Category: <span>Planting</span>

Let’s face it, Jesus says some hard things. One of the most offensive statements in the Gospels is this winnowing word about families and disciples or followers of Jesus:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26 ESV)

First, what is Jesus not saying? He isn’t barring or shutting anyone out of the Kingdom. Rather, He’s speaking the language of common sense along the same lines as this statement:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

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Christianity • Religion Church • Ecclesiology Leadership Planting

Is there hope for a zombie church? The short answer is a resounding YES!

Look at these lavish promises Jesus holds out to churches He said were dead and/or in the process of dying — zombie churches:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7 ESV)

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.

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Christianity • Religion Church • Ecclesiology Gospel-Centered Leadership Missional Communities Planting

So, if zombie churches are sucking the life out of Christian communities and if Jesus goes to war againstzombie church, does the average Christian fill some role in that unfolding judgment?

First, I want to reiterate that churches belong to Jesus and not us — He wars against zombie churches (Revelation 2:16) and we do not — period. If a death-blow falls on a zombie church it is Jesus, with His shocking white hair and flaming eyes Who comes against them by the word of His mouth — Jesus is the zombieslayer.

But, it’s plain throughout the Scriptures that each one of God’s people fills a role in the Church as members of His Body.… Read the rest

Church • Ecclesiology Gospel-Centered Leadership Missional Communities Planting

Back in the 1980s, as a young Christian involved in the various youth movements of the time, it was very common to hear people speak of this or that church being “dead.” Entire geographical areas were also written off as lifeless: “the church back east is totally dead, man.” That was a common post-mortem among the 20 and 30-somethings in those days. It always struck me as wrong to speak of this or that church as “dead,” when there were certainly genuine born-again Christians involved — I mean, if some of the individuals in a church are abiding in the Vine, how can we say the entire fellowship is dead?… Read the rest

Church • Ecclesiology Gospel-Centered Leadership Missional Communities Planting

I recently read a wonderful post by church-planter Joel Littlefield: Aren’t There Already Enough Churches?  He asks and answers “one of the most common questions a new church planter might hear…  ‘Aren’t there already enough churches in this town?’” Not all church planters or denominations engage in that level of reflection before going into a place where a vibrant Christian community already exists — they just get the call, parachute in, and get on with the work. Others simply want to live the ministry dream and don’t consider the impact their vocational choice may have on a wider community of Christians.… Read the rest

Church • Ecclesiology Gospel-Centered Leadership Missional Communities Planting

I received an invitation to speak at a men’s retreat on the topic of the spiritual disciplines, though it has been a while since I read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and don’t consider myself an authority on the subject by any stretch. It was also decided that I would present Richard Baxter as a case study from my book, Good Mr. Baxter.  History remembers Baxter first as a devotional author on the spiritual disciplines, as well as one of the most fruitful and devoted pastors of all time.

The next few posts will feature some of my notes on the various disciplines, along with links to other helpful resources and what I hope to be some helpful insights and tips.… Read the rest

Christianity • Religion Gospel-Centered Leadership Planting Religion

91dmb9o48clI had the opportunity to attend the Andrew Fuller Conference at Southern Seminary this past week. On my flight home, I read a book I’ve been looking forward to for years — D.A. Carson’s Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.

I was first drawn to this book through a couple of podcasts and/or interviews of Dr. Carson when it came out. The book recounts the rather ordinary, yet significant life of his father Tom, a Baptist pastor1 in French Quebec through the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. There are a number of reviews of the book out there and I’ll link to a few at the bottom of the post.… Read the rest

Art • Design • Culture Books • Literature Christianity • Religion Church • Ecclesiology Leadership Planting

501c3-300x246Over the past few years, I’ve learned a little bit about Section 501 (c) (3) of the IRS tax code: the tax-exempt status for religious and other charitable organizations. I began blogging about these matters in a previous post Family, Finances, and the Faith: Nepotism In The Church. By the way, I’m still learning so please point out any errors in this post in the comments below and I’ll thank you in advance.

If we survey history objectively, we have to admit that the Church in the United States enjoys a privileged relationship with the government compared to many other nations — tax exemptions on property and financial assets are not a Constitutional right (those are guaranteed to individuals) but a blessing bestowed by a government that was formed out of the nightmare of state-run, coercive churches that suppressed religious freedom.… Read the rest

Christianity • Religion Church • Ecclesiology Leadership Planting

autopsy-of-a-deceased-church-12-ways-to-keep-yours-alive_2525018From Thom Rainer’s book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, the author lists some tell-tale signs to alert us that our church is in trouble. Here are the most telling, in my opinion:

  • “The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.”
  • “There was no attempt to reach the community.”
  • “More and more emphasis was placed on the past.”
  • “The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing.
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Books • Literature Christianity • Religion Church • Ecclesiology Gospel-Centered Leadership Missional Communities Planting

So, I came across these 4 Tips For Dealing With Procrastination @ Challies Dot ComFunny, I’ve never thought of myself as one of those slugs who can’t seem to get around to getting around to begin to start to get rolling on accomplishing some work. But, since retiring from two careers at roughly the same time in order to begin doing all those things I’ve always wanted to do… well, it’s been a bit more of a challenge to get going than I’d like to admit.

I’m happy to report that I’m finding myself on task and in the zone far more than I was a year ago and I have Tim to thank for this.… Read the rest

Leadership Planting

If you haven’t already read it, this is a fine book about cultivating healthy, Gospel relationships within the Church. I read Ken Sande’s first edition of The Peacemaker years ago and have to say this revised and updated Third Edition is greatly improved. I skimmed over my highlighted copy about a month ago and was pleasantly surprised to rediscover this gem, buried among so much treasure:

People who use escape responses [to conflict] are usually intent on “peace-faking,” or making things look good even when they are not. (This is especially common in the church, where people are often more concerned about the appearance of peace than the reality of peace). 

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Books • Literature Christianity • Religion Gospel-Centered Leadership Missional Communities Planting

SP11Occasionally, I provide pulpit supply, filling in for a pastor who needs a break for whatever reason. I’ve only done this a few times over the years, but always enjoy it.

In July, I’ll be talking about the Gospel and Paul’s reminder to Christians at Corinth to stand in/on the Gospel message or “word” he had preached or “proclaimed” to them, years earlier:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1

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Gospel-Centered Leadership Planting

leading_on_emptyLeading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro is a book for burnouts. I picked it up back in February of 2013, when I finally realized I was experiencing long-term exhaustion (the formal diagnosis). I was a classic case — I didn’t know I had arrived at burnout, until I was actually coming out of it. A friend pointed me to this text as a classic on the subject, specifically written for Christians.

The book was not overly helpful for me, because I had stumbled into solutions or had recognized and addressed many of the symptoms already. It did help me to make sense of the troubled waters I’d just passed through and gave me a few tips or reminders to get back on course.… Read the rest

Books • Literature Leadership Planting


It is an old joke, one that is still told too often. You go up to your pastor and say, “I wish I had your job; you only have to work one hour each week.” It is likely your pastor will laugh or smile at your comment. In reality your pastor is likely hurt by your statement.

Or, put another way: Here’s a good-natured, self-deprecating jab via Dick Lucas:

“The Christian minister: six days invisible and one day incomprehensible.”

Personally? This one hit closest to home:

Myth #7: The pastor’s workweek is low stress compared to others. I believe pastors have one of the most difficult and stressful jobs on earth.

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Church • Ecclesiology Leadership Planting

Nope, you don’t want to believe everything you read. Christianity in America, particularly the Evangelical stream, is certainly under pressure from all sides. But, is the situation as dire as some like to think? Joe Carter takes on the doomsday crowd , beginning his factcheck on this nugget of conventional wisdom:

In a recent interview in which she announced she had joined the Episcopal Church, Rachel Held Evans said,

“Just about every denomination in the American church— including many evangelical denominations — is seeing a decline in numbers, so if it’s a competition, then we’re all losing, just at different rates.”

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Christianity • Religion Leadership Planting

Leadership Missional Communities Planting

It’s been said that the Bible is a treasure-trove of stories that translate into great film. Last night, I watched On The Waterfront for the second or third time and finally got it: The film is chock full of Biblical themes and Christ is exalted throughout this wonderful love story!

First, On The Waterfront is a story of young love. That’s what captivated me the first time around. This ironic romance involves a disgraced boxer and union thug, Terry, and Edie, the sister of a man who was murdered for exposing corruption on the waterfront. Edie doesn’t know that Terry was the one who set up her brother, Joey.… Read the rest

Art • Design • Culture Film Leadership Planting

Character is king when it comes to church leadership. In fact, the best commentators on 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 will tell you that the qualities enumerated there don’t say as much about “what the elder1 does” as “who he is” and it all falls under the heading of Christian character. That’s why transparency, frank discussion, accountability, and honesty are a must within the leadership body and, then, between the leaders and the community. Garrett Kell writes:

Your office as an overseer is contingent upon your character. And as you well know, holiness doesn’t just happen. It must be fought for.

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Leadership Planting

What is “liturgical” worship? Here is a simple, yet informative video that concludes with this summary by Mark Galli 

God gathers people for a great banquet at which he presides, gives us a Word, and offers us the fruit of his labor of love. From there, God sends us out to participate in the great gathering work.

Liturgical Worship from Christ Church Anglican on Vimeo.

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Christianity • Religion Missional Communities Planting

Ministering to Problem PeopleMy new and improved edition of Ministering to Problem People in Your Church: What to Do With Well-Intentioned Dragons arrived in the mail last week and a quick perusal shows some needed updates and timely material in the original chapters. It also sports one of the most simple and attractive covers I’ve seen in a while (I’m a minimalist, in the tradition of the Swiss school).

Marshall Shelley has added two new chapters, which reflect our times. First, he grapples with the emergence of the internet and the challenges of social media that didn’t exist when the book was first published back in 1994.… Read the rest

Church • Ecclesiology Leadership Planting

well-intentioned dragons coverWith my first post about Ministering to Problem People in Your Church: What to Do With Well-Intentioned Dragons, I wanted to kick off the series on a positive or constructive tack, rather than just whining or blaming. Every church, going all the way back to Corinth and beyond, has had its share of folks who pass over the threshold of acceptable or normal misbehaving and into those super-descriptive, unflattering Scriptural categories reserved for the worst cases: they are gossips, slanderers, divisive persons, judgmental and evil, wild waves, and blemishes on your love feasts.1 The Lord is not pleased with those who trouble the church. From… Read the rest

Christianity • Religion Leadership Planting Richard Baxter

well-intentioned dragons coverYeah, I’m really put off, too, when someone says, “you just have to read this.” But, if you’re leading the church in any capacity and especially if you are an idealistic young (or, not so young) church planter or minister, this book is a gem.

I wish someone would have pointed me to it back in 1994, when it was first published. Of course, at that time I probably wouldn’t have thought it that helpful. After all, I had my Bible and the Holy Spirit living inside of me. I was part of a young, growing movement of Christians, multiplying and establishing on-fire churches and ministries.… Read the rest

Christianity • Religion Gospel-Centered Leadership Missional Communities Planting

Let’s start out 2015 on a positive note. Have you ever thought of a New Years Resolution as repentance — turning away from sin or indifference and back around onto a more Gospel oriented course for the future? Scott Thomas thinks so and I’m inclined to agree with him. Perhaps this more manageable, year-end sort of reflection on how our hearts are churning out idols,1  may be more effective (and, certainly less painful and hurtful to others) than cruising along until we’ve foundered upon the rocks of sin and self. Scott began 2015 with this post on Facebook:

Goal setting is a form of repentance (literally, thinking differently afterwards).

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Gospel-Centered Leadership Planting

Christian theologian Francis Schaeffer once wrote:

in God’s sight there are no little people and no little places. Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God’s place for us, at each moment. No Little People

This should be very heartening because, like me, in the grand scheme of things you will probably find yourself serving the Lord as one of the little people. There: I said it. I hope this wounding truth won’t drive you away. It’s not my intention to discourage or disparage you but, rather, to remind you that if you know who you are in Jesus and are consecrated or set apart to God and for His purposes, your little efforts may play a disproportionately large part in His plans.… Read the rest

Christianity • Religion Leadership Planting

In my last post, I kicked off a series on Christian leadership in the church. The question arises: “Why another blog about this stuff and why me?” I’ve always had a keen desire to see others grow in Christ and serve His Bride, the Church. But, my motives are always mixed and, if we can be honest, you may be serving Jesus out of a variety of not-so-Biblical or virtuous motivations, too. Let’s face it, if we were as pure in our devotion to Christ and His Kingdom as we like to believe or pretend, Jesus wouldn’t have spent so much time warning us to guard against pride, greed or selfishness:

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do.

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Leadership Planting