos? Do you sense God telling you something?

Make Much of Jesus

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Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
When I accepted the call to serve at my first church, my Grandfather, who had been a pastor for many years looked at me and said, “Brian, make much of Jesus. In your ministry of the Word, in your life, in your home, in your church . . . make much of Jesus!”I loved my Grandpa, and to this day, his advice was the best that I have ever been given as it relates to the life of a Christian. David Platt, in his book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream writes, “While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God.”Beginning this Sunday, Woodbury Community Church will take a journey to the heart of what it means to live as citizens in the Kingdom of God. The Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7 is the most famous sermon that Jesus ever preached. Thousands of people gathered to hear the Rabbi teach about a new way of living. Jesus taught like no one else ever had. His sermon would shake the contemporary understanding of what it meant to live as a child of God. If you pay serious attention to Jesus’ message, it will shake us to the core as well. I wrestled with how I would begin the 2011 sermon year. There were about ten themes that I kept studying, but I couldn’t escape Jesus’ sermon. The words of Jesus are as revolutionary today as they were when he preached them two thousand years ago. We are going in depth, spending 33 weeks to unpack Jesus’ words in Matthew 5-7. Take some time between now and Sunday to read through Jesus’ sermon, and come ready to learn how we can best live as citizens in the Kingdom of God. If you would like some additional resources to study while we go through Jesus’ sermon, check out these three books, which will be my primary study tools outside of the Bible.


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The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (Preaching the Word)

1)    Kent Hughes book, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom, is part of the Preaching the Word Commentary set published by Crossway Books. The Preaching the Word Commentaries are among my favorite, because they are simply the sermons that the authors’ preached in the churches that they serve. This book is from a series of sermons that Hughes taught at The College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. I used this book as a template for the way that I would divide up the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. 

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The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Bible Speaks Today)

2)    John Stott’s book, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, is a classic exposition of Jesus’ teaching. Stott is a brilliant Bible teacher and gives so many unique insights into Jesus’ words. 

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Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

3)    D. Martyn Lloyd Jones’ book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, was mentioned in almost every commentary on The Sermon on the Mount that I read. It is a spiritual classic, written by the longtime minister of Westminster Chapel in London. All three of these books make much of Jesus, and I hope that our series will as well! Looking forward to God doing some great things in the weeks ahead!