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Why We Stopped Taking Attendance At Our Church For A While

Christian News - Mon, 20/08/2018 - 10:33am

Getting more precise numbers wasn’t going to fix the obvious problems or identify the undiscovered ones.

Numbers matter, because people matter.

If we keep track of them correctly, the right numbers can give us a lot of helpful information about a church and its ministries.

For many years, I kept track of church attendance numbers very carefully. As the church grew, I calculated growth patterns, percentages, demographics, you name it. I found that counting wasn’t just important and helpful, it was fun. When we were growing.

Then we stopped growing.

Soon we started shrinking.

And we kept shrinking. No matter what we did to correct the downward slide.

Eventually we lost about two-thirds of the congregation from its peak size. I don’t know the exact numbers we dropped down to because I stopped counting. But we ended up much smaller than when the growth spurt had started.

I felt guilty about the decline. And I felt guilty that I didn’t keep attendance records any more. But I just couldn’t look at the numbers.

I didn’t need attendance records to tell me what my eyes could see.

Knowing the Numbers Doesn’t Fix the Problems

Some of the challenges were obvious, including demographic shifts and limited facilities – all exacerbated by my own underdeveloped management skills. So we worked to correct what we could. But many of the problems remained a mystery.

Keeping accurate records can help you see problems early and tweak issues before they get out of hand. Sometimes. But when the whole thing is going up in flames, knowing the precise temperature of the fire doesn’t help put it out.

That was the case at our church during that difficult season. Getting more precise numbers wasn’t going to fix the obvious problems or identify the undiscovered ones.

So we stopped counting and did what we could to ...

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Psalm 16:8

Bible Gateway - Mon, 20/08/2018 - 1:00am
“I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

1 John 5:12

Bible Gateway - Sun, 19/08/2018 - 1:00am
“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Philippians 1:21

Bible Gateway - Sat, 18/08/2018 - 1:00am
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Bible Gateway - Fri, 17/08/2018 - 1:00am
“But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

2 Corinthians 7:1

Bible Gateway - Thu, 16/08/2018 - 1:00am
“Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

Romans 14:8

Bible Gateway - Wed, 15/08/2018 - 1:00am
“If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

Revelation 3:14,20

Bible Gateway - Tue, 14/08/2018 - 1:00am
“[To the Church in Laodicea] “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Pastoral Transition: Six Factors That Help A Church Navigate Big Changes

Christian News - Mon, 13/08/2018 - 7:29pm

Churches that resist change have a harder time when change is needed. Churches that regularly make smaller transitions hone their transition skills.

Six months ago today, our church made our biggest transition in a quarter century.

After being the lead pastor for 25 years, I stepped aside so that Gary Garcia (the youth pastor who has been with me for that entire time) could take my position, while I became the teaching pastor.

I wrote about this transition before, during and immediately after it happened, but the six month point seems like a good time to report on how things are going so far.

How is the church doing? How have they accepted the new pastor? How do we work together now that the lines of authority have shifted?

In a word, it’s working great. On every level.

The church is solid. No one has left due to the transition. Worship, fellowship and ministry are stronger than ever. New leaders are stepping in to their roles. The facility is being upgraded.

The new lead pastor has been completely embraced by the congregation. New people have been added. He, I and the rest of the leadership team are working together smoothly in our new roles.

Why?

In addition to the essential factor that we all believe this transition was and is God’s plan for me, the church and its new lead pastor, there are six factors key that are helping this work, and that can help any church navigate necessary changes:

1. Timing

Every major life change has a window of opportunity, like the hand-off zone in a relay race, in which a transition can happen best. Move too early and people feel pushed, too late and you’ve missed the momentum and lost some of your innovators and self-starters.

Our church has gone through several major transitions during my 25 years as lead pastor. By doing so, we’ve developed the skills needed to make bigger changes, including getting the timing right. Developing ...

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Ephesians 2:10

Bible Gateway - Mon, 13/08/2018 - 1:00am
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Bible Gateway - Sun, 12/08/2018 - 1:00am
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

Psalm 119:14

Bible Gateway - Sat, 11/08/2018 - 1:00am
“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.”

Psalm 46:1

Bible Gateway - Fri, 10/08/2018 - 1:00am
“[Psalm 46] For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Luke 12:6-7

Bible Gateway - Thu, 09/08/2018 - 1:00am
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

The Invisible Scandal: How Bad Debt And Poor Stewardship Are Killing The Church's Reputation

Christian News - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 7:24am

People want to give. God wants to provide. Our churches need to be places worthy of those gifts and that provision.

There’s a scandal going on in the church today.

It is one of the biggest scandals in church history, yet it remains invisible to most of us.

No, it’s not the sexual sins of some of our leaders. It’s not the physical, emotional and spiritual abuse of church members, or the cover-up of those sins. It’s not the self-righteous legalism on one side, or the moral compromise on the other. It’s not even our tendency to quarrel and back-stab each other.

Those scandals are horrifying, for sure. Many of them have been well-documented and need to be exposed to the light of day even more.

The scandal I’m talking about has flown under the radar for a long time – centuries, actually. It’s so common we seldom think of it as the sin it is, or how badly it hurts people and tarnishes the reputation of the church in the eyes of those affected by it.

The most widespread sin of the modern-day church is poor stewardship.

Too many churches are mishandling the money that has been entrusted to us. Many churches are enslaved by unsustainable debt. More churches close their doors every year because they are unable to pay their bills than for any other reason – maybe more than all other reasons combined.

No, this is not just a giving problem. Or a bookkeeping issue. It’s sin. And it is a scandal.

But it remains a virtually unknown and invisible scandal.

Here’s one small example of it.

Bad Stewardship Hurts Real People – And Our Testimony

“They won’t rent to you because you’re a church.”

With those words, the whispered voice on the other end of the phone confirmed what I had suspected. For months I’d been trying to rent a property for our church to meet in on Sundays, ...

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Psalm 149:4

Bible Gateway - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 1:00am
“For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.”

Isaiah 33:22

Bible Gateway - Tue, 07/08/2018 - 1:00am
“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.”

Where Have All the Church Planters Gone?

Christian News - Mon, 06/08/2018 - 4:24pm

What’s the greatest hindrance to effective church planting?

What’s the greatest hindrance to effective church planting?

You might expect to get varied answers to this question from church planting theorists, strategists, and practitioners, but among those consistently participating in this conversation one comment bubbles to the top almost every time: A scarcity of prepared leaders.

This wasn’t true in the not-too-distant past. As networks and denominations fanned the fires of church planting fervor, the early adopters were quick to launch out and start new churches. There was once a substantial pond of would-be church planters from which to fish, and numerous groups threw their lines in the water and caught strings of quality leaders.

For example, Chris Railey, Senior Director of Leadership and Church Development for the Assemblies of God, reports that they planted 406 churches three years ago[1] and the North American Mission Board’s Send Network saw a similar rise in church planting in 2014[2], with 985 new church planted.[3]

So, what’s the problem?

To many, all looked good. But there was a problem that most didn’t foresee over the horizon. It soon became obvious that ready-made, pre-prepared church planters were becoming a difficult fish to catch. The pool of church planters was becoming fished out and no one was stocking the pond.

The years that followed were met with diminishing or plateaued results among even the most aggressive denominations or networks.

No amount of altered strategy or focused resourcing can make up for a lack of pre-prepared leaders to plant the churches that North America so desperately needs.

Which prompts the question: How many churches do we need? Currently, there are approximately 4,000 churches being planted across North America ...

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Psalm 119:160

Bible Gateway - Mon, 06/08/2018 - 1:00am
“All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.”

Psalm 119:130

Bible Gateway - Sun, 05/08/2018 - 1:00am
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

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