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2 Minute Challenge



In football there is what is known as the 2-minute warning.  At the end of each half both teams receive a warning that there is only 2 minutes before the game is over.  Some say this is when the game really begins and quite often the team who has possession of the ball last wins the game.  There can be more action in the last 2 minutes than there was the entire game.  They have practiced and prepared repeatedly for this 2-minute window of time to utilize it for maximum impact and can see great success through precise execution.

What if you utilized this same principle for the spiritual battle you face every day?   It is a way to have maximum concentration by refocusing on who God is and not what He will give you or do for you.  You desire to see Him for the magnificent God that he is in all of His grandeur.  This is different from your quiet time where you get filled up with His word and His presence and also different from interceding on behalf of others.  There is a time and place for those but this is purposely and intentionally, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”

The 2-minute challenge is a call to intentionally schedule times throughout your day where you take a minimum of 2 minutes to sit quietly before Him.  This is where you ponder in your heart how wonderful and awesome a God He is just like Mary pondered as she observed Jesus’ ministry.  In Psalm 119 David speaks of setting 7 times a day where he would pray.  Daniel had 3 daily, scheduled times where He would cry out to God and seek to be in His presence.  How will you make sure you build a safe place into you day where you can hear His voice?   

Jesus modeled this for us by going to a solidary place to intentionally step away from the distractions and pressures that were surrounding Him.  Listen to this wisdom, “If it took falling with His face to the ground and great struggle for the Son of God to submit Himself to the will of the Father, how can we expect that it will require any less than us?”  This is a willingness to seek Him purposely and spend time with Him while remembering that you are not doing this to get something but your goal to be with the great Someone! 

It requires slowing down in order to bring silence and solitude for a moment into your life.  It is walking in the rhythms of life He desires for you.  Dallas Willard refers to silence and solitude as, “The 2 most radical disciplines of the Christian life.”  Yet, it is almost impossible to live a healthy spiritual life without them.  Again, if Jesus sought out these times to hear from the Father how much more do we need to implement a plan to do the same?  Reading 2-3 pages from a devotional book or a chapter from the Bible each morning is not enough for what you will face each day.

Think of how your day can become difficult as you strive to remain in Christ.  Fatigue begins to set in through the busyness and activities because worldly pressure tries to conform you but you want to be transformed.  Abiding in Christ means you are remaining in Him so you can bear the fruit of the Spirit in difficult and challenging situations.  If you are not abiding then you are not connected and if you are not connected then you cannot bear fruit!  What you and every follower of Christ needs the most is to sit at the feet of Jesus continually throughout the day!

Think of how a balloon full of air is bouncy and resilient but slowly and surely over time it begins to leak.  Your morning quiet time is where you fill up for the challenges ahead but all day long you are leaking.  The world is great at sucking the spiritual life out of you.  When this happens your tendency and temptation to walk in the flesh and not in the Spirit is amplified.  This is when those triggers that set you off are intensified and temptations increase.  It is when you know the situation should not be bothering as much as it is.  Call out a 2-minute warning! 

The world we live in is constantly trying to squeeze us into their mold and into their worldview.  Listen to Romans 12:2 in the Phillips translation, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.”  You may be running on empty and at the end of your rope.  Maybe you need to cry out deep within your soul, “2-minute warning!”            

  1. Find a place, to the best of your ability, where you can sit in silence and solitude.  
  2. Set your timer for 2 minutes knowing you have to start somewhere.  That time can increase as you build this spiritual discipline into your life.  
  3. Focus on God’s grandeur and the awesome God that he is.  This is a time to “be still and know that He is God.”  
  4. Fight the temptation to allow your focus to drift to anything other than His beauty, attributes, mercy, and goodness.  
  5. Remember that He is God and there is no one else like Him! 

Are You Running on Empty?

In my sophomore year at Central Baptist College in Conway, AR I was leading the singing in revival services about 100 miles to the south of our campus.  Money was very tight and as I was driving down for the services one evening my gas gauge began to stare back at me reaching “empty.” 

It was so low that I began praying for God to stretch out what little fuel I had.  Then I covered up the gauge on the dash with a piece of paper so I could not see it any longer.  Fortunately, I made the services, on fumes, and a member filled up my tank after the services.  

Some of you are going full steam ahead while running on empty right now and you are trying to not look at your dashboard that is showing empty.  You cannot give what you do not have and you will come to a screeching halt at some point.

Your focus on ministry, mobilizing your team, and planning your next steps has caused you to begin running on spiritual fumes.  Those times of joy, being full of His presence, along with His daily freshness and vitality in your spiritual walk are only a memory.  What you do is very important but who you are is even more important.  

The danger is real because it is very easy to become so focused on the external issues of getting your ministry where you believe God desires it to be, that you ignore the crucial internal issues of spiritual transformation and health.  

In Leading on Empty Wayne Cordeiro says, “We don’t forget that we are Christians. We forget that we are human, and that one oversight alone can debilitate the potential of our future.”  We all have limits (spiritual, emotional, physical, time, gifts, etc.) and we need to see them as a blessing from the Lord and not a curse.

II Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”  

You may not like admitting your weaknesses or your inabilities but it is wisdom to understand you definitely have limitations and God shows up when we embrace that reality. Your nature may be that you want to go around your limits, conquer limits, deny, and break through them.  Actually, they are a gift from God to protect you!

God gave us limits to serve as guardrails placed in our lives tokeep us from straying outside His will and to continue trusting in Him.  This is actually counterintuitive to us as it goes against our culture that teaches us that we can handle it ourselves and we don’t need anyone’s help.  

Be a self-made leader and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps may be how you were raised.  Don’t depend on anyone else because you can do anything you put your mind to.  You have to reconcile that with what Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing!”  

One of the greatest dangers of leadership is the temptation to rely to heavily on our charisma and competencies while paying too little attention to our character and core identity through our personal walk with Christ.  It is easy to lead without Jesus short term but you will end up paying a very steep price long term.  

Pete Scazzero says, “The reality is that it is easy to live as a Christian doing religious acts and doing Christian things without necessarily being in loving union with Jesus.”  Sometimes we live out the old adage, “fake until you make it!”

  1. Learn to slow down and abide in Christ. Abiding means you remain in Him and you are able to relax in Him.  You cannot live at warp speed without warping your soul!  Think of Mary and Martha.  You may be a Martha who is a doer and what you do is important but who you are is of even greater importance.  Sometimes our doing exceeds our being in Christ and before you know it you are running on empty and getting close to shutting down.
  2. Think about silence and solitude so you can hear God’s voice in your life.  Dallas Willard referred to silence and solitude as the two most radical disciplines of the Christian life. Solitude is finding that quiet space where you intentionally remove yourself from people and things in order to focus 100% on God. Silence is striving to quiet every inner and outer voice to be attentive to the Lord’s direction and presence.  Silence is the Christians number one need while being the hardest to develop.  It is very challenging in this busy and noisy world.  
  3. Wait on the Lord.  King David stressed its importance by saying it twice in Psalm 27:14. Do not wait on the Lord only for what He will do for you or for the results you desire but simply to spend time with Him.                          

David reminds us of this in Psalm 27:4, “I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple.”  You must actually limit what you are doing by focusing on being with Him realizing that He can accomplish so much more than you can!

 Without slowing down, being silent, seeking out solitude, and waiting on the Lord it will be almost impossible to live a healthy spiritual life!  Are you running on empty? 

Direction > Destination

Having grown up in northwest Florida and then pastoring primarily in the north made for some pretty long trips to go visit my parents.  Many of those trips were between 12-16 hours and being a driven person (pun intended) made me focus on getting to our destination as quickly as possible.  If you were to ask my children (whose memories are not real good) they would try to make you believe that I would not stop at a gas station on the opposite side of the highway because it would take too long. 

It does not make any sense to cross over to the other side of the highway anyway when you are convinced there will be a much more convenient place to stop just 5-10 minutes down the road.  Please refrain from judging me because getting to our destination (my parents home) was the primary goal of the mission not enjoying the journey.  It is easy to forget that the journey is as important as where we are headed.  The trip is as much a part of the adventure as the destination. Believer, you are headed to heaven but what you do on the journey is of eternal importance.

The Lord has promised a place for those who have put their faith and trust in Him.  In Matthew 25 Jesus gives two parables to describe this journey until He either returns or you graduate to your heavenly home before He returns.  The first parable (the 10 virgins) reminds us to always be watching and be ready because He could return at any moment.  The second parable (of the talents) teaches us to not just sit idly by but to be industrious and to occupy, serve faithfully, until He returns.  You may know that you have eternal life but what are you doing with this life right now?

Sometimes the destination is clear and other times you have no idea where the Lord is leading.  What church should you join and become a member of?  What ministry should you commit to and participate in?  How will you determine what God’s will is for your life and for your church?  

Adrian Rodgers said, “You do not find God’s will.  God’s will finds you!”  

He pointed out that if you are doing what the Lord has told you to do you cannot help but find His will.   He stressed that if you are not obeying what you know He desires you will never be able to find God’s will!

The direction you are headed in as an individual believer and as a church is the key.  

Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  

If you are not being transformed and changed more and more into His image then you are not truly following Him.  If you are not fishing for men then you are not truly following Him.  Quite often the problem is that the direction you are headed in is not going in the direction Christ desires.  You have to have the determined courage to believe so strongly in His Lordship that you are good with wherever path He may lead you.

Church you may not know exactly what He is up to but you have decided you will still go in His direction.  Believer you may not understand exactly what He is doing in your life but you have chosen to follow Him and go on whatever path He leads you.  That is why the direction you are headed in is of greater importance, right now, than the ultimate destination.  

Are you getting closer and closer to Him everyday or farther and farther away?  

Tony Evans recently posted this on Facebook, “Don’t stay in the boat when God is calling you to walk on water.” 

Dr. Robert Coleman, author of The Master Plan of Evangelism describes a disciple as, “A learner who’s following Christ.  You learn by following.  And that means since we are finite and God alone is infinite, there’s never a place in the journey where we stop learning.”  

Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God, defines a disciple as  “One being taught by many means intentionally, in a specific direction.” When you look at different definitions they all have particular nuances, but the one common thread that holds them together is movement toward Christ. 

  1. A disciple sets their eyes on Christand continually moves toward Him.  A church must do the same and settle for nothing less.  Every decision, ministry, action, and thought process must be centered on moving closer to Christ or you will drift naturally away.  
  2. The spiritual battle is real and we do not receive any days off.  Church, today, will you get closer to Christ or farther away?  Will you continue on this journey, no matter how difficult or the sacrifice required, or will you sit this one out?  Will you run towards the battle or will you run the other direction?
  3. What direction does Christ have for your church today?  What will you do, today, that will produce the results God desires and wants for tomorrow?  What decision do you need to make that will correct your course and put you back on track with the direction He is leading you? What steps in towards Him do you need to make so your church can flourish again the way He desires?  What personal preferences do you need to sacrifice for the good of the entire body and those who are far from Christ?

The journey is as important as the destination. The direction you are headed in is of greater importance today than the destination you are headed towards!

Relationships Matter

Jesus is the Lord of His church!  That means that He is the boss and He calls the shots.  Jesus challenges us to be a church that is biblical, relational, and missional.  Revelation chapters 2 and 3 make it clear that the connecting ingredient that made His churches bring Him glory was when they recognized Him as their Lord and Master. Six of the seven churches of Asia received some kind of compliment from Christ.  As you read His admonitions to these churches it becomes apparent that all of His churches are important and all are significant to Him.

The biblical mandate is for a group of believers to join together in a local church to carry out His Great Commission. Thankfully, believers are not expected to do this alone or to be transformed alone.  Christ has always desired for us to live, grow, and serve in community and fellowship with others.  When Saul was saved in Acts 9 the Lord told Ananias to go get him and help him.  It has been said that, “Transformation is a communal experience, not an individual exercise.”  The greatest potential to grow in Christ is realized in community with other believers.

Surveys tell us that when we connect attenders to small groups that they are five times more likely to still be faithful to church five years later. That is a great thing to know and we should believe in and promote the benefit of small groups but we are not driven primarily by pragmatism.  Jesus came and focused His time on a small group where He built relationships and did life with twelve men.  The reason we should be sold on small groups is far more theological than just the fact that it is effective.  Small groups are biblical and critical to our spiritual growth.           

The power and the benefit of community is a biblical fact and not just a passing fad.  Think of how we are commanded to meet together.  Even the Greek word for church, ecclesia, is plural and means “called-out ones.”  It is not the called out one or individual but overwhelmingly refers to that local congregation of baptized believers who are doing life together in order to live on His mission.  The importance of being a part of a local congregation cannot be overstated.  It is essential to our growing and maturing into whom Christ wants us to be.

If we choose to grow on our own by ourselves that growth will be much slower that it was meant to be, at best, and it will be very warped growth, at worst. We must teach with confidence a theology of community.  We were created for community and there is no way we can fulfill the over thirty “one anothers” (pray for, comfort, forgive, etc.) without community.  God’s plan is for every one of us to find a biblically sound group of committed believers to fellowship with and carry out His mission together. 

  1. Small groups are where real and lasting transformation can occur.  They do not guarantee spiritual growth but are a tool that Jesus used and challenges us to use at well.  The goal is not a method that generates numeric growth but rather an environment where every person in the church can become a mature disciple of Jesus Christ!  Small groups should not be seen by your church as an option but rather seen as a biblical mandate for returning us to the environment for which God created us. Hebrews says clearly, “Not staying away from our worship meetings.”
  2. Worship is what connects us to the Lord while small groups connect us to one another.  Then we are connected to the mission He has called us to carry out.  You cannot deny the truth that we need one another, we are better together, and God intended from the beginning that we never follow Him alone.  We should always be willing to proceed alone if required but we should never have to. It is not God’s primary mode of operation.  Community is the structure that God has always intended for His churches in order to care for and shepherd one another.

Hebrews 10:22-24 gives us three plural admonitions, “Let us.”  Verse 22 says, “Let us draw near.”  The beauty of seeking Him together is having a community of believers where we can love and be loved, know and be known, serve and be served.  In verse 23 we are challenged, “Let us hold on to the confession.” We lean on one another with a willingness to bear one another’s burdens.  When we have a church family we know that we have the support of others who have our back.  They understand the struggles and spiritual battles of following Christ.

 Community is essential to our spiritual growth and Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works.”  The theology of community throughout the scriptures makes it clear that we need the church and the church needs us.  Let us encourage one another daily and lovingly hold one another accountable.  Romans 15:7 says, “Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you to the glory of God.”

Yes, small groups work and they are beneficial to individual growth and the entire health of the church.  This is the biblical mandate and this is God’s plan.  One author puts it this way, “We’re not saying growth doesn’t happen apart from community.  But we don’t think it’s possible for formation to fully occur without community.” When we get into biblical community we are returning to what God intended from the very beginning!

Are You Running on Empty?

In my sophomore year at Central Baptist College in Conway, AR I was leading the singing in revival services about 100 miles to the south of our campus.  Money was very tight and as I was driving down for the services one evening my gas gauge began to stare back at me reaching “empty.”  It was so low that I began praying for God to stretch out what little fuel I had.  Then I covered up the gauge on the dash with a piece of paper so I could not see it any longer.  Fortunately, I made the services, on fumes, and a member filled up my tank after the services.  

Some of you are going full steam ahead while running on empty right now and you are trying to not look at your dashboard that is showing empty.  You cannot give what you do not have and you will come to a screeching halt at some point. Your focus on ministry, mobilizing your team, and planning your next steps has caused you to begin running on spiritual fumes.  Those times of joy, being full of His presence, along with His daily freshness and vitality in your spiritual walk are only a memory.  What you do is very important but who you are is even more important.  

The danger is real because it is very easy to become so focused on the external issues of getting your ministry where you believe God desires it to be, that you ignore the crucial internal issues of spiritual transformation and health.  In Leading on Empty Wayne Cordeiro says, “We don’t forget that we are Christians. We forget that we are human, and that one oversight alone can debilitate the potential of our future.”  We all have limits (spiritual, emotional, physical, time, gifts, etc.) and we need to see them as a blessing from the Lord and not a curse.

II Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”  You may not like admitting your weaknesses or your inabilities but it is wisdom to understand you definitely have limitations and God shows up when we embrace that reality. Your nature may be that you want to go around your limits, conquer limits, deny, and break through them.  Actually, they are a gift from God to protect you!

God gave us limits to serve as guardrails placed in our lives tokeep us from straying outside His will and to continue trusting in Him.  This is actually counterintuitive to us as itgoes against our culture that teaches us that we can handle it ourselves and we don’t need anyone’s help.  Be a self-made leader and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps may be how you were raised.  Don’t depend on anyone else because you can do anything you put your mind to.  You have to reconcile that with what Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing!”  

One of the greatest dangers of leadership is the temptation to rely to heavily on our charisma and competencies while paying too little attention to our character and core identity through our personal walk with Christ.  It is easy to lead without Jesus short term but you will end up paying a very steep price long term.  Pete Scazzero says, “The reality is that it is easy to live as a Christian doing religious acts and doing Christian things without necessarily being in loving union with Jesus.”  Sometimes we live out the old adage, “fake until you make it!”

  1. Learn to slow down and abide in Christ. Abiding means you remain in Him and you are able to relax in Him.  You cannot live at warp speed without warping your soul!  Think of Mary and Martha.  You may be a Martha who is a doer and what you do is important but who you are is of even greater importance.  Sometimes our doing exceeds our being in Christ and before you know it you are running on empty and getting close to shutting down.
  2. Practice silence and solitude so you can hear God’s voice in your life.  Dallas Willard referred to silence and solitude as the two most radical disciplines of the Christian life. Solitude is finding that quiet space where you intentionally remove yourself from people and things in order to focus 100% on God. Silence is striving to quiet every inner and outer voice to be attentive to the Lord’s direction and presence.  Silence is the Christians number one need while being the hardest to develop.  It is very challenging in this busy and noisy world.  
  3. Wait on the Lord.  King David stressed its importance by saying it twice in Psalm 27:14. Do not wait on the Lord only for what He will do for you or for the results you desire but simply to spend time with Him.  David reminds us of this in Psalm 27:4, “I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple.”  You must actually limit what you are doing by focusing on being with Him realizing that He can accomplish so much more than you can! 

Without slowing down, being silent and in solitude, and waiting on the Lord it will be almost impossible to live a healthy spiritual life. Are you running on empty?

“Your doing for God is fed and sustained by your being with God!”

Alarming Statistics


Five levels of health and growth help to categorize evangelical churches in America. Here is their description from Rainer Research in 2009 and what percent of churches each represents; 

  • Fast-growing (greater than 5% annually) 12% 
  • Growing (nominally to 5% annually) 23% 
  • Steadily declining (0% to 3% annually) 34% 
  • Rapidly declining (2% to 5% annually) 21% 
  • Declining toward death (over 5% decline annually) 10%. 

We know from research that 85% of all churches have either plateaued or are in decline.  Of the 15% that are growing only 1% is from conversion growth. 

In a blog and podcast, The Faster Pace of Decline Toward Death of Many Congregations, Thom Rainer’s research gives the alarming statistic that from 2009 to 2019 the fast growing churches decreased from 12% of the American churches to 3%. In that same 10-year period the percentage of churches declining towards death increased, almost doubled, from 10% to 19%.  Several pastors have shared with me, brokenhearted, that their churches are running half of what they were 2-3 years ago and will end up closing their doors if something does not change.  

What will it take for churches to wake up and realize something must be done?  Unfortunately, many churches are sicker than they are willing to admit.  They refuse to accept that they may close their doors soon if something does not change.  Revelation3:17 gives a sobering warning, “Because you say ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”  That passage is harsh but the stark reality is that we must be willing to repent and do whatever is necessary for His church to thrive.

As alarming and convicting as these statistics may be there is hope because Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of His church. He desires to do greater things in and through your church than you do.  Once you finally face your present reality and prayerfully determine your preferred future you can begin to imagine what that might look like.  Jesus wants to do more and greater things than the best that you can dream, envision, and pray for.  Ephesians 3:20 is very clear that He is able to do even greater things than the best “preferred future” you can imagine.

The million-dollar question is, are you willing to allow the great physician to diagnose your spiritual illness bluntly and transparently?  Will you take the time to spiritually evaluate with honesty and have a willingness to do whatever He asks you to do to be the church He desires your church to be? Are you ready to spend some extended time in prayer seeking Him and allowing Him to show you just how sick you may be?  None of us like getting bad news or a bad report but it is necessary if we are going to begin a path towards health and vitality.

Paul admonished the church at Ephesus to pray for a “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”  Paul challenged them to pray for enlightenment to know the hope of their calling, to understand the glorious riches of their inheritance in Christ, and the greatness of His power.  Are you praying for those things in your church?  Are you leading your church to pray without ceasing for the wisdom to know what to do, the resources to be able to do it, and the strength to continue what He has called you to accomplish?  

Dynamic Church Planting International training teaches 12 biblical principles with principle #2 being the power principle: “Prayer is the indispensable source of God’s power and wisdom in each phase of church planting.” DCPI teaches, “prayer is important because it leads us to intimacy with Christ.  God has called us first to be lovers of Christ before we become lovers of the lost, or lovers of the church. In prayer we connect with this One who is Creator and Sustainer as well as Redeemer and Friend.”  Paul challenged a church and us to “pray without ceasing.” 

Here are some things you should be praying for in the midst of these shocking and alarming statistics of dying churches.  

  1. Pray for revival!  That you would wake up to the spiritual condition of your heart and how spiritually unhealthy your church may actually be.  Ask the Lord to help you see your church through His eyes and to break your heart with what breaks His heart.  Are you willing to allow Him to expose every area that needs correction through confession and contrition?  Are you willing to do whatever it takes?
  2. Pray for laborers.  Are you asking God to raise up more people with the same burden and passion that He is igniting in your heart?  It begins with you but then you need to fervently beg the Lord to move powerfully in the lives and hearts of others in your church.  Lead by example and then begin to ask others to lead the way with you.  Paul talks about always remembering one another in prayer to the church in Philippi, Thessalonica, and others.  Have you dedicated intentional time every day to pray for those you are called to labor together with
  3. Ask God to open doors.  Only He can open the hearts of the people and do the supernatural work of transformation that is needed.  Thom Rainer in sharing these statistics says, “I have seen too many churches breakout in God’s power to maintain a defeatist attitude. The One who resurrects the dead can bring any church back to life again.”

Hopefully, you are alarmed by these statistics but you should not be dismayed nor feel defeated.  The Lord desires to do far more and greater things with your church than you do.  

Next Steps

Raising children helps you to understand the concept of the game, follow the leader.  Children copy and mimic whatever the one who is first in the line is doing.  Children mimic adult behavior whether that behavior is good or bad.  Most parents can tell about an embarrassing moment when their child repeated what they said even though they did not want it repeated.  One day they will no longer be as compelled to mimic your behavior but will determine for themselves what they will or will not do.  We must teach them why we do what we do not only show them.

We are told that most adults leave the church between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two.  Could it be that they were shown what to do but were never taught why they were suppose to do it?  Maybe we have not done well at discipling them in understanding how essential and critical being a part of local congregation is to their spiritual walk? If the only reason a teenager attends the church is because of the friends they have there then they might not need the church anymore when they make friends outside the church.  

Fellowship is important and needed but there is much more to church membership.  Church membership does not seem to matter to many any more because there are such low expectations.  Churches seem to be experiencing very low levels of commitment.  Have we knowingly or without realizing built a culture of low expectations?  Low expectations usually equal low commitment.  This is why a new member class is important because it can explain what is expected as a church member and what they can expect from their church.

You will need to decide what your new member class will look like, how long it will last, and what information you will include in the class.  This class is a great on-ramp in connecting new people to your vision and mission statement, the way your church functions, and how they can get connected in building relationships and serve in a ministry.  Thom Rainer says the three key ingredients of any new member class are information about your church, expectations of members, and a clear assimilation process.  Think expectations, information, and attitude.  

Some ingredients to include within these areas are clarifying the gospel, doctrine, leadership in the church, and how to get involved.   You want to clearly present what they can expect from your church, and what your church expects from all of its members.  Give them a copy of your doctrinal statement to read and come back ready to ask questions. Focus on the essentials of the faith such as salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone and the inspiration of the scriptures.   Help them to better understand the importance of Biblical truth.

One goal of this class is giving them the information they need so that six months down the road you will hopefully not hear, “If I had known that I never would of joined.”  Another goal is to challenge them to be functioning members of your church and not spectators.  It gives them a clear process of how they can get involved.  They are taught the importance of small group Bible studies, serving on a ministry team, and how they can be discipled one-on-one.  You clarify your purpose (the what) but you also show them your process (the how).  

Make this entry level class a priority by asking all prospective members to attend.  This is not meant to be a qualifying school but rather a way of informing them of what Biblical membership looks like.  A great inexpensive resource you can give those who attend is I Am a Church Member by Thom Rainer.  This is a great reminder to those desiring to become a part of your congregation of how important it is to have the right attitude.  There are six pledges in the book to help them understand the gravity and responsibility of becoming a church member.

Some churches have decided to not use the term “member” because of what it has come to mean in our culture.  When someone thinks of membership it usually refers to what rights you have.  Thom Rainer says, “We join our churches expecting others to serve us, to feed us, and to care for us…God did not give us local churches to become country clubs where membership means we have privileges and perks.  He placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the gospel.”

You must determine how long your class will last but make sure it does not last too long.  Some churches do an overview with a luncheon and others last as long as twelve weeks.  Do not feel like you must cover everything but rather give an overview of how your church carries out the mission of God.  The temptation is that more is better but not necessarily.   Stress Bible truth and expectations but also show them how they can step into an environment where they can grow.  Clearly state your expectation for maturing in Christ through your process of discipleship.  

Teach your vision and mission statement in the new member class by explaining the action steps required.  These action steps describe what the member should do next in order to grow and move through the process.  The process does not guarantee transformation, only God transforms, but it places the member in a position that encourages movement and growth as they desire to become more like Christ.  Make sure your mission statement clearly describes what they should do next. Higher levels of commitment will require higher levels of expectation.

Don’t Complicate Things

Complexity seems to have become the norm rather than the exception.  Keeping things simple in our lives and in our churches can be a difficult thing to accomplish.  The process of simplification may be “simple” but it is not easy to carry out nor is it easy to maintain.  The way we are inundated today with ema

Complexity seems to have become the norm rather than the exception.  Keeping things simple in our lives and in our churches can be a difficult thing to accomplish.  The process of simplification may be “simple” but it is not easy to carry out nor is it easy to maintain.  The way we are inundated today with emails, texts, phone calls, and multi-tasking ensures that it will be very challenging.  Many of the thoughts and the content in this article come from Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger.  It would we worth your time to read this valuable resource.

A simple church is defined as “a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.”  The simple church process is far more that just eliminating unnecessary activities from your life.  It challenges you to think through what a discipleship process should look like in your church.  It introduces you to the four essential ingredients of clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.  God designed spiritual growth to be a process where the disciple is continually moving forward.

Rainer and Geiger add to the Simple Church definition by saying, “The leadership and the church are clear about the process (clarity) and are committed to executing it.  The process flows logically (movement) and is implemented in each area of the church (alignment).  The church abandons everything that is not in the process (focus).” The imagery in the scriptures illustrates a progression of growth as a disciple follows Christ from spiritual infancy to spiritual adulthood.  Are people growing, maturing, and becoming more and more like Christ in your church?

  1. Clarity is the first of these four essential ingredients we need to consider.  Simple Churchdefinesclarity as “the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people.”  Remember it is not enough to know what you should be doing (purpose) but you also need to know how to accomplish your purpose (process).  A mission statement must have actionable steps to accomplish your purpose.  What 3- 5 things are clear expectations that you have for every member of your church? What steps do you have in place to accomplish them?
  2. The second ingredient is movement and is defined as “the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment.”  Clarity means that you know what you are called to do and can articulate it well but movement is where the actual implementation occurs.  The process of discipleship in the scriptures describes infants and babies who do not know how to care for themselves.  What will we do to help the new believer until they know how to tie their own shoes and how to use a fork to feed themselves?  (Hebrews 5:12)
  3. Developing and designing a process that places people in an environment that encourages spiritual growth is a leaders responsibility. In Ephesians 4 we are called to build up the body of Christ and that is a construction term.  When building and constructing anything, whether it is an edifice or people, it requires a blueprint.  The third essential ingredient is alignment and is defined as, “the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process.” This ensures that you are working together with the same goals and not competing against one another.
  4. You should not be functioning off of multiple mission/vision statements but one unifying statement that promotes teamwork. The fourth essential ingredient to simplifying your ministry is focus.  Simple Church defines this as “the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process.”  Focus means that you evaluate ministries and do not sustain them based purely on personal preferences and history.  Is what you are doing right now making disciples that are growing and becoming more and more like Christ? 

Activity does not guarantee maturity.  Being busy is not equal with better.  Our responsibility as leaders is to design a process that partners with the transformation process revealed in Scripture.  This process should place people in the right environments for God to transform their hearts and lives.  It is showing people how to love God, love others, and then serve people in the church and outside the church.  It is asking your people to commit to being faithful to worship services, being a member of a small group, and then serving on a ministry team.  

This requires a laser focus willing to say no to some good things to ensure that you are involved in the best things.  Are you cluttered with activities that keep you busy and give you a false sense of accomplishment but disciples are not being made?  Jesus offers us an intimate relationship with Him. Are you as a church more infatuated & impressed with all the bells and whistles, the trinkets and trimmings, the buildings and furnishings, and the programs and ministries than you are a personal, powerful, life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ?

 Is your church accomplishing what God called you to do?  Are you fulfilling the Great Commission and carrying out the Great Commandment?  Without a clearly defined process to fulfill your purpose it is easy for a church to experience mission drift.  Over time you have slowly but surely drifted away from your primary calling and the reason you exist.  

Check out the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2-3 and determine to remember who God has called you to be, repent of any areas of disobedience and neglect, return to being who God intended you be and then you are in the place where revival can occur in your congregation!

R.E.A.L. MEN

This was originally posted May 17, 2018 but was worth posting again with Father’s Day this Sunday!!!

What is a “real” man?  What does a “real” man look like?  Do you have a picture in your mind of John Wayne (is it just me) or some other iconic American standing off the forces of evil single-handedly?  You are independent and you hear an inner voice saying, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do!”  There is a huge difference between taking responsibility for our lives and trying to live independently of God and godly counsel.  The reality is that biblical community is required for us to grow and develop into the men God desires for us to be.

When you ask men for a biblical description of a godly man what kind of answer would you get?  There will be some excellent characteristics and spiritual qualities mentioned but can the men in your church give a clear, concise, and compelling vision of what a man of God looks like? Yet that ability is exactly what will enable every man in your church to pursue the goal of looking like what you have described.  You then have a benchmark that holds every man in your ministry accountable to that standard.

Robert Lewis went on a quest to define Authentic Manhoodin developing a ministry called Men’s Fraternity.  Luke McCown (recently retired NFL quarterback) shared with me that when he was playing with the Detroit Lions the chaplain, Dave Wilson, took those four benchmarks and with Robert’s permission developed the following acronym for R.E.A.L. Men:

  1. Rejects Passivity
  2. Engages with God
  3. Accepts Responsibility
  4. Leads Courageously.

These give every man a biblical standard to be held accountable to and pursue.

The greatest challenge for most men in this journey will be accountability. This does not set well with many because men by nature have a desire to be in control of their own lives and to chart their own courses.  The culture has convinced us that independence is a characteristic that must be pursued by “real” men but that is not what the Bible teaches.  Many are raised to believe that they do not need to rely or trust anyone else.  This builds a self-reliance where a man would rather go it alone than to risk the pain of being disappointed or let down by others.

We need a good definition of accountability and fortunately Pat Morley gives us one in his book, Man in the Mirror. 

He states, “to be regularly answerable for each of the key areas of our lives to qualified people.”

The scriptures show us the importance of this truth repeatedly.  Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Carry one another’s burdens” and admonishes us to restore those who fall.  Solomon makes this principle very clear in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 and tells us rather matter of fact, “Two are better than one.”  Proverbs 27:6 says, “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy.”

First, we must be answerable.  Everyone answers to someone and we tend to stray when we are not.  We need godly people in our lives that will ask us the hard questions about the goals we have set but also about the standards by which we should be living.

Second, we answerable in the key areas.  There is so much below the surface that needs to be examined and much of that tends to be the areas of highest risk in our lives.  That which is unseen and not carefully looked at can cause the greatest damage just like an iceberg.

Third, we must be held accountable regularly.  It needs to be frequent and somewhat systematic.  Studies have shown that when men do not meet weekly that eventually they stop meeting completely.

Fourth, we must be held accountable by qualified people.  People who love Jesus and who also have a burden to be held accountable themselves.  They want you to succeed and practice confidentiality.  Accountability in this kind of relationship is required to work properly.

R.E.A.L. men (Reject Passivity, Engage with God, Accept Responsibility, Live Courageously) refuse to be cultural Christians where we never go deeper than discussing the weather, news, sports, and our jobs.  We desire to go deeper with godly mentors who can hold us accountable for our spiritual walk in such areas as our faith, family, friends, fitness, and finance. Accountability takes friendship and fellowship to the next level where we intentionally and willingly decide to live in a fishbowl.  Accountability only works when individuals willingly submit to it.

Unfortunately, we are told that only about 15% of men in our churches will submit and follow through on biblical accountability.  Have a plan on how you can begin to connect them with one another.  The number four seems to be a good number of men in a group to ensure real accountability and that the hard questions are asked in love.  One-on-one accountability seems to fall prey to the stronger personality overpowering the weaker.  The stronger willed individual can convince one person far easier than three that they are not doing anything wrong.

Having three others walking this journey of accountability with you provides flexibility when one of them is unable to attend one week.  Remember that Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”  There is great wisdom in looking for three godly qualified men who will on a hold you answerable on a regular basis in the key areas of your spiritual walk.  They ask the hard questions on the goals we have set and the standards we are called to live by in God’s word.

Do Not Steal My Glory

Jeff Christopherson in Kingdom Matrix says, “Churches can be reduced to man-centered organizations but the Kingdom of God cannot.  Should a church find itself functioning in the miserable state of pragmatic human-centered strategic planning, it is in exceedingly dangerous territory.”  The extreme example of this is putting into practice whatever works believing that the end justifies the means.  Churches focus on spicing up their messages, speeding up their music, and sprucing up their facilities and many times nothing actually gets any better. 

Paul tells us that one plants, one waters, and that it is God who gives the increase.  Christopherson puts it this way, “Whenever we focus on the goals over the process, we will always be tempted to produce the fruit ourselves,” This leads to a belief that bigger is better and size determines our worth.  The reality is that numbers do not equal gospel influence anymore than attendance to church guarantees spiritual maturity.  Just because you listen to truth it does not mean your values and priorities are being transformed. 

Joshua was a mighty warrior and man of faith.  He challenges the Israelites to decide, once and for all, who they will worship.  In Joshua 24:1-13 he communicates God’s word to them and shares seventeen rapid-fire proclamations.  It begins in verse 3, “But I took your father Abraham from the region beyond the Euphrates River” and ends in verse 13 with “I gave you a land you did not labor for, and cities you did not build.”  God tells these mighty warriors who had conquered this land in verse 12, “It was not by your sword or bow.”

We must be careful to never take credit for what God has and is doing.  Yes, we still must accept our responsibilities and obligations but we should always remember that God will not share His glory with anyone.  When Jeff Christopherson was planting a multiplying church in Toronto one of the things God impressed on their group very clearly was, “Do not steal My Glory!”  Joshua would concur and challenges us to always obey God’s word, to not pursue the gods of this world, and to never give our allegiance to anyone but God.

Planning and strategy are good things but it must be prayerful planning.  Thinking through how we can be more effective and efficient is important but we must remain true to the gospel and the scriptures.  While some will scream loudly that size does not guarantee spiritual maturity it could also be argued that small does not guarantee it either. Jeff makes this clear when he states, “Just because my church claims to be a community of Christ does not automatically mean that it is advancing the cause of Christ.”

New Testament churches have a purpose according to Ephesians 3:10, “This is so God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church.”  The local church does not so much have a mission for God but rather God has local churches to carry out His mission.  If we are not advancing God’s kingdom then is it possible that we are reducing its impact and influence?  In Revelation 2:5 Jesus says this to the church in Ephesus, “Remember then how far you have fallen, repent, and do the works you did at first.”  

Daniel Im in No Silver Bullets gives clear and sound biblical direction in developing strategies and systems.  He defines a system as “a group of related parts that move or work together.”  It requires training your members in the areas of assimilation, outreach, and discipleship to name a few.  All of your systems can use prayer planning, strategic thinking, and intentionality.  This is the biblical directive of equipping one another as instructed in Ephesians 4:12, “For the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.”

In the area of discipleship Daniel Im states, “Since the starting point for every church’s vision should be the Great Commission and Commandment, it makes sense to view your discipleship pathway as the strategy that’ll get you to the vision.”  We know that our core identity is that we are His disciples (followers). In John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” Jonathan Parnell defines a disciple of Jesus as “a worshipper, a servant, and a witness.”  Are you identified as following Christ with precise compliance?”

Being identified as His disciples means that our core mission and objective is making disciples.  Matthew 28 commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. Daniel Im continues, “After all, a discipleship pathway is the intentional route that you have set up in your church to develop and form missionary disciples for Kingdom impact.” Most discipleship is pouring into people already saved, which is good, but it is not making “new” disciples, which is even better.  Evangelism is inviting people to Christ while discipleship is investing in them. 

Your discipleship pathway is what shapes character, transforms hearts, and develops the believer.  Your leadership pipeline is what equips these disciples to live out their calling.  Daniel Im uses a great analogy that helps us picture what this should look like.  “If your church was a car that had to get you to a particular endpoint, which would be the vision, the discipleship pathway would be the fuel, and the leadership pipeline would be the engine.  Both are equally important and have to rely on one another if the car is going to experience any movement.”

Galatians 6:14 says, “But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world.”  Do not steal His glory!