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Healthy Multiplication

The question is often asked, “Do we need more churches or should we focus on making sure the churches we have are healthy?”  Over the last twelve plus years of being the BMA director of church planting my answer has been consistently the same, “Yes!”  It is not an either/or but most definitely a both/and scenario.  Mark Clifton gives this challenge and vision statement by stating his commitment as, “decreasing the death rate of existing churches while simultaneously increasing the birth rate of new churches.”  Being obedient to God’s calling is paramount!

Many are convinced that we do not need more churches but what is that belief based on and is it true?  At www.thearda.com you can insert your zip code and find out who is connected to what denominations.  In Cherokee County Texas, where many would say there is not a need for more churches, this site reveals that there are over 50,000 living in the county but over 21,000 are “unclaimed.”  That means about 40% of the population has no connection to any religion, denomination, or church.  The fields are white unto harvest for both existing and new churches.

The reality is that while more churches are being planted almost as many are closing down.  Some would say that overall we are actually in losing more than we are gaining every year.  This does not figure in population growth and makes it clear that we are losing ground at an alarming pace.  While world population continues to skyrocket churches continue to dwindle and we lose our ability to effectively share the gospel.  Maybe you should go to the website above and begin to focus on reaching those who declare themselves as “unclaimed” in your zip code. 

Recently I had the privilege of spending some time with a leader who was mentored by Bill Bright the founder of Campus Crusade (now Cru).  He said that every day Bill would pray passionately and fervently for four things.  He was fully aware of and modeled to others his dependence on God for anything of everlasting significance to occur.  Bill remained humble because of that dependence and that motivated him to pray for these four things: Laborers, Supernatural Resources, Open Doors, and Fruit that Remained.

  1. He prayed for laborers.  There is never a time when we are praying for God’s will more than when we ask Him for more workers.  Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 9:38, “Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”  This is also recorded in Luke 10:2 and many have set their alarms to go off at either 10:02 AM or PM to remind them to stop and ask God to send more workers.  Do you need more workers, servants, and helpers?  Have you been faithfully asking Him to send them to you?  He is the Lord of the harvest.
  2. He prayed for God to provide the supernatural resources needed to accomplish the work.  A church planting director shared with me that when he was hired to begin a church planting movement his director told him how much budget he would have and said, “Spend it all if you need to!”  What a great commitment to the vision you believe God has called you to.  Resources must be realigned and the biggest issue is not a lack of resources but in the prioritizing and the allocation of those funds.  May we spend every penny to bring more people to Jesus Christ.
  3. Bill prayed every morning for God to open doors. Paul asked the church to pray for this in Colossians 4:3, “At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison.”  In I Corinthians 16 Paul said that an open door for effective ministry had opened to him.  In Revelation 3 Jesus told the church at Philadelphia that He had placed before them an open door and no one was able to close it.  Could it be that the only thing holding us back is our unwillingness to walk through those open doors?  
  4. He prayed for fruit that remained.  In John 15:16 Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.”  If we are not careful we can become so focused on producing fruit that we do not care for the fruit properly.  Not everyone is healthy enough to birth a baby and some churches are not healthy enough to plant another church but you can get healthy and then multiply!

What does healthy multiplication look like?  It means activating His church His way.  Acts 9:31 says, “So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.”   

Where do you start?  Paul prayed this in Ephesians 3:16, “I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Holy Spirit.”  

Pastor Huddles!

Pastor and leader, you need a support group that will pray with you, speak into your life, and encourage you.  In a football game a huddle is where the play is given, everyone knows what needs to be done next, and then you leave the huddle ready to execute the plan as best you can. You may think you do not have time to meet with other pastors and leaders but you actually will be more effective by approaching ministry with a keen awareness of your need for other leaders speaking into your life.  Jesus focused on huddling His disciples together.

No one should be a better friend to pastors than other pastors.  Pastor, you understand the battle and the struggle in trying to lead your people to greater levels of spiritual maturity.  You know how your heart aches for your people to thrive in their walk with Christ and to not just go through the motions.  You know the joys and the pains of working with people and desiring more for their spiritual walk than they do.  The joys and challenges you have experienced need to be shared with others so they can rejoice with you and learn from you as well. 

The frenetic pace many leaders are keeping is not sustainable without times for being refreshed and recharged.  A pastor’s huddle can be very revitalizing as you share ideas, dream of better days ahead, and get advice from fellow servants who have already navigated the waters you are going through.  One way to be refreshed is to ask everyone to share something going well in their ministry so all of you can celebrate together.  When you rejoice with others it encourages them, encourages you, and gives you a fresh perspective of a desired future. 

A pastors huddle is meant to be a place of encouragement and a place of safety.  It needs to be a place where you can be completely transparent, honest, and open about your challenges and struggles.  It takes time to build trust but it can be built and is worth the effort in developing an environment of integrity and confidentiality.  II Corinthians 7:6 shows us this dynamic, “But God, who comforts the humble, comforted us by the arrival of Titus.”  Take the time and make the effort to spend time with other pastors to encourage them.  

A pastors huddle is not meant to only focus on ministry strategies, systems, and problem solving.  It is also a place where you can get encouragement for your own personal life, your family, and a host of other issues.  A huddle can even find ways to relax and enjoy one another’s company through a group activity such as golf, fishing, hunting, bowling, or playing paint ball.  Resolving conflicts and problems in your church ministry are important but they need to be secondary to encouragement, prayer, and your own personal soul care. 

A pastors huddle is place where you can share and brainstorm ideas, dream big about your vision for your ministry, and share resources.  Great leaders are readers and this is a great place to share what God has used in your life recently to help you and encourage you.  Great leaders are readers because they have a teachable spirit and are always ready to listen to what others are doing and learn what they can from whom they can.  It has been said that someone out there knows what you need to know and has been through what you are going through.

A pastors huddle is meant to be a mentoring environment where you learn from others who have been where you desire to go and are willing to help you get there.  These fellow servants get it because they have walked in your shoes before or they will walk in your shoes soon.  There is no need or room for guilt in these huddles but hopefully it will be a place for a lot of laughter, patience, and empathy.  It is where you can discuss potential small incremental steps that may help you or another pastor to move forward in a particular area.        

A pastors huddle is a place where there needs to be a lot of flexibility and willingness to adapt.  Sometimes it will be more structured but other times it will be very organic because of someone’s need to be heard, loved on, and encouraged.  Be ready and willing to be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and not driven by an agenda or a lesson plan.  Sometimes you just need a good cup of coffee while hanging out with some good friends that will enable you to recharge and get refreshed because of the camaraderie.

Pastor, you need support and a pastors huddle is a great way to find that support.  These huddles may or may not be connected to our church health Activate process but they do not have to be.  The pastor who attends does not have to be involved in the Activate process at all.  The purpose is to encourage and help every pastor we can because church health must begin with the spiritual health of the pastor.  If you are not in a good place spiritually as the pastor then you cannot expect your church to be in a healthy place either.    

What do we have to offer one another?  We do not have all the answers nor are we the only available tool to help churches but through huddles we can offer friendship, prayers, brotherhood, connections, resources, a place to celebrate, and a willingness to listen.  We offer relationships that network us together as we look to learn from one another and encourage one another to promote love and good works.  We can offer our resources and the experience we have gained over the years as we have tried to faithfully serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.      

Are You Over-Functioning?

 The need to face your limitations openly and honestly cannot be overstated.  Leaders are not spiritual supermen.  You cannot do it all yourself, nor should you because it builds an unhealthy church culture.  You may be carrying the workload of three people but it is not healthy for you nor is it healthy for your church.  You need to consider if you really need that ministry or system if you do not have the necessary leaders to carry the workload.  There will be seasons where your workload will be overwhelming but that cannot be sustained long term.

Over-functioning has been defined as doing for others what they can and should be doing for themselves.  Instead of encouraging and empowering disciples to continue to grow and to step up to the plate, over-functioning leaders enable those around them to slide on their responsibilities.  Under-functioning disciples will continue to under-function as long as over-functioners are willing to do for them what they can and should be doing for themselves.  It is not an easy culture to build and will take a lot of prayerful planning and perseverance. 

  1. You must be willing to say no when you are already at your limit.  The stress of adding more can be debilitating.  It can wear you down physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  The busier you are the more you need your quiet time with the Lord because you cannot give what you do not have.  Your spiritual health and development cannot be rushed and it cannot exist very long on the fumes of your past spiritual disciplines.  It will suck the joy, passion, and strength out of you if you do not protect your daily walk with the Lord.
  2. You need to develop other leaders around you instead of accepting spiritual immaturity in them.  Focus on your team leaders who need you to help them cultivate their own relationships with Jesus.  How are you helping them to grow?  What are you doing intentionally to help them mature spiritually and professionally?  Lead by example in spiritual growth but also share with your team what that looks like practically.  Hold one another accountable with integrity by holding one another accountable in this process.
  3. You need to realize that God builds His church and He actually does not need you.  How blessed believers are that He desires you to be involved and that He allows you to be a part.  The reality is that He runs the world and does not need your help.  Pete Scazzero says, “We cross the line when we try to run the world for God.”  Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches, The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.”  He has not called us to produce crowds but to make disciples.
  4. Accept that what we see as of little importance God sees as very important.  God has a unique calling on every believer’s life. Think about how every believer has a role and they need to be fulfilling that role for their spiritual health and for the church’s.  I Corinthians 12: 22-23, “But even more, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary. And those parts of the body that we think to be less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unpresentable parts have a better presentation.”  Everyone in invaluable!
  5. Build a culture of integrity where we lovingly challenge others concerning having a team approach.  Be honest with yourself about your limits but also be honest with others that you need their help.  Listen to what Jethro says to his son-in-law Moses who had come to the end of his rope by over-functioning in Exodus 18:17-18, “’What you’re doing is not good,’ Moses’ father-in-law said to him.  ‘You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone.’”

Over-functioning not only burns you out as a leader but it begins to destroy the unity and community culture you are working so hard to build.  When you are over-working and over-loaded you can very easily become bitter and angry with others.  

Your perspective becomes, “Look at everything I am doing and no one around here is working as hard as I am.”  You can easily become resentful, negative, and overly focused on how you are the only one really serving the Lord.  You will become overly sensitive and judgmental if you continue down that road. 

Elijah demonstrates this when he thinks he is the only really serving the Lord in I Kings 19:17-18, “He entered a cave there and spent the night.  Then the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’  

He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.’”  You are not alone and the reality is that there are others ready to serve.  

Don’t accept the mindset of Elijah but ask yourself what the Lord asked Him, “What are you doing here Elijah?”  Get alone with the Lord and allow Him to refresh you and replenish you spiritually.  Maybe you need a break for a couple of days or even a couple of weeks.  

Step away from the over-functioning, which can lead to burnout by slowing down and seeking to be in the Lord’s presence.  Seek solitude and silence and search the scriptures as the Holy Spirit ministers to your soul.  Paul said in II Corinthians 7: 4, “I am overcome with joy in all our afflictions.”

Face Your Limits



There is a leadership principle that I have heard in conferences and read in leadership books that says,  “Lead out of your strengths and forget about your weaknesses.”  There is wisdom in that and this is not meant to dispute that principle completely because of the focus of the teaching when it was said.  We should be challenged though to recognize the truth that we all have limitations, yes we have weaknesses.  Biblically, we are told that God gets the glory through our weaknesses.

Paul in II Corinthians 12:9-10, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for 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.  So I take pleasure in weaknesses…..For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  

You are not called to ignore your weaknesses but to surrender them to the One who strengthens you.  The question has to be asked, “How do we bring the most glory to God?  Leading out of our strengths or leading out of our weaknesses?”

A case could be made to lead out of our strengths because the Lord made us and formed us with certain gifts and abilities.  These should be used for His glory and surrendered for His purposes.  It is our limits (weaknesses) that bring Him the most glory and praise because we cannot take any of the credit.  

Maybe your struggle is impatience but as you abide in Christ you can bear the fruit of patience.  We then become keenly aware that it is only because of His working in our lives that we can be patient at all.

Pete Scazzero has really helped me to look closer at embracing my limits so that God’s power could be manifested.  Much of the content in this article comes from his materials and has challenged me to realize that limits are simply God’s gifts in disguise for His grace to show up.  

You realize that even though you are the leader you are in way over your head.  That actually places you right where He wants you to be so that He can show up and show off.  It causes you to look to Him and trust Him. 

  • Moses was limited by slow speech and yet he led 3 million people out of Egypt for 40 years.  
  • Jeremiah was limited with a melancholy disposition and yet his writings have encouraged many people about the heart of God for thousands of years.  
  • John the Baptist was limited by a semi-monastic lifestyle and yet he was the one who was able to clearly see that Jesus was the Son of God.  
  • Gideon was limited by the size of His army and yet he won a victory he could not of won with his own resources.  Our limitations are opportunities for God’s power to show up.

We should not ignore our limits but rather begin looking at them as openings for God to step in and do great and mighty things.  Acknowledging our limits causes us to cry out to Him in desperation, “I cannot do this without you!”  

A biblical example of the wrong kind of leadership is Jacob.  He was unwilling to wait on God’s promised blessing and connived and cheated his brother Esau to secure that blessing.  Jacob was always manipulating those around him instead of trusting God. 

God eventually humbles him by dislocating his hip and he would walk with a limp the rest of his life.  The reality is that we are all Jacobs and we all walk with a limp.  It is much easier to hold on, be anxious, and controlling than to trust God.  We would rather make things happen and grab what we believe God has for us than to wait on Him and His timing.  

  1. We believe that doing something has to be better than doing nothing, right?  We manipulate people and events because it is easier to be our own savior than to be still and know He is God!
  2. Stillness to many of us is like death itself.  You cry out, “No Lord, please let me do something.”  You want to help and you prefer taking matters into your own hands.  Lean into your limitations and know that you do not have to manipulate.  You can trust God knowing He will show you what to do and when to act upon His plan.  
  3. There is a time to be busy and working but there is also a time to sit at Jesus’ feet enjoying His fellowship and listening to His voice.  May our heart’s desire be to be drawn by the Holy Spirit and not driven by our inner compulsions.

Exodus 14:13 spells this truth out clearly, “But Moses said to the people, Don’t be afraid.  Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet.”  

As a leader you think you always have to have a clear plan and be able to answer everyone’s questions, doubts, and confusion.  “What kind of leader will they think I am if I don’t have a solution for every situation?”

Pete Scazzero defines a limp as “whatever renders you dependent on God.”   It is where you are powerless and totally dependent upon Him.   Every believer has a limp and every church has a limp.  

Actually, our churches are a community of limpers.  Don’t deny or ignore them but rather realize that God’s grace is sufficient and in our weaknesses His power is made known!

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.