Closing the back door is more about keeping the front door wide open. The spirit and atmosphere that makes a church inviting is the same spirit and atmosphere that makes people want to stay.
Church leaders have been talking about “closing the back door” for years. It’s a good conversation. After all, it is frustrating to see visitors come, people say yes to Jesus, get baptized and maybe even attend a new Christian’s class. And yet, the church still struggles to grow. People seem to be coming in the front and going out the back.
I’ve been in church all my life. Along the way, I’ve seen and learned a lot. Almost all the insight I have into church has come by experience.
I have observed, for example, that paradigms can often shape a church’s culture. A paradigm, in simple terms, is a mind-set—a way of thinking. In this case, it's a collective mind-set of the church, often programmed into the church’s culture.
If the church is unhealthy, part of the reason could be because it has some wrong paradigms. In that case, it will almost always need a paradigm shift in order to be a healthier church again.
Recently, I’ve been thinking of some of the paradigms that impact a church. I’ll look at some of the negative ones in this post, and in another post I'll share some of the positive paradigms that can impact a church.
Our culture says bigger is better. But in the kingdom of God, less is often more.
There’s nothing more disheartening to a preacher than to see empty seats in a church service. I’ll be honest—I like meetings where you have to pull out extra chairs and put people in the aisles. Why? Because I assume if God’s blessing is on a meeting it will be packed. I like numbers because, in my carnal thinking, crowds are more significant.
Our culture puts value on things depending on how popular they are, and we are guilty of applying this rule in the church. We like big. We even rate churches based on size. We know that the three largest churches in America in 2013 are (1) Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, (2) Andy Stanley’s North Point Ministries and (3) Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Community Church. The assumption is that these churches are leading the way in making spiritual impact.
Nearly all pastors and ministry staff, volunteer leaders too, lean a little more toward evangelism or discipleship (one or the other) in their personal bent and wiring. According to Matthew 28:19-20 they are both essential and should not be separated, so neither is better than the other.
I believe that the church (in North America for sure), naturally moves toward discipleship on its own; therefore we need to intentionally fight for evangelism. But that’s my personal opinion.
Easter is a good picture of the balance of both. For weeks we build toward Easter Sunday. We run a full-court press for evangelism. Then what? Is it over? What’s your plan? Is it business as usual, or do you take advantage of that great momentum?
Authentic leaders have to be approachable and real. Over the years at Catalyst, we’ve tried to be authentic as an organization and as a leadership movement. We strive to be available, answering e-mails quickly, and even posting our e-mails on our website. We’ve maintained a concierge service since we started Catalyst that made following up with folks and connecting personally a priority. It’s incredibly important to us that we are authentic, humble, and personable. No matter how big our organization gets, we want to maintain this essential trait.
I try my best to be personable, even as Catalyst continues to grow. When you are in a hurry or think someone isn’t worth your time, remember that you were once in that position. One piece of advice I tell leaders all the time is when you’re small, act big. And when you’re big, act small.
Blessed are the flexible! There may not be a greater secret to success in serving another person’s ministry.
In the first chapter of my book The Blessing of Serving Another Man’s Ministry, I shared the dramatic encounter I had with God as a young student at Oral Roberts University—and how He revealed His calling to serve another man’s ministry as I crossed the walking bridge from the student parking lot to the ORU campus. God spoke a few weeks later in our chapel service as Dr. Morris Cerullo ministered—that this was the man He had called me to stand by and serve. (You can read more about this here.
When I left the ORU chapel that spring morning, I was certain that after my experience with God, when I called the Morris Cerullo World Evangelism (MCWE) offices, I would immediately be asked to travel and minister with Dr. Cerullo.
In a team environment, where people are empowered to lead, new ideas produce change—often faster than any other way.
I’ve tried to practice this as a leader. That’s why I encourage attending conferences when possible. I pass along blogs and podcasts. We often read books together as a staff.
As long as people are allowed to dream—and the leader doesn’t have to control everything—when the team is introduced to new ideas, ideas produce energy and momentum. As team members attempt something new, change happens ... quickly.
It doesn’t have to be monumental change to create excitement. Tweaks, slight improvements, small adjustments ... those can create an atmosphere and an appetite for change on a team. There is always less resistance to major change when change is a part of the culture.
On my last day in Ko Olina, Hawaii, I was reminded of a discussion we had two weeks ago in Manila about burdens. Here is an expanded version of what I shared.
1. Distinguish between a load and a burden. There is a difference between a load and a burden. The Bible tells us to carry our own load (Gal. 6:5) but it also tells us to carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Loads are regular occurrences we are designed to carry. Examples of these are: caring for our love ones, work entrusted to us, providing for our families, even connecting with people God wants us to reach.
Burdens on the other hand are those that are beyond our ability to carry. This could be due to something unexpected, unknown or unusual. The first step in turning burdens into spiritual muscles is to correctly identify them. Is it a load or a burden? Once you have identified a burden, it’s time to…
We humans are great starters, but often bad finishers. We leave unfinished symphonies, unfinished buildings, unfinished books or unfinished projects. We may not always finish what we start, but God always finishes what he starts.
God doesn’t create a bird and give him half a wing. He didn't create an unfinished flower or an unfinished star. He puts the finishing touches on everything he does, and then he says, “It is good.”
In the book, Zombies, Football and the Gospel, Reggie Joiner talks of how Sundays are now a day to watch football, be with family, and do just about anything else but church. I know that this varies from one city to another, but the reality is that most just don’t feel the need to be at church every week.
Have you imagined all that happens before someone even arrives at your church for the first time?
They have toconvince family members to attend. Maybe it’s a cranky teenager, or a detached spouse. Most in a family will not visit a church for the first time by themselves. They’re going to try and get someone to go with them.
They have to wake up early, when maybe they don’t usually do so. So you have a Saturday or Sunday night service … that’s not normal for the weekend warrior either. No matter the time or day you meet, you’re still asking someone to do something they wouldn’t normally do at a time that they wouldn’t normally do anything.
They have the challenge of getting kids ready before arriving. This isn’t even easy for those of us who attend every weekend.
Walked into a place where only a few know their name, and the smaller church, the more of a challenge this is for visitors.
Be proactive and decisive as you declare God's Word over your life.
“‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jer. 29:11, NKJV). God’s thoughts are of abundance and not lack. He wants you to live large and to bring you into a good life. Toward this end, He gives you divine inspirational thoughts and the ability to speak them into existence so that you will grow to fulfill His best plan for your life.
He wants you to mature in wisdom, authority and supernatural ability so that you can bear witness to the splendor of His kingdom. Your miracle is already in existence, but it is up to you to learn to see it and to call it out.
Deep within our hearts, where only heaven's eyes witness, we long to experience the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. We long to be lovers of God. This has been my dream and consuming desire for many years.
When I first heard God's promise to make me a fervent lover, it seemed too good ever to be fulfilled. Yet Jesus' words gave me hope: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37, NKJV, emphasis added).
He was saying that my heart could burn with love for Him. This is the supernatural power we long for that He has promised to give.
We often see ourselves as failures. But Jesus does not define us by our immaturity. He sees us as genuine lovers of God.
What does holiness have to do with your needs? Francis Frangipane reveals the answer from Matthew 3.
According to Scripture, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit “while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15, NASB). We are also told his coming was in the spirit and power of Elijah. Historians tell us that John’s penetrating, uncompromising ministry led nearly 1 million people to repentance. Vast multitudes left their cities and towns and went into the wilderness to hear the prophet and be baptized into repentance in preparation for the kingdom of God.
Only Jesus knew the fallen condition of the human heart more perfectly than John. No class of people escaped the Baptist’s judgment: soldiers and kings, sinners and religious leaders alike all were brought into the “valley of decision.” John’s baptism was more than a simple immersion in water. He required a public confession of sins as well as the bringing forth of righteousness (see Matt. 3:6, 8).
Editor’s Note: Daily during January and February, MinistryTodaymag.com will feature an article from pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren and his staff in conjunction with his new book, What on Earth Am I Here For? Warren is the guest editor for Charisma’s Ministry Today magazine for its January/February issue.
“So we continue to preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God's presence as a mature person in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28 NCV)
I believe there are five measurements of spiritual growth: knowledge, perspective, conviction, skills, and character.
The first measurement is knowledge of God’s Word. To begin building a spiritual growth curriculum, you need to ask two questions: What do people already know? And, what do they need to know?
It's almost 2013! Many great things happened during 2012, and even though we faced hardships and trials, which are to be expected in life, we survived and even laughed a lot more than we had in previous years. How can we smile, have joy, and even get excited when we are faced with so much evil and darkness? Well, let's look at a few things before we travel together to the mountain in Israel and hear the Word of the Lord on Dec. 31.
We are NOT going to enter 2013 with one negative word on our lips, but rather the word "CONQUER" will resonate and prepare our path to many victories. You may be saying, "Kim, you're just too positive! How can we truly believe this?"
Sir Winston Churchill was once asked to give the qualifications of a person needed in order to succeed in politics, and he replied: "It is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen." That is what is required for politicians, not God's prophets and messengers. Look at Isaiah as an example.
Imagine a new communion of multiethnic churches committed to discipleship and church planting
Some days in your life will forever rest in your memory. I think back to August 2004 in London. I was sitting at a table as a guest of one of my gospel heroes, pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, a church planter, author and major student of church growth worldwide. He had invited me to participate in Europe's largest Christian conference. During those years the BBC, The Times of London and every national media outlet had "discovered" this faithful servant of God; as a result, Pastor Matthew had become something of a celebrity in the cultural landscape there. I'll never forget reading the headline "African missionary to England leads U.K.'s largest church." He and I talked about the fact that at the time, only 5 percent of England's population was committed to both faithful church attendance and a biblical worldview. We marveled at the idea that a nation, which had been mightily used to take the gospel to the ends of the known world during its "heyday," would now not allow the preaching of the gospel and Spirit-led ministry to be aired on regular television. In fact, it was more acceptable for Britain's government to give deference to non-Christian faiths than to Christians. Within a few years of that discussion, my friend would be wrongly persecuted by Britain's version of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and his church would be forced to sell its primary facilities.