Archives for : February2016



Most pastors and ministry leaders say they have a desire for their churches to be healthy, to grow, and for their people to be properly cared for. How do we do all of that? If the pastor is the only one who cares for all of the flock that model simply will not scale! A “pastor’s heart” is a good thing but it can also lead to unsustainable expectations and burn out. This is especially true if the pastor is a people pleaser.

There are solutions to the problems we face if we will consider structuring things differently. In Lasting Impact, by Carey Nieuwhof, He says, “Sometimes things aren’t as mysterious as we make them out to be!” Case in point, Moses! The children of Israel were now in the wilderness and Moses was trying as best he could to meet all of their needs. Everyone was coming to him as the man of God to solve their problems.

Then Moses’ father-in-law Jethro says to him, “What you’re doing is not good. 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.” The size of any group does have an impact upon how you can minister to the needs of the people who belong to it. There is a difference between immediate family, extended family, and a gathering of family.

There is principle known as the “Rule of 70” which says that no matter what size your church is you can really only know 70 people personally. That is the number of an extended family. When you reach that size and grow past that size things have to change. When a church grows larger than 70 new people can no longer just walk in and make new friends. The extended family’s relational connectors are full!

Churches 70 or larger must (smaller can also) have greeters and connectors who help those who visit to meet the family and engage with them. More intentionality is needed now more than ever. In stagnant churches the greeters think their job is to welcome the regular members and that is part of it. In vibrant growing churches, the greeters see their first priority as introducing themselves to newcomers and helping them get connected to the family.

If we want to continue to add people to our church family then we must realize that Sunday morning is not just about connecting with our friends but also, and more importantly, ministering to newcomers. Growing and getting larger requires adjustments and building ministry teams to take care of and shepherd those God sends our way. This does mean that you have to structure bigger if you want to grow bigger.

Wait a minute, is this all about how “big” we get? Absolutely not! It is about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone we can. Quoting from Carey Nieuwhof again, “We’re leading people to Jesus, not to ourselves or to our awesome church. Keeping the focus on Christ ensures that genuine life change happens and lasts.” The mission of the church has never changed and remains being obedient to the Great Commission.

People will attend your services for many reasons but they stay for one reason; a relational connection with Christ and with His people. People in our culture value knowing and being known, so if 70 is the limit, you must develop a system of groups of 70’s. There are two things that every person who visits your church needs. First, they need a role – a place of service. Secondly, they need a relationship – a place in a group.

Everyone needs to accept the responsibility to be a greeter, introducer, and a host. The process of assimilation simply means practicing Biblical hospitality in an intentional caring way. Every member of the church family must desire to welcome guests at your church the same way they would welcome guests into their home. People will bond to a church where they feel cared for. If no friendships are formed they will go somewhere they can find them.

Here are some ideas to consider on how to welcome those who visit:

  • Look for someone you don’t know.
  • Introduce yourself to them by asking them polite questions about themselves or their family.
  • Offer to sit by them, if possible, or ask if they would like to sit with you.
  • Engage with them in a conversation. Try to find a subject they are interested in or ask them if they have any questions about the church and its ministry.
  • Invite them for a time of coffee, refreshments, or offer to take them to lunch.
  • Practice the 3/10 rule! Encourage everyone at the end of the services to meet and engage with three people they do not know for the 10 minutes before everyone leaves!

We must train our church family how to take successive steps to help our guests to know how to become a part of our family!!! Healthy churches realize they must have a clear strategy to move people from being outside the family to becoming a fully committed family member!

Connected to One Another

Small Groups

Our first priority is to worship God and keep Him as the focus of our lives. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” We must remain centered on God by protecting our relationship with Him through the practice of spiritual disciplines. If we are going to lead others, we must remember to lead ourselves well first. The speed of the leader does determine the speed of the team.

Yes, centered on God but we can’t stop there. We must also focus on how we will treat others around us and those closest to us. Jesus went on to say in the great commandment that we are to “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” How connected are we to our spiritual family? How connected are we to a local body of believers? How connected are we to a small group that challenges us to continue in the faith and holds us accountable? We must develop daily habits and practices that create community!

We must remember I John 4:20-21, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” The book of Acts details the journeys of the early believers for us and we see God’s people meeting in large groups and in small groups. Fellowship with other believers is a part of God’s plan for us to grow spiritually.

How do you connect people in your church to a small group that will love them, care for them, challenge them, encourage them, pray for them, and hold them accountable? That is what biblical community looks like! Yes, we all need to worship together and that is great but we also need to connect with one another on a much deeper level. That usually cannot occur in a larger setting but it can in small groups. It seems that Jesus choose 12 for a reason and Jethro told Moses to divide into groups of ten.

There is nothing magical about a particular number nor should we become legalistic but it is hard to open up individually in groups of 40-50 or larger. There are many benefits of small groups but the overall motivation is helping people move from being consumers to becoming contributors. This is not about finances but rather giving our lives to serve others. Individuals who only attend the larger events, if they stay there too long, will be tempted to function as spectators and not vested participants.

Circles of commitment were introduced by Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church and focused on us moving people from Community, to Crowd, to Congregation, to Committed, and then to Core. The idea is helping a person to spiritually mature from a very low commitment level to a very high commitment level. Small groups are where they can connect more intimately with a fellow group of Christ followers who are facing the same challenges and are willing to help one another along the way.

Small groups are one of the best ways to minister to people and make sure they are being properly loved and cared for. Here are some of the benefits of small groups:

  • It builds community! Acts 2:42 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The smaller setting gives time for sharing blessings and burdens. Community is defined as, “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
  • It provides a place where you are safe! You have an awareness that everyone is broken and has challenges. You are able to be open and transparent with one another, knowing that your group will practice confidentiality when needed. There is a spirit of grace and forgiveness present that promotes Gal. 6:1-2, “Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
  • It is a family! You are brothers and sisters in the family of God and a small group begins to function as a family unit. Oasis Church in North Little Rock, AR, says it this way in their core values, “We believe in talking to people not about people. We value resolving differences with one another. We believe that gossip and slander are toxic to our church family. We encourage talking to those who have offended us with the goal of reconciliation. We value speaking to the person in the right way, with the right motive, and at the right time.”

Small groups provide an excellent system to make sure people are being cared for spiritually first and also physically, emotionally, and relationally. They stay connected and cannot fall through the cracks unnoticed by the crowd. When they are sick, the members of the small group are the first responders. When they need prayer their small group is their prayer warriors. When they are struggling and need encouragement their small group is their cheering squad.

We must remain centered on God by loving Him more. Then we must stay connected to one another through meaningful spiritual relationships that build a sense of camaraderie. This is defined as, “a feeling of good friendship among the people in a group.” Friends of God and friends to one another that you can count on. Loving God more and loving one another more!

When you think of community and being connected to one another here is how you can describe it:

  • People Knowing and Being Known
  • People Loving and Being Loved
  • People Serving and Being Served
  • People Celebrating and Being Celebrated




Leadership is all about influence. True leaders earn the right to lead because of who they are and not the title or position they hold. The best leaders are those who understand who they are and that God has called them to serve others. Mark 10:45 is a very familiar verse, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life —a ransom for many.” We know the challenge that is given, but have we really looked at the context of this passage?

Jesus opens up this discourse in Mark by saying, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you.” Our leadership “style” should be different from the corporate world, upper management, and the survival of the fittest mentality. Jesus set the example for us by humbling himself, washing the feet of His disciples, and always thinking of others first.

Before you can lead others you must first be able to lead yourself. Here is a great question to ask yourself: What is it like to sit across the table from you? How do people react when they see you coming? One of the greatest tools we need to have is self-awareness. All of us have blind spots but we must have self-awareness of our strengths and weaknesses. You must know yourself, know the skills you need to have, and most importantly, know Christ intimately.

You must lead yourself before you can ever lead others. The natural progression should be to lead yourself, then lead others, and then to lead leaders. As a church, think of it this way: You want to stay centered on God, connected to one another, and concerned about your community. If you are in a leadership role never forget this; “Speed of the leader, speed of the team!” As a leader, it is your responsibility to take care of your spiritual walk and then to continually point others toward the Lord.

Staying centered on God requires developing faith habits to focus us on loving God more. Then staying connected to one another requires developing love habits that build a strong community of strong believers. We desire to love people more. Then, when we are centered and connected we need to remain concerned about our community. We need to develop hope habits that bless people who are far from God and demonstrate the love of God to them in practical ways. We want to love more people.

How do you become a leader worth following? Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” You must develop faith habits that draw you close to God and continue to build your relationship with him. As a church you must keep your people focused on walking with the Lord. Do you have a clear path for people in your church to continue to grow and develop in their Christian walk? Have you thought through processes that will keep you and your people moving forward?

  1. What daily discipleship engine will you use? There are many good daily devotional books and Bible reading programs. There are phone apps and multiple other resources but you might want to consider a plan that everyone in the church can participate in together. One such personal discipleship engine is S.O.A.P. It is a journaling Bible study method that focused on Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. Consider providing a schedule for everyone to read the same scripture daily.
  2. How are you promoting prayer? You must teach and disciple people on how to pray. The daily discipline of talking and listening to the Lord must be developed. Think of the word P.R.A.Y. Begin by praising him (“Our Father which art in heaven”), then repent (“forgive us our trespasses”), then ask (“give us this day our daily bread”), and then yield (“Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”). The best way to learn to pray is to hear a prayer partner pray.
  3. Focus on worshipping God. Have you developed an environment that causes everyone to look upward? From the opening of the service to its conclusion everything must point to the Lord high and lifted up. It is wisdom to have a worship planning system in place that strives to be Holy Spirit directed in every part of the worship service. Teach your people the importance of individual worship but also of worshipping together as the body of Christ. Let us offer up the sacrifice of praise.
  4. How will you connect people to the church? Do people know what the “next steps” are for them to take as a part of the church? Is there a clear path for them to get connected with a small group (Sunday School class, Bible study, etc) that will care for them, love them, and minister to them? If people are not able to connect with a small group they usually will not stay connected to the church. They will most likely begin to become disinterested, drift away, and eventually drop out.
  5. Provide people with entry level service opportunities. Once again they need to know not only what the “next steps” are for connecting but also for how they can serve and get involved. Make people aware of how they can help and that they can “kick the tires” on different ministries. Allow them the opportunity to see if a particular ministry fits their gift mix, and if not, help them find them one that does. Have everyone fill out an information sheet so they can sign up for what interests them.

Remember, we must first be leaders worth following so that we can lead others to Jesus and a walk with Him!



The story is told of a lady who every Sunday would comment to the pastor about what he had preached. If he preached on prayer she would say, “Oh pastor, I aim to pray more!” If he preached on witnessing she would say, “I aim to share my faith more!” After this happening every Sunday the pastor finally remarked, “With all due respect, you need to quit aiming your gun and pull the trigger!” How true that is of so many followers of Christ who have good intentions but struggle to follow through.

Values drive us but there is often a disconect between what we say we value and whether or not we actually live out that value. Be careful about asking God to guide your footsteps if you are not willing to move your feet! The book of James makes this very clear in 1:22 when he says, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” He also says in 4:17, “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.”

Here are some values that churches all agree upon. First, the lostness of man! We know that man cannot save himself and is far from God. John 3:18 says, “Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” Do we really believe that? If we did, wouldn’t we be doing more to let people know that there is a Savior who loves them and desires a relationship with them?

Second, the length of eternity! The soul of man separated him from the rest of creation because man has an eternal nature. Death does not end our existence! Heb. 9:27-28 makes it clear, “And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment —so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” Should this not make us more passionate in sharing our faith?

Third, the love of God! I love Rom. 5:8 because it says, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Jesus said that He had come to seek and to save the lost! He also conveyed who He had come to save in Mark 2:17, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Shouldn’t knowing and having experienced the love of God move His disciples into action by showing and sharing His love?

If these are truly our values, why does it not change the way we live? Why do polls say that only 5% of people who say they are Christians ever share their faith? There is a disconnect in far too many churches and Christians between what we say we believe and what we actually practice. One necessary thing is to finally admit and acknowledge the gap between the two and begin to do something about it. Unfortunately, we are always “aiming” to do more but nothing changes!

Many seem to be living in the vast wilderness between aspirational goals and actual behaviors. Andy Stanley has said, “Knowledge alone makes Christians haughty. Application makes us Holy.” The book of James is all about pointing out that the true believer will never be satisfied with merely knowing the word without obeying the word of God. We are challenged to not only be dedicated to studying the word of God but also to the faithful obedience of it’s commands.

What practices do you have in place that show you really do value the lostness of man, the length of eternity, and the love of God? There are two primary things to consider about practices that will help you carry out your values in this area. They are simple and do not require you to be an expert. If we really value people they way God values them we will develop these practices. Luke 15 shows us that God values the lost and as His followers we must value them also.

  •      The first practice is investing in their lives. Think of ways to show and display the love of Christ to those with whom you have contact every day. How can you help them? How can you bless them? Be prepared to build relationships with them by listening to them. Remember, if you want to be a bridge to people for Christ, you have to be willing to be walked on sometimes. Loving people can be very messy but it is always worthwhile.
  •      Second, make sure you invite them to church, small groups, or some activity where they can be loved by others. The invitation will mean so much more when you already have earned a right to speak into their lives. This takes time so do not get discouraged. Keep watering the seed that you have sown and continue investing in them even when they turn down your invitations. Also, invite them to go golfing, fishing, or some other hobby that has interest for both of you.

There are certain values that we all aspire to but that is not enough. Good intentions will never get the job done or complete the task. Goals help us to see what we are working toward but without tbut edged daily practices they will never be reached. What practices will you begin to implement in order to invest in people who are far from God? What can you do daily that will display the love of Christ in a practical way?

Healthy churches are always investing and inviting!