Why Are There So Many Unhealthy Small Churches?

These thoughts are not my own but I thought I’d share them with you. Pastor Karl Vatters writes this on his Small Church Ministry blog at Christianity Today:

“I like the idea of small churches. But if they’re so great, why do I see so many more unhealthy small churches than unhealthy big churches?” A small church pastor asked me that question recently. Not from cynicism or unkindness. It was out of genuine concern for a reality he saw.

To be honest, it’s a reality we all see. The vast majority of unhealthy churches are small. That’s unarguably true. What’s not true is his concern that most small churches are unhealthy. There’s a very clear explanation as to why there are so many more unhealthy small churches than unhealthy big churches. 90 percent of unhealthy churches are small because 90 percent of ALL churches are small.

It’s that simple. Small churches outnumber megachurches by such massive amounts that there are more of every kind of small church than there are of the same kinds of megachurches. Read further

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Tell Me “No” Or I’ll End Up Like Elvis, Michael, and O.J.

I’m like everyone else. I have daydreamed about what it would be like to score the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. I’ve thought about what it would feel like to sing a song I’d written to a stadium full of people, who were singing it back to me. I’ve wondered what it would be like to have adoring fans ask me for my autograph while I ate a burrito at Taqueria Vallarta. Let’s be honest, it would be fun.

At the same time, too much of that kind of stuff could be dangerous to my soul and to my health. Think about Elvis. Over a period of time he found himself living in a world where everything he wanted was given to him. No one questioned the wisdom of his decisions. His was a world of the constant “yes” to his every whim. Think about Michael Jackson. He eclipsed the first King of Pop, to become the new King of Pop, and just like Elvis he too created a world where he was surrounded by sycophants who never told him “no” and always supported his desires, secrets, and addictions with a ready “yes.” Think about O.J. Simpson. Over the course of his football career, and growing fame that spread to movies and Hertz commercials, he was able to create a persona that leveraged just about everything he wanted for himself. His fame grew to the point he could physically abuse his wife and not suffer the consequences. He simply lived in a world of the constant “yes” to his desires. We all know the great tragedies of what happened to each of these men. All three men had their lives destroyed because “no” completely disappeared from the vocabulary of their lives. Think about that. Elvis, Michael, and O.J. needed someone to care enough about them to confront them with their growing pride, and tell them “no” when they needed to be told “no” for the sake of their soul, their sanity, and even their physical well-being.

Look – as much as we all daydream about Elvis, Michael or O.J. kinds of fame – I actually think it destroyed them. They are living illustrations of how much we all need (we don’t want it but we need it) to be told “No!” Our sanity, and the health of our soul require that we be small, and if all we ever get is “yes” to our every whim, it actually will kill us.

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My Assumption Vs. Your Meaning

Yesterday I preached on this little scene in Matthew 20 between Jesus, a Mom and her two boys. Momma Zebedee had just overheard Jesus as He’d pulled her boys, and the other 10 disciples, aside to specifically and clearly tell them about the next phase in His mission.  “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” I only spent a few moments on this yesterday, but notice how patently clear Jesus is about what’s going to happen next: condemned to death, mocked, flogged, crucified and raised to life. You’ve got to have some exceedingly powerful assumptions racing through your mind not to understand the vivid and memorable things Jesus was saying. And yet the pre-assumptions that Jesus was about to become King, lead a revolution against Rome, and rule Israel were so mighty in the imaginations of this mom and her boys, that she gets on her knees and requests of Jesus, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” How in the world did she get “sitting on thrones” from Jesus’ words about mocking, flogging and crucifixion? The answer lies in the power of her assumptions. She was so sure of her desires for God’s kingdom, and for her boys, that what she wanted Jesus to mean as He described the next phase of His mission was what Jesus actually meant He intended to do.

Ouch! I don’t know about you, but I definitely can see that same behavior in myself. What about you?

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Churches, Health, and Growth

When is a church “successful” or “growing”? I appreciate what Pastor Karl Vaters observes about this discussion. He writes:

“There’s more than one way for churches to grow. But over the last forty years or so we’ve been given one model of church growth almost exclusively. Get more people in the building.

That model is so prevalent that when I dare to suggest that many small churches are healthy churches with something to add to the body of Christ, I’m met with an incredulous chorus of how can it be healthy if it’s not growing? The answer? Nothing in nature keeps growing continuously. Every healthy organism grows bigger until it reaches maturity, then it grows in other ways after that.

Why would we expect local churches to be any different?”

If you want to read more of his post, I invite you to click on this link.

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What is an “Evangelical” Christian?

Good Morning. In our latest installment of Truth Seekers Forum “Random Questions Part 6 – “What is an ‘evangelical’ Christian?” a listener named Barb asks the question: “Tell me what an ‘evangelical’ Christian is as opposed to a regular Christian and why are ‘evangelical’ Christians a huge voting monolith in America now? Does this concern you like it concerns me?” Host Devin Kleffer, myself and Dr. Adam Nigh weigh in on the conversation. Give it a listen, learn a little bit of church history, and see what you think about the topics we address in answering the question.

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God Irritates Me Sometimes

God irritates me sometimes. Sometimes God works in the world like the movement of a glacier. Glaciers are powerful, moving forces in nature that can literally carve away the surface of granite, but glaciers move at the speed of –  well a glacier. You can stand at the foot of a glacier all day long and see no movement with the naked eye. I’m told glaciers move anywhere between 30 to .5 meters a day, and there are a lot of times in my life when it feels like God is moving toward His goal of “making all things new” at a pace of about 30 to .5 meters a day. At the very same time, God also can choose to work in the world like a bolt of lightning. Apparently lightning flashes at approximately 220,000 miles per hour. So lightning is fast and incredibly powerful, as in 30,000 amperes of powerful electrical energy. And there are times when God  strikes fast and with incredible power. He can turn crucifixions into resurrections in the space of 3 days, and part the Red Sea in an instant.

Here’s the problem I usually run into. God and I are often on different pages about which tempo He “should” be using as He does His work. There are times that I’d prefer for Him to move at a glacial pace, and He decides to hurry the pace and work quickly. Then there are other times when I’d prefer Him to move in a lightning strike, and He just slows things down to the crawl of a glacier. Of course, His pace always proves best but I admit, it can irritate me at times. I’m still learning to accept the tempo of God’s choosing in every season of my life, trusting that His pace is what is most needed in that season.

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God Is Hilarious

God is ever at work in his project of making all things new. He never ceases to amaze me with His hilarious creativity, even in the middle of catastrophes. A dear friend of mine, who is serving M____ refugees in Europe, shared this interesting news report with me.

Headline: Muslim Converts Breathe new life into Europe’s struggling Christian Churches

“Christianity is making a comeback in Europe – and it’s mostly thanks to Muslims, say experts in Islam and faith leaders. A soaring number of Muslims, many of them refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, are converting to Christianity, breathing new life into Europe’s once floundering Christian churches. The Muslims are flocking to various Christian denominations, experts said, including becoming Protestants, evangelical or Catholic. As many parts of Europe are becoming more secular and houses of worship are seeing congregants leave in droves, it is Muslim converts who are reviving struggling Christian churches.”  Read more

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