Who is that masked man?

The Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore) and Tonto (Jay Silverheels)Most everyone remembers the story: a Texas lawman who is the sole survivor of an ambush, fights crime with the aid of the Native American who has nursed him back to health. Donning a mask, this lawman chases down the gang who murdered the members of his division. In some early versions of the story, someone would usually ask as he rode away with Tonto, his Native American companion, “Who was that masked man?”

He was then identified as The Lone Ranger.

Through the decades since The Lone Ranger first appeared on radio, then on television, and most recently a movie version, he has come to symbolize American justice and the making right of wrongs.

Though this idea seems commonplace to Americans, The Lone Ranger is not the image for how we live the Christian life. In fact God has promised His very presence to ensure that we will not be alone. His Holy Spirit indwells each and every believer. We are never alone.

Read the rest of Ronnie Floyd’s blog here

My Personal Pastoral Philosophy for Church Growth

Thom Rainer, President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources writes in his blog, that the benefits of starting new groups are many and measurable.

My experience has been that we all  talk about evangelism. We all desire to reach people for God’s Kingdom. However, we are unwilling to personally pay the price of outreach. As my friend Josh Hunt wrote in a recent blog, “All good ideas degenerate into work.”

My Pastoral Philosophy: If we WANT to increase our Sunday morning bible study attendance; If we WANT to reach an increased number of unchurched folks in our communities; If we WANT to increase worship attendnce — THEN start new Sunday morning small groups.

To which I think Thom Rainer would reply, “Of course, what’s so surprising about that?” Here is his blog post.

Admittedly, I have not done a scientific study on how many churches in America intentionally start new groups. But my anecdotal observations are that only about one in 20 churches, or about 5 percent, have a semblance of new groups strategy in place. Those numbers are sad, because such a strategy can be used of God to revolutionize churches.

I don’t plan on this article being one and done on the subject. It’s too important. You will hear more in the near future.

What Is a Group?

Different groups serve different purposes. Some exist for fellowship. Others have an intense discipleship motive. Still others are designed to reach beyond themselves with an evangelistic intent.

They also go by a myriad of names. They are called Sunday school classes, small groups, home groups, cell groups, Bible study classes, and more.

My point in this article is not to differentiate the groups; that exercise can come later. My point is to show the incredible value of groups in general to a church, especially when there is an intentional strategy to reproduce them.

What Can New Groups Do for a Church?

It almost seems like starting new groups is some type of secret strategy. You rarely hear church leaders speak about it. But those who have implemented such a strategy wondered what took them so long to do so. The value of starting new groups is enormous.

  1. New groups create new fellowship patterns and can thus move a church from an inward focus to an outward focus.
  2. Those who are in these groups regularly are more likely to share the gospel with someone than other church members. Group members share with people how to become a Christian 2.30 times in a six-month period, versus 0.98 times for other church members.
  3. Those who are in groups are similarly more likely to invite an unchurched person to church than other church members (3.18 times in the last six months versus 1.24 times).
  4. People who spend time in the Bible are most likely to show a number of signs of spiritual growth. Groups add at least a third opportunity to study the Bible, in addition to personal study and hearing the preaching of the Word.
  5. Members who are active in starting new groups are less likely to be a divisive force in the church. They are too busy doing good things with their groups.

Can We Have a Resurgence of Groups?

For almost 100 years, 1860 to 1960, churches in America were highly intentional about starting new groups called Sunday school classes. Perhaps, because in many churches Sunday school became an end instead of a means, it faded in popularity and use.

There have been other resurgences of groups, but none to the extent of the Sunday school movement. Not coincidently, churches across America began declining after Sunday school waned and no other major groups movement replaced it.

I pray that every leader of a church will see the inestimable value of starting new groups. I pray that those leaders will be highly intentional and accountable for starting those groups, regardless of how you design them and regardless of what you call them.

We are beginning to see small signs of a resurgence of groups in churches in America. If this trend continues and grows, I would not be surprised to see a new level of growth and evangelism in our churches.

How do you develop a strategy for starting new groups? We will delve into that issue later. For now, please understand that every new group started in your church will have a multiplier impact on evangelism, discipleship, and fellowship.

Are you intentionally starting new groups in your church? If yes, what are your experiences? If not, why not? 

 

 

Sunday School Contacts Make a Difference!

darryl.wilson@kybaptist.org

I have personally seen lives changed as a result of contacts. I have seen people begin to attend Sunday School and church. I have watched some accept Jesus. Some have become leaders, teachers, and deacons. And it all started because someone cared enough to invite them. Someone cared enough to write a card or letter, make a phone call, or make a visit.

I remember having classes set goals for Easter high attendance Sunday. When I totaled them together, I was stunned. It was more than 200 above our average attendance. I really did not believe it was possible. But we had added lots of communication, prayer, and contacts into our preparation plans. In fact, on that Sunday more than 2,000 contacts above the usual number were reported. Andy Anderson had researched churches and discovered that 7-10 contacts above the usual number will result in one additional person attending. Our contacts that day resulted in nearly 300 more people being in Sunday School. Andy was right on! Contacts work!

Allow me to share an experience by Jeff Crabtee who serves as the Minister of Outreach & Education at Central Baptist Church in Corbin, KY:

As we began our Sunday School year, we realized we had a large number of people on our enrollment that should be coming to Sunday School. As we prayed, we felt that it was a stewardship issue. When we became more responsible for those on our rolls, God would bless us with new people. Simply put: we needed to take care of what we already had.

On October 29, our battle cry became Contacts Count! We began recording our weekly contacts on the back wall of our worship center for each class. For the next ten weeks, we logged 4,315 Sunday School contacts by call, cards, e-mail, and visits. I felt the excitement in many classes as they began to reach outside of their normal class attenders. We began seeking some on a more regular basis.

In those ten weeks, our Sunday School average attendance went up 34 per week over the same period of the previous year. We continued to record contacts and have had a total of 17,134 contacts for the year and have seen the average attendance for the year increase by 37. Now, the best part is that making weekly contacts for Sunday School are in our DNA!

Contacts do make a difference. We are accountable to care for the sheep God entrusts to us, and some of them are not in our churches yet. Pray. Make a call. Send a card, letter, or e-mail. Make a visit in a home or business. Let them know you care. Invite them to come. Share your Sunday School testimony. Be revolutionary!

Parties predict growth

lets party

Groups that have nine or more parties a year are more than twice as likely (104%) to be growing than a low-fellowship group—those with four or less gatherings a year. The group that parties together grows together.

So it’s time to take parties seriously—at least in terms of helping your groups to grow. Have fun, and be intentional about it.

Parties can, and should, take on a wide variety of forms:

• Short and long. Parties can be Sunday brunch or a weekend retreat.

• Expensive and cheap. Usually cheap is better, and easier to do often. But if it’s a Valentine’s Day dinner, Red Lobster might work better than Burger King.

• Guy things and gal things. Stereotypically, we think of things like sporting events for guys, and shopping for the ladies. But do whatever works best for your particular group.

• Fun things as well as service things. Ministry and/or outreach projects can be included in this list.

• Seasonal events such as New Year’s parties

• Anytime events. Have a party just because.

There are biblical reasons, as well as sociological ones, why groups that party together grow together.

From –  Make Your Group Grow – Josh Hunt

Church Members, Here Are 10 Ways to KILL Your Church

I have the awesome privilege of serving a church that has been around for over 80 years. In those 80 years, the church has only had four senior pastors. While our congregation has had its share of struggles over the years, we are pleased that we have survived!

Considering the staggering statistics on church mortality in America, we are grateful to God for still standing strong. Some researchers suggest that between 3,500-4,500 churches close their doors (or die) each year. That means that in the time since our congregation was founded over 80 years ago, over 300,000 churches have died!

I suspect that most church “deaths” occur for a few simple (and oftentimes avoidable) reasons.

Recently, one of the senior members of our congregation — who has been there for all 80 plus years — handed me a church newsletter that was written in 1959. As I delicately flipped through the tattered pages of this precious document, one article in the newsletter pricked my attention. The title, which I have borrowed for this blog post, was simply “10 Ways to Kill a Church”.

The thing that interested me the most is how this list of “church killers” written in 1959 looks so much like the usual suspects in many church deaths today.

Here is my slightly paraphrased version of the 1959 list of “10 Ways to Kill a Church”:

1. Don’t come.

One of the biggest church killers is waning attendance. Many people simply can’t find the time to spend an hour or two in the Lord’s house. We find excuse after excuse as to why we can’t come to church.

I wonder what our lives would look like if God only showed up at our house as often as we showed up at His. The Bible is clear about the importance of assembling or coming together (Hebrews 10:25).

I believe in the importance of going to church, which is why I do a weekly Twitter hashtag called #Go2Church. If we don’t go to church, we just might be playing a part in killing the church.

2. If you do come, make sure it’s late.

So many of today’s worshipers (and apparently those of 1959) have a lackadaisical attitude toward worship. We have an “I’ll get there when I get there” attitude when it comes to church attendance.

I wonder, however, if we showed up to our job the way we show up to our church … how many of us would still be employed?

We say that God is an “on time” God, but can He say the same about us? A lack of punctuality when it comes to worship is a microcosm of our overall view of God. It says that whatever else we are doing is more important, and God can just wait until we get there. This type of attitude is a major church killer.

3. Only show up when the weather is good.

Ever been to church in a driving rainstorm? Neither have most of the other people in your church! Some people only go to church when the sun is out and there are no clouds in the sky.

We have produced a culture of “fair-weather” Christians, who only attend church when everything is going right in their lives. The moment a storm hits their life, they get mad at God, the pastor and the church.

There are some people who you can tell exactly what’s going on in their lives based upon their church attendance. When things are great and they have a little money in their pockets, they’re on the front row singing “Amazing Grace,” but as soon as they get laid off or deal with some sort of difficulty, they’re ready to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). The only thing that dies with that kind of attitude is the church.

4. Find fault with everything (and/or everyone).

Most homicide investigations begin by researching those who had something negative to say about the victim. Similarly, when a church dies, you can be sure that the fault finders are prime suspects. These are the folks who sit “in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1).

Fault finders can always SPOT a problem, but they never SOLVE a problem. They are definitely church killers.

5. Never accept a leadership role or responsibility.

Many people have a “renters” mentality when it comes to church; they take no ownership.

When you rent an apartment, if something breaks, you call the landlord to fix it. Since you don’t own it, you have no obligation to fix it. There are too many people renting pews (and some pulpits).

It’s far easier to criticize than to mobilize. As Seth Godin says, “No one has ever built a statue to a critic.” If we want to make a difference, we have to accept the responsibility to lead — whether formally or informally.

Leadership is not about position; it’s about productivity. A congregation full of followers is on life support and is getting ready to die.

6. Get mad if you’re not appointed to a leadership position.

So many people in church are focused on titles. They want to be directors, deacons and dignitaries, and when they are not appointed to a position, they begin to stir up trouble.

This is a manifestation of deep-seated pride, and pride is one of the most dangerous killers of all.

7. Never give your opinion in a meeting … wait until AFTER the meeting.

A surefire sign of a church that is on its deathbed is one that has major “meetings-after-the-meeting.” You know, where no one voices their honest opinion or offers useful insight during the official meeting, but are quick to huddle in a corner or the church parking lot after the meeting to harp on how “it ought to be done.”

There are chalk lines all over church parking lots outlining exactly where the murder took place.

8. Do nothing more than absolutely necessary.

Show up, go home, but don’t be an active, engaged member of the church. It’s hard to reach “the least of these” when we’re only doing the least we can do.

The sad reality, however, is that most people who only want to do the least, love to criticize those who are doing the most! They howl about how the church is being run by a clique, when they never offered or took initiative to get any work done.

They just stand on the sideline and watch the church die. At the very least, they are an accessory to the murder.

9. Hold back on your giving to the Lord.

It takes money to do ministry — especially to do mercy ministry for the underserved in our communities. Tim Keller says that “Mercy ministry is expensive.” When we hold back on our giving to the Lord and His work, we are limiting the work that can be done through the local church.

Additionally, since there are operational costs associated with a church or ministry, a lack of giving can lead to the church being foreclosed, laying off staff and other adverse results.

Some people say, “Well, all the church wants is money.” The same can be said of Walmart, yet they keep taking their money there! While I do not discount that there have been those who have abused and misused the church for financial gain, there are thousands of churches serving in their communities who are dying because of a lack of finances. When we stop giving, we are killing those churches … and the countless lives they touch each day.

10. Don’t reach out to the unchurched.

The primary purpose of the Church is to introduce people to Jesus. The people in the pews must take ownership of that responsibility and become “mini-churches” that reach out to the unchurched every day of the week and bring them to the house of the Lord to be discipled.

Churches need regular and consistent “transfusions.” When new people are brought into the church, they bring new life and vibrancy. They ensure that the church doesn’t get stuck in the old way of doing things. They bring fresh perspective, and they help keep the church alive. Don’t kill your church! Go and bring in some new people today.

These are 10 ways to kill a church.

Click here for the full article by Tejado Hanchell

Quotes To Think About When you Are Thinking

  1. As we grow up, we realize it becomes less important to have more friends and more important to have real ones.

  2. Making a hundred friends is not a miracle.  The miracle is to make a single friend who will stand by your side even when hundreds are against you.

  3. Giving up doesn’t always mean you’re weak, sometimes it means you are strong enough and smart enough to let go and move on.

  4. Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, etc…

  5. If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

  6. Don’t choose the one who is beautiful to the world; choose the one who makes your world beautiful.

Click here to to see the complete list of quotes