Clarifying Church Growth Terminology

During the past twenty-five years many books have been written, sermons preached, and seminars given about the mission, vision and values of the church. I’ve read, listened to, and attended many of them. And I’ve received practical advice, useful tools and helpful tips that serve to define the mission of the church. The only problem is that no one seems to define things the same way.

Some experts even use the same definition to describe different words, creating confusion rather than clarity. The paragraphs that follow will define several important words that will bring clarity in your efforts to lead your church. Here are seven definitions of critical terms for you to consider.

Foundational Beliefs
Someone once said, “A belief is what you hold. A conviction is what holds you.” Foundational beliefs are stronger than regular beliefs. They are convictions. Some churches have different levels of beliefs. They separate them into discuss, defend, and die for beliefs. Your foundational beliefs are essential to your church paradigm. They define what you believe, and what you’ll die for.
Continue reading

4 Common Worship Leader Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

4-worship-leader-mistakes_2One of the most engaging parts of most church services is the worship time. And undoubtedly, the Worship Leader plays an integral part of the worship experience. Yet some Worship Leaders try to do too much. In their well-meaning attempt to lead a Spirit-directed, Christ-centered, God-glorifying worship time, they add needless elements that actually distract from what they’re trying to do. Here are four types of Worship Leaders that need to do less to accomplish more.

The Extreme Focuser
This may sound counter-intuitive, and perhaps even sacrilegious, but during the worship time the Worship Leader should not focus solely on God. He or she should also focus on the audience. The clarifying question church leaders need to ask is, what’s the main role for the Worship Leader? Is his role to worship God, first and foremost? Or is it to lead others in worship? Should the Worship Leader be a “Sightseer,” focusing exclusively on the majesty of God? Or should he be a “Tour Guide,” recognizing the splendor and majesty of our Creator and pointing it out to others? Psalm 34:3 says “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” When we magnify the
Lord, we publically proclaim his greatness and show his beauty and character to others. Continue reading

Maximizing Outreach By Examining The Church’s Three Doors

Every church has three doors. A front door, a side door, and a back door. And every week, people travel through these doors. Typically, they enter through the front door, or through a side door, and they leave through the back door. Simply put, pastors want, and expect, lots of people to come in through the front door. They’re happy, and maybe a bit surprised, when folks come through the side door. And they’re sad to see them leave through the back door.

001 Three-Doors-small_jpg_pagespeed_ce_IQrytsB-xsOf course, I’m speaking figuratively, but you know what I mean. Pastors often use the “three doors” analogy to talk about how people come and go from their congregations. Since our churches are all about people, let’s take a closer look at the church’s three doors.


Front Door

The worship services are the front door in virtually all American churches. You’ll draw your largest crowds through your worship services. Whether you have one or more Sunday services, do additional Saturday services, or use video in a multi-site setting, your services are your biggest draw. People come to hear the word of God being preached, engage in inspiring worship experiences, and celebrate God’s presence in a corporate environment. There’s power in gathering together as a faith community. Continue reading

21 Unforgettable Quotes From This Year’s Leadership Summit

195fbff6e89aa01b89abca97c01ee06e“Everyone wins when a leader gets better.” This is just one of many though-provoking truths I overheard at this year’s Global Leadership Summit. Every August, for the past 21 years, the Willow Creek Association puts on a 2-day conference from Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, highlighting the best leaders from the world of business, politics, athletics, entertainment, education, philanthropy, and the church. The W.C.A. believes that leadership is vital for church vitality. I whole-heartedly agree. So for the past 11 years, I’ve invested into my own leadership to attend one of the 230 U.S. sites that simulcasts the Summit. And every year I’m glad I did.

Many years ago I heard Dr. John Maxwell say, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” These 6 simple words became foundational to my thinking and ministry. Dr. Maxwell was one of this year’s faculty at the Summit and every August, I attend and fill my notebook with notes and quotes that serve to inform and inspire me throughout the year. Here are 21 of the most unforgettable quotes I heard at this year’s Global Leadership Summit. Continue reading

3 Simple Questions To Help Address Complex Issues

A co-worker once told me that very complex issues are best addressed by asking and answering very basic questions. There’s a lot of truth and wisdom in his statement. In fact, you might say the more complex the issue, the simpler the question needs to be. Simple questions get to the root of the issue, and I’ve learned to ask 3 simple questions when addressing complex issues that I’d like to share with you.

What business are we in?
The story is often told of an early 20th century drill bit company that was struggling to keep up with the changing drill bit industry, competition, and new technology. One day, the CEO asked employees, “What business are we in?” They all replied they were in the business of making drill bits. All but one. One young employee stood up and said, “No, we’re actually in the business of making holes.” This breakthrough thinking eventually led to the development of laser technology. Continue reading

3 Layers of Ministry

Fairly, or unfairly, people are typically judged by three things. Who they are. (Their core values and foundational beliefs.) What they do. (Their productivity.) And what they look like. (Their external appearance.) Linus Morris, in his book The High Impact Church, compares these three areas to an apple. In his analogy, an apple has three parts. The core, the substance, and the skin. The apple core is the inner-most, life-giving part of the fruit. Everything else emanates from it. The substance, or flesh of the apple, is the fruit you consume and enjoy. Finally, the skin is the exterior layer of protection that people see.

skin flesh core JPEG

The same can be said of a person, a ministry, or a church. The internal core is the life-giving essence. The flesh is what is consumed, or the output. And the outer peel is what it looks like. All three are important and it’s good to consider how much emphasis each deserves.

1 Samuel 16:7 says “…The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

It’s clear that the heart is very important. But so is the outcome of a church’s ministry and how things look. But that verse does not say people don’t look at the outer appearance. On the contrary, it says they do! Church leaders would do well to contemplate the importance of each of these three aspects of ministry, so let’s consider each individually.

The core of a church is its spiritual dimension. It’s the life-giving component that makes the church different from other organizations. A church’s theological foundation, its values, purpose and mission need to be solid for it to be effective for the kingdom of God.  

We’ve seen tragic examples of churches, ministries, and Christian leaders with bad cores. Consider Rev. Jim Jones and the massacre in Jonestown, Guyana in 1979. Tragic consequences overtook a large group of people due to the bad theological, ideological, and emotional core of a church and its leader.

Contrast that to a person in ministry with a healthy core. This person loves Jesus, has solid theology, and a good heart. She is humble and in ministry for the right reasons. Remember, the core of a person affects everything that person does. Its importance cannot be underestimated.

The substance of a church is the ministry it does. Just as people eat the flesh of an apple, people consume the flesh of a ministry. In the children’s ministry, for example, the flesh is the programming and its impact on the children. In the music ministry, the flesh is the music that’s played and the worship it inspires.
Continue reading

3 Principles of Productivity

In any organization, how decisions are made and how things get done are extremely important. Volumes have been written about strong organizational health, effective managerial principles, and efficient company-wide practices.

The same holds true for the local church. Ensuring wise decision making and encouraging effective work habits are important and of eternal significance. Jesus gave his followers principles related to this idea. He said things like, “be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” And “Let your yes be YES. Let your no be NO.”

Productivity_4Seems simple, right? However, in my 30 years of ministry, I’ve learned that decisions and actions are actually more complex and hold greater significance than one might think. Making decisions and taking action can have far-reaching impact on hundreds, if not thousands, in your church and community. Therefore, it’s important to give this topic its due consideration, and to get this right. So, here are three principles to consider when making decisions and taking action.

What you do
Getting the job done efficiently is the bottom line in many organizations. Managers assigns tasks, provide instructions, give deadlines, and expect follow through. And your job, as a faithful employee, is to do it. Do it well. Do it on time. Exceed expectations, if possible. And, especially if you work in the church, do it joyfully. That’s simply how effective businesses are run.    

But for church employees there are additional thoughts to consider. In some work environments, it seems what is done is all that matters. But in other environments, like a church, how it’s done is also important. So, it’s a good idea to consider how you do what you do. Continue reading

4 Things That Make a Great Executive Pastor

The most significant relationship in the church is between the Senior Pastor and the Executive Pastor. It’s almost a given that these two influential leaders need to be unified regarding vision, complement each other’s strengths, and compensate for each other’s weaknesses. While their roles are very different, each plays a unique and significant part of your church’s ministry. Therefore, having the right Executive Pastor on your staff is critical. So if you are looking to hire one, or you currently are one wanting to increase your effectiveness, here are four things that make an exceptional Executive Pastor.

Reflect the heart of the leader
img3The chief aim of a great Executive Pastor is to reflect the heart of the leader. Getting to know the Senior Pastor’s passions, goals and priorities is vital. The Executive Pastor should be the Senior Pastor’s chief representative, main confidant, and most reliable associate. This relationship must be characterized by trust and transparency. And that takes intentionality. It won’t happen by simply sitting in meetings together or working on the same project. Instead, it will require relational interdependence that comes from common experience and shared passion for the mission of the church.

Recognize your role
An exceptional Executive Pastor recognizes his main role is to make the Senior Pastor successful. Once the Executive Pastor knows and reflects the heart of the leader, he can begin to re-cast the leader’s vision, – not his own. When it comes to defending the leader, a wise Executive Pastor knows he must support publicly, yet confront privately. Again, the relationship must be healthy enough for the Executive Pastor to challenge, question, and give direction to the Senior Pastor. But all these conversations must be done in person, and in a private environment.
Continue reading

3 Categories of Beliefs, and Why Separating Them is Important

Beliefs. We all have them. They came from somewhere. They probably started forming in us as young children and have been strengthened through time. Or maybe they’ve changed over the years. Changing a belief or a belief system is a big deal because our minds are wired to think that our beliefs are the correct ones. It’s been said we are creatures of habit. That’s because we believe the way we do things, the way we think, is right.

3 categories of beliefs and why separating them is important GRAPHICObviously, beliefs are very significant in the church. Beliefs are the foundation of our faith. What we believe about God, Jesus, people, the Bible and the Church are of utmost importance. And, as noted, beliefs rarely change. As in the political world, our Christian beliefs, or differences in our beliefs, can be the topic of many disagreements, arguments, and even church splits. That’s why it’s wise to separate our beliefs into three different groups based on their importance. Here are three different categories of beliefs.

Die For
There are several beliefs we should be willing to die for. These are the things that are crystal clear in scripture that are of greatest significance. The nature of God. The work of Christ. The significance of the cross. Beliefs about people, sin and repentance. Beliefs about the Church and the Bible. These are the “die for” beliefs that make us Christians.
Continue reading

Book Review: Pull – Making Your Church Magnetic

PULL by Bob FranquizOver the past 25 years, there have been many great books on how to make church better. I’ve read many of them and each one offers a unique perspective on the topics of what to do, how to do it and why do it? Bob Franquiz’s book, Pull – Making Your Church Magnetic is a great example of this kind of book.

To give a bit of historical background, there has been much debate in the past two decades on the best way to grow a healthy church. For many years the main method was the invitational approach. In this line of thinking, the “product” at your church is so important and relevant, you merely need to invite people to come and hear the message, and they will show up. And their lives will be changed. Yet more recently, there’s been a different methodology embraced by many. Some suggest an incarnational approach recognizes that people will not respond to an invitation to visit a church. So instead of inviting friends and neighbors, a believer should simply allow God to be formed in him or her, share that experience with others, and they will eventually accept Christ. Volumes have been written about this and other approaches to building God’s Church and fulfilling His Great Commission. This blog entry will not attempt to repeat that.

Additionally, phrases like “externally focused”, “missional”, and “emergent” tend to muddy the water and confuse many. But Franquiz is definitely in the attractional camp of doing church, and Pull gives many specifics on how to make church irresistible. I’ve chosen three themes in his book to point out. Continue reading