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12 Practical Steps For a Prayer Retreat

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Mac Lake says, “Too often I wake hurried to do things for God when what I really need is to slow down and hear from God!” Dynamic Church Planting International teaches the Power Principle which says, “Prayer is the indispensable source of God’s power and wisdom in each phase of church planting.” DCPI gives these 12 practical steps to having a prayer retreat:

Step 1: Go to your Retreat Site and Rest. The location of your retreat is a matter of personal preference. The real issue is to go away to be with the Lord. “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him… Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place” (Mk 6:30-32).

Step 2: Pray for your retreat. James 1:5 is one of our most precious Bible promises. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Step 3: Plan your retreat. Proverbs 14:22 promises that those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness. So lay out, step by step, what you need to be in prayerful planning about during your retreat time. The numbers of issues that you have to resolve will affect how much time you have for other steps.

Step 4: Repent of your sins. We believe it isn’t possible to receive guidance from God or to enjoy His fellowship, unless you first repent of your sins and receive His cleansing. Jesus said, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:19, 20).

Step 5: Thankfully review how God has been working. You’ll want to think back, and take an inventory of the many ways God has been blessing your life. When you look back over the last few months of your life, it is then more possible to see how God is working. Giving thanks for what He is doing can lead to insight about what the next steps might be, as He leads you in the future.

Step 6: Submit to God’s plans for you. As we prepare to write down our issues and questions and problems, we may already be thinking about how we would like them to turn out. Proverbs 19:21 counsels us, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.” To realize God’s best for our lives and ministries, we must want and be willing to submit to His plans.

Step 7: Devour the Word of God and take notes. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path,” promises Ps. 119:105. Ask God to guide you into the right books of the Bible to read for your retreat. Then read and read and read some more. Jot down notes about specific verses or thoughts that you have while reading the Bible. Often God will bring verses back to you during your listening time.

Step 8: Write down your specific issues and questions. What are the specific issues and questions that you really need to hear from God about? When King David was confronted by a Philistine threat, he inquired of God using two specific questions: “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” The LORD answered him, “Go, I will hand them over to you.” What a great example! King David asked the Lord two specific questions, and the Lord answered each one specifically.

Step 9: Meet with God in a quiet place. Listen and take notes. Consider Elijah, who was discouraged, and needed guidance from God. He found his quiet place in a cave (1 Kings 19:9-13). The Lord instructed him to stand outside the cave, and wait for the Lord to pass by. First came a great wind, followed by an earthquake, and then a fire. But the Lord was not in any of these earth-shattering forces of nature. Finally the Lord spoke in a gentle whisper.

Step 10: Prayerfully respond in writing to your questions and issues. Look to match the thoughts from meeting with God in a quiet place with the issues and questions you have recorded. There will probably be many issues and questions for which there is no specific guidance. Take time to specifically think about these issues and questions, and record your thoughts as before. If you have been prepared by God through this process for consecrated thinking, you should be able to think and plan clearly during your prayer retreats.

Step 11: Receive Counsel from wise, godly people. There are pitfalls when you try to listen to God. You could be wrong. Even after repentance and submission, your motives could be wrong. You could be hearing what you want to hear. You could have had a bad dinner the night before. Counsel from wise godly people is a solution to this pitfall. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22).

Step 12: Plan to communicate your thoughts and delegate Tasks. As you consider your thoughts and decisions, ask yourself, who needs to know? To whom do I need to communicate these thoughts? Family members? Church leaders? Friends? How do you need to communicate these thoughts and decisions? And as a Christian leader, to whom do you need to delegate the tasks that emerged from your retreat?

When will you plan your prayer retreat?

Extraordinary Prayer

PRAY

Pastors Oasis this year was excellent and we were challenged to seek through prayer an extraordinary movement of the Spirit of God that produces extraordinary results.  Bill Eliff and Todd West did a wonderful job of reminding us of the need to cry out to God in desperation.  Without God and His power in our ministries everything can and will come crashing down like a house of cards.  Bill Eliff asked, “How in the world do we think we can build the church if we are not interceding with the head of the church?”

Is your prayer life ordinary or is it extraordinary!  The one thing Nehemiah did night and day for over four months was the only thing that could save his nation; he prayed!  We talk about prayer often but how often do we pray?  We talk about fervent prayer but how often do we pray fervently?  We talk about praying without ceasing but how often do we pray unceasing, unrelenting, and unending prayers?  We often say we have not because we ask not but how often have we asked with desperation?

Todd West chllenged us with the need for a time of retreat in our lives.  We need to to place a self-imposed time into the regular rhythm of our lives to break away every so often for a focused time of prayer.  We should divert daily, withdraw weekly, measure monthly, and quartine ourselves quarterly.  Mac Lake says, “Too often I wake hurried to do things for God when what I really need is to slow down and hear from God!”  Psalm 27:14 says,  “Wait for the Lord; be strong  and courageous. Wait for the Lord.”

What is a prayer retreat?  In our Dynamic Church Planting International training a prayer retreat is defined as, “A time you set aside to go away to be alone with God.”  Let’s examine this definition, one phrase at a time.

  • First, “A time you set aside.”  A personal prayer retreat must be a time that you intentionally schedule and then not allow anything to keep you from having. We are all so incredibly busy, it is easy to be trapped into doing the urgent rather than the important.

Is there any time more important than the time you could spend alone with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? I consider the time that I schedule for my personal prayer retreats the most important time that I will invest in any given year.  If you don’t set it aside, you simply will not have a personal prayer retreat. Other responsibilities will suck up all your time. Satan wants to keep you from enjoying this sweet fellowship with God. He loves for you fill your schedule with everything but a block of time to experience the Lord.

  • Second, “to go away.”  You must determine a good location.  Make sure that you “go away” for your personal prayer retreat. Trying to “retreat” at home or at the office will be frustrating. There are too many distractions in these places. We need to go away in order to focus on being with the Lord.  We live down in the valley—the valley of our everyday lives, where it’s too noisy to hear God very well. In the valley we have too much to do, too many people to talk with, too many problems, too much time pressure.

We need to leave this valley of noise and pressure, and get away to the quiet of God’s presence.  Why?

  • Third; “to be alone with God.”  You must free yourself of all distractions.  This is the essence of a prayer retreat… to be alone with God. In the intimacy of fellowship, your relationship with the Lord will be renewed. You will experience Him. And then you’ll ask Him what He wants to do in your personal life, in your family, and in your ministry. Usually, I find that God wants to work in all three areas during most prayer retreats.

Get alone with God and let him reveal what he wants to share with you.  Wayne Cordeiro describes prayer as “thinking in the presence of God.”  When you plan a retreat consider having at least four sessions focusing on this acronym for pray (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield) out of the Model Prayer.

  • Praise Him!  “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.”  Use the Psalms, praise music, and count your blessings.  Write in your journal the multiple blessings of the Lord.
  • Repent of your sin!  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Spend time focusing on your sin and ask God to reveal any impure motives you may have in your heart.
  • Ask!  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Now that you have spent time in praise and repentance you begin to make your requests known unto Him.
  • Yield to Him!  “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  There must be total surrender to His leading and direction.

When entering a prayer retreat ask the Lord to guide you to a particular passage in the scriptures to focus on.  Remember, He speaks to us through His word and we must always be asking ourselves two questions.  What is He saying? And what does He want us to do about it?  As you read the scripture He has led you to being looking for a sin to confess, a command to obey, or a promise to claim!  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

When will you plan your prayer retreat?

Refresh, Renew, & Recharge

 

Recharge

            “I would rather wear out than rust out!”  That statement has been attributed to President Teddy Roosevelt and has been repeated many times, including me.  It sounds good and gives a sense of being a hard worker and not lazy but maybe it reveals weakness more than strength.  One Christian website recently reported that their most watched video in the last 30 days was “Resources for Hurting Pastors.”  The reality is that God does not want us to burnout but to be refreshed, renewed, and recharged in Him on a regular basis.  Offering water to thirsty souls requires you to make sure that you are personally drinking from the fountain.

            Burnout can occur when we allow too much “stuff” to clutter our daily lives.  If we do not allow God to control our calendars than circumstances, conflicts, and contentious people will.  Many have surrendered part of their lives to the Lord but struggle when it comes to surrendering their calendars to Him.  This is why we need to meet with Him daily and show our love for Him by setting time aside to sit at His feet and hear from Him.  Also, we need to withdraw weekly from the hustle and bustle of this chaotic world we live in today.  It is difficult at times to slow down and unplug from the busyness of the ministry.   

In a sermon by PJ Noland on keeping the Sabbath holy he said, “Are you responding to people out of burnout or holiness?”  The answer to that question is found in whether we are allowing God to pour His holiness into us.  We will never be what God wants us to be without taking the time to rest in Him.  It is in during these regular times of spiritual rest that our souls can be refreshed, renewed, and recharged.  Thom Rainer in his blog wrote about Seven Keys to Preventing Pastoral Burnout.  Here are three that relate to resting in the Lord:

  • ·        Be intentional about down time. Pastors need it. Their families need it. Every week. Don’t skip vacations. Go on occasional retreats. Don’t lose your family by trying to save your church.
  • ·        Do not neglect your prayer life. Pastors told me repeatedly that, as their prayer life waned, their burnout increased. Prayer was first ongoing conversations with God. But it was also a time for spiritual refueling.
  • ·        Do not neglect your time in the Word. We heard similar stories from pastors who began neglecting their time in the Bible. As that time waned, burnout increased. All the pastors noted that time in the Word was time beyond sermon preparation. It was a time of personal devotion and study.

Psalms 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Make sure that you have surrendered your calendar to the lord so that you sit silently alone in His presence weekly and daily.  These times are necessary to replenish your souls.  We live in a very noisy world and there is more now than ever speaking into lives that may not be of God.  Everyone is connected to something all the time ie.; cell phone, Facebook, MP3 player, TV, and the list could go on and on!  We must unplug the noise of technology in order for the Lord to pour His nutrients back into our souls!

Don’t wear out, rust out or burnout but rather schedule time to be refreshed by the Lord.  My friend and church planter Rob Hager constantly reminds his people and others that God does have a better way.  He tells us to Submit, Surrender, & Sync or you will struggle, strive, and strain.  You submit to the Father like Jesus (not my will), then you surrender completely like Jesus (crucified with Christ). And then you can sync to the Spirit like Christ (I only say/do what I see the Father saying/doing). 

You see God really does have a better way for us and it begins with surrender.  We must surrender our time to Him so that we do not burnout.  We can be refreshed, renewed, and recharged.  Set apart time every day and weekly, a Sabbath, so that in silence, solitude, and simplicity He can pour the spiritual nutrients into your soul that all of us so desperately need.  Thanks PJ for allowing God to use you to challenge me and to inspire this article.  Thanks for the quote by Matthew Sleeth, “Sabbath is simply presented not as a rule to be kept but a freedom to be entered into.”

Here are some refresh, recharge, and renew rhythms we all need in our lives:

  • Divert Daily – Make sure you are practicing your daily time with the Lord.  His mercies are new and fresh each morning.  Approach His word with two questions: What are you saying to me? And, what do you want me to do about it?
  • Withdraw Weekly – Everyone needs a day off to recharge.  What is it that recharges your battery?  What can you do to unplug from the normal and can refresh you spiritually, emotionally and physically?
  • Measure Monthly – It is good to review on what you have accomplished.  Praise God for the victories and count the many blessings in your life, family, and ministry.  Pray for the challenges of the next month!
  • Quarantine Quarterly – Make sure you get a way for a prayer retreat at least every three months.  This is a focused time to hear from the Lord and to hear His still small voice.
  • Abandon Annually –  Go on vacation and get away to allow yourself time to unwind and recharge.  Also consider every year going to a conference that will feed your soul and pour into your life and ministry!

Keep It Simple

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Years ago, I remember being told before I preached not to forget K. I. S. S. (Keep it Short Stupid). There are other versions I have heard though the years and the word stupid, I am sure, is no longer politcally correct (tongue firmly placed against cheek). It has been used more often to stand for Keep it Simple Stupid.  That is great advice for our lives, families, and churches.

All too often we fall prey to the “more is better” mantra thinking that the busier we are the more effective we will be. That is not necessarily so! Much has been written, and is being said, about simplifying our lives and making them less complex.  Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger have written Simple Church. Recently Bill Hybels released Simplify.

In Good to Great by Jim Collins he says, “Most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives. We have ever-expanding ‘to-do’ lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing—and doing more. And it rarely works.”  Dave Browning in Deliberate Simplicity says, “If the paradigm doesn’t work, executing the paradigm better actually makes it worse.”

While simplicity is needed, the reality is that simple is not easy and takes a lot of hard work. In the Leadership Journal, Angie Ward makes this clear, “Simple Church is a great, easy-to-understand concept that many churches need to hear. But the process implementing it is not all that simple. My fear is that the difficulty of the process will get lost on readers who are looking for a quick fix for their ministry.” She later says, “The philosophy is simple. The process is not!” Exactly!!!

Think about the word simple. It is actually quite complex with at least eleven definitions in the dictionary.

  • Simple is defined as easy to understand and deal with such as in a simple matter.
  • Simple is described as plain; not elaborate or artificial as in a simple style.
  • It means unadorned, not ornate or luxurious like a simple gown.
  • Simple is defined as not complicated and implies a simple design.
  • It can also mean singular, common, ordinary, and refers to the fundamentals. It can describe a simple way of life and refer to simple folk.

We need to think simple in our churches and ministries and here are a couple of guidelines:

  • First, make sure you present and handle the gospel well. The gospel must be handled carefully and correctly. It really is the simple plan of salvation but the doctrine of salvation must be covered well in explaining sin, repentance, and redemption. Every believer should be able to sit down with a pre-believer and show them God’s requirements on how to be born again. Every church should equip every member in how to biblically present the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sound theology is not complicated but it is imperative.
  • Second, have a clear vision of who your church is and why you exist. Be careful to focus on the 2-3 things you do well instead of the 50-60 you do so-so. The New Testament metric was loving God and loving others. Your church needs to stay centered (Love God More) through worship, it needs to stay connected (Love People More) through community, and it needs to stay concerned (Love More People) through outreach. It really is simple but it is not very easy.
  • Third, have a process of discipleship where everyone understands the next steps. What are those next steps and what do they look like? The early church was focused on relationships and did not have all the programs we think are essential today. There is nothing wrong with programs but are they producing disciples? It is easy to become bogged down with time-consuming activities that are tiring but not effective.

When focusing on keeping it simple it is good to remember Meyer’s Law which says, “It is a simple task to make things complex, but a complex task to make them simple.” It is easy to be complex and allow more and more frenetic activity to rule the day.

Keeping it simple requires:

  • A lot of prayer! In Deliberate Simplicity, Dave Browning says, “God has been extraordinarily gracious and kind to us, and if He were ever to withdraw His hand of blessing, our ministry would fall like a house of cards.” How true that is, and if we desire God’s direction we must spend time in our prayer closets seeking His face.
  • A lot of brain-storming and thinking! In Divine Mentor, Wayne Cordeiro describes prayer as thinking in the presence of God. There is a partnership between us and Him. There is no doubt that we cannot do it without Him but He has chosen to use us for His glory. We must work hard to cooperate with Him in where He is leading and working.
  • A lot of discipline and saying no! Keeping it simple requires a lot more time and attention. It requires meeting with staff and team leaders to make sure that everyone is on the same page protecting the vision. Praying together and planning together as a team can help to ensure that you are focused on working smarter and not just harder. We must keep asking, “What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?”

Here are a few more quotes to consider in your desire to keep it simple:

  • “In our increasingly complex world, nothing works more powerfully than simplicity.” – Howard Beckwith.
  • “The secret of concentration is elimination.” – Howard Hendricks.
  • “The real work isn’t acquisition. It is good reliable filtering.” – Eric Garland.

Keeping it simple means focusing on the crystal clear commands of Jesus Christ in Matt. 22:37-40, “He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Make sure you ask the following questions about your vision, values, ministries, and systems:

  • Is it easy to follow and understand?
  • Is it reproducible?
  • Is it transferable?

Pastor, You Need A Friend

With recently hearing that 50 pastors a day are leaving the ministry my prayer is that this repost will be an encouragement to you.  You are not in this alone!!!

   Paul Becker of Dynamic Church Planting International recently shared this story. “Sundar Singh, a Christian missionary, was walking across the Himalaya Mountains from India to Tibet.  He was walking with another man to a village.  The weather was terrible.  It was extremely cold and stormy.  There was snow and ice on the trail and they were at a very high altitude.  Suddenly, Sundar looked down and saw a man who had fallen.  He said to his traveling companion, ‘We must go and save that man.’  But his companion said, ‘No.  If we try to save him, we will all die.’ 

     Sundar insisted on helping the fallen man.  His companion kept walking toward the village alone.  Sundar reached the fallen man and helped him up.  With their arms around each other’s shoulders, they struggled toward the village.  Just before they got there, they saw a man frozen to death on the trail.  It was Sundar’s first companion.  Sundar realized that it was their body heat and their struggle together that had kept him and the fallen man alive.”  We need each other!

     Ecclesiastes 4:11 says, “Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?”  Life change does not happen in a vacuum; it happens in relationship with others.  Ministry was never meant to be done by Lone Rangers!  According to H. B. London, Jr. in Pastors at Greater Risk, 70 percent of all pastors do not have someone they consider a close friend.  Ron Edmondson offers these seven suggestions for a pastor and pastor’s spouse finding friends:

     Be willing to go outside the church – The simple fact is that there may not be someone you can truly trust, who is willing to keep confidences, and willing to always be in your corner, inside the church. Much of this will depend on the size of your church. I have a few of these friends in our church, but it is fairly large. I also have some true friends outside the church.

     Consider bonding with another pastor – I guarantee you…not too far from you is a pastor just as lonely or in need of a friend as you are feeling. I’ve found that if I follow the Tweets, blog posts, Facebook updates, or check out the church website of another pastor that I can find out a lot about our similarities. Then I take a chance and reach out to him. You can begin a relationship online and turn it into a vital relationship. This is valuable enough to Cheryl and me that we’ve been willing to invest in traveling to visit with friends who live in other cities, but chances are good for most pastors they won’t have to travel that far.

     Build the relationship slowly – I’ve seen too many times where a person wants an intimate, accountable, life-giving relationship that begins instantly. I’m sure that happens occasionally, but I don’t think it’s the normal way. Take some time to invest in the friendship. My guess is you’re looking for a longer-term relationship, so be willing to build it over a long-term.

     Find common ground – Do you enjoy fishing, dining, travel, golf, or Nascar? Who are some people, whether pastors or laypeople who have similar interests to you? Take an afternoon to play a round of golf with them. Ask them to lunch. Hang out with them. I meet with a friend now regularly that I met this way. We simply started having lunch together. We’ve since traveled together as couples, but it started with a lunch invitation to a guy I saw who seemed to enjoy the subject of leadership as much as I did.

     Look for someone healthy – This is critical. You won’t find someone perfect, but you need someone who is not looking for you to always be the minister. They do exist. Most of the time as pastors our attention is focused more on the ones desperate for our attention. Who are the people around you who don’t need much from you right now? You’ll need this healthy relationship to nourish you when you don’t feel as healthy.

     Be intentional – You don’t often find a friend unless you go looking for one. Recognize the value in true friends, make it a matter of prayer and a goal for your life, then begin to look for one. I’ve found I’m more likely to hit a target I am specifically aiming to hit.

     Take a risk – You’ll eventually have to make yourself vulnerable and risk being hurt to find true friends. I realize that is scary, especially if you’ve been hurt before, but finding true friendships is worth the risk. Be careful building these type friendships, but don’t allow fear to keep you from having them.

     Pastor, you need a friend!

Pastors are Hurting

In 2 Cor. 11:28-30, Paul said, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” Tom Rainer, President of Lifeway, recently shared a survey given to pastors about two primary sources of personal struggle in the ministry. It proves that the challenges of the pastorate today are real and need to be admitted so that they might be addressed and resolved.  “Not all the news about pastors is discouraging. Pastors feel privileged to be called to their places of ministry. They have a deep love for those they shepherd. Most of them could not conceive of doing anything else. But please hear me: Many pastors are hurting.

The Discouragement Factor: One of the key symptoms of the pain experienced by pastors is discouragement. Over one-half (55%) of pastors are presently discouraged. I suspect that if we surveyed pastors over just a few months, we would find that almost all of them experience deep discouragement.  Some interesting facts we discovered in our study:

  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the geographical location of the church.
  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the size of the church.
  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the educational level of the pastor.
  • There was a significant pattern of discouragement related to the age of the pastor. The younger the pastor, the more likely he was to be discouraged.

The Loneliness Factor: Most pastors experience intense loneliness at times. When we conducted our survey, over one-half again (coincidentally the same number, 55%, as noted above) said they were lonely. Again remember that this survey was for a specific point in time. Which pastors experience the greatest amount of loneliness? Our study noted some discernible patterns:

  • There was no pattern of loneliness related to the geographical location of the church.
  • Younger pastors were more likely to be lonely than older pastors.
  • The larger the church, the greater the likelihood that the pastor was experiencing loneliness.
  • The greater the education level of the pastor, the more likely he is to be lonely.

Why the Pervasive Discouragement and Loneliness?” Rainer in an earlier blog offered the following as reasons pastors are struggling today and some are experiencing depression: spiritual warfare, unrealistic expectations, greater platforms for critics, failure to take time away from the church or place of ministry, workaholism, marriage and family problems, neglecting his family as he cares for the larger church family, financial strains, the problem of comparison.  Rainer went on to say, “This one thing I do know. Pastors need our prayers more than ever. They need our support and encouragement. I am committed to pray for my pastor every day, even if it’s only for a minute or so. Will you do the same? Our pastors pour out their lives for us daily. What can you do to help our pastors?”

Allow me to recommend to you, Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro.

Grace-Giver vs Truth-Teller

Scales

Churches are under attack today!  Finger pointing has become an art and the question of who to blame comes up quite often. Some say we have been too hard on the church and others say we have not been hard enough.  Generations begin to pick teams and square off against one another  because some believe we are trying to change too much while others believe we have not even begun to change as much as is needed.  One blogger I recently read said the church looks far more like Fiona the ogre than Carmen Diaz in Shrek.  Another church consultant said people are taking swings at the church like a low hanging piñata on Cinco de Mayo.

The prophets around us tell us that churches are failing and God is pulling candlesticks left and right.  The eternal optimists just hate to say anything negative and will only share encouraging words.  When talking about the state of churches in America there is a natural tension that has developed between the grace-givers and the truth-tellers.  I must admit that I struggle with the balance between the two.  This struggle reminds me of an episode of Andy Griffith when a boy Opie’s age was about to receive a spanking.  Andy asked him if he thought the boy deserved it.  Opie told his Pa that he hated to say because he was one of his own kind.

That is how I feel when I hear some who speak so despairingly about the Lord’s churches.  I know they may deserve it but I believe so strongly in the church.  Tension is created by the challenge of being truthful about the sad spiritual condition of so many churches without appearing judgmental or belittling those who have faithfully followed their Lord for years.  An older pastor was about to speak at a leadership conference when he heard three young men expressing their disdain that all the speakers were old and they were sick of nostalgia.  As this man went to the pulpit he placed his hand on the shoulder of one of the young men and said, “You know the only thing worse than nostalgia is amnesia.”

We must always remember and respect those who have gone before us leaving a legacy because without them there would not be anything to build upon.  The other side of the coin, though, is that if we do not allow the younger men to step up to the plate what was built will crumble and fall into pieces.  Here is the truth: We are losing the younger generation!  Only 31% of those in their twenties attend church in a typical week while 49% of those forty and older attend.  Since 1991 the number of adults who do not attend church regularly has almost doubled.

The truth is that maybe the way we do church is the problem.  Please know that if God is greatly blessing your church then you should praise Him but realize that most churches that are growing are doing so by transfer growth.  Nothing necessarily wrong with that but can we really call it growth when right at 50% of all churches in America did not add one new person through conversion growth last year.  It seems that what so many churches have invested in is not returning results that God is interested in.  Can we really say that God’s mission is the driving force of churches today with such a staggering statistic?

The Baylor Religious survey reports that, “Persons aged 18 to 30 are three times more likely to have no religious affiliation (18.6) than are persons 65 or older (5.4 percent).  While we could just say it is a sign of the times we must also ask ourselves how much of this trend is our fault because of our refusal to do anything about changing ourselves or our approaches to ministry?  It appears that all the activity that has kept our churches busy has done so without giving us any of the results that Jesus emphasized.

“Without blaming church leaders, the church at large, or denominations, we can at least acknowledge that something must change to reverse the trends.  We need to start by doing some things we haven’t been doing, and we must stop doing some things we have been doing,” Hugh Halter and Matt Smay in The Tangible Kingdom.  What are you going to do about the reality of the lack of conversion growth in your church?