GEORGE O. WOOD REVIVING DYING CHURCHES
CREATING AN IRRESISTIBLE CHURCH
STEVE STEWART MIRACULOUS HEALING RARE IN U.S. JULY// AUGUST 2014
EQUIPPING CHRISTIAN LEADERS TO GROW
FIVE OF THE
FASTEST-GROWING CHURCHES YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
And what you can learn from them
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Unique growth 14 methods Some churches have discovered unusual draws in the midst of overall decline
14 | 5 OF THE FASTEST-GROWING CHURCHES YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
Without any fanfare, these churches have hit on something to bring people to Jesus By Troy Anderson PLUS: More Churches on the Rise
28 | CAN A DYING CHURCH FIND LIFE?
Here are 6 radical steps to answering ‘yes’ to that question By Thom S. Rainer PLUS: Autopsy of a Deceased Church
32 | GROWING OUTSIDE THE BOX
How some churches use nontraditional methods to expand their reach By Jeremy Burns
38 | INVITING A GENERATION TO EXPLORE LIFE, FAITH & GOD
Alpha USA engages millenials with life’s biggest questions By Gerard Long
46 | FANNING THE FLAMES OF DYING CHURCHES
Churches rely on the Holy Spirit’s infinite capacity to renew By George O. Wood
DEPARTMENTS MINISTRY LIFE
56 | CHURCH GROWTH What does growth look like for various churches? 58 | GROWING PAINS Without change, there is no growth 60 | WORSHIP 3 common contemporary worship problems
62 | GROWTH OR CONTROL How much of each does a church really want? 64 | FUTURE Are you open to anything God has for you?
6 | MINISTRY OUTSIDE THE BOX 5 questions your church needs to ask a mobile developer | Approaching the speed of creativity | The church could learn from Albert Einstein
12 | PASTOR’S HEART Can you be a good pastor and a bad husband? By Jared Moore 66 | KINGDOM CULTURE Why aren’t we seeing miraculous healing in the U.S.? By Steve Stewart
48 | DO WE REALLY NEED MORE CHURCHES IN AMERICA? As long as they are gospel-advancing churches, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’ By Greg Stier
52 | 4 KEYS TO CREATING AN IRRESISTIBLE CHURCH Here’s how to create an environment where people enjoy encountering the living God By Greg Atkinson 4
MinistryToday July // August 2014
Ministry Today (ISSN #0891-5725) is published bi-monthly by Charisma Media, 600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746. Periodicals postage paid at Lake Mary, FL 32746 and at additional entry offices. Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distributing) Sales Agreement Number 40037127. Subscription rate is $24.97 for six issues and $39.97 for twelve issues. Canadian subscribers add $5 per year for postage, other countries add $10 per year for postage, payable in advance in U.S. currency only. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Ministry Today, P.O. Box 6102, Harlan, IA 51593-1602. Send undeliverable Canadian mail to: 1415 Janette Avenue, Windsor, ON N8X1Z1. © 2014 by Charisma Media. For advertising information call (407) 333-0600. Nothing that appears in Ministry Today may be reprinted without permission. PRINTED IN THE USA Cover: Lighstock
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Ministry Outside the Box
IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INSPIRATION BEYOND THE NORM
5 Questions Your Church Needs to Ask a Mobile Developer By Santiago Jarmillo So let’s say you’re ready to invest in a mobile app for your church. Congratulations! The decision is absolutely worth celebrating. The next step is choosing a company to develop your app. Because the developer of your choice will work closely with you from the initial meeting to the app launch and beyond, be sure to consider five key questions:
What does it cost? (And what does it really cost?)
plans for tools to break, but unfortunately, Murphy’s Law is merciless. Therefore, knowing the developer’s policies on support and updates is crucial for the app’s long-term success. What will happen if the app breaks? Will the developer wait for your complaints before updating the app, or will the app be continuously updated? The developer should be thinking ahead and preparing for the “what-ifs” so you don’t have to.
What branding and personalization features are included? Your church has a
unique personality and appearance, reflected in your methods of communication. An app should enhance the brand, not detract from it. Can your church logo be integrated into the app? Are the icon and splash screen customizable, or does the developer operate from a “one-size-fits-all” approach? Can the developer integrate your color scheme? Do you have multiple design options or control over your app’s menu? Continuity is crucial to a church’s messaging strategy, so the app should fit seamlessly into your current branding efforts.
What is offered in terms of push notifications? Push notifications offer an opportunity for two-way communication unlike any other. These messages “pop”
MinistryToday July // August 2014
Churches generally operate under tight budgets, and you want a developer who is mindful of that. Can the developer adequately explain the value the app will bring to your church in exchange for the cost? Besides the actual app itself, what services are included in the total package? Are maintenance, optimization and updates included or extra? D o e s t h e c omp any c h a r ge an up-front price, a monthly/ annual subscription, or both? I s t he ad ve r t i s e d co s t t he same as the actual cost? You want the best for your church, so make sure to clarify exactly what benefits you will gain from the purchase.
What does the timeline for an app look like from start to launch? The
process of getting an app from idea to live in the app store involves many steps. If you purchase an app now, you don’t want to wait three to six months until it’s in your congregation’s hands. Ask the developer for a realistic estimate in terms of timing. What will be expected of you to ensure a timely delivery? Does the developer foresee any complications that would delay the process? Knowing the project timeline is necessary to keeping up with deadlines for both you and the developer, as well as planning for app-marketing campaigns as the launch date approaches? Whether your church body is 15,000 strong or 100 and growing, a mobile app can be a big leap forward, and the right technology company can be a big help.
W ha t k ind o f technical suppor t and regular maintenance does the company offer? No one ever
onto the screen as reminders and announcements for important church happenings, even when the app is not in use. Can a member of your staff “push” notifications easily? Will the user have the ability to choose the information they want “pushed” to their phones? Push notifications are a key differentiator from other digital communication forms, so be sure to confirm that the developer offers them.
There’s no limit to who can be reached by a digital church Your mission hasn’t changed. But the world has. It’s a world that no longer exists solely within the four walls of your church. To grow and keep people engaged, you must move outside those walls and build a digital church. One that combines the power of podcasts, mobile apps, social media, and streaming video. Founded in faith, Piksel 316 Networks will help you expand your mission into the digital world. We share your commitment to attracting, engaging, and spreading Christ’s teachings with more people. For over a decade we’ve been working with some of the world’s leading ministries, helping them to leverage technologies that bring people together.
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Ministry Outside the Box
IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INSPIRATION BEYOND THE NORM
Too often knowledge becomes a barrier based on beliefs of yesterday for the things that didn’t work. Only imagination can find open doors that might have been ignored.
By Denisse Leon Albert Einstein probably was the best-known scientist of the 20th century. He was a great, creative thinker whose ideas have changed the world, defined our understanding of the universe, and inspired millions. Einstein was a brilliant man who was passionately curious about physics and philosophy. In 1922, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. He wrote more than a dozen books, more than 300 scientific papers and more than 150 non-scientific works. Here are four principles we can learn from Albert Einstein as church communicators:
Einstein has been called the most creative genius of the last century. He started his career as a patent office clerk, where he learned how to analyze creative ideas and examine them in his mind. He began to move into the unknown of his ideas through his imagination, rather than knowledge.
MinistryToday July // August 2014
It took more than seven mistakes in a period of about 40 years for Einstein to prove his theory of relativity, which includes the famous equation E=mc2. Mistakes are fundamental to exploring new territory. It would have been easy for Einstein to allow the fear of making mistakes to stop him from some of his greatest discoveries. Mistakes are experiments that eliminate an option.
See It Through
Einstein believed that staying with a problem longer could make the difference between failure and success. Perseverance played a very important role in his success. So many people never reach their goals because they give up right before the finish line. It has been said that the difference between creativity and imagination is action, and Albert Einstein was simply a reflection of this same concept by putting his creativity into motion time after time.
Approaching the Speed of Creativity
So embrace your imagination. Keep on asking questions. Make bold mistakes. And see things through.
The Church Could Learn from Albert Einstein
Without the curiosity of questions, there would not be room for wonder. Einstein was constantly asking questions, clarifying things and thinking how things were connected with one another. He would ask the questions that others would ignore. If you want to be more creative, be more curious. Ask more questions.
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Ministry Outside the Box V o l . 3 2 // N o . 4 Publisher/Executive Editor STEVE STRANG firstname.lastname@example.org
How Social Media Can Enhance Live Events By Caroline McCain If there has been a main focus for me these last eight months, it is “social.” I’ve focused as much as I can on our social efforts, and I was so happy when our church brought on an intern in January to help with social media. We had a couple of major events over the last six weeks, and I wanted to add social media to the mix for two main reasons. First, I believe when events incorporate engagement, they are more fun and more effective. Second, a live event gives you the opportunity to capture more leads (as in, get more Twitter followers). We did a trial run with the first event, and then the second event was a huge success. What made it work? In my estimation, here were the key things: Pick a hashtag, and use it early and often. We settled on the hashtag for our event (#PG2014) months ago and used it as much as we could. We tried to attach it to every post and every link we shared. Our church is part of a network of churches across the country, and this event was for that larger network. So we leveraged social relationships with our “parent” brand and made sure the hashtag stayed consistent throughout. Pick your channels. We didn’t try to do every single channel for this event. Part of our choice was based on Tagboard’s functionality (to get technical, the Facebook API doesn’t let you track hashtags well). So we focused our approach on Twitter and Instagram. Realize that Facebook might not be the best channel for live interaction. Photography. A picture is worth a thousand words, no? And it’s never more true than for social media—especially a live event. We had two photographers (just volunteers) capturing images for us throughout. We would add a new image to our Instagram account every session and add a handful on Twitter every now and then. Twitter now lets you post four images at a time, which is perfect for live events. Display it! Call it narcissism, self-absorption or maybe just call it awesome. But I call it the Jumbotron effect. Remember that first time you showed up on the Jumbotron at a game or an event and you freaked out, danced and looked totally goofy? The same thing happens when you get to see your tweet or your Instagram on a screen. You get excited, and you get to feel like you’re a part of it. Tagboard made this happen for us. Tagboard curates live social content and displays it really pretty. You can moderate on the backend to keep the crazies from taking over (or if you’re just doing an event with middle schoolers and need to watch for inappropriate things). It can’t be just you. Our event’s success would never have been possible if one person tried to run social media. I set the strategy and the vision, but I had multiple people tweeting and multiple people taking photos. Additionally, I got buy-in from one of our key pastors to tweet his thoughts and comments throughout the event. With these steps, you can use social media effectively at your church event to make it both more fun and engaging. If you do it well, and do it right, you should gain not just a bunch of followers but also engaged advocates of your church and your teaching. 10 MinistryToday July // August 2014
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P A S T O R ’ S
H E A R T
BY JARED MOORE
Can a Good Pastor be a Bad Husband? Pastors should be able to manage their own household
t’s a great question, and one that all pastors and church leaders need to hear. If you’re not a good husband, can you be a good pastor? There’s a real temptation in ministry (at least for me) to spend my time ministering to those outside my home to the detriment of ministering to those inside my home. If we allow our congregations’ needs to dictate our schedules, neglecting our responsibilities at home can be sinfully justified. Remember, in order to be qualified to pastor God’s people, a pastor “must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4-5, ESV). Also remember that pastors who preach the gospel shou ld not u ndermine the gospel by refusing to love their wives as Christ loves the church: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph. 5:25-28). The more we understand the gospel, the more we should be willing to die for the well-being of our bride. Marriage for every Christian man is a call to die for the salvation and sanctification of our wives. These truths are important to mention because there is a real danger for pastors to think that they can separate the integrity of their ministry from the integrity of their home. Consider John Wesley, one of the greatest Christian preachers who ever lived, as an example. Nathan Busenitz, at the Cripplegate blog, recently wrote an article titled “John Wesley’s Failed Marriage.” In this passage
from Stephen Tomkins’ biographies on Wesley, he quotes a couple biographies about Wesley, and some statements about Wesley’s marriage are startling: “When Wesley left for a ministry tour in Ireland in 1758, Molly reported that her husband’s parting words to her were: ‘I hope I sha ll see you r w icked face no more’ ” (p. 155). “Reunited in Eng la nd, they clashed violently—Wesley refusing to change his writing habits [of sending affectionate letters to other women] and Molly accusing him of adultery and calling down on him, in her own words, ‘all the curses from Genesis to Revelation’ ” (p. 155). “A lmost the sole sur viving record of this ma rriage from Molly’s side dates from December 1760, when she said Wesley left a meeting early with one Bett y Disine and was seen with her until the following morning. She told him ‘in a loving manner to desist from running after strange women for your character is at stake’” (p. 159). “In 1771, Molly announced that she was leaving John again. On 23 January, the Journal reports, ‘For what I cause I know not to this day, [my wife] set out for Newcastel, purposing “never to return.” I did not leave her: I did not send her away: I will not call her back’ ” (p. 174). How could the father of Methodism have such a glaring blind spot? I don’t know. But don’t assume that you and I are immune from such blind spots. May we constantly examine the integrity of both our public and private ministries. May we constantly repent and believe in Christ’s finished work alone to save and sanctif y us. May we never be satisfied with our own holiness as we depend solely on the holiness of Christ to justify us.
“The more we understand the gospel, the more we should be willing to die for the well-being of our bride. Marriage for every Christian man is a call to die for the salvation and sanctification of our wives.”
12 MinistryToday July // August 2014
J a r e d M o o r e i s the pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky.
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CHURCHES YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
14 MinistryToday July // August 2014
BY TROY ANDERSON
ther Christian magazines annually report on the “fastest-growing churches in America.” Churches like New Spring in Anderson, South Carolina; Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama; Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California; Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas; and Citylife Church in Tampa, Florida, have all received their just due for packing ‘em in every Sunday and winning souls for the kingdom. But what about those church plants—ones that you might not quite be familiar with—that Jesus has blessed with phenomenal growth in a short period of time? Some of those churches—those who have hit upon attractive kingdom ingredients—are spotlighted in the July-August issue of Ministry Today as part of some of the “fastest-growing churches you’ve never heard of.” One of those churches “fearlessly” meets in a nightclub in downtown Los Angeles—complete with, dare we say it, stripper poles. Another started out in a laundromat, with members putting quarters in machines and paying for other people’s laundry, and wound up in an Irish pub. In a society when many churches are either on the decline or have shut down, these churches certainly have hit on a godly formula to attract the unchurched. Also in this issue devoted to church growth, Brian K. Dodd takes a look at seven practices of growing churches; Alpha USA’s Gerard Long touches on how his organization is planting a hunger for Jesus in millennials, prompting higher church attendance among the younger crowd; Greg Atkinson reveals ways on how you can create an irresistible church; Rick Warren gives suggestions on how to handle growing pains in your church; and Greg Stier asks the poignant question, “Do we really need more churches in America?” This issue of Ministry Today shares exciting stories of church plants that have blossomed into bodies of strong faith and service, as well as practical articles that can help struggling churches get back on the path to health. Lightstock
July // August 2014 MinistryToday 15
Without any fanfare, these churches have hit on something big to bring people to Jesus UNIQUE GROWTH
One church met in a nig htclub with stripper poles—a venue popular with Hollywood celebrities. Another focused on the “profound mystery” of marriage, encouraging husbands to be the “pastors of their homes.” A third uses a Crossfit gym as its second campus and offers a workout after the service. A fourth is breaking all the rules with love, miracles, long sermons and worship services that allow the gifts of the Spirit to flow. The last started doing free laundry for the less fortunate, met in an Irish pub and has the blessing of Pastor Jack Hayford, former president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. While their methods and gathering places may be unconventional, they all share a passion for spreading the hope and love of Jesus in highly innovative
ways. They are among the fastest-growing churches in America that most have never heard of. Here are their stories:
From an early age, Jeremy Johnson felt God was calling him to plant a church in one of America’s most unchurched areas. But he never imagined his church would hold services in a nightclub with stripper poles or that it would be featured in a positive light in a liberal, alternative newsmagazine such as Los Angeles Weekly. The idea for this daring and innovative church gelled one day during a prayer meeting in Modesto, California, several years ago when the words of A. W. Tozer came to his wife’s mind: “A scared world needs a fearless church.” “My wife (Christy) said, ‘What if we
call it Fearless?’ Something just jumped out to me when she said that because fear had almost dominated my life to the point where I couldn’t speak or share the gospel,” says Johnson, pastor of Fearless Church, a Los Angeles-based church that has grown from 20 people last year to about 400 now. “I said, ‘God, I’ll go out on a limb and tell the whole world. God broke my fear of approval of man, fear of failure and just worry and anxiety. 1 John 4:18 says, ‘perfect love casts out fear.’ There are actually 365 ‘fear nots’ in the Bible. There is one for every day.” The birth of Fearless Church has its roots in a message Johnson gave at the funeral of two high school friends who died in a car accident in 1997. Plagued by fear of public speaking, Johnson only gave a “nice little prayer.” Afterwards, several other friends got drunk and
Fearless Church held services and baptisms on the beach before moving into a nightclub in Los Angeles
16 MinistryToday July // August 2014
Koinonia Church has grown rapidly under the direction of Pastor Ronnie Goines
got into an accident. When the driver awoke, he mistakenly thought he had killed everyone in the car, walked to nearby railroad tracks and took his life. Troubled that he hadn’t shared the gospel at the funeral, Johnson decided at age 18 to dedicate his life to spreading the gospel and become a pastor. After graduating from Vanguard University, he spent a decade working as the youth pastor at The House: Modesto church. Then, one day, Johnson had an encounter with God while traveling with the band that grew out of his youth group—Worth Dying For. On the bus ride, Johnson says it felt like “all the sound in the bus (it was very loud) shut off for a second and I felt God speak to me and say that in five years I would plant a church with this band.” In 2011, Johnson and his family moved to Southern California. Joined by the band and others from the youth group, they held their first service around a bonfire on a Corona del Mar beach. Unbeknownst to Johnson, it’s the same place where Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, baptized hundreds of hippies during the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. “We grew to about 50 people, but the police shut us down,” Johnson says. “The people getting drunk and high all around us called the cops for having church on the beach.”
So Johnson moved his congregation to a coffee shop in Irvine where “God would just show up in such a powerful way that the whole team would be on the floor—just weeping and crying out for souls.” Next, his congregation moved a rented warehouse in Costa Mesa where he hired a “secular marketing guy.” He challenged them to “ask your God why He sent you here and who He sent you here for.’ ” Motivated by his remarks, the congregation felt inspired to reach those “who are chasing a dream and who have been crushed by a dream.” In May 2013, the congregation relocated to the Belasco Theater nightclub in downtown Los Angeles. Johnson told the manager that he wanted to hold church services there. “He looked at us like, ‘You’re crazy,’” Johnson recalls. “‘Why in the world would you want to have church here?’ He said, ‘Those are stripper poles over there.’ ” Nevertheless, Fearless Church held its first service at the theater on Pentecost Sunday and the line “went down the street.” The church continued to grow–holding services at locations that doubled as nightclubs frequented by Hollywood stars and music personalities–and moved several times before settling on the Exchange LA at 618 S. Spring St. Today, less than two years after the church held its first bonfire beach
service, attendance averages about 400 each weekend. The church, which is “super-connected” to Planetshakers City Church in Australia, has a vision see the entire city “come to know the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ.” “I attribute it to following the will of God and listening to Him even when it doesn’t make sense,” Johnson says.
KOINONIA CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Every growing church is a marriagebuilding church. That’s the secret behind the growth of Koinonia Christian Church in Arlington, Texas, a church that exploded from a five-person Bible study a decade ago to a congregation of more than 4,000 members today. “When you become a marriage-building church, you are pumping health and life into your church which creates the foundation for it,” says Jimmy Evans, the founder of Marriage Today, a Texas-based ministry dedicated to restoring the dream of marriage in America. “It creates an inductive atmosphere where people will want to come because they know something great will happen in their relationships.” In 2004, Koinonia pastor Dr. Ronnie Goines, his wife Nikki and three other people started a Bible study in the Goines’ family living room. Over the next two years, the Bible study gave birth to what eventually became July // August 2014 MinistryToday 17
Members of OneChurch’s Crossfit campus enjoy a workout after service
Koinoinia, a church that had grown to about 70 members by 2006. But the growth of the church didn’t really take off until Nikki came home one day and told her husband about the Marriage Today ministry. They listened to a CD that teaches couples how to have a strong marriage. “I was blown away by it,” Goines says. “We said, ‘We have to open this up to our people.’ ” The church created what became known as the COMMITTED marriage ministry. COMMITTED is not only designed to “save” marriages, but to make good marriages better. “Many people mistakenly base the decision to marry on love, but don’t realize that love alone is not the basis for a healthy marriage,” Goines says. “Many couples are in divorce court every day and still in love. However, if your marriage is based on commitment, even during seasons where love is not felt, a couple is committed to working it out.” The church is modeled after Evans’ ministry. “From our perspective, churches are ignoring some of the biggest issues in society—one of those being the demise of marriage,” says Evans, author of Marriage on the Rock and co-host of the Marriage 18 MinistryToday July // August 2014
Today with Jimmy Evans television program. “People want to be married. It’s in their DNA. When you help people be married, you are not trying to push something on them they don’t want. They just don’t know how.” Goines says it’s unbalanced theology for a church to not teach about strong marriages. “According to Ephesians 5:32, marriage is a profound mystery that is akin to Christ and the church,” Goines says. “Therefore a solid understanding of marriage is somehow amalgamated with a solid understanding of Christ.” Initially, only a few couples signed up for the sessions. But as word spread, the meetings soon drew 20 to 30 couples. Over the next year, attendance shot from 100 to more than 400. “In the midst of that, I discovered there is a big void in the home when it comes to men embracing their roles as husbands and leaders,” Goines says. During the sessions, Goines says men would often tell him that they didn’t know how to live the lifestyle of a godly man, but if he asked them about the responsibilities of a pastor they could easily offer a good answer. “They had a pretty accurate idea of what they expected from me as
their pastor,” Goines says. “With that discovery, I started to teach men that they are to be the pastors of their homes.” As word of saved marriages began to spread, more and more people started attending the church and going to the COMMITTED sessions. By 2008, the congregation had grown to 2,000 people. “People are coming to get the real deal on not just on how to be married, but how to enjoy their marriages,” Goines says. “We taught men and women how to embrace their roles as God designed. “ Today, the church has more than 4,000 members. Goines says the growth is largely the result of Marriage Today and its initial generosity in sending the church a year’s worth of curriculum, books and DVDs at no charge. “They sowed that seed into our ministry and now today, as God would have it, I’m scheduled to speak at a Marriage Today conference,” Goines says. “I met Jimmy Evans personally. That’s an awesome honor for me to be friends with a guy who is responsible not just for our church growth, but also for saving so many marriages in our church.”
Like most church-planting pastors,
Pastor Kevin Wallace’s vision is for Redemption Point Church to be ‘the most loving church in America’
Greg Ford had many trepidations about the new venture he and his wife Shaylyn had taken on when they moved to Columbus, Ohio, in 2011. They had been trained for this through the Assemblies of God, but building relationships and trust among the community was an entirely different thing. The Fords’ vision was to establish a church that would not only attract Bible-believing Christians but also the unchurched and those who had little knowledge of Jesus. Attracting that type of crowd to church certainly wasn’t going to be easy. As a second means of income, Greg Ford took a job at the front desk of a local Crossfit gym. An athlete himself, Ford soon discovered that he could relate easily to the members of the Crossfit gym and that they were receptive to hearing the gospel. “I was the morning person, so I’d arrive at the gym every morning at 4:30 a.m. and the doors would open at 5,” said Ford, 33, a former youth pastor at Calvary Assembly of God in Toledo, Ohio. “Literally there would hundreds of people each day that gave me the opportunity to build friendships let people get to know what we were 20 MinistryToday July // August 2014
trying to do. You had regular fitness buffs, but you also had professional athletes and former pro athletes that went to the club, and most of these people weren’t going to church.” OneChurch’s Crossfit campus— an 8,000 square-foot facility in New Albany—holds services on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. in that gym. Ford says he has about 100 people who call that church their home church, but normally has 50 people in attendance on Sunday. Not only can attendees hear an inspiring message, but they can stay for a free Crossfit workout afterward. “We define worship in broader terms than some.” OneChurch’s Cornerstone Campus in Westerville holds two services on Sunday mornings and has grown to around 600 members. Between the two campuses, OneChurch has attracted both the lost and believers who are new to the faith. Ford says his biggest thrill is seeing people get saved on a regular basis and then discipling them. “We’ve had a lot of turnover, and that’s been a challenge. But, it’s been exciting to watch our church grow so rapidly,” Ford said. “God is really doing some amazing things here.”
REDEMPTION POINT CHURCH
Redemption Point Pastor Kevin Wallace has a vision to pastor the “most loving church in America”—not to mention one of the more miraculous. As pastor of a church in Ooltewah, Tennessee, that has grown from 34 attendees at its first meeting in 2000 to more than 1,200 today, Wallace seems to be well on his way to fulfilling that calling. However, the early years weren’t easy. In fact, the pastor of Redemption Point Church says it was “hell on earth.” “This is the part people don’t usually hear about,” Wallace says. “My 1-yearold son Jeremiah had seven kidney stones in his right kidney. My newborn son and my wife in the first six months both got spinal meningitis within the same week. I almost had a nervous breakdown. But what catapulted our church into the first wave of explosive, quick growth was that God healed my son of kidney stones, and he healed my wife and newborn son of spinal meningitis. “Our agnostic doctor confessed that although she didn’t believe in miracles, something had to have
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happened because the kidney stones disappeared. It was definitely after the church had prayed. And when those miracles happened, the church went from 34 people to about 200 people in nine months. We went into a major revival mode.” During this time, a number of miracles occurred among members of this Church of God congregation, including a mother with a walker who “threw off that walker and took off trotting around the church without a walker,” Wallace says. “The church was rather dead, to be honest, when Kevin got here,” says Ron Phillips, the senior pastor at Abba’s House in Hixson, Tennessee and host of the Ron Phillips From Abba’s House television program. “He began in his joyful and enthusiastic way to preach the Bible and grew the campus in Ooltewah. “I’ve never seen a church advance as rapidly as his church. It hasn’t happened because he embraced some modern or contemporary model. It’s advanced because there is a strong presence of God on this young man’s life. It’s obvious he’s gifted by the Holy Spirit, in addition to his own natural talents as a preacher. He’s a great people person and a great man in the pulpit. He seems to attract 22 MinistryToday July // August 2014
resources as well that have brought great favor to him.” Wallace, who received a word of prophecy from Phillips as a youth that he would become “a voice in your generation,” says church growth experts are often shocked by his church’s success “because so many times we do the opposite of what we are supposed to do to grow.” “We broke all the rules,” Wallace says. Instead of giving a 25-minute sermon, Wallace often preaches for 45-50 minutes, and worship services can last for hours. “It’s almost old-fashioned with a fresh, prophetic sort of focus,” Wallace says. “I don’t like weirdness, but at the same time I think that our churches have gotten so normal that anytime we get back to the Bible everyone thinks we’re abnormal. “When people come to our church, they may see people fall out on the floors, speak in tongues and there is an interpretation and healings occur. That is shocking to even some Spiritfilled people who come to church, but that is the paradigm that the New Testament church is called to operate in. While some people think that’s abnormal, we think it’s normal.” In the past, ministers have been told that if they allow the gifts of the Spirit
to flourish that their congregations won’t grow, Wallace says. “But in the Book of Acts every explosive growth season in the church was tied to supernatural and miraculous sorts of activity where God broke in and just did things that only He can do. When He did that, and the people allowed Him to and entire cities and communities were transformed.” Wallace says the church needs to refocus on the things of God and let the Spirit of the Lord do what only the Holy Spirit can. “We have seen the limits of what man’s gifts and man’s abilities can produce in the church,” Wallace says. “Whatever we see now is as good as it can get without God restoring true apostolic power and authority. The only thing that I think will revive the church in America is an authentic demonstration of the presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Freedom Church started with seven friends from his Bible study going to a Laundromat in Chatsworth, California, putting quarters in the machines and paying for everyone’s laundry. “We did it without any strings attached–just a way to love and serve the community in a really under-resourced Freedom Church
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area,” says Freedom Church Pastor Justice Coleman. “Over the course of months, we made a lot of friends. I prayed for people, I did a funeral and we did more than 1,000 loads of laundry. “When it came time to start the church, we had a group of people who were really excited about it. They were like, ‘When are you going to start your church?’ ” In deciding on a place for the church to meet, Coleman thought about a tattoo-covered friend he once invited to church who felt so awkward that he never returned. “It was then that I realized that the church experience he had was fine— like the pastor did a great sermon and people were welcoming—but it wasn’t good for Jake and he never came back,” Coleman says. “I realized that I wanted to start a church so people would have a place they felt like they could belong before they even believed.” One day, Coleman approached the owner of McGee’s Irish Pub in
Chatsworth to see if he could hold his church services there. “He didn’t want me to start a church in there,” Coleman says. “He said, ‘I don’t want my bar turning into a church.’ With fasting and prayer and by the grace of God—and the right price—he agreed to rent it out to us.” The first service was held on Easter Sunday in 2011, and about 100 people showed up. “We wanted to start a church in a pub because I felt it would be the most comfortable place people who are not Christians to go,” Coleman says. “We were trying to start a church to reach as-yet-not Christians. We were trying to create a church where people can belong before they believe, and an Irish pub seemed like a good place for that.” Jack Hayford, former pastor of The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, Ca liforn ia, where Colema n g rew up, says Coleman is an “outstanding young leader, and I’m grateful for his
leadership and for what’s occurring over at Freedom Church.” After meeting at the pub for a while, the church relocated to a middle school and opened a campus in Highland Park near downtown Los Angeles. About 500 people now attend the two campuses each weekend. “I think people are really hungry for real and authentic faith and real and authentic community,” Coleman says. “The No. 1 thing I hear from people when they take a survey or are talking about the church is that it just felt real. We are talking about real stuff every week that is very practical.” T r o y A n d e r s o n was an award-winning reporter and editorial writer at the Los Angeles Daily News, The Press-Enterprise and other newspapers for two decades. He currently writes for Ministry Today, Reuters, Newsmax, Charisma and many other media outlets. Learn more at troyandersonwriter.com.
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MORE CHURCHES ON THE RISE
7 more churches in America experiencing rapid growth By Shawn A. Akers
Here’s a look at some more rapidly growing churches 4) Mill City Church, Fort Collins, Colorado (ARC) – Not in America: unlike many others, Mill City Church’s small-group ministry 1) The Fellowship Church, Antioch, California (ARC) – For is thriving. Instead of meeting at church members’ homes, the better part of seven years, The Fellowship Church, estabhowever, MCC has it what it calls City Groups, which look lished in 2003, stayed stagnant at around 350 members. to be the hands and feet of Jesus by paying attention to Pastor Shaun Nepstad was essentially a one-man band, and meeting needs around their families, neighborhoods doing everything from worship to visitation, announcements or workplaces. This outreach has helped MCC in its growth and preaching. spurt since being launched in 2012. After much prayer and a new vision, the congregation hit a Mill City Church, under the direction of Pastor Aaron Stern, growth spurt a little more than three years ago, and Sunday is a church plant of the Association of Related Churches and attendance now stands at around 1,500. Nepstad attributes has grown to 1,000 members in less than two years. that to the church’s faithfulness in serving the community 5) New Hope Church of God, Trenton, New Jersey (COG) and getting everyone involved as a volunteer. – Ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in America, Gratitude baskets to police Trenton is where God instructed officers, free BBQ for the homePastor Philip Bonaparte to set less and passing out coffee and down roots for New Hope. With donuts to commuters at the local one location already in East Windtrain station are only some of the sor, Bonaparte, a doctor by trade, ways members of The Fellowship founded a second congregation Church brings the gospel to the in Trenton in January 2013 and unchurched. decided to go full-time as a pastor. “All of these outreaches are to In a little more than a year, the get people in the church serving,” congregation of New Hope has Nepstad says. “I’ve heard 11 perswelled from less than 50 to 500. cent of people in the church have Among its many outreaches are the gift of evangelism. So what do a food bank and clothing ministry the other 89 percent do? We’ve got to help the poor and destitute of Shaun Nepstad, pastor of The Fellowship to figure out a kind way to reach Trenton. As another testament to Church in Antioch, California God’s lost kids.” its growth, New Hope began a third 2) New Hope Leeward, Waipahu, Hawaii (Foursquare) congregation in Long Branch, New Jersey, in July 2013. – Under the direction of Pastor Mike Lwin, New Hope Lee6) Hope Fellowship Church, Frisco, Texas (AG) – In a little ward, a January 2003 church plant, outgrew the Leeward more than a decade, Hope Fellowship, which initially met as Community College Theater where it met when it opened. a church plant at a daycare center, averages 5,500 on Sunday By the end of its first year, it became clear that God had mornings. Pastor John McKinzie chose Frisco to set down huge plans for the church. It moved into a new home, the roots because of its moniker as one of the fastest-growing Leeward Ministry Center, and the church has grown to cities in the nation. more than 1,200 members for that campus. “We just put up a sign and we initially had 51 people,” However, the church has birthed three other campuses, McKinzie said. “It was the only place in the whole city that and its attendance numbers have reached 5,000. Three was open to start a church.” more campuses on the Hawaiian Islands are planned. 7) TurningPoint Church, Lexington, Kentucky (ARC) 3) Abundant Life Church of God, San Antonio, Texas – Launched in February 2012, Turning Point Church’s (COG) – A multi-cultural church under the direction of congregation has swelled to 1,200 in a little more than two Pastor Eliezer Bonilla, Abundant Life adopted a smallyears under the direction of Pastor Josh Mauney with Sungroup ministry strategy and started a second all-English day services at 9:00, 10:15 and 11:30 a.m. service in 2003, shifting its focus from the congregation Yet another ARC church plant, TurningPoint’s mission to the community. The church planted a second campus is to “help every person we can find their place in God’s in 2008, and, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the plan.” TurningPoint’s Connect Groups, including its Café congregation has grown from 200 to 2,000 in less than Team, College Survival Guide, Friday Friends, Men Being six years. Men and Making the Most of Your Marriage, help keep the The fruit of these gradual changes has yielded four congregation connected to each other and the community. worship services (two in Spanish and two in English) and it has cemented a growing trend where Hispanic Shawn A. Akers is the managing editor of Ministry Today churches are planting English-speaking congregations. magazine. 26 MinistryToday July // August 2014
The Fellowship Church
Can a Dying Church Find Lıfe? Here are 6 radical steps to answering ‘yes’ to that question BY THOM S. RAINER
28 MinistryToday July // August 2014
have written another article that presented the findings of my “autopsy” on a church that recently closed its doors and died (see sidebar). I knew the church well because I had been their leadership’s consultant 10 years earlier. The only surprise I found was that the church kept its doors open five years longer than I had anticipated. The story generated much interest. Many church leaders and laypersons saw early warning signs in the post that related to their own churches. Many are concerned. Many want to know if there is any hope.The headline of this article is a bit ironic. If a church is dying, it cannot then by definition find life. I must say from a purely statistical perspective, most churches with the symptoms I noted will die within a few years. Though I don’t have hard data, I would be comfortable suggesting that the percentage exceeds 99 percent. But among the American churches on a death march, there is that rare exception, that one in 1,000, that extraordinary situation where a church defies all the man-made odds and moves from near death to health. Those churches are rare, but they do exist. In the midst of the gloomy news of terminal churches, I took a look at a few that had all the signs of impending death and then turned around to life. All of those of which I have
AUTOPSY OF A DECEASED CHURCH
Several reasons exist for the decline of today’s churches I was their church consultant in 2003. The church’s peak attendance was 750 in 1975. By the time I got there the attendance had fallen to an average of 83. The large sanctuary seemed to swallow the relatively small crowd on Sunday morning. The reality was that most of the members did not want me there. They were not about to pay a consultant to tell them what was wrong with their church. Only when a benevolent member offered to foot my entire bill did the congregation grudgingly agree to retain me. I worked with the church for three weeks. The problems were obvious; the solutions were difficult. On my last day, the benefactor walked me to my rental car. “What do you think, Thom?” he asked. He could see the uncertainty in my expression, so he clarified. “How long can our church survive?” I paused for a moment, and then offered the bad news. “I believe the church will close its doors in five years.” I was wrong. The church closed just a few weeks ago. Like many dying churches, it held on to life tenaciously. This church lasted 10 years after my terminal diagnosis. Together my friend and I reviewed the past 10 years. I think we were able to piece together a fairly accurate autopsy. Here are 11 things I learned: 1) The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class 30 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. 2) The church had no community-focused ministries. This part may seem to be stating the obvious, but I wanted to be certain. My friend affirmed my suspicions. 3) Members became more focused on memorials. Do not hear my statement as a criticism of memorials. The point is that the memorials became an obsession at the
church. More and more emphasis was placed on the past. 4) The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing. At the church’s death, the percentage was over 98 percent. 5) There were no evangelistic emphases. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die. 6) The members had more and more arguments about what they wanted. As the church continued to decline toward death, the inward focus of the members turned caustic. Arguments were more frequent; business meetings became more acrimonious. 7) With few exceptions, pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter. The church had seven pastors in its final ten years. The last three pastors were bi-vocational. All of the seven pastors left discouraged. 8) The church had no clarity as to why it existed. There was no vision, no mission and no purpose. 9) The members idolized another era. All of the active members were over the age of 67 the last six years of the church. And they all remembered fondly, to the point of idolatry, the era of the 1970s. 10) The facilities continued to deteriorate. It wasn’t really a financial issue. Instead, the members failed to see the continuous deterioration of the church building. 11) The facilities continued to deteriorate. It wasn’t really a financial issue. Instead, the members failed to see the continuous deterioration of the church building. Though this story is bleak and discouraging, we must learn from such examples. As many as 100,000 churches in America could be dying. Their time is short, perhaps less than 10 years. Let us pray that we can reverse these trends and bring declining churches back to life. Copyright 2014 by Thom Rainer. Used by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
July // August 2014 MinistryToday 29
knowledge were located in areas with dramatically shifting demographics. They weren’t merely churches that were unhealthy; they were dying. Even the most casual observer would have predicted the imminent demise of these congregations. They were truly sick unto death. So how did these churches turn things around? T hou g h e ach of t he stor ie s I examined has its own nuances, I did find some common themes. Please take careful note: This is not a quickfix solution to dying churches. To the contrary, it’s the story of six radical steps taken by key members in each of the churches. A leader must rise and be willing to lead the church toward radical transformation regardless of the personal costs. That leader is typically a new pastor in the church, but it does not have to be. A significant group in the church must admit that they are desperate for help. The significance of the group
could be its sheer size; for example, they could be a majority of active members. Or the significance could be the influence of those in the group rather than the number. This group must lead the church from denial to a painful awakening to reality. That same group must confess guilt. They failed to reach the community. They held on to the idolatry of yesterday. They were only comfortable with “our kind of people.” They saw the church as a place where their personal needs were met. The group must have an utter, desperate and prayerful dependence on God. They can no longer look at the way they’ve always done it as the path for the future. They must fall on their faces before God and seek His way and only His way. The church must be willing to storm the community with love. The church can’t assuage its guilt by having a food and clothes pantry where community residents come to them
once a week. Members must go into the community, love the unlovable, reach out to the untouchable and give sacrificially of time, money and heart. The church must relinquish control. If the church reaches the community, the community will come to the church. They may be poorer. They may have different colors of skin. They may speak differently. They may have a radically different culture than members of the church. If the church is truly to reach the community, it must be joyfully willing to let the community have control of the church. Most readers likely understand the low likelihood of such a transformation taking place. It is so rare that, when it happens, it is often given the name “miracle.” But we serve the God of miracles. Maybe we should expect more. Maybe we should do more.
T h o m R a i n e r is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.
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Northland Church in Longwood, Florida, has several multisite campuses
How some churches use nontradtional methods to expand their reach BY JEREMY BURNS
ince the advent of Christianity some 2,000 years ago, a local church body usually has grown beyond its physical capacity in one of two ways: building or relocating to a larger site, or sending forth leaders to plant a new church elsewhere, often taking with them families who felt similarly called to this new location. In recent years, however, some churches have embraced relatively new methods to expand beyond the boundaries of their current facilities. Though not without their own challenges and not necessarily the best fit for every church looking at options for managing its growth, these three methods have been used by a myriad of churches across the nation and may be worth a look. Method No. 1: Multisite Many churches have embraced a multisite approach to growth. Central Floridaâ€™s Northland, A Church Distributed; Urbana, Illinoisâ€™
32 MinistryToday July // August 2014
Parkway Christian Church’s main campus in Surprise, Arizona
The Vineyard Church sports six locations in Central Illinois, including the main campus in Urbana
34 MinistryToday July // August 2014
The Vineyard and Surprise, Arizona’s Parkway Christian Church are only a few of the large churches that have expanded their breadth by opening multiple locations serving area communities. Some megachurches, like California’s Saddleback Church, have expanded globally, with its multiple sites in Southern California supplemented by satellite campuses in Argentina, Germany, China and the Philippines. Though not exclusively used by megachurches, the staffing, upkeep and ministry offerings of multiple sites at once is a difficult, expensive and time-consuming enterprise that often lends itself to large, financially robust churches. The multisite approach differs from church planting in that planted churches are usually autonomous bodies with their own dedicated pastors, while satellite campuses share the same name, mission and vision—as well as many of the same pastors and programs—as a multisite church’s main campus. Satellite campuses can help facilitate not only numerical expansion of congregants, but also geographic expansion. Large metropolitan areas tend to be prime markets for the multisite approach, as reducing traffic hassles and traveling distance can open up new groups who might be interested in attending your church. Multisite is not without its detractions, however. One difficulty can come in reduced feelings of community stemming from a physical displacement from the rest of the church body. Though satellite campuses usually have their own pastoral staff, the main pastors often primarily focus on the main campus. The lead pastor usually delivers his sermon live to the main campus, while satellite campuses have to settle for a live video stream on a projector. The church’s biggest events are usually concentrated on the main campus, and though similar smaller events may be held in tandem at the satellite campuses, this can make some congregants feel their campus is inferior. Further, in a single church, splintered across several campuses miles apart, pastors and staff must work hard to ensure that all congregants feel included in the church body. Large churches can already struggle with the relational aspect, as face time with lead pastors can be far more difficult to come by in a congregation of several thousand. The small-group ministries that many churches use to ensure members feel loved as people—instead of just another number lost in a sea of faces—can also prove key to making those attending satellite campuses feel included and valued.
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Method No. 2: Mergers A church merger is just what it sounds like: two or more churches becoming one. There are several different scenarios that fall under the merger umbrella, and all of them need to be navigated with care. Reasons for mergers can include a church that has outgrown its facilities, shifts in leadership positions or needs, or simply the belief that a set of believers can do more for the kingdom together than as separate entities. Though mergers are usually initiated with an eye toward greater things to come, some members of the participating churches may feel uncomfortable with the shift as the part of their church’s identity is changed in one fell swoop. These feelings can be understandable, and must be navigated with prayer, compassion and understanding as you move the church toward the vision God has given you. Merging two distinct church bodies into one new body can come with hazards of its own. Each church has unique doctrines, leadership, staff, traditions, ministries, assets and members whose needs should be taken into account. Launching into a merger without careful evaluation of how each element will change during and after the transition could cause the whole process to melt down mid-stream. If you find that the two churches cannot come to agreement on certain points, it may be best to walk away from the merger lest it cause damage and division to your congregations. Method No. 3: Buy-outs Perhaps t he most controversia l of these methods is when a strugg ling church is “boug ht out” by a financially healthy one. It is similar to a merger, except that, instead of a brand new merged church resulting, the church being bought out ceases to be, its membership and assets being absorbed into the “stronger” church. Unlike with mergers, there is an obvious “power” difference between the t wo entities, and the church being bought can feel slighted even if the buy-out is handled with care. In a buy-out, one church is usually 36 MinistryToday July // August 2014
fina ncia lly unable to continue its ministry as it is. Much like a corporate acquisition, the weaker church’s assets, including the building, are incorporated into the healthy church’s coffers, as are its liabilities. The leadership is often largely or completely replaced, though the “parent” church may choose to keep a few lead ers on staff if they are a good fit for the church’s needs. Oftentimes the bought-out church can become a satellite campus for the larger church’s multisite goals, or it could even be used as the main campus for a younger, growing church that has expanded beyond its current facilities. De spite t he u s u a l l y at tend a nt leadership changes for the purchased church, many members may want to stay; it’s the closest thing they have to a home church at that point, after all. This influx of new members can be a good thing for the bigger church and for the body of believers as a whole, but bear in mind the doctrinal differences and emotional ties to the previous church that may become barriers to full assimilation. Some, or even most, of the previous church’s membership may want to leave, particularly if their doctrines don’t line up with those of the larger church, and that’s OK. Make sure that, no matter what side of the buy-out you’re on, you treat both your members and those of the other church with respect, integrity and, above all else, love. If you are considering any of these methods for your church, make sure to do so prayerfully, reflecting on what is best for the congregation’s present and future needs, as well as the vision God has given you. There are myriad variations on each of these three methods that may crop up depending on your situation. Do sufficient research to ensure you make the right decision with the right people at the right place in the right time. Make sure that, no matter what path you take to grow your church, you never lose sight of the reason you were called to ministry in the first place. J e r e m y B u r n s is a best-selling novelist and an assistant editor for Charisma Media.
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Alpha USA is helping to bring millennials back to the church
Alpha USAâ€™s heart is to help provide the millennial generation with Godly relationships
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INVITING A GENERATION TO EXPLORE
BY GERARD LONG
Alpha USA engages millennials with life’s biggest questions
was in the hospital for a couple of weeks, struggling with bacterial and viral meningitis, pancreatitis and encephalitis. One night, I see the window open and this figure comes in, walks right next to my bed and just stares at me. And then nonchalantly, as if nothing had happened, she turned around, opened the window back up, politely closed it and left. I wasn’t sure if I was just dreaming or just seeing stuff... “The next morning, my neurologist walks into my room and she says, ‘Jake, I don’t really know how to explain this... but your brain infection is gone...’ “It was an angel. I mean, it does sound nuts, but there’s no other way to explain it. “When I got out, I was going through a tough time—I wasn’t in school, I lost 80 pounds in the hospital and my girlfriend broke up with me. I was a little lost. That’s when a family member of mine asked me to come with him to Alpha. Then he told me there was free food, and to a poor college student, that’s a dealmaker. “There was one night in particular in the course when it really hit me. I just said, ‘I’m going to live for Jesus.’ It was awesome. I really fell in love with Jesus Christ. It changed me internally.” Alpha USA
Essentially, this story from Jake, a 21-year old student from Ohio, is what Alpha’s really about—it’s a place for everyone, welcoming people from all backgrounds, religions and viewpoints. As seen in Jake’s story, Alpha is an outreach tool that helps churches to invite family, friends and neighbors to start a conversation around the person of Jesus Christ and His teachings. Typically consisting of 10 interactive sessions (used by all major denominations), Alpha runs in churches, homes, coffee shops and bars around the globe. Though the location of Alpha may change, the three elements remain consistent: good food, an Alpha talk and a time of small group discussion, where thoughts can be shared openly and honestly. This recipe is a core part of Alpha, making it uniquely effective, especially among this new generation.
July // August 2014 MinistryToday 39
Currently, there is a trend within our culture for millennials to leave the church. It is a growing concern not only for the present but also for the future. Recent reports highlight that many millennials feel the church, or rather Christianity, lacks genuine community and the depth needed to tackle the complexity of life. It has been described as “not relevant” or “a boring duty.” This negative impression of the church among millennials was a great burden for Rebecca Long, national director of Alpha Youth. Though a tragic accident took her from this earth at 32 in May, her steadfast dream to captivate young people with the love of God by the power of the Holy Spirit continues to inspire momentum with Alpha across the nation, especially among youth. It is Alpha’s heart to help churches provide this generation with more relationships, more consistency and more truth rooted in the gospel. In the second edition of Alpha Life, Lisa Payne shared a bit of her perspective
on being a young person today, “We live in a complicated time. With global economies seesawing, decreasing opportunities for the young and shifts in attitudes towards family values and gendered career roles, it can be hard to envisage what the future will hold. Our identities are being challenged. Who we are, what we do and what our legacy will be are all questions being asked at a much earlier stage in our lives. And this is even before we take into account the idea of faith.” Lisa continues to identif y this common cr y amongst millennials, “Over the years, the web has seen an increase in online forums like Reddit, crowdsourced question-and-answer sites like Quora and micro-blogging tribes on Tumblr, all evidence for this need for answers and insight. Hundreds and thousands of threads on these sites relate to the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ ” In an effort to reach this generation, we, at Alpha, see the necessity in helping churches to provide a safe place where young people can explore
topics that are encountered daily, such as suffering, love and God. First, though, we need to meet and engage young people exactly where they are. Alpha USA is in the midst of a massive rebranding to make it even more relatable to this generation. Its new logo is simple—a question mark. Everyone has questions, and Alpha wants to invite people, both young and old, to ask their questions. At its core, Alpha is relational. This is vital, as we’ve found that some of the most positive church experiences among young people are relationship-based. In fact, millennials who stayed in the church were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult in the church. This leads back to the human desire to belong. Rooted in hospitality and friendship, Alpha creates space for genuine conversations to deepen throughout the night and inevitably with each week. Each Alpha begins with a warm meal, be it crock-pot chili and cornbread or
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fajitas and grilled vegetables. The food is an experience, in itself, and often serves to draw people from around the region. Who can resist a free meal? D u r i ng me a lt i me , i nd i v idu a l s typically sit with their assigned small group and is encouraged to talk about interests and life, unrelated to faith. The conversations expand into discussion after the small groups watch the Alpha Talk, which covers topics such as “Who is Jesus?,” “Why and How do I Pray?” and “How Can I Resist Evil?” At Alpha, small group leaders do not give answers, but rather encourage a freedom to share opinions and work through different perspectives in relation to the Bible and God. This is really where the relationships begin. As people open up, trust within the group naturally forms and people feel a companionship with one another. Even after Alpha is over, many friendships within the small groups continue, strengthening a feeling of ‘place’ within a faith-based community.
At Alpha, small group leaders do not give answers, but rather encourage a freedom to share opinions and work through different perspectives. Millennials also continue to be impacted by the gospel through Alpha because Alpha is engaging. In addition to the 15 foundational Alpha talks, we are striving to produce materials and resources that are intellectually engaging in a way that resonates with culture. Just recently, we launched the brand new Alpha Youth Film Series (available for free online). In this new film series, Alpha invites thousands of youth across the country to
join the conversation about some of life’s biggest questions. Intended for 13-18 -year-olds, it includes 12 interactive episodes designed to equip youth workers and students to reach their friends and community for Christ. Since it was first released in Canada in 2013, Alpha Youth expanded from 84 courses to more than 800 courses. Alpha’s hope in the next 18 months is to reach more than 150,000 young people for Christ in the U.S. Tim May, head of Alpha UK and passionate believer in young people, reflects upon our call to recreate for this generation: “We have spent so long criticizing and complaining about the church’s disconnection with culture, and we have also just copied it at times and then given up and conformed to it. But the call on God’s creation was a lways to create cult ure—to form it. We are called to create, and that takes imagination.” In order to generate fresh culture and change amongst individuals, especially within Alpha Youth and Alpha Campus,
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we have found that our materials need to be driven by creativity. That’s why A lpha has created a film series that is innovative, engaging and fun. In each episode, the two main characters, Jason and Ben, travel around the globe, interviewing various people on the streets about questions ranging from “If you had only 24 hours left to live, what would you do?” and “Have you tried reading the Bible before?” Also included are three breaks where Alpha small groups can engage in the conversation and discuss their own answers—both comical and serious—and begin to see that faith is exciting and relevant to each individual, no matter where they are in life. However, Alpha is most effective in helping churches to reach young people because Alpha is powerful. Not by us, but by the Holy Spirit. It is by the power of God, working through His body—the church. We have seen God use Alpha to radically impact young lives for Christ across cultural, economic and spiritual
boundaries. Alpha creates the space and the time for the Spirit of God to do what only He can do. Faith moves beyond an intellectual exercise and becomes the foundation for a life transformed by God, as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is formed. This intimate understanding of Jesus is vital both to members of this generation’s relationship and engagement with the church and to their faith. We have seen t he Holy Spi r it work in incredible ways among college students and other young adults through Alpha. Recently, Alpha partnered with the Campus Ministries at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Each week, approximately 300 students gathered to watch the Alpha talk and then meet with small groups on their residence hall floors for a time of discussion. A number of students had firsttime encounters with the Holy Spirit, and 75 were trained and equipped to run Alpha again. Furthermore, at Arizona State University, 175 students took
part in four courses running throughout each week, and at Holy Trinity Brompton Church (HTB) in ‘pagan London,’ a recent Alpha course drew more than 1,000 people, with an average age of 27. God is on the move, using Alpha as a place for the Holy Spirit to make a difference in people’s lives. Our time on earth is precious. And when we take a brief step back from the pace of our culture, we begin to see that few things actually matter beyond a relationship with Jesus Christ. In His great love and grace, we are invited to spend eternity with God. Because of this, there is an urgency to follow our call—to go and spread the gospel among all people. Alpha is excited and honored to partner with churches to help empower millennials as individuals and leaders so that, together, we can continue to fight for this generation in an unstoppable way for Christ. G e r a r d L o n g is executive director of Alpha USA.
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Fanning the Flames of
DYING CHURCHES Churches rely on the Holy Spirit’s infinite capacity to renew
BY GEORGE O. WOOD
y parents’ efforts have given me an appreciation for people who pastor smaller churches. I know what it is like to struggle, because I watched my parents struggle. Smaller churches today are somewhat like the neighborhood grocery store when Walmart comes to town. Smaller churches have to compete with larger churches that offer a full-service ministry to people. This is not an easy assignment. With one-third of Assemblies of God churches having a membership under 50, and one-third between 50 and 100, we have many unsung heroes who are faithfully doing the Lord’s work. My mother would say, “Georgie, when we stand before God, He will not ask us if we have been successful, but if we have been faithful.” The largest church my parents ever pastored may have had 130 people for a few Sundays. Most of their churches had 20, 30 and 40 people. But they served those people well. They loved them. They tried to disciple them. Because of my history in and around small churches, I’m also aware that some struggle in ways that can be changed and lead to greater growth. One of the core values I added to my list after being elected general superintendent was to revitalize existing churches. It is often more difficult to revitalize a church than plant a new one. Or, as someone has put it, “It’s easier to birth a baby than raise the dead.” Because a task is difficult, however, does not mean we should abandon it. The Holy Spirit has infinite capacity to renew a church. We have a legion of stories about churches that have made the recovery from smoldering ashes to glowing fires. One of those is New Community Church in Mesquite, Texas. Scott Wilson’s church, The Oaks, in Red Oak, Texas, adopted the dying church and tasked Chris Railey and his family with overseeing its transition from 40 members to just under 100. At that time, Scott appointed Chris as pastor, and the church began a journey to autonomy. Through community outreaches, Chris and the church ended up revitalizing their entire small Texas town. The congregation grew from about 80 people to nearly 700, with 1,200 decisions for Christ. This success story is miraculous but it’s also within the reach of most of our churches on the brink of extinction. Let’s all do what we can to fan the flames of churches dying in communities that desperately need the flame of the Holy Spirit active in their midst.
G e o r g e O . W o o d is the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. 46 MinistryToday July // August 2014
â€œIt is often more difficult to revitalize a church than plant a new one.â€?
Today, Grace Church in Arvada, Colorado, is a thriving church of 3,000 members
As long as they are gospel-advancing churches, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’
BY GREG STIER
48 MinistryToday July // August 2014
ight now there are more than 300,000 Protestant churches in America. Just do the division: 300,000 divided by 50 states— that’s an average of 6,000 churches per state. Wow! That’s a lot of churches! Think about it this way: There are just over 10,000 Starbucks stores in America and well over 300,000 churches. So Starbucks can saturate the United States with caffeinated drinks, but almost 30 times more churches can’t saturate the United States with the Living Water. Seriously? According to church-growth and discipleship-multiplication expert Bill Hull, “It still takes 100 church attendees, a pastor and $100,000 a year to win a convert. Among evangelicals ... This is an ugly fact that should grieve us all.” So our solution is planting more and more churches so that we can reach America for Jesus? Is that really the best solution, or is a revitalization of current churches the better solution? My answer is a resounding yes! We need more churches planted, and we need to
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revitalize the current ones. When I was a 23-year-old part-time youth leader at a church in Arvada, Colorado, I wanted to revitalize the congregation concerning evangelism and outreach. This very traditional church was solid theologically but not growing steadily with disciples being made and multiplied. I’ l l never forget present i ng a n 11-page document called “Operation Arvada” to the senior pastor and asking him to consider it. In those pages were ideas for infusing relationa l evangelism into the lifeblood of the church. He said, “Let me pray about it” (which is a pastor’s way of buying time so that he can think of a nice way to say no to your idea). Days turned to weeks, and I finally realized that it wasn’t going to happen. It was then that I remembered the words of a former pastor who gave up trying to revitalize that same church to plant a new one. He told me, “It’s easier to give birth than to resurrect the dead.” That’s when my best friend and I decided to sta r t a chu rch ou rselves, Grace Church, in A r vada. Through prayer, tons of mistakes and sheer perseverance, we were blessed to plant a church that grew deep and wide in some powerful ways. Today, Grace Church is a thriving congregation with more than 60 percent of the 3,000 or so who go there having come to Jesus as a result of the church’s focused outreach efforts. What about the other church I was involved in? The new pastor and youth pastor are working hard to revitalize
50 MinistryToday July // August 2014 A Kings Journey.indd 1
6/3/14 9:43 AM
it so it can be more effective in the community where it’s located. Yes! We need existing churches to drop a n eva ngel ist ic eng i ne i nto t hei r church chassis. We need new churches planted that grow primarily through new believers being added (as opposed to transfer growth). So the real question is not how many churches do we have in North America, but how many gospel-advancing churches do we have? We need to revitalize current ones and plant new ones until we reach everyone. If you are in an established church, work with all your heart to get the people there making and multiplying disciples. Start with those who are willing and build from there. Pray for your church. Challenge your church. Equip your church. By the way, we at Dare 2 Share can help with that. Start by downloading and using our free evangelism training app. If you feel led to plant a church, determine to build one that grows primarily through relational evangelism and discipleship multiplication. Make intercessory prayer the engine and not the caboose of your efforts, and over time you will succeed. It’s t i me to re v it a l i z e c u r rent churches and plant new ones that bleed the Good News. Let’s give birth and raise the dead! G r e g S t i e r is the president of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which has led thousands of students to Jesus and equipped thousands more to reach their world with the gospel. ©2014 Dare 2 Share. Used by permission.
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4 Keys to Creating an Irresistible Church Here’s how to create an attractive environment for people to encounter the living God
et me preface this by saying that basic and foundational things like prayer, discipleship and evangelism (having an externally focused church) are all a given. Each church should take the Great Commission seriously and have an emphasis on the “Go” and on the “make disciples.” I start everything with prayer, and so please know that what I’m about to discuss is with the above-stated things as must-haves and what I consider foundational to a healthy church. With that being said, let me share with you the “big four” that I look for when I visit a church, “secret shop” a church or consult with a church. As the Scriptures encourage us, we should “compel them” to come in. The four key things that I look for when I do a secret shopper are first impressions, children’s ministry, security and worship. Yes, worship is last, and I have listed them in the order that I weigh them. As many studies have shown, people make up their minds whether or not they will return long before the worship service and especially before the sermon. Most visitors know in the first 10 minutes if they will return to your church.
First Impressions Let’s start with what I consider to be the most crucial of all ministries at a church. Whether you call it first impressions, hospitality or guest relations, it matters and is paramount to breaking down walls and making guests feel welcome at your church. “ Yo u ’v e g o t 1 0 m i n u t e s . Somewhere between the parking lot and the children’s center, the 10 minutes pass. They should know they matter to us before they hear how much they matter to God.”— Mark Waltz, Granger Something I tell all the churches I work with: “You must be intentional about breaking down any barriers of intimidation. You must be strategic and intentional about creating warm, welcoming environments.” Now, I could spend an entire series on just first impressions. This is everything from your online presence (social Lightstock
media like Twitter, Facebook—as well as your website). For example, when I do a secret-shopper visit, I create 10 to 15 pages in my report on just online presence before I ever leave to attend the physical campus. Once one comes to your campus, the real fun begins. First impressions then include the parking lot, greeters, ushers and people who greet you at your church’s Welcome or Information Booth. First impressions also include things like smell (your church may stink), signage (your church may be intimidating and confusing for new people), and how your facility is kept up and maintained. All these things play subtle parts in guests’ first impression of your church in their subconscious. Children’s Ministry Maybe I’m biased because I have three young kids, but I believe in having a
BY GREG ATKINSON
strong and attractive children’s ministry. A lot of churches target parents in their mid-20s to mid-40s, and the best way to compel them is to offer a children’s ministry so dynamic that kids drag their parents to church. Let me sug gest that you ma ke children’s ministry a priority. I’ve seen churches that spent millions on their worship center and have dumpy children’s facilities. I’d never return with my family to churches like that. Show your community and me that kids are important and that you care about partnering with parents to be a help in their spiritual growth. We all know the statistics on the likelihood of people accepting Christ after age 18. Student ministries (children’s through youth) are vital to fulfilling the Great Commission. Security This is probably the most overlooked part of the churches I visit. Most church leaders have never sat down and intentionally and strategically thought through how and why they do security. I wish this wasn’t important and that you didn’t have to have some kind of security presence, but unfortunately that’s not the case. If there had only been one church shooting, that would be too many. I’m sad to say that several churches have experienced the tragedy of shootings—not to mention molestation or kidnapping. B o t t o m l i n e : I f I ’m w o r r i e d about my kids’ safety, I’m not going to enjoy the worship ser vice, and I will miss what God wants to do in July // August 2014 MinistryToday 53
my heart through the experience of corporate worship. Security includes everything from people’s cars in the parking lot, to the safety of infants in the nursery, to children’s facilities, check-in and check-out procedures, mentally ill people acting out in the middle of a service, and protecting the senior pastor. I just returned from a church in California that had security people covering every entrance and exit to their children’s ministry. It was a beautiful thing to see and made me feel safe as a parent. Attractional Worship I know there’s a lot of discussion and debate about whether a church should be attractional or missional. I’ve talked extensively about this all over the country. I’m a “both/and person” and like for a church to seek to be both. But when it comes to the corporate worship service, I look for an attractional model. Again: Compel them to come in. Blow your people and your community away
Blow your people and your community away with excellence and an environment that allows the Holy Spirit of God to move. with excellence and an environment that allows the Holy Spirit of God to move. I never got over Sally Morgenthaler’s book, Worship Evangelism. I think lost people can be moved by genuine and authentic worship. I also know God moves through the preaching of His Word. Please know I’m not talking just to large churches. I work with several small churches. They do things with excellence and, for a small church, blow me away. Regardless of what size church you have, you should think through worship flow, song selection, authenticity, communication/preaching and every aspect
of what you want people to experience each week when you gather. Are sound, video and lights important? I think so, but you don’t have to have the best of the best to see God move. Whether you’re in a school, movie theater, gym or worship center, you can seek to create an environment where people encounter the living God. Please know these are not biblical laws or scriptural requirements. These are simply four keys that I look for when I visit a church, and I’ve found that the churches that do these things well will see God bless their church in amazing ways. Think through each as a team and prayerfully consider how you can do each to the best of your ability. G r e g A t k i n s o n is an author, speaker, consultant and the editor of Christian Media Magazine. The preceding is an excerpt from his latest book, Church Leadership Essentials, available on Amazon through Rainer Publishing.
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MINISTRY LIFE: P E O P L E BY BRIAN K. DODD
7 Practices of Growing Churches How does growth look different for various churches?
have been involved in a number of badly when they focus on running up a new rule, see which rule you can kill.” conversations lately about church the numbers but not the quality.” This is simply good stewardship. Rao growth. What should growth look 3) Growing churches are vigilant about goes on, “Subtraction is very important like? How does it look different for vari- their mission, vision and core values. As his because in an overloaded organization, ous sizes of churches? Should you when you subtract, it is giving a gift.” add services or go multisite? Are Give your church a gift this week. the measurements for success priGo ahead and kill a ministry that marily attendance and budget? needs to die. Can you be successful without 5) Growing churches identify, spotlight numerical growth? If not, what and leverage their top producers. Casis a healthy rate of growth? What cading is a term that is used when about the growth within your peosomeone in your church already is ple and the making of disciples? doing something right. Effective And on and on and on. church leaders identify and release In the March edition staff and volunteers who cascade of Inc. magazine, Leigh Buchanan and create positive catalytic activinterviewed Stanford professors ity. These “catalysts” will grow Robert Sutton and Hugg y Rao your ministry and make your life about the practices of companies easier. They free you up to focus that successfully grow and scale. I on what only you can do as a senior found their insights quite applicaleader. Karen Hanson, vice presible for some of the things needed dent of software-design company for churches to grow. Intuit, sums it up well when she While this is obviously not a says, ”The way you know you’ve fully inclusive list, the follow- B r i a n K . D o dd ’ s daytime job is as a generosity succeeded is to ask yourself, ‘If I ing are seven practices of grow- architect and leadership consultant for INJOY stopped putting energy into this, ing churches that I gleaned from Stewardship Solutions. would it continue to go well?’ ” the article: 6) Growing churches not only embrace 1) Growing churches focus on church company grew to more than 13,000 but also foster change. Warren said, “When health more than church growth. Intuitive stores, Howard Schultz acknowledged the speed of change around an orgachurch leaders know attendance and the “watering down of the Starbucks nization is faster than the speed of budget only tell a portion of the story. experience.” In contrast, Sutton notes change within the organization, the Rick Warren introduced us to the con- Facebook employees have “internalized organization becomes irrelevant.” Fastcept of church health. Rick reminded in a very deep way what is sacred and growing churches understand change us that healthy things grow. Therefore, taboo at Facebook. They aren’t going is their constant companion. Rao confocus on church health. Rao points out, to take their eyes off that mindset ball.” cludes, “With fast growth, the rate of “When people think of growth, usually Shawn Lovejoy, lead pastor of Moun- change is phenomenal.” they think of anatomy. How big are the tain Lake Church, says, “You must be 7) Growing churches celebrate. Sutton limbs? But the real thing is physiology. mean about the vision.” asks a final question: “In the end you Is stuff circulating well—the blood and 4) Growing churches ruthlessly stop have to ask: ‘Are we happy living in the the oxygen? Even if your anatomy is very unproductive ministries. When is the last world we’ve built?’ ” developed, your physiology can be bad.” time you brought about a necessary endPastors and church leaders, I leave 2 ) G r o w i n g c h u r c h e s d e m a n d ing to an unproductive ministry? When you with two questions: While your excellence. Growing churches know the is the last time you killed a golden calf? church may have grown numerically, is level of excellence must keep pace with Rao notes, “If you are getting big, before Jesus happy with the church that has the level of numerical growth. Sutton you add a new meeting, figure out which been built? If not, what changes do you says, “Companies grow well and scale meeting you can kill. Before you put in need to make?
56 MinistryToday July // August 2014
MINISTRY LIFE: C H U R C H
GROW TH BY RICK WARREN
How to Handle Growing Pains in Your Church Always remember that without change, there is no growth
church that wants to grow without going through growing pains is like a woman who says, “I want to have a baby, but I don’t want to go through labor.” Is the pain worth it? Yes, it’s worth it. People need the Lord, and as long as one person doesn’t know Christ, we have to keep reaching out. As your church begins to grow, you’re going to face a lot of
“The real issue is selfishness, and it takes unselfish people to grow a church.” different criticisms. But there are three really common ones to prepare for: 1. The care issue. As your church begins to grow, some of the people who have been around the longest will say, “Pastor, you don’t care about me anymore.” What this really translates as is, “You’re not available to me like you used to be when the church was little.” The truth is, they’re right. You aren’t. The solution to that is not that you double up and work harder. The solution is small groups. You cannot 58 MinistryToday July // August 2014
personally care for everybody’s needs or else the church will never grow beyond you. You have to teach people to have their pastoral-care needs met in their small groups. Growth means restructuring, and every time you restructure, you disappoint people. The older you get, the less you like to do that. 2. The control issue. When you grow, some people will begin to say things like, “I don’t feel as involved as I used to feel.” Growth upsets the balance of power between the pioneers and the homesteaders. When the scales tip, you can expect criticism. When the church first starts growing, everybody goes, “Isn’t this great? Look at all these young people coming in. They can help pay the bills!” Once you have more newcomers than you have established members, the question becomes, whose church is it? The answer is that it isn’t their church and it isn’t your church. It’s God’s church. You can have some measure of growth and some measure of control, but you can’t have a lot of control and a lot of growth at the same time. You have to find a proper balance between the two. 3. The comfort issue. You cannot grow without change, and change is never comfortable. A lot of people want the church to grow as long as it doesn’t make them uncomfortable. But if the church is going to continue to grow, we must be willing to minister outside our comfort zone. I’ve seen people in our church who would start a ministry, grow it up, turn it over to a newcomer, then start up another new ministry, grow it up and turn it over to a newcomer. The real issue is selfishness, and it takes unselfish people to grow a church. So, What Do You Do? When criticism comes as a result of growth, change and loss, how does a wise pastor navigate the relationships that exist in the church? Here is something you need to do that isn’t easy but is often necessary: Be willing to let people leave the church. People are going to leave your church no matter what you do. But when you define the vision, you’re choosing who’s going to leave—those who are supportive of the vision or those who aren’t. You cannot surrender the leadership of your church to manipulators. Jesus invested the maximum time with those who would bear the maximum responsibility. R i c k W a rr e n is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Christopher Broek
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MINISTRY LIFE: W O R S H I P BY DON CHAPMAN
Why Secular Songs Don’t Belong in Church At church, shouldn’t we be singing about Jesus?
’ve always been on the fence about we spend just one of them focusing on A friend of mine recently laughed doing secular songs in worship. I God during the Sunday morning praise about his worship leader’s weak perforpersonally don’t care for it but have set? I’ve heard statistics that few Chris- mance of U2’s “Where the Streets Have played them when a pastor has asked. tians ever darken the door of a Chris- No Name.” Do you really want people However, a recent trip to Elevation tian bookstore or listen to Christian in your congregation snickering at Church has caused me to your hubris? make up my mind. Twenty-five years ago, it My Big Epiphany would be unthinkable to And here’s what I experising a secular rock song in enced at Elevation that helped church (you couldn’t even me make up my mind against get away with an Amy Grant doing secular songs in church. tune!). When did this all Their worship team opened start? I’m guessing Willow the service with the current Creek, the original seeker secular hit “Can’t Hold Us” by church, was the culprit. (And Macklemore and Ryan Lewis— we all know how their seeker a super-catchy dance song (and methodology panned out.) they pulled it off spectacularly, The seeker crowd will I might add). After the service, argue that unsaved people I had lunch with a friend and love hearing secular songs spent the rest of the day in in church. When they hear Charlotte, North Carolina. All a pop song they k now, afternoon, I couldn’t get the they’ll think, “Wow, church song out of my head. isn’t boring after all. I think Composer/arranger D o n C h a p m a n is the editor of the weekly I mean, I had a serious I’ll come back!” For these WorshipIdeas.com newsletter that goes out to more than 50,000 earworm for hours. Then it hit Ch r ist ia ns, get t i ng t he worship leaders every week. me: “I can’t believe I’ve just gone unsaved into church trumps to church and the only thing I’m everything. I appreciate and applaud radio. That hour may be the only time taking away from the service is this stutheir dedication to reaching the lost. of the week most people ever even hear pid pop song!” However, using the same do-whatever- Christian music. Later that evening, I shared my new it-takes-to-get-them-in-the-door logic, anti-secular-music-in-church epiphany why not install stripper poles next to By definition, a seeker is seeking God, with a friend. He and his wife attend our drum sets—wouldn’t that attract a so why not present the gospel to them in Andy Stanley’s North Point Church in crowd? every way, shape and form? Atlanta, and he told me how the worThe harsh truth is the gospel can be a ship team has been performing secutough pill for an unsaved person to swal- Do You Want Christian Karaoke? lar songs right before the service all low. So Paul talks about the concept of Rarely can church talent even come summer. making the Good News as attractive as close to decently reproducing a secular The problem is, they leave church possible in Titus 2:9-10. song—it takes the top guns of a mega- with pop songs running through their But how attractive should we get? church to pull that off with their paid minds. His wife told me North Point’s musicians, tracks and great vocalists. rendition of Styx’s “Come Sail Away” Can’t We Just Focus on God? Otherwise churches end up sounding stuck with her all Sunday afternoon. My main argument up until now cheesy—and people will probably be so She asked, “Shouldn’t songs about has been that we can listen to secu- occupied comparing your lousy version Jesus be running through my head lar music anytime we want. We have with the original, they won’t even get the after church?” roughly 100 waking hours a week—can’t message you’re trying to convey. Yep, they sure should.
60 MinistryToday July // August 2014
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MINISTRY PEOPLE: C H U R C H
MEMBERSHIP BY BR ANDON COX
You Can Have Growth or You Can Have Control How much of each do you really want?
e may not be Solomon, but David Chrzan often drops nuggets of wisdom that sound as if they could come from the book of Proverbs. In the five years or so that I’ve known and worked with David, he’s repeatedly dropped advice that has shaped my own philosophy of leadership. For example, in a recent conversation,
Our gut reaction to rapid growth is to immediately try to control it. David said, “You can have growth or you can have control. And you have to decide how much of each you want.” Wow. So true. David wasn’t implying that control is a bad thing. In fact, some level of control is essential. And “control” really refers to the amount of institutional structure and machinery required to guide a movement forward within protective boundaries. On the weekend before I wrote this, Grace Hills set a new attendance record for the third time this year and it was only February. At least five adults had trusted Christ to that point this year in our services. And on that winter Sunday, 36 people came to our Newcomer’s Lunch which is more than we had in our first public meeting two and a half years ago. Angie and I go home on Sundays and talk about how humbling—and scary—it is. 62 MinistryToday July // August 2014
Scary? Growth? Isn’t growth good? Yes, growth is good for a church if it’s the result of God’s response to a healthy body. But with growth can come the feeling of a loss of control. Suddenly, we don’t know everyone anymore. We can’t remember all the names and match them up with all the faces. We are scrambling to staff our kids’ rooms and other areas with enough volunteers to keep things working well. It costs more money to minister to more people. People from different backgrounds are converging, which brings a broader array of philosophies into our small groups. Our gut reaction to rapid growth is to immediately try to control it. We need more systems. We need more machinery. We need to stabilize the institution. I know ... let’s form some committees ... As David shared the principle of how growth and control are fierce enemies, he also pointed out that as a church grows, some level of control is necessary. Systems are good. They help us keep people from falling through the cracks and getting left behind. But if a movement is gaining momentum because of the involvement of the Spirit of God, then who can really stand in its way? So here’s a good plan to follow when growth comes: 1) Celebrate the wins, changed lives and the steps forward happening in the lives of people. 2) Try to get in front of the movement with a framework for making disciples that will scale with growth. 3) Have a solid theological framework for doing ministry before you start. 4) Foc u s on developi ng leaders who ca n c reate healthy systems—not systems for which you desperately need leaders. 5) Go with the flow. Follow the Holy Spirit’s movement, which can be as unpredictable as the wind. 6) R e a l i z e t h at g row t h shou ld be mu lt id i men siona l. How w i l l you t u r n t h is new crowd i nto a committed congregation? 7) Never shift from an outward focus. It’s never time to “stop reaching new people and start discipling those we have.” Discipleship, by its nature, involves reproducing, so remaining outwardly focused is the best way to make disciples. B r a n d o n C o x has been a pastor pastor for 15 years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddlebacksponsored church. © Istockphoto/fatido
MINISTRY PEOPLE: P E R S O N A L
CHARACTER BY RONNIE FLOYD
Pastor, What Does Your Future Look Like? Are you open to anything that God has for you?
was raised in Texas. When I was a young pastor, I had no idea what my future would be. Quite honestly, I still do not. When I surrendered to God’s calling to come to my church more than 27 years ago, I would have never dreamed I would be here this long. Growing up, it seemed our small church had a new pastor every two or three years. Frequent transition was all I knew. Therefore, it is quite amazing that I find myself at this point in life, having served the same church for 27 years. Years ago, when I surrendered to ministry, I did not imagine much at all about my future. All I knew was that I wanted to be where God wanted me.
it does not matter if the geography is your preference, the timing is to your advantage or the ministry is not what you have ever seen yourself in as a God-called minister? I am reminded of my friend, Dr. Jeff Crawford, president of our Cross Church School of Ministry and teaching pastor of Cross Church. He is gifted, educated and called. He could be in the academic realm elsewhere or be serving as a pastor of a large church, just like he was a little over one year ago. Yet, God has called Jeff to be here. It seems all of his gifts, training and passion merged in this position with us. Just think what it would be like if Jeff had held on to his position so closely that he would have refused the calling of God to come here. 2. Live with your “yes” on the A Basic Conviction D r . R o n n i e F l o y d , the senior pastor of Cross Church, North- altar. When is the last time I have operated by a basic west Arkansas, has been a pastor for 36 years. you placed your “yes” on the conviction throughout my altar? I mean, you said, “God, ministry: I want to go wherever God wants me to go, any- whatever it is you want me to do, my answer is yes. Whatever time, anywhere. After all of these years, I still live by this you are calling me to do, the answer is yes.” conviction. I am drawn to one basic thing: I want to be where There is something liberating about living with your God wants me to be. “yes” on the altar. Oh yes, I have been somewhat sobered I have told this to other pastors—and I mean this with all by this statement when there have been moments I sensed my heart—when you surrender to God’s calling to go to a God was about to do something new with me. I mean, certain place, always live like you are going to be there your while exciting on one end, it is extremely sobering on the entire life. other end. At the same time, always have your bags packed, ready to 3) Be willing to stay as much as you are willing to leave. Pastoral follow God’s calling for your life. My wife, Jeana, and I still ministry is hard. It is much easier, especially in today’s world, live with this zealous desire to follow God and His calling to leave after three or four years than it is to stay. People are for our lives. We truly believe we have fulfilled that calling in hard to please. northwest Arkansas. Many times, we are like football coaches: Not only are we judged by our wins and losses, but we are also judged and How a Pastor Should Navigate Toward His Future scrutinized by the way we win. I want to challenge each pastor and minister of the gospel My point: It is easier for a pastor to leave than to to keep these things in mind as they navigate toward the stay. Pastors, some of you may need to stick it out where you future God has for them: are. God will use it all to work in your life powerfully. Some1) Be 100 percent willing to go anywhere at any time to do anything times God does something fresh in us not when we leave but God calls you to do. Are you willing? When He calls, will you fol- when we once again realize that He wants us right where low Him? Will you operate so much by this conviction that we are.
64 MinistryToday July // August 2014
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BY STEVE STEWART
Where is the Miracle Healing in the U.S.? Isn’t He the Same God in Africa as He is in America?
ith all the t ravel i ng I do these days with Impact Nations, I get asked a lot of questions about a lot of issues. However, there is one question that I am asked more often—by far—than any other. In fact, in the past t wo weeks, I have been asked it in England, New Jersey and Canada: “Why don’t we see the same kind of healing here (in England, the U.S., Canada) as you do in Africa and India?” I u s u a l l y re spond to this in several ways. First of all, I do see God heal in the same way in the West as in the developing world. I have watched in North America, Europe and Australia as deaf ears were opened, cataracts dissolved, cancer instantly disappeared (verified by doctors), and paralysis and pain have gone. In my living room, the Lord healed a woman who had been totally blind in one eye for 20 years. He is the same God in Canada as Kenya, in the U.S. as Uganda, in England as India. Although I have seen the Lord open the ears of nine deaf people—one after another—in North America, in fairness, I would say that although the quality of healing that I see is the same everywhere, the quantity seems higher in the developing world. However, I need to clarify this statement. It is not that I see more people not being healed when prayed for; it seems to me there are fewer people looking to be healed in the West. (To clarify once again, I am not saying the people on the streets of our cities do not want to be healed; it is just that they are not being asked and therefore do not think of healing as an option in their lives.)
This leads to what may be the biggest single issue: expectation. Jesus always looked for faith in people. This is why He sometimes asked, “Do you want to get well?” or “What do you want?” Jesus expected people to be healed, and they expected the same thing. When I am asked “the question,” I usually answer with a question of my own: “Do you ex pect people to be healed?” One of the ways we can discover how we really feel about this question is to examine how often we step out and ask others if we may pray for their healing. After all, more people are healed if we pray for them than if we don’t. In many cases, we simply don’t have a real expectation that God will move, so we stay in the safe zone of keeping quiet when presented with the opportunity to pray for healing. One of the reasons I take people from the Western world to the developing world to do the gospel is to change their expectations. Again and again I watch as they discover a whole new level of truth about the power and compassion of Jesus and of who they really are because they live in Christ. How can anyone experience being used by the Lord to heal the sick day after day on a Journey of Compassion and then go home unchanged? Back home, as these men and women continue to pray and expect, God continues to heal. He is the same God in Canada as Kenya, in the U.S. as Uganda, in England as India. And so is His kingdom, where it seems that what you expect is what you will receive.
“It is not that I see more people not being healed when prayed for; it seems to me there are fewer people looking to be healed in the West.” – Steve Stewart
66 MinistryToday July // August 2014
S t e v e S t e w a r t is the founder of Impact Nations, a Christian organization that brings hope and restoration to the poor and vulnerable in the developing world through both supernatural and practical expressions of the kingdom of God. Carmella Cochran
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