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Contents 36 18

Read more about launching leaders in our cover section.

COVER SECTION 14 F rom churchgoers to world changers

Effective—and counterintuitive—ways to launch leaders. By Joy Allmond

18 How to fire yourself A simple five-step guide to delegating and empowering your people. By Danny Franks

21 Can I get a volunteer? Six ways to encourage greater involvement in your church. By Helen Gibson

FEATURES 24 Get in the game Recruiting VBS volunteers is a challenge but the rewards are worth it. By Jana Magruder

26 How to fail as a leader Lessons learned from King David. By Eric Geiger

29 H  ow to study the Bible like Spurgeon A Q&A with Alistair Begg. By Joy Allmond



30 Avoiding the cash flow crisis Is your church prepared for the summer giving slump? By Todd McMichen

33 Room to listen We reach others by truly hearing them. By Bob Smietana

36 Crushing the lie of moralism Does your congregation believe the truth about the gospel? By Aaron Armstrong

40 D evelop a global strategy for student missions Are your outreach efforts intentional? By Chad Stillwell and George Siler

43 Church planting blueprint Five ways to determine the needs of your community. By Micah Fries

43 5 From My Perspective Keys to successful leadership succession. By Thom S. Rainer

6 Insights Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting the church and our world.

48 On Our Radar Relevant and practical resources for you and your church.


Visit for exclusive online content. Read additional pieces from our writers and editors, as well as contributions from other Christian leaders.

46 Rest for the weary Three ways to “grow down” as a leader. By Michael Kelley

DEPARTMENTS 4 Inside F&T Unleashing the leaders in your church. By Carol Pipes


FactsAndTrends @FactsAndTrends

Facts & Trends • 3


Unleashing the leaders in your church


n their book Designed to Lead, authors Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck write “the Church is uniquely set apart to develop and deploy leaders for the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel.” When churches take an intentional and consistent approach to leadership development, they have the potential to raise up godly leaders who change the world. In this issue of Facts & Trends, you’ll find advice from church leaders on how to identify potential leaders in your church and practical ways to launch them into ministry leadership. Our cover section begins on page 14, where managing editor Joy Allmond talks to Kevin Peck, Carey Nieuwhof, and Chris Adams about developing leaders not only to serve in the church but to lead in the home, in the marketplace, and on the mission field. Danny Franks (page 18) challenges pastors to let go of certain tasks and ministries and empower others to serve. Helen Gibson (page 21) offers tips on how to recruit, train, and celebrate volunteers. And in his column, Thom S. Rainer offers seven characteristics for successful leadership succession. Our churches are filled with people gifted and called by God to live on mission and serve His kingdom. But they need leaders who will invest in them and help launch them into ministry. I’d like to invite you to check out the new direction we’ve taken at In keeping with LifeWay’s mission to provide biblical solutions for life, we’re expanding our content to include news and features that equip a broadened target audience—church leaders and lay people alike—to engage in cultural conversations around the dinner table, by the water cooler, or online. Now, when you visit you’ll read fresh daily content addressing current topics, written to emphasize their relevance to the church. And in some cases, we hope our stories will spur the Christian to action. Our magazine and website will continue to include stories that inform pastors and church leaders in a way that helps them shepherd people well. Now, we’re taking it several steps further: In our upcoming issues, you can expect inspiring profiles of culture makers, long-form stories about trends around the globe, and insights to help you and your church members be salt and light in your communities. It’s our hope Facts & Trends will continue be a valuable resource to you and your church in your mission of making disciples—and raising up other leaders. Carol Pipes, Editor in Chief @CarolPipes |

Volume 64 • Number 2 • Spring 2018 Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing information, insights, and resources for effective ministry.

PRODUCTION TEAM Editor in Chief | Carol Pipes Senior Editor | Lisa Cannon Green Managing Editor | Joy Allmond Senior Writer | Bob Smietana Online Editor | Aaron Earls Associate Editor | Aaron Wilson Graphic Designer | Katie Shull LIFEWAY LEADERSHIP President and Publisher | Thom S. Rainer Executive Vice President | Brad Waggoner CONTRIBUTORS Aaron Armstrong, Danny Franks, Micah Fries, Eric Geiger, Helen Gibson, Michael Kelley, Jana Magruder, Todd McMichen, George Siler, Chad Stillwell ADVERTISING Send advertising questions/comments to: F  acts & Trends Advertising One LifeWay Plaza Nashville, TN 37234 Email: Media kits: This magazine includes paid advertisements for some products and services not affiliated with LifeWay. The inclusion of the paid advertisements does not constitute an endorsement by LifeWay Christian Resources of the products or services.

Subscriptions For a subscription to Facts & Trends, send your name, address, and phone number to

Permissions Facts & Trends grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or classroom, provided copies are distributed free and indicate Facts & Trends as the source.

Contact Us: Facts & Trends, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234 Facts & Trends is published quarterly by LifeWay Christian Resources. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, copyright 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.

4 • Facts & Trends



Keys to successful leadership succession


am a member of what was the largest generation in the U.S.— the Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964 and 77 million strong. While Millennials have now overtaken Boomers as the largest generation, Boomers have left an indelible mark on today’s society. Now this generation is beginning to retire, and that has major implications for churches. The Boomers have more pastors represented in their generation than any other. Today, half of American pastors are older than 55. In 1992, less than a quarter of pastors in the U.S. (24 percent) were that age. Meanwhile, pastors 40 and younger have fallen from 33 percent in 1992 to 15 percent today. In the next 5-10 years, a wave of Boomer retirements will leave behind more pastoral vacancies than there are qualified candidates. Unfortunately, few churches plan for pastoral succession. And that transitional period is often difficult for churches—ministries can be disrupted and members may leave. My team at LifeWay looked at churches that have done pastoral succession well and found seven key characteristics. What does successful succession look like? 1. Humility and EQ. These two characteristics go hand in hand. Someone with a healthy emotional intelligence (EQ) is also more likely to be a humble person. When successful succession takes place, there is a posture of humility, particularly from the one passing the baton but also from the one receiving the baton. This involves two people who appreciate and affirm each other. True humility comes from the

leaders’ understanding of who they are in Christ. 2. Flood-level communication. Many times there is a difference between what we think we have said and what people actually heard and understood. During a transition of leadership, or any type of change, it’s imperative to overcommunicate. People have to hear and read things multiple times for understanding to take place. 3. Clear dates. Leadership succession cannot hang on indefinitely. It needs a definite plan. In churches we studied with successful succession, the majority had a specific transition timeline. 4. Obvious chemistry. When we think about people we bring onto our staff, it’s important to look for character and competency. Many times, however, we fail to look at the chemistry between staff members. In a time of successful transition, the congregation will witness the chemistry between the one handing off the baton and the one receiving the baton. The congregation needs to see that they like and respect each other and that they have a similar goal in mind. 5. A willingness to start over. Whether you are in a formal transition time of leaving a position or handing off a ministry from one person to another, there are times when you simply have to say, “I got it wrong,” and then re-evaluate a decision. 6. A formal service. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate event, but there should be a time to formally communicate that the leadership has passed from one to another. This could be as simple as a special time of recognition during your church’s regular worship service. Successful transitions need a clearly identifiable moment when the baton is passed.


7. A planned absence. Many times ministry succession, at any level, fails to take place because leaders hesitate to take their hands off the ministry they were leading. They want to continue because they have developed long-standing relationships and they believe they know better how to accomplish the ministry. They simply cannot let go. So, what does this mean for your church? What kind of ministry transition do you have in place? This applies not only to the senior pastor level but to any area of leadership in your church. The more intentional you are in succession planning, the more successful the transition will be. As you plan for any type of ministry personnel transition—be it the senior pastor, church staff, or volunteer leader—be sure to think through the cultural and organizational implications for your church. What are you doing to make sure the ministry successions are taking place well? It is my prayer as we look at succession in our churches that we will be the kind of leaders who will be strong and courageous. We can’t do this in our own power. We must draw strength and courage from the Lord. THOM S. RAINER (@ThomRainer) is President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Read more at

DIG DEEPER •N  ext: Pastoral Succession that Works by William Vanderbloemen and Warren Bird

Facts & Trends • 5

INSIGHTS Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world

Evangelicals might not be who you think


sk American evangelicals what they believe—and you might be surprised at the answers.

Fewer than half strongly agree with core evangelical beliefs, according to Nashville-based LifeWay Research. And many people who hold evangelical beliefs don’t call themselves evangelicals. “There’s a gap between who evangelicals say they are and what they believe,” says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. LifeWay’s study of evangelical believers used a set of four questions about the Bible, Jesus, salvation, and evangelism. Those questions were developed in partnership with the National Association of Evangelicals. People who strongly agree with all four are considered evangelicals by belief. Fifteen percent of Americans are evangelicals by belief, according to LifeWay Research. By contrast, 24 percent of Americans self-identify as evangelicals. Researchers found some significant differences between the two groups.


58% White

23% African-American

14% Hispanic 5% Other ethnicity



say they attend services once a week or more.

POLITICS: Republicans or lean Republican


30% Democrats or lean Democratic 4% undecided or independent

EDUCATION: high school or less some college

41% 37%

10% bachelor’s degree 12% graduate degree


19% 10% 65 and older

18 to 34


6 • Facts & Trends



70% White 14% African-American

12% Hispanic 4% Other ethnicity

Wi-Fi and Facebook are hits with churches


oing to church is a bit like hanging out at Starbucks. The coffee’s hot, the people are friendly, and the Wi-Fi is almost always free. Seven in 10 Protestant churches (68 percent) provide Wi-Fi for both guests and staff, according to LifeWay Research. Most also have a website (84 percent) and a Facebook page (84 percent). Once wary of technology, Protestant churches now seem all in, says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. It’s another way to connect with guests and worshipers alike. “Not long ago churches’ use of technology was often limited to a website that functioned like the Yellow Pages or a bulletin board,” says McConnell. “Now they see technology as a way to interact with people. Wi-Fi is just one more way to do that.”



say they attend services once a week or more.

POLITICS: Republicans or lean Republican 33% Democrats or lean Democratic 3% undecided or independent

EDUCATION: high school or less some college



12% bachelor’s degree 11% graduate degree



65 and older

22% 18 to 34

64% Source:

Churches still like to pass the plate


espite the popularity of electronic bill paying, only about 30 percent of Protestant churches allow online giving through their website. That’s up from 14 percent in 2010, according to LifeWay Research. Still, Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, says he expected that figure to be higher, given that Americans pay more than half (56 percent) of their bills online, according to a 2017 report from ACI Online. Pentecostal pastors (59 percent) are most likely to say their church website offers online giving. Baptist (32 percent), Lutheran (33 percent), Methodist (38 percent), and Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (26 percent) are less likely. Bigger churches—those with 250 or more attenders—seem to love online giving, as 74 percent of them offer it on their websites. By contrast, 4 in 10 (39 percent) churches with 100 to 249 attenders offer online giving. And only a quarter (23 percent) of smaller churches—those with 100 attenders or fewer—offer online giving. “Technology is great, but smaller churches still like to pass the plate,” McConnell says.


Facts & Trends • 7

INSIGHTS Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world

Estimated share of global

Global church heads South Christian population living


wo-thirds of the world’s Christians will live in sub-Saharan Africa (42 percent) or Latin America (22 percent) by 2060, according to data from Pew Research. That’s up from 51 percent in 2015. Europe is expected to see the biggest decline. In 2015, about a quarter (24 percent) of the world’s Christians lived in Europe. That could drop to 14 percent by 2060. Pew based its projections on demographic data as well as population trends. “This shift in the regional concentration of the global Christian population is being driven by a combination of demographic factors, including fertility, age and migration, as well as religious switching into and out of Christianity,” according to Pew Research.

Estimated share of global Christian in each region overpopulation time living in each region over time Middle East-North Africa Europe



North America

Latin America-Caribbean



Sub-Saharan Africa


2060 42%

38% 34% 31% 27% 25%






20% 17%


13% 12%


13% 11%

14% 13%

13% 10%



Source: 1%





Members sit on pews in a church near the Rift Valley Province in Kenya. IMB PHOTO 8 • Facts & Trends


Americans are moving South, too


rom July 2016 to July 2017, the population of the American South grew by more than 1.24 million people—more than the rest of the U.S. combined (1.08 million), according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Births outnumbered deaths in the South by more than 500,000. In addition, 350,000 Americans moved to the South from other regions, in part because of the lower cost of living—including more affordable housing, a growing job market, and lower taxes. Six of the 10 states with the most numerical growth over the last year are in the South, according to the Census Bureau.

Top 10 states in numerical growth from 2016 to 2017: • Texas • Florida • California • Washington • North Carolina

• Georgia • Arizona • Colorado • Tennessee • South Carolina


Adoption, foster care commonplace in churches


he Bible has a lot to say about caring for orphans. Many churches in the United States appear to be listening.

About 4 in 10 Protestant churchgoers say their congregation has been involved with adoption or foster care in the past year, according to Nashville-based LifeWay Research. LifeWay Research’s survey of 1,010 churchgoers— those who attend a Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month—found adoption and foster care are commonplace. “Foster care appears to come naturally for churchgoers,” says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “It’s not surprising, since the Bible commands them to care for widows and orphans.”



Adoption by the numbers


• Total U.S. adoptions: 110,737 (2014) • International adoptions: 5,370 (2016) • Children in the U.S. foster care system: 427,910 (2015) • U.S. children waiting for adoption: 118,820 (2015) Sources:,,

Facts & Trends • 9

INSIGHTS Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world

More parents moving in with their kids


he Great Recession sent many young adults back to live with Mom and Dad.

Now some parents are turning the tables. The percentage of parents who have moved in with their kids has doubled over the last two decades, according to Pew Research. In 1995, 7 percent of adults who lived in someone else’s home were parents of the head of the household. Today, that figure is 14 percent. Overall, about 1 in 3 Americans (31.9 percent) live in someone else’s home. That’s up from 28.8 percent in 1995.

Who is the extra adult living in your home? Excludes head of household, spouse, cohabiting partner, or an 18- to 24-year old student. 2017

1995 47%






Housemate/ roommate


Other relative




Sibling Other nonrelative Grandchild Boarder/ renter ISTOCKPHOTO.COM


1 in 3


7% 5%


Americans live in someone else’s home.





Note: Figures may not add to 100% due to rounding.


Population of unreached people groups according to the Global Status of Evangelical Christianity:


Source: IMB Global Research, from June 2017

10 • Facts & Trends


Americans still hold Billy Graham in high esteem


illy Graham remains one of the most admired men in America, according to Gallup. Graham, who died in February at 99, has appeared on Gallup’s “most admired” list 61 times, more than any other American. The most recent poll Billy Graham results, released in December, indicate Pope Francis was the third most admired man. Graham moved up a notch from fifth place to fourth. Nearly half of American Protestant churchgoers have seen at least one of Graham’s televised sermons, according to LifeWay Research. Eleven percent have attended one of his evangelistic events, known as “crusades.” Sources:,

Top Ten Most Admired Men from 2016 & 2017 Most Admired Man Barack Obama Donald Trump Pope Francis Rev. Billy Graham John McCain Elon Musk Bernie Sanders Bill Gates Benjamin Netanyahu Jeff Bezos

2016 22% 15% 4% 1% * * 2% 1% 1% *

2017 17% 14% 3% 2% 2% 2% 1% 1% 1% 1%

NOTE: Rankings are based on total number of responses; *Less than 0.5%; Gallup, Dec. 4-11, 2017

NOTE: Rankings are based on total number of responses; *Less than 0.5%; GALLUP, DEC. 4-11, 2017



Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.” RACHAEL DENHOLLANDER, in her victim statement at the trial of Larry Nassar, former doctor for USA Gymnastics. Denhollander was the first of more than 150 victims to go public. Nassar was sentenced in January to 40 to 175 years in prison. Source:

...the one thing that cannot be robbed from us is hope. There are times that the picture around us is so bleak that we often lose sight of something better or any amount of normalcy ever returning again. Hope gives us the courage to rise from the ashes in a certainty that God has heard our cry and somehow He will heal us.” RICHIE CLENDENEN, senior pastor of Christian Fellowship Ministries in Benton, Kentucky, whose church responded to a school shooting in January. Source:

People don’t feel the pressure to go to church anymore. When people don’t have a religious background, they won’t be won [to Christ] through big programs. They probably will be more than likely won through relationships. However, building relationships takes more time.” Author and pastor TIM KELLER talking to Facts & Trends about evangelism tools the church is going to need in a post-Christendom culture.

Facts & Trends • 11

How do you make a deeper, clearer connection to God’s Word? The Christian Standard Bible captures the Bible’s original meaning without compromising clarity, helping readers better understand God’s Word and inspiring lifelong discipleship. The CSB is for everyone. It’s a Bible pastors can preach from and a Bible you can share with your neighbor hearing God’s Word for the very first time. Learn more at

“The Christian Standard Bible’s faithful rendering of the original manuscripts will serve me well as a preacher, and its expression in contemporary English will serve my congregation well when they read and share God’s Word with others.” —ERIC MASON, Lead Pastor, Epiphany Fellowship Philadelphia, PA

From churchgoers to world changers Effective—and counterintuitive—ways to launch leaders By Joy Allmond


In fall 2015, Travis Wussow was living in the Middle East with his wife and young daughters. A normal day would include meeting with diplomats to discuss religious liberty concerns, advocating for the marginalized and oppressed, or developing partnerships with other organizations. He doesn’t have a diplomatic, military, or political background. And how he got there can’t ultimately be traced to law school or his time as an attorney in Texas. The catalyst for his world-changing work was a weekly commitment to set up

14 • Facts & Trends



and tear down a gymnasium for Sunday worship services. Within a few years of being on the setup team, he was a deacon at church and started a benevolence ministry. He began to dream of doing justice work on a global scale, using his legal degree to advocate for the weak. “If you told me then I’d be doing what I’m doing now, I’d tell you you’re crazy,” says Wussow. Prepare them to leave the church Today, Wussow is a vice president for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He runs its Washington, D.C., office, serving as general counsel and advocating for public policies that address human dignity, racial unity, religious liberty, and other crucial areas of society. Kevin Peck, lead pastor at The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, says too many mentors have a small vision for the people they develop. Shortly after Wussow committed his life to Christ, Peck—the leader who had him and others setting up and tearing down chairs—became his mentor. “Most people’s dreams are beyond what we offer them short term,” says Peck. “The goal should not be to train people for what we have for them but for what God has for them. We need to train and equip people in here, so Christ can be magnified out there. In this way, the church should be an incubator.” In other words, Peck says when there’s a need, leaders shouldn’t see a system to help them fill a volunteer spot; they should see an opportunity to develop other leaders. “Christ didn’t do His work on the cross just for someone to hand out bulletins or set up folding chairs for a worship service,” he says. “It’s not about the bulletins or the chairs. But a person handing out bulletins—let’s say a quiet, reserved person—will likely become more outgoing, self-assertive, and engage with people they

don’t know. Eventually, they will adopt new behaviors. They’ll be more effective outside the church. “I see it not as an end but a means,” he says. “We don’t use people to get tasks done. We use tasks to get people done.” Assign crucial tasks to the unqualified When Toronto’s Connexus Church founding pastor and ministry consultant Carey Nieuwhof was a young seminarian, he was called to a church that had around 25 people—on its high attendance day. It was the first time the church had called a new pastor in four decades. His job was to turn things around. But when as few as six people show up on Sundays, where do you start? “Too many people are focused on what they don’t have and obsessed with what they can’t change,” says Nieuwhof. “Instead of fretting about what we don’t have, we need to ask ourselves, ‘Is there anyone in this room I can build the future of this church on?’ Usually the answer is yes, but it’s not always going to be a dream team. They might not be the best you’ve seen, but they are the best you’ve got.” Since he had such a small group to begin the rebuilding process, he knew he couldn’t build his leadership team on giftedness or talent. But he could build it on availability and action. “There was no kids’ ministry, presumably because there were no kids,” Nieuwhof says. “But that’s actually backward. We had no kids because there was no kids’ ministry. So we launched the ministry and kids started showing up. We tend to want to make our goals lofty, but we must start very granularly.” Within the first year, the congregation had grown to more than 40 people. Nieuwhof also began to see the benefit of recruiting the unlikely—like Justin. Justin was a troubled teen with a substance abuse problem. He became a Christian at 18 and began volunteering on the Connexus Church production team three years later.


Facts & Trends • 15

“I watched him teach other volunteers over time, and he was eventually offered the job of our service program director,” says Nieuwhof. “Today he coordinates many volunteers across multiple church campus locations. He has helped dozens of church leaders with resources he created.” Set people up for failure Wussow was part of a group mentorship led by Peck, who had his mentees doing the grunt work of a Sunday morning service, along with learning systematic theology and hermeneutics. They weren’t just becoming educated leaders—they were becoming disciplined ones. “If you can’t lead a team to set up the gym, you won’t be able to lead things on a grander scale,” says Peck. “When you’re recruiting leaders, it’s important to see how they handle the less fun tasks—and how they solve problems.” Over time, Peck observed Wussow in his church-related roles, in his professional role as an attorney representing the energy sector, and in his global service role as an International Justice Mission fellow. Peck believed Wussow was ready for the next challenge—an executive pastor role. “Kevin gave me big projects early on during my time on staff at Austin Stone,” says Wussow. “And it gave me time to transition and get out of a lawyer’s mindset. He gave me more responsibility and trust than is reasonable and allowed me to get into situations way out of my depth.” Whether it was a resource or logistical need in the setup and teardown ministry from the earlier days, or a church budget challenge at Austin Stone, Peck challenged his mentorship group to solve problems. “One of Kevin’s mantras is, ‘Every problem is a leadership problem,’” says Wussow. “We could have hired people to set up and tear down 1,000 chairs every Sunday at the high school where our 16 • Facts & Trends

church met. But Kevin trained us to ask ourselves how we could solve problems without spending money.” Wussow says that mentality has stayed with him throughout his ministry and career. “I’ve made a ton of mistakes as an executive pastor I wish I could undo,” says Wussow. “But I’ve grown to see that Kevin understood my gifts and what my contributions could be better than I did. He put me in situations where I could grow and expand my strengths. He threw me in the deep end, and I’m thankful for that.” Don’t recruit fame seekers Chris Adams, retired women’s ministry specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources, recalls the task of finding her replacement when she left her role as women’s ministry director at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, to move to Nashville and work for LifeWay in 1994. Adams’ then-supervisor asked her to have lunch with some replacement candidates to get to know them a bit and get a feel for their motivations. “The first one said it was time for a job change and thought it would be good to do something different,” Adams says. “The second one said she had never been in women’s ministry and thought it would be a great job opportunity. But I didn’t see it as a job—I saw it as a calling.” Adams’ eventual replacement was a woman she remembered from local women’s conferences. The woman had never held a ministry leadership role. She was a full-time special education teacher who, Adams says, “had a heart for ministry, invested in women, taught the Word, and worked with children. I knew her heart for ministry and heart for the Lord. I knew she could do it. And over the years, she has taken that ministry to places it had never been.” When Adams came to LifeWay as one who helped launch women into public ministry, it became common to SPRING 2018


hear from women who were looking for a platform rather than a mission. “Some were trying to tell God what to do,” she said. “Some weren’t even serving women in their own local church. “The women I knew and worked with never set out to be the next big thing,” Adams says. “They were just doing what God called them to do.” Leaders must spend time getting to know people they could potentially develop, she says. “We can’t be good at recruiting without knowing who would steward their leadership well.” Lack of succession planning is a prevalent problem among ministry leaders, says Nieuwhof. “There’s no success without a successor,” he says. “In my late 40s I asked myself, ‘Is what started with me going to end with me?’ I wanted the answer to be ‘no.’ I didn’t want things to just run; I wanted them to grow.” One way Nieuwhof says leaders sabotage their recruiting and developing efforts is an unwillingness to push other people into the spotlight. “They hang on because there’s nothing greater ahead of them,” he says. “They fear if they allow someone else to lead, their moment is over. And if we look at that in daylight, it shows up as a spiritual problem. Leaders have to trust God for their future and get over the insecurity—be more openhanded with their leadership. When they grip their roles too tightly, it keeps a lot of other leaders off the platform and out of the seats they should be in.”

The goal should not be to train people for what we have for them but for what God has for them. We need to train and equip people in here, so Christ can be magnified out there. In this way, the church should be an incubator.” —Kevin Peck committed to the people you are investing in. That’s a fairly self-obvious thing to assert; it’s another thing to actually do it.” Many years later and many miles apart, Peck and Wussow still maintain their relationship, and Peck continues to encourage and mentor Wussow from a distance. “I don’t think I would have had the courage to take the big career risks I’ve taken if I didn’t have that sense of confidence Kevin spoke into me over time. He encouraged me to think broadly about my impact on earth,” Wussow says. “I’m not doing anything remotely close to what I thought I would be doing. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” JOY ALLMOND (@JoyAllmond) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.

Wear out your welcome For leaders who develop others, it’s easy to see a mentorship as a “project” with start and end dates. But investing in people requires a long-term commitment. “I can’t think of a time or single instance when (Peck) canceled our group meetings for any reason,” says Wussow. “We always met. You have to have a total commitment to your people. They’re going to flake on you—people will come and go—but you have to be consistent and FACTSANDTRENDS.NET/SOAR

DIG DEEPER • Designed to Lead by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck •P  ipeline: Recruit. Develop. Repeat. Visit Available at LifeWay Christian Stores and

Facts & Trends • 17

How to fire yourself A simple five-step guide to delegating and empowering your people By Danny Franks

18 • Facts & Trends




If you lead in the local church—whether you’re full-time, part-time, paid, or volunteer—it’s time for you to fire yourself. Before you start penning an “I’m out of here” letter, let me define what I mean. I’m not suggesting you walk away from your role. I’m not implying you’re incompetent at what you do. I’m not even insinuating you’ve lost the spark of passion for your job. Instead, I’m suggesting it’s time to let go of some of the things you love about your ministry. Maybe you can confess along with me that you hold onto certain tasks because deep down, you think no one can do them as well as you. As leaders, we run the risk of becoming micromanagers, perfectionists, and control freaks. It’s an unsavory and dangerous part of the leader’s life. By protecting every aspect of our role, we ultimately limit the reach and impact of our ministry. Perhaps you can clearly identify some of the bottlenecks you’re facing right now—the ones that keep you from reaching your goals in ministry. Could it be the answer is found in replacing ourselves? Or, more precisely, in training others to take our place? The Apostle Paul wisely reminded the growing congregation at Ephesus that Jesus personally “gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and —Danny Franks, pastor at The Summit Church teachers, equipping the saints for the work in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina of ministry, to build up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). In other words, one of our roles as leaders is to help others find their roles. Our goal is to equip others as we hand off more and more responsibility. As my own pastor is fond of saying, “When I became a pastor, I got out of the ministry.” So how do we go about firing ourselves?

By protecting every aspect of our role, we ultimately limit the reach and impact of our ministry.”

Here are five ways: 1. Acknowledge you can’t do it all. Admit you have limits. Leaders too often buy the lie that our people expect us to juggle every task around the church. And when we buy those lies, we are well on our way to burnout. So take the painful but necessary step of auditing your regular tasks. What are we currently doing that we can equip others to do? Whether it’s writing curriculum or sending emails or making hospital visits, where can we bring others alongside us—preparing them to take over that part of the ministry? It’s important to recognize not only that we can’t do it all but also that we shouldn’t do it all. Attempting to do everything robs others of the joy of serving and discovering FACTSANDTRENDS.NET/SOAR

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the gifts they’ve been given by the Holy Spirit. God never commanded us to don an “S” on our chests and emerge from our phone booth to save the world. He expects us to raise up others to serve as well. 2. Develop leaders, don’t dump responsibilities. There’s an easy way to replace yourself: load up your ministry dump truck with the things you don’t want to do, drive over to the desks of your unsuspecting successors, and throw the lever to bury them in responsibilities. That’s the easy way, but it’s also the lazy way. Courageous leaders take the time to patiently invest in and develop other leaders. They don’t find “yes” people and keep pushing tasks toward them as long as they say “yes.” Rather, we move with intentionality and with great vision. We paint a picture of leadership. We plan for appropriate next steps, considering that each potential leader starts from a different skill set and experience level. We demonstrate what we want them to replicate. 3. Know the difference between handoffs and hands-off. Once we’ve identified our successors, we don’t wish them godspeed as we walk out the door. We maintain close contact as we gradually hand over more responsibility. We don’t simply assign tasks, but we transfer authority. A wise co-worker of mine often says, “Just because you delegate does not mean you abdicate.” That means we cannot—we must not—take our hands off a ministry area after we’ve given our responsibilities to others. We continue to check in, advise, and encourage. We continue to challenge new leaders into greater tasks. A transformational leader knows the

Courageous leaders take the time to patiently invest in and develop other leaders.” —Danny Franks, pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

difference between a micromanager and a mentor. Rather than posturing ourselves as the Great and Powerful Oz (who actually cowers behind the curtain), we can position ourselves as caring coaches, content to let the players shine while shouting encouragement from the sidelines. 4. Skip the second-guessing. Few things are more demoralizing than being given a role—and then having your predecessor second-guess your every move. New leaders are going to foul up, miss the mark, and fall short of the standards you’ve dreamed up for them. That’s not the sign of a bad leader—it’s the sign of a growing one. When the foul-ups happen, those of us who relegated the authority have a chance to also relegate trust. We don’t serve our people well when we subvert or sabotage them. It’s much better to work with our new leaders to perform a postmortem after something goes wrong, then coach them back to success. We also must realize that many new leaders won’t do it as well as we envision the first time out of the gates. That’s not a bad thing. But you can’t grow them if you gut them before they get started. Remember that when you hand something off, you do more than replace yourself. That task becomes a new thing

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as your replacement follows the nudging of the Spirit into new areas. 5. You do what you do. Let’s go full circle. While it’s true that many leaders try to own too much, it’s also true that there are certain tasks we must own. It would be both inappropriate and unwise to push some things to other members of our team. Leaders should be the chief visionaries. They’re not the only visionaries, but they should be the primary champion of the big win of their team. So here’s the question: What do you do that only you can do? What things are wins for your organization and wins for your time, talent, and bandwidth? Finding the nexus where those things meet means finding your sweet spot, the place where you should be spending your time. Leaders, it’s time for us to work ourselves out of a job. Who are you raising up today? DANNY FRANKS (@letmebefranks) is the connections pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. He is the author of People Are The Mission: How Churches Can Welcome Guests Without Compromising the Gospel.




6 ways to encourage greater involvement in your church


By Helen Gibson

Do you struggle to find volunteers to serve in your church? If you’re like most leaders, the answer is probably yes. Just over 70 percent of church leaders say they find recruiting volunteers challenging or often impossible, according to the 2015 National Survey of Congregations. Leaders lament the “80/20 rule”—a theory that suggests 20 percent of church members do 80 percent of the work while

the other members do very little. Still, it doesn’t have to be that way. Engaging the other 80 percent may be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Here are six practical ways to address the problem and encourage volunteers to step up and serve in your church. 1. Listen to what the uninvolved members of your congregation have to say. Church leaders often misunderstand the majority of church members who don’t engage in the work of the church, says Scott Thumma, co-author of The Other 80 Percent: Turning Your Church’s Spectators into Active Participants. “We assume they don’t show up because of spiritual reasons—they’re not as fervent, they’re not as committed to



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God, they’re lax,” Thumma says. “But in fact, oftentimes, we found it might be a squabble over the choir, or it might be that they’ve always wanted to serve in a particular ministry and the people already serving in that ministry haven’t ever rotated off, so there’s no space for them.” Instead, those in the 80 percent need to be pursued, engaged, and seen as a “mission field,” Thumma says. The best way to start is by listening to their stories and trying to understand them. “If you don’t know the backstory, then your efforts to reach out to them

It’s biblical. God has called everyone to do ministry—not just pastors. It’s everybody.” —Jill Fox, author of Volunteering and The Volunteer Church are misguided because those efforts are uninformed,” Thumma says. 2. Make sure your church knows the importance of volunteers. Once you’ve heard from uninvolved church members, it will be easier to meet them where they are and show them the importance of serving in the local church. “Churches need to understand using volunteers is a theological thing,” says Jill Fox, author of Volunteering and The Volunteer Church. “It’s biblical. God has called everyone to do ministry—not just pastors. It’s everybody.” Sometimes, church members—particularly in larger churches—don’t see the importance of their participation. According to a Leadership Network report released last year, those who attend a church with 500 or more members are less likely to volunteer. “The logic is that when you look 22 • Facts & Trends

around a group of 50 you say, ‘They really need me to jump in here; if I don’t, who else will?’” the report says. “However, if you look around a group of 500, it’s easier to conclude, ‘Probably many people here are far more talented or available than I am.’” It’s important for leaders to stress to their members that their participation is vital—for the congregation and the individual. Volunteers make ministry possible. The disciples appointed volunteers to care for the widows and orphans (Acts 6:1-7). Moses, following his father-in-law’s advice, gave certain responsibilities to the Israelites (Exodus 18). We’re reminded today that we can accomplish more when we share the responsibilities of day-to-day ministry with our brothers and sisters in Christ. 3. Teach your entire staff how to best engage volunteers. Fox realized the importance of training church staff and leaders on working with volunteers after spending a year researching best practices. “I read every book there ever was on volunteering and realized you needed to teach your entire staff and your top lay leaders how to work with volunteers –– how to recruit them, how to appreciate them, how to train them,” Fox says. “That would change a whole church.” She suggests setting up a system for recruiting, developing, and encouraging volunteers that is easy for everyone involved to understand. Then, she says, train the church staff on that system. “If you don’t create a system that’s sustainable, it will collapse,” Fox says. “You’ll only be as strong as that leader is in that ministry area.” A sustainable system, Fox says, creates consistency and clarity throughout a church’s programs. SPRING 2018


4. Provide specific training for all volunteers. Training shouldn’t be provided just for staff members. Every volunteer in your church can benefit from more training and development. One way this can be accomplished is through online modules that provide flexibility for volunteers who can’t always gather at one time in a single location. An example of this is Ministry Grid, a subscription-based online resource maintained by LifeWay Leadership with more than 3,000 training and development sessions for parking team members, small group leaders, greeters, deacons, and more. 5. Celebrate volunteers and their work. Recognition will show volunteers their work is being noticed and appreciated, and you can provide it in simple ways. Fox remembers constructing a tunnel out of Dixie cups for church volunteers to run through as music played. At the end of the tunnel, people gave each volunteer a king-sized candy bar. “They go through the tunnel, get candy, and then over on the side we shared the number of volunteers in the different ministry areas to celebrate the total numbers,” Fox says. “It was something so small, but it made everyone stand higher and be like, ‘Yeah! Let’s work with volunteers! Let’s do this.’” She also suggests writing a card or note of appreciation to each volunteer on a regular basis. “When someone gets a postcard or a handwritten note in the mail that says, ‘You’re doing a great job of volunteering. I noticed this in you,’ they love it,” Fox says.

way to encourage current and future volunteers. Often, stories open people’s imaginations and help them see themselves in circumstances beyond their own. “There needs to be a strategic plan for how you are telling the stories of volunteers and celebrating them for both your church staff and your church body,” Fox says. “You have to hold up the stories of volunteers because stories inspire people to get engaged.” Fox easily recalls specific stories that have encouraged her as a volunteer. There was the time a young girl arrived at a food bank, saw shelves stocked with canned goods, and realized she was going to be able to eat dinner that night. Then there was the time a group of volunteers in Fox’s church got down on their knees, prayed for a young college ministry, and later watched it thrive. “As a volunteer, I have personally grown the most in my faith in Jesus Christ because it stretches you,” Fox says. “It pushes you.” HELEN GIBSON is a freelance writer and senior at Western Kentucky University.

6. Tell their stories. Sharing success stories can be a powerful FACTSANDTRENDS.NET/SOAR

DIG DEEPER Interested in learning more about building a culture of volunteerism in your church? Check out these resources. •T  he Volunteer Church: Mobilizing Your Congregation for Growth and Effectiveness by Leith Anderson and Jill Fox •T  he Other 80 Percent: Turning Your Church’s Spectators into Active Participants by Scott Thumma and Warren Bird • Available at LifeWay Christian Stores and Facts & Trends • 23

Get in the game Recruiting VBS volunteers is a challenge but the rewards are worth it


By Jana Magruder

For many churches, Vacation Bible School is one of the most important and exciting times of the year. It’s when many children hear the gospel and commit their lives to Christ. And in most congregations, it takes an army of volunteers. Recruiting them is no small task. Sometimes it’s a struggle to find enough volunteers to work with children on a normal week—and that’s asking people to help for only an hour or two. For VBS, volunteers often have to give up a week of their time. VBS usually takes place in the summer, conflicting with vacations and summer activities. And more volunteers are needed—as many as three times the number needed for a regular week. Despite all those issues, it’s worth doing. It’s worth it for the kids and families who will hear the gospel, and it’s worth it for the church family to serve alongside one another for the greater purpose of kingdom expansion. Vacation Bible School and other largescale events can be a great opportunity for an all-hands-on-deck mentality that can strengthen entire congregations, with multiple generations playing a role. Here are some ideas to consider when recruiting, training, and rewarding those who choose to say yes to serving. Communicate the value of VBS Begin with the “why.” Tell your church

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why VBS matters. It’s not about entertaining kids for a week. It’s not about silly songs and games, even though they’re fun. It’s about creating an intentional time and space for kids of all ages to hear the gospel, learn Scripture, and tell their friends about Jesus. Most pastors agree VBS is the most evangelical program a church can offer to communities. Churched and unchurched kids get a full week of diving into God’s Word. Is it a lot of work to put on? Yes. Do we need everyone’s help to accomplish this? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Be organized Create a systematic way for people to sign up to serve. After the vision for VBS has been presented, be ready for what’s next. Some churches devote multiple Sundays to enlistment, decorating tables with VBS promotional items in heavy foot traffic areas. Friendly faces greet people and ask if they would like to sign up. Other churches have online sign-ups with emails going out for the call to action. Electronic applications can be used to capture information. Some churches use both methods. Offer multiple ways to serve Many people assume serving in VBS means they have to teach kids. Not everyone feels equipped to teach, and that’s OK. There are many ways to serve in VBS. Be sure to present all the roles—snack coordinators and servers, set builders and decoration installers, greeters, worship leaders, registration helpers, T-shirt orSPRING 2018

ganizers, and the list goes on. Everyone has a way to use their gifts during VBS. Host a kickoff party Once you have enlistment complete—or even partially complete—get folks excited by throwing a party. This helps potential and committed volunteers feel more connected to the upcoming event. More specific training can come later for certain groups, like those who will teach. Get creative and serve the snacks that will be served during VBS, decorate with theme-related décor, play some of the games, and engage with the crafts. Most importantly, talk about the Bible content and how exciting it is to share this with the kids who will come to VBS. Close by praying for the week, asking God to work in the hearts of those who attend and to do great things in the life of your church. Serve those who are serving Let potential volunteers know they will be cared for: create a hospitality team with the task of serving VBS volunteers. Encourage this team to provide food, daily notes of encouragement and, if

possible, a space to take quick breaks during the event. This strategy allows another group of people to use their gifts while helping those who are working feel blessed and refreshed. Show appreciation When VBS is over, the most important way to thank your volunteers is to celebrate what God has done. After the last bit of glue has been scrubbed from tables and the worship pastor finally has the stage free from extra props and scenery, don’t forget to give thanks for the gospel being displayed and shared, for God’s name being made known, and for the work He accomplished in the lives of those who served. Once volunteers see what happens when everyone rolls up their sleeves and serves alongside one another for the gospel to be shared, this joy can overflow into the next season of recruitment. JANA MAGRUDER (@jana_magruder) is director of LifeWay Kids.


Not everyone feels equipped to teach, and that’s OK. There are many ways to serve in VBS.” —Jana Magruder, director of LifeWay Kids

DIG DEEPER Find more resources for planning and executing VBS at

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How to fail as a leader Lessons learned from King David by Eric Geiger



There’s a restaurant in downtown Nashville I used to enjoy. But not anymore. It’s not because the food has changed or the service has gone downhill. I stopped going because of the memories it brings back. The last time I was there, I sat in the same booth where, on an earlier visit, I had prayed and planned projects with a pastor friend. I remember watching him interact with the server and thinking, This guy loves Jesus more than I do. I watched him share the gospel with much more ease than I can. I knew he must have spent time with the Lord that morning. Then I looked across the room at another booth and was reminded of another pastor friend I met there. We talked about our marriages, our kids, and what the Lord was doing in our lives and ministries.

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was “a man after God’s own heart,” but he still failed—big time. If we pay close attention to this passage, we can see he put himself into a position to fail as a leader. His story shows us three surefire ways to fail into succession.

Today, both my friends are no longer in ministry. Moral failures have disqualified them—causing great harm to their families and leaving their churches without a shepherd. As I’ve watched these men and other friends in ministry fall, I feel fragile. If it could happen to people who I believe love Jesus more than I do, then it could easily happen to me. And it can happen to you. People are fragile. Leaders are fragile. The Bible reminds us of this in 2 Samuel 11:1-4. This passage shows us a picture of King David’s fragility. He

Isolate yourself It’s spring, and David is supposed to be at war (verse 1). Instead, he has remained in Jerusalem. He isolated himself from people in his life who would have spoken truth to him, like Joab. How do we know Joab would have stopped him from asking about a married woman? When you read other places in the narrative, we see Joab confronting David over the census. He was willing to speak truth to power. But Joab was sent away to war and David stayed behind. Leaders, we must be cautious to not isolate ourselves. The temptation is there, because leading is painful. People cause pain; they tell us everything that’s wrong with our ministries. So often, the default for us is to pull away and to isolate ourselves. The beauty of the Christian faith is the opposite of isolation. As Christians, we rejoice in the fact we are weak and Jesus did all the work for us. We are part of a community of believers who hold one another up and encourage one another. A word of caution about the community with which we surround ourselves: It’s possible for you, as a leader, to be isolated in the midst of people. David had people around him who brought Bathsheba upon his request. When you’re rising in leadership, it’s tempting and easy to surround yourself with people who tell you what you want to hear. If everyone around you is impressed with you, then you are still in dangerous isolation. Ignore your boredom I used to think it was no big deal when people said they were bored. But being


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As I’ve watched these men and other friends in ministry fall, I feel fragile.” —Eric Geiger, senior vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources

bored will lead to disaster. Why? It indicates you aren’t looking at Jesus. If you’re looking at Jesus you aren’t bored, because Jesus is never boring. In verse 2, we see David was bored. This is the same David in Psalm 57 who woke up singing. He was in awe of the Lord—but not on this particular night in 2 Samuel 11. Verse 2 tells us he was looking for something else. His heart was not in awe of the Lord. He was bored and he was looking for something. Like David’s, our hearts are restless. We long to experience something new and exciting. We have a hard time just meditating on the goodness and the grace of God.

DIG DEEPER •H  ow to Ruin Your Life: And Starting Over When You Do by Eric Geiger Available at LifeWay Christian Stores and

Submit to pride Believe you are above falling—that this will never happen to you. Be filled with pride. Attempt to stand in your own strength. Do these things, and you will surely fail. Verses 3 and 4 show us that David was filled with pride. Here David was thinking, I’m the king. Anything I ask for, I get. Look at my approval ratings. Look at all my accomplishments. If I want to bring a woman into my bedroom tonight, I have the right to do that. I can do anything I want. Pride led to his destruction. How can we tell our hearts are drifting in pride? If we have a sense of entitlement—if we feel we are owed something because of our positions or our accomplishments— we are fueled by pride. Whenever we are entitled, we aren’t grateful. Everything we have is only what we’ve

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received by His grace. Our salvation, our identity, the role we’re in—all of these things are only by His grace. When we live with gratitude for what He’s done, we won’t be filled with pride. But if we live with a sense of entitlement, we’re headed for destruction. The only One who can keep us from falling David was the first person to write the popular phrase, “How the mighty have fallen.” He wrote this in 2 Samuel 1 after King Saul fell and killed himself on the battlefield. This is terrifying to me: This means I can watch the mighty fall, and I can speak about the mighty falling, but I am unable to keep myself from falling. We can write blogs, read articles, and talk about fallen pastors and fallen ministries. But we, in our own goodness, are unable to keep ourselves from falling. Thankfully, the story doesn’t end for David. There is healing and forgiveness for him—and for all leaders who fail. We can’t escape the consequences of our actions—David left behind a legacy of family and national conflict, including a rebellion led by his son Absalom. But we can find forgiveness and restoration. In Psalm 51, we see David prays when he is confronted in his sin. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan confronts him. Here’s how you know you really belong to God: your response when someone confronts you with the truth. Saul was confronted by a prophet and made excuses; David was confronted by a prophet and yelled, “I have sinned!” If we finish our ministries well, it’s not because of our goodness; it’s only because of His grace. He is the One who keeps us from falling. ERIC GEIGER (@EricGeiger) is senior vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources.


How to study the Bible like Spurgeon A Q&A with Alistair Begg



What would it be like to read the Bible with Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th-century pastor and author? The recently released CSB Spurgeon Study Bible can give us a taste of diving into God’s Word with the “Prince of Preachers.” Facts & Trends spoke with CSB Spurgeon Study Bible general editor Alistair Begg about how Spurgeon’s words still reverberate today and what modern church leaders can take away from his approach to Scripture. What impact did the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon have on Protestant theology and preaching? Spurgeon ministered during the Victorian era in the social context of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. He was working at a time when German theological schools were undercutting the notion of biblical authority. So he tackled cultural issues in his day, not because he was pugilistic, but because he wanted to hold firmly to the truth once delivered to the saints. That led to his being caught up in controversy—which he didn’t seek. But he was prepared to stand firmly for doctrine and position of evangelical theology. How does Spurgeon’s high view of Scripture apply to today’s leader? Spurgeon faced many of the same challenges we face today, because he, too, lived in a society where the authority of Scripture was called into question. Nothing has really changed.

reconciling the world to Himself. No matter where Spurgeon was in the Bible, he got directly to Jesus, because he was convinced the Bible is a book about Jesus—and a book about the salvation offered to us through Christ.


In contemporary terms, we would be a unique generation if we did not have among us those questioning the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. Some examples include discussions concerning the nature of marriage, monogamy, and family life. These are ultimately questions of whether God’s Word is timeless in its truth. We’d be hard-pressed to suggest Spurgeon doesn’t speak in a timely way, even centuries later. How has Spurgeon’s approach to Scripture affected your own preaching? Many of us make simple things sound really complicated. Few are good at taking difficult subjects and distilling them in a way anyone—regardless of theological training—can digest. But Spurgeon was a master of that. Another way Spurgeon has influenced my approach is the crucicentric nature of his preaching. He preached about Jesus and His death on the cross, conveying the wonder that God was in Christ


How would Spurgeon study the Bible? I think every student of the Bible should mirror Spurgeon’s approach to Scripture. He famously said, “Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s self.” He approached the Scriptures with humility, as it were, on his knees. In his sermons he spoke about his need for and dependence on studying God’s Word with a humble reverence and respect. He said, “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.” A high reverence for Scripture, a belief in its usefulness, and a humble attitude are exactly how one would study the Bible like Spurgeon. ALISTAIR BEGG (@AlistairBegg) is senior pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on “Truth for Life,” which is heard on the radio and online around the world.

DIG DEEPER • The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon • CSB Spurgeon Study Bible Available at LifeWay Christian Stores and Facts & Trends • 29

Avoiding the cash flow crisis Is your church prepared for the summer giving slump? By Todd McMichen


If only we had the resources, we could … We can’t. I wish we could, but cash flow is tight right now. As a church leader, there’s a good chance you’ve uttered one of these statements, or at least some variation of it. And as you well know, vision proceeds at the speed of resources. Summer is fast approaching, which means more and more leaders will be talking about financial shortages. Summer is traditionally the lowest giving season at most churches. People are out of routines and forget to mail their tithe checks or bring them to church to place in the offering plate. Others are perhaps vacationing and traveling more, and as the saying goes: out of sight, out of mind. Before we get into tips for short- and long-term budgeting, there are several points to keep in mind. God has a vision for your church that reaches beyond cash flow. His vision is actually so big it requires more than a normal amount of faith and resources. It requires all believers being released to all of Him. This is more a factor of discipleship than resources. Church budgets are 100 percent manmade. We create them, and then we elevate them to a status that sometimes discourages and binds. It’s easy to forget that budgets are merely guides that leaders create to help direct. They can be changed at any time and are not the final indicator of financial health. This is more a factor of culture than resources. Church expenses are choices. It doesn’t matter whether they are for important ministries, staff salaries, capital investments, or operational expenses. At some point in the history of your church, somebody decided to make that expense relevant. This is more a factor of leadership than resources. Cash flow is inconsistent. Every Sunday will not produce a great offering. Things

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break unexpectedly. Churches experience bad weather days and a whole season called summer. Cash flow is adversely affected by a lot of things from week to week. However, the church ministers over the course of an entire year. The ups and downs of cash flow should be expected, anticipated, and planned for. This is more a factor of planning than resources. So how do you ensure your church’s vision is well-resourced during every month of the year? How do you make sure your church can realize its ministry goals, confident in your finances? How can you avoid the stress of cash flow and always be ready to say “yes” to God’s next assignment? Here are some tips. Actually, they’re pretty common-sense, but they aren’t easy. They will help lead your church well for today and for tomorrow. Possess a clear vision for both the short and long term. Invest wisely today; save for tomorrow. Vision should drive resources, not the other way around. What if your church is actually spending money today that is robbing from its future potential? Budget on 90 percent of last year’s receipts. Some churches prepare a future budget that is beyond their actual giving receipts. They believe this is a faith-stretching experience—that people will give more, and the church will grow. Church leadership then begins to spend ahead of growth and revenue. Six months into the budget year, cash flow is tight, stress begins to rise, and “no” is heard more often. SPRING 2018

When leaders take the time to invest in discipling generosity, it will greatly decrease the need to chase resources.” —Todd McMichen, director of Generosity and Digital Giving, LifeWay Christian Resources


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Increase multichanneled digital giving. Many people have given up on paying with cash or a check. They’ve moved their bill-paying online and use debit or credit cards for everyday expenses. Many of your church members may show up to church with no money at all. And they may arrive at church with busy minds, distracted with life. They may want to give but aren’t ready to give. However, adults and teens have their phones. In today’s world, that’s equivalent to an offering plate in their pocket. So make it easy for them to be generous. Increase digital connectedness. People are away from home more often, leading busier, more transient lives. However, they can stay connected to your church with great tools like social media. Engage your congregation via social media all week long. Then, even if people are traveling for work or on a family vacation, they can be reminded through their smartphones and other digital devices that their participation— in all forms—is needed and wanted. And it doesn’t hurt to remind them

that—through their giving—they can participate in the ministry of the church even if they aren’t there. Train your leaders and disciple your people. If you want to reduce financial stress and increase vision capacity, both will be needed. When leaders invest church resources wisely, they return an investment that grows potential. When leaders take the time to invest in discipling generosity, it will greatly decrease the need to chase resources. Plan ahead. Church giving goes in waves. Many people give a great deal toward the end of the year, then not as much during the summer. Plan ahead to manage your church’s cash flow, so you have money on hand to keep the ministry going all year long. And remember to pray. Every church has every resource it needs to carry out God’s vision. If you’re experiencing financial stress or fearing the summer slump, be encouraged. TODD MCMICHEN (@ToddMcMichen) is LifeWay’s director of Generosity and Digital Giving and author of Leading a Generous Church.

A new department of LifeWay will prepare churches to produce a wave of cheerful givers.

DIG DEEPER •L  eading a Generous Church by Todd McMichen • Available at LifeWay Christian Stores and

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Generosity by LifeWay, which launches in April, presents a coaching system to help churches grow disciples in a biblical understanding of what the Bible says about giving. It also provides a new donation platform for churches and nonprofits to take advantage of cutting-edge technologies and new giving preferences. “Learning to be generous is about more than learning how to get out of debt or how to manage one’s money,” says Todd McMichen, LifeWay’s director of Generosity and Digital Giving. “It’s about learning how to live for the benefit of others. That’s a much bigger conversation.” SPRING 2018

Room to listen

We reach others by truly hearing them By Bob Smietana


If Beth Moore hadn’t become a Bible teacher, she might have done all right as a religion reporter. She understands the great secret of what is affectionately called the “God beat”: You don’t have to win when the subject of God comes up in conversation. You don’t have to argue. You just have to listen.

Here’s how Moore put it in a March 2017 tweet: “Not all walls of hostility require agreement to fall. Some crumble when people know they are heard. Listening is not assent. It’s respect.” In other words, when we talk with our neighbors, friends, or co-workers about life, politics, family, God, or matters of faith, listening works better than arguing. One of the great temptations of the social media age is the desire to be right. Ranting about politics or theology— something I’ve been guilty of more than once—seems to have become a second career for many.



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DIG DEEPER •R  eal Love in an Angry World: How to Stick to Your Convictions Without Alienating People by Rick Bezet Available at LifeWay Christian Stores and

Friends post something we disagree with on Facebook or Twitter—and we immediately want to crush them and their ideas. There’s no room for kindness or curiosity or any attempt to understand other people’s points of view. But this scorched-earth approach is incompatible with the gospel—and with the Christian view that every person is made in the image of God and therefore is of inherent worth. It’s hard for people to believe the message of God’s redeeming love when Christians treat them with disrespect. However, there’s a better way. And it starts with listening. For the past 18 years, I’ve been a religion reporter—for Christian and secular publications. It’s the best job in the world, because I get paid to listen to people talk about God and matters of faith. Through my work, I’ve met with people of all faiths in many different places: Burmese refugees in Murfreesboro, young pastors in rural Alaska, Muslims in the Bible belt, Salvation Army Christians in Yorkshire, Buddhists in Chicago, Jewish leaders in Washington, D.C., snake handlers in Appalachia, Sikhs in the suburbs, Hindus in Minnesota, Mormons in Denver, and nones everywhere. Often I didn’t agree with their theology or the way they practiced—or didn’t practice—their faith. But all of them had stories to tell. They were willing to share with me because I was willing to listen. And my life is richer for having known them. I’m not a pastor or evangelist. I can’t tell you how to convince people to believe the gospel. But I can give a few tips on creating space for conversations about the gospel and how to avoid turning people off before

34 • Facts & Trends

they’ve had a chance to consider the claims of Christ. You don’t have to win Too often Christians are trying to convince non-Christians that their view of faith is right and the non-Christian is wrong. When that happens, Christians are focused on winning an argument rather than sharing the love of Jesus. Or the conversation becomes a sales pitch, with a focus on closing the deal—rather than on that person coming to know God. But we don’t need to win, because God has already won. Jesus is already at work, drawing people to Himself. Our job is to create space where people can respond to the call of the gospel. So, as the book of James reminds us, be quick to listen. People don’t mind talking about faith and hearing your views. But they also want to know you’re interested in them as people, rather than as prospects for your sales pitch. Be agreeable even when you disagree As an aspiring musician in the 1990s, I spent Tuesday nights at a Chicago restaurant that was home to a weekly open mic and songwriters’ circle. It wasn’t far from the Christian college where I’d gone to school. I was delighted when one of my songwriter friends, Marck, decided to attend that college. Marck wasn’t a Christian, but he was curious. I hoped being at a Christian school would bring him closer to Jesus. If nothing else, I hoped he’d experience the kindness for which Christians are often known. Instead, his experience turned him off. Any time he disagreed with his classmates—especially about politics or spirituality—they belittled him. Because he wasn’t a Christian, his point of view didn’t matter to them. Before long, he SPRING 2018

felt unwelcome. Think about what you have in common You might disagree with your neighbors on matters of faith, but you still likely have a lot in common. You both get stressed out about work, worry about your kids, and want safe and thriving communities. Look for ways to share those common interests. A study from LifeWay Research found that more than half of unchurched Americans would come to a church-sponsored meeting about making their neighborhood safer (61 percent) or for a community service project (51 percent). By contrast, only about a third (34 percent) would be likely to come to a church service if invited. Definitely invite your friends to a church service, but continue to find or create other opportunities to introduce them to your faith community. Have a little bit of faith Remember, God is in the rescuing business. Jesus came to earth, as the Gospel of Luke puts it, “to seek and to save the lost.” God is already at work in the lives of our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. As the old hymn puts it, “Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me.” Our job, as Christ’s followers, is to love our neighbors, share the gospel, and testify about our changed lives. God will do the rest. BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.



Facts & Trends • 35

Crushing the lie of



By AARon ARMstrong

I had been a Christian for less than a year when I realized something was missing. I read my Bible, I prayed, I served—all the things I was supposed to do. But something was wrong.

When I saw people raising their hands, clapping and weeping as they sang on Sunday mornings, I felt somber. When I listened as others shared how challenging and inspirational they found the message, I felt hopeless. What was wrong with me? Was I the problem, or was something more going on? I did the thing that made the most sense: I started reading my Bible to see if it had the answer to what I was missing. And I found it.

36 • Facts & Trends


I began in Genesis and didn’t stop until I read to the end. As I read, I began to notice a difference between the sermons I heard and what I saw in the Scriptures themselves, a difference between how the psalmists spoke and the songs we sang each week. Every week, I heard only about things I had to do. But the Bible also kept telling me what God had already done. My books and the sermons I heard focused on my need to be brave, be committed, seek justice, and do good. All those things are in the Bible. The Bible, however, also kept showing me how God was rescuing, redeeming, restoring, and doing good on my behalf. Scripture said He would empower me to do what I could never do in my own strength. The problem was that I believed the lie of moralism—the belief that the chief implication of the gospel is behavior modification.

I was hearing the Bible taught as a collection of disconnected stories and principles to help me live as a good person—but not as a changed one.” —Aaron Armstrong, brand manager of The Gospel Project I was hearing the Bible taught as a collection of disconnected stories and principles to help me live as a good person—but not as a changed one. I was trying to earn God’s love instead of obeying Him because of His love for me in Christ (1 John 4:9-11). I thought I could work up enough willpower to obey instead of trusting in Christ’s finished work and the Spirit’s power. I was told to slay my giants with a


Facts & Trends • 37

God doesn’t begin with commands. He begins by demonstrating what He has done for His people.” —Aaron Armstrong, brand manager of The Gospel Project slingshot, when I needed a King to slay them for me. I was told to be a hero, when I needed a Hero to rescue me. I was told God loved me, but not how He loved me. I was told to obey, but not given a foundation for my obedience. I was missing the gospel. And I wasn’t alone. Many Christians are taught in this way. We come to the Scriptures seeing them as morality tales, as a means of helping us live as good people. Many of us live this way our whole lives, not realizing God has something better in mind for us. We fail to understand that our behavior isn’t the standard by which God measures us—that it isn’t the reason He loves us. Now, it’s never a question of whether we are to obey God. As a church leader, you should encourage your flock to engage in spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible regularly, sharing the gospel, and praying consistently. These are things we should do as we grow in the faith. But whenever we teach the Scriptures, it is crucial to stress this point: God doesn’t begin with commands. He begins by demonstrating what He has done for His people. Throughout the Bible, the gospel story—God’s plan to rescue and redeem His people through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—is told. To the first humans, a Son is promised 38 • Facts & Trends

who will crush the head of a serpent. To Abraham, a Descendant who will bless all the people of the earth. To David, a Son who will reign forever from an eternal throne. To the Judeans, a Servant who will bear their iniquities. To all who long for restoration, a Messiah who will rescue and redeem them. This is the story that transforms us, the story told through every story in the Bible—the story that not only brings us into the Christian faith but also continually grows us in it. That takes away our need to earn God’s favor because He lavishly pours it out upon us through Jesus. That calls us to “work out [our] own salvation,” knowing God is at work in us “both to will and to work according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). That tells us God first loved us, and He loved us in this way: “He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is the good news God gives us. The good news you can share with people who are weary from continually trying to earn what can only be given. The good news that crushes the lie that seeks to crush His church. AARON ARMSTRONG (@AaronStrongarm) is brand manager of The Gospel Project, the author of several books including Devotional Doctrine (LifeWay, 2018), and the screenwriter of “Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer.”


Three questions to help us see Jesus in the Old Testament


When we study the Scriptures, it should always be in light of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (Luke 24:27). Many of us understand how this shapes our reading of the New Testament, but we need some help with the Old. Here are three questions to encourage your congregation to ask when reading the Bible Jesus read: 1. Does anything in this passage point directly to Jesus? Direct prophecies of Jesus do not occur in every passage, but you will find them sprinkled throughout the Old Testament. For example: •Genesis 49:10-12 prophesies a ruler from the line of Judah who will bring about a kingdom of prosperity. • Isaiah 9:6 speaks of the birth of a child who will be named “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” • Micah 5:2 refers to a ruler who will come from Bethlehem.

as “the Son of David” and “the Son of Abraham,” we can look for ways that events in the lives of David and Abraham anticipate who Jesus is and what Jesus will do. We see Abraham’s “sacrifice” of his son Isaac in Genesis 22 as foreshadowing the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God. We see Jesus’ love for His enemies (Romans 5:8) anticipated by David’s love for Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9, as he was a potential enemy, being a descendant of King Saul. 3. How does the gospel of Jesus shape my understanding of this passage? The Old Testament is full of wise sayings, principles, and commands. But we can properly understand how these apply to our lives only when we read them through the lens of Jesus’ life and teaching. He came to bring the Old Testament to its complete expression (Matthew 5:17). Once we figure out how an Old Testament command or principle applies to us, we can only carry it out in the power of the gospel, which shapes and empowers our obedience (see 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Galatians 2:14; Philippians 1:27, 2:12-13). (Adapted from session 7 of The Gospel Project for Adults, vol. 9: Jesus Saves, written by Steven Mathewson.)

2. Does anything in this passage foreshadow or anticipate Jesus? In addition to direct prophecies, the Old Testament foreshadows Jesus in subtle, indirect ways. For example, knowing that the Gospel of Matthew begins by identifying Jesus FACTSANDTRENDS.NET

DIG DEEPER “The Hero of the Story” Podcast Join Brian Dembowcyzk and Aaron Armstrong each week as they help you see the story of redemption in all Scripture. Learn more and subscribe at podcast.

Facts & Trends • 39

Develop a global strategy for

student missions


By Chad Stillwell and George Siler

Does your student ministry have a strategy for missions— or are your efforts random?

Let’s be honest: Sometimes we do things in ministry because we are “supposed” to do them or because others are doing them. We choose where to serve on mission based on what’s most available, not what’s best. But if you develop a coherent missions strategy, your students can have a global impact in their witness. You can lead students to engage in God’s mission as a lifetime pursuit. A good starting place Let’s start by identifying some key assumptions about missions and student ministry. 1. Missions is a priority for every church, regardless of size and resources.

2. Discipleship and missions are inseparable. Christ’s call is to follow Him and become fishers of men. Missions isn’t an extracurricular activity or an “above and beyond” call extended to special believers. 3. Student missions should complement the mission work of the church as a whole, not act as an independent initiative. 4. Student missions work best when the priority is the receivers, not the spiritual growth of the goers. Spiritual growth will result, but the call is to go and make disciples of others. Consider these steps to build a missions strategy for your students. Step 1: EVALUATE. Spend some time in an honest assessment of missions in your ministry.


40 • Facts & Trends


• How do you define mission? Our theology profoundly affects who we are, where we go, what we do, and how we train. It’s essential to have a biblical understanding of missions and to clearly articulate that understanding across your organization. The gospel shows us the heart of mission is rescue and redemption. Evangelism, disciple-making, and church planting are essential activities. Your definition of mission activity can be broader than this, but it cannot be less. • What are you doing now that fits this definition? A clear, biblical understanding of missions allows you to assess your efforts—or the lack of them. • What specific gifts, passions, and possibilities in missions already exist in your church? While all churches are called to a gospel-centered mission, each church has its own identity in fulfilling that calling. What do you see as the God-given possibilities and potential for your church? Step 2: SET GOALS. The next step is to “begin with the end in mind”—to set goals for your missional engagement. • How do you want students to view the world before they graduate from your ministry? Will you let them default to the mindset of a tourist or will you cultivate the heart of a missionary? Will their main source of information about the world be the news or the Bible? Will they be driven by fear or by faith? • What experiences and abilities do you want students to have so they can live missionally? If you want them to be able to share their faith with a Muslim, then show them how. If you want them to be comfortable reaching out to different people, teach them to cross cultures. • What defines the win in every missions activity and trip? The adage,

Fusion team from Midwestern College at Midwestern Seminary ministers in unreached places. IMB PHOTO

“Aim at nothing, hit nothing,” applies. Always go with a plan, but also allow the Holy Spirit to change the plan. Translate your answers to these questions into action points, and you will be well on your way to developing a road map for your mission strategy. Step 3: TEACH STUDENTS THE MISSION OF GOD. God’s heart is to rescue all of us. It is the bottom line of Scripture. • Help students see that the whole narrative of the Bible is missions. From Genesis to Revelation, God is a missionary God and Jesus is the ultimate hero of every Bible story. As Christians, we are the missionary people of God—it is part of our identity. • Inject missions education into your ministry at every opportunity. Add a “missions moment” to worship experiences. Lead a refugee simulation. Choose Bible study curriculum that includes good missiology. Introduce unreached and unengaged people groups. Require mission teams to go through extensive


spiritual training. In missions-related announcements, explain the “why” as much as the “what.” Step 4: GET STUDENTS ENGAGED WITH THE LOST. It’s hard to make missions real from a classroom. Students need real-world mission experiences and practical engagement. • Beat the Christian quarantine. Even in a secular society, students can get insulated into a Christian bubble and lose meaningful contact with lost people. While there is a need to shelter them from wrong influences, there is also the need to send them. • Help students think like missionaries. When missionaries arrive in a place, they study the culture. They find ways to build relationships with people and share their faith. As they lead people to Christ, they disciple them. Missionaries aren’t afraid of culture—they penetrate it with the gospel. • Encourage students to find where God is at work. This means slowing Facts & Trends • 41

down long enough to see needs and then being available. It means praying for awareness and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Step 5: DEVELOP PARTNERSHIPS IN MISSIONS. The days of “one-and-done” trips and quick results are over. Long-term effort is required to reach long-term results. • Choose effectiveness over variety. The “world tour” approach to mission trips can be exciting, but it lacks the depth of ministry that can happen when you go to the same place again and again. Good relationships take time. A longterm commitment leads to more trust and credibility, better use of resources, and the chance to truly invest in a community and its people. • Connect “over there” with “right here.” God has brought the mission field to our doorstep. Quite often the people group you may seek to reach overseas can be found in your own city. Many church groups have been able to find local opportunites to match with their global efforts. Step 6: LEAD STUDENTS TO PRAY FOR MISSIONS. Prayer in God’s kingdom is key to the mission. As you engage students in missional prayer, lead them to be focused, meaningful, consistent, and creative.

groups, and communication. • Engage them to pray creatively. Use social media, special prayer events, visuals, prayer walks, video calls, and prayer stations. What could be? Nick is a recent high school graduate who has embraced missions as an integral part of his life. Missions got into his bloodstream early—from hearing sermons and Bible studies about the heart of God to attending missions camp, then tutoring kids at a local Hispanic church plant, then going on missions projects overseas, and finally falling in love with a particular people group in the Philippines. By the time he graduated from high school, Nick had already spent a month in the Philippines helping to lead a youth camp. Most recently he has been studying abroad and leading a youth ministry overseas in two churches. There are hundreds more students like Nick who are the beneficiaries of an intentional missions strategy of their church. How would you like to add to this number? What might God do through your students in the years ahead? CHAD STILLWELL and GEORGE SILER (@SilerGeorge) serve on the International Mission Board’s Pathways Team (@imbStudents). Contact them at or 800-789-4693.

• Empower them to pray specifically. Give them good information and detailed requests. Focus on an unreached people group or a particular place.

DIG DEEPER •D  isciples Path: The Mission • IMB Students (

• Help them pray meaningfully. Offer them real relationships and heartfelt connections with people and situations. Use technology to “bring missionaries” to your meetings. Provide updates and report on results. • Guide them to pray consistently. Missional prayer should be a regular and important part of your worship, small

42 • Facts & Trends


Church planting blueprint 5 ways to determine the needs of your community


By Micah Fries

So you want to plant a church? I get it. It’s important: LifeWay Research shows new churches are more effective than established ones at reaching the unchurched. Even the most Bible-saturated cities in America need new churches. But what do we do? Is there a blueprint for determining when and where to add a church? I pastor an 89-year-old congregation in what the American Bible Society deems the most “Bible-minded city” in America. We’ve grown in exciting ways in recent years, but to effectively continue reaching our city with the gospel, we know we’ll need help. Some of that help will come from other established local churches. More will come from new churches. Because of that, we’re partnering with a local church to plant an autonomous congregation in our city, and we’re also planting additional


Facts & Trends • 43

Tools like can pinpoint the locations of congregations in specific areas.

Church planting is hard. Leading a congregation to plant other churches is hard. However, the commitment to plant another church matters— not just for the growth of God’s kingdom but also for the growth of the congregation you lead. It’s worth the risk.” — MICAH FRIES, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee

campuses of our own church. In doing so, we’ve had to develop ways to pinpoint where to plant in our city. We used a combination of exercises that may help you as you think about leading your own congregation to plant other churches. 1. Know the social makeup of your community. I’m often amazed at how few pastors and church leaders know the history and cultural/social demographics of their communities. Pastors should view themselves as missionaries—and so should the people who make up the congregations. Learning about your community is simple. While it’s possible to spend a fair amount of money for detailed demographic reports, you can also learn valuable information while spending next to nothing. Begin with the U.S. Census Bureau website. Use its free tools to identify what is happening in the immediate areas around your church and in the larger area that makes up your community. Then assemble a focus group from within your church, making sure to include people of both genders and multiple generations and races. Ask them questions that get at the heart of your community, such as: • What are the biggest social challenges in our community? • What are the most appealing elements of our community? • In what ways has our community changed in the past 10 years? Use the Census Bureau’s demographic data and a summary of your focus group to create a profile of your community. 2. Know the religious makeup of your community. It seems when pastors and church leaders survey the religious makeup of their communities, they find something surprising. For example, last year Barna Research found my city, Chattanoo-

44 • Facts & Trends


ga, Tennessee, to be the most churched city in America. But when I recently dug into the religious data about my community, I discovered 70 percent of my county’s population has no religious affiliation (Christian or otherwise). That’s a surprising and important data point to keep in mind when considering whether to plant a church. is a useful tool that allows you to research the religious affiliation of your area based on city name, zip code and other search parameters. Knowing the religious makeup of your community and the characteristics of those who live there is vital in determining not only the need for new churches but also the type of church you ought to plant. 3. Map the members of your church. Where do your members live? With a database of your members’ addresses, you can match pockets of your members with underserved areas of your community. These pockets of members can potentially serve as the core group for the launch of a new church. Missiologist Keelan Cook has made mapping a fairly simple process. His mapping tool uses Google Maps to let you quickly identify the geographic makeup of your congregation. You can access his tool at Once you have uploaded your membership database into the tool, it will produce a digital map that will allow you to identify your members’ areas of concentration. 4. Map the churches in your community. It may require a bit more time to accomplish this task, as you will need to enter the addresses of every local church into a database. Then you can upload them into the tool mentioned above and produce a digital map pinpointing every church in your community. Too often churches overlook this step. They simply look to identify pockets of need without carefully considering

who else might already be working in those areas. We need to recognize we are partners, not competitors, with other like-minded congregations and plant churches accordingly. 5. Identify growth areas. The final step is setting priorities based on growth projections. Population movement is significant in evaluating the need for a church plant. Expanding areas need more churches, and congregations in those areas have greater potential to grow. If migration patterns and growth areas are not easy to identify, this information can often be found by contacting your city manager or chamber of commerce. These steps will help you develop a database of target areas and a methodology of church planting. But the value of studying your community goes beyond knowing where you should plant a church and what kind of church to plant. As you go through these steps, your own congregation will likely gain a renewed approach to missional living. You’re leading your church well by helping your congregation to think intentionally, strategically, and missionally about the community. As you train them to think about a church plant, you’re also training them to think like missionaries about their own neighborhoods. Church planting is hard. Leading a congregation to plant other churches is hard. However, the commitment to plant another church matters—not just for the growth of God’s kingdom but also for the growth of the congregation you lead. It’s worth the risk. MICAH FRIES (@MicahFries) is senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and cohost of the podcast.


DIG DEEPER • Church in the Making: What Makes or Breaks a New Church Before it Starts by Ben Arment Available at LifeWay Christian Stores Facts & Trends • 45

Rest for the weary 3 WAYS TO “GROW DOWN” AS A LEADER by michael kelley


46 • Facts & Trends


Picture the scene with me—another busy day in the life of Jesus. Everywhere Jesus and the disciples turned, there were people. Sick people. Needy people. Accusing people. Skeptical people. And, as it turns out, there were also a bunch of kids. Their parents brought them to Jesus because it was customary for great teachers of the law to lay their hands on children and bless them. These parents didn’t quite know what to make of Jesus, but they came. The disciples didn’t want any part of it. So they “rebuked” the parents (Matthew 19:13). Jesus, in response, became indignant. Then he welcomed those children with open arms—teaching the disciples a lesson about the kingdom of God along the way. “Let the little children come to me,” he said in Mark 10. “Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Jesus then took the children into his arms and blessed them. His words in this passage teach an important lesson for us church leaders. The temptation is to act like Jesus and bless children along with everyone else. Instead, we need a reminder to be like those kids. We are often insecure. We’re overworked and under-rested. We’re overcommitted and under-joyed. We’re overstressed—thinking we should be doing more for Jesus. There are always more people who need to hear the gospel. Always more families in need of prayer and spiritual care. Always more tasks to do at church to keep our ministries running. And we, as a result, are weary. We need intercession and blessing from the Lord—as did the children who clamored toward Him in Matthew 19. Even as pastors and leaders, we desperately need to understand the state of rest that comes so naturally to children who trust in the love and care of their parents. How much more SPRING 2018

should we rest in the fact that we are the children of God. How do we do this? How do we begin to “grow down”? Here are three simple things we can do. Create margin in our schedules We live in a marginless society. Our wallets, our calendars, our emotions— all are fully booked. Every minute, every dollar, every spare thought seems to be accounted for. As a result, we’re unable to rest. It’s not like that with children. They know how to be busy—to be creative, to care deeply, and to live in the moment. Then they know how to stop and rest. They have faith the world will not end if they stop for a moment. It’s a lesson we adults can learn. By faith, we don’t have to do everything all the time. As children of God, we can trust He will ultimately take care of our needs. Say “no” more often Saying “no” is difficult for most of us because we fear disappointing people. As a result, we’re overcommitted and under-rested. Again, it’s not so with kids. Children are honest, in that respect. They haven’t yet been taught that we have to keep up a reputation and constantly advance in our social standing. Instead, they say yes and no freely and then keep right on going with life. As children of God, we can learn from this. We can say “no” to those things that are not the best use of our time and energy. We no longer seek the approval of anyone but God—and in Christ, we already have it. Open ourselves up to authentic relationships Children are naturally authentic— sometimes uncomfortably so. Surely, most parents have wished their kids had a better filter on private details. The desire for privacy grows as we age

Even as pastors and leaders, we desperately need to understand the state of rest that comes so naturally to children who trust in the love and care of their parents.” — Michael Kelley, groups ministry director for LifeWay until we reach the point where most of us are—no one truly knows us. People know only the best version of us: the carefully curated one with a smile in the right place, the kids dressed just right, and the polished conversation ready to go. Keeping up that kind of image is exhausting. As God’s children we can move into authentic relationships beyond this façade we have created. This, in fact, is how God created us—to live in authentic community with other people rather than guarding our privacy so closely. As church leaders, we must use extra caution. It’s not wise for a pastor to air his dirty laundry every week in front of the whole congregation. It is wise, however, for pastors to pursue relationships both inside and outside the congregation that allow them to be themselves. All these things are natural for children. If we want to grow up in Jesus, then it seems we must grow down to be more like children. Perhaps it’s time we begin to see them as examples—and incorporate these characteristics that ought to mark the life of every grownup follower of Jesus. MICHAEL KELLEY (@_MichaelKelley) is the groups ministry director for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is the author of Growing Down: Unlearning the Patterns of Adulthood that Keep Us from Jesus.


DIG DEEPER •G  rowing Down: Unlearning the Patterns of Adulthood that Keep Us from Jesus, by MIchael Kelley Available at LifeWay Christian Stores and Facts & Trends • 47


These and other resources are available at LifeWay Christian Stores and

Practical resources for you and your church

Books & Bible Studies

Becoming a Welcoming Church THOM S. RAINER (B&H)


s your church friendly? In almost all of Thom Rainer’s church consultations, members and leaders believe their church is friendly. But as he surveyed guests, he found they typically see congregations as unfriendly. The perception chasm existed because the members were friendly—but only toward one another. The guests felt like they crashed a private party. In his latest book, best-selling author Rainer gives churches a plan to become more hospitable. He guides readers toward a practical framework for making a difference for visitors. Leaders can use Becoming a Welcoming Church to assess where they are on a spectrum between welcoming and wanting. The companion book, We Want You Here, can send guests home with a compelling vision for what church leaders want every visitor to know.

Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality

Enter the Ring: Fighting Together for a Gospel-Saturated Marriage



ransgender teenagers. Same-sex married neighbors. Unwed mothers contemplating abortion. Church leaders are faced with difficult situations from inside the church and outside in the culture as biblical values run increasingly counter to accepted societal norms. In Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey helps readers navigate those situations from a Christian perspective. She goes beyond talking points to offer a riveting exposé of a dehumanizing perspective that shapes critical moral and sociopolitical issues of our day. Formerly an agnostic, she fearlessly makes the case that secularism denigrates the body and destroys the basis for human rights, but she does so in a compassionate way for unwitting victims of this mindset. Pearcey sets forth a holistic and humane alternative with realistic solutions that embrace the dignity of the human body and provide a sustainable basis for inalienable human rights.

ou have to fight for your marriage, according to D.A. and Elicia Horton. Their book takes a fresh, powerful, vulnerable approach to the relationship and commitment of marriage by framing it as the serious fight it is. While the world assaults our marriages and tries to get us to walk away, there is hope. The constant forgiveness, grace, and intervention of God can preserve and protect us from the world and ourselves. The Hortons explore the tension of two people becoming one and how often spouses fight over which one of us they become. They discuss seasons of suffering, communication, intimacy, spiritual life of the home, parenting, and money. Enter the Ring approaches the traditional topics of a marriage book with the life-giving honesty of a couple who has fought together for their marriage.


48 • Facts & Trends





any hopeful graduates emerge from seminary eager to dive headfirst into ministry. Confident that seminary equipped them with the tools they need for the journey ahead, they find themselves discouraged when the realities of their first call don’t line up with what they came to expect from assigned readings and classroom discussions. This book, with contributions from both veteran pastors and seminary leaders, including Daniel L. Akin, Juan Sanchez, Phil A. Newton, and Scott Sauls, offers real-world advice about the joys and challenges of the first years of pastoral ministry—bridging the gap between seminary training and life in a local church. Armed with wisdom from those who have gone before them and walk alongside them, pastors will find encouragement to stand firm in the thick of the realities and rigors of pastoral ministry.

The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence THABITI ANYABWILE (MOODY)


ore than 3 million Muslims live in the United States today. Soon, if not already, you will have Muslim neighbors and coworkers. Are you ready? The thought of reaching out to a Muslim with the gospel makes some nervous. How can you effectively communicate the good news despite major theological differences? The Gospel for Muslims can help make sharing your faith easier than you think. Anyabwile, a convert from Islam to Christianity, instructs you in ways to discuss the good news of Christ with your neighbors and friends. The Gospel for Muslims puts the focus on the people rather than the religious system. Meant for the average Christian, it is not a comparative study of Christianity and Islam. Rather, it compellingly stirs confidence in the gospel, equipping you with the basics necessary to communicate clearly, boldly, and winsomely.


Leading Major Change in Your Ministry JEFF IORG (B&H)


any ministries must undergo major change in order to fulfill their mission—and more importantly, to fulfill God’s mission—in today’s world. This book tells the story of the relocation of Gateway Seminary—as well as other stories of major change. In doing so, it lays out principles and processes necessary to get the job done. First, Iorg outlines foundational concepts to leading major change. Then he explains a sixfold model for leading major change in churches and ministry organizations. The book includes illustrations from real-life ministry challenges in both local churches and large organizations. The stakes are high. Leadership decisions in ministries have eternal consequences. Almost every church or organization needs—or soon will need—to be led through major change. Leading Major Change in Your Ministry is your guide to successfully getting it done. Facts & Trends • 49

ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church

Books & Bible Studies

Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World AMY SIMPSON (IVP BOOKS)


hristians often hear the idea that following Jesus means we should be living a life of full satisfaction. How many of us actually experience that kind of life? Simpson wants to debunk this satisfaction myth in the church. After 40 years of walking with Jesus, she writes, “I am deeply unsatisfied not only with my ability to reflect Jesus, but also with the very quality of my intimacy with Him. I strongly suspect that the abyss of my nature has not been entirely satisfied by Jesus.” Hers is a freeing confession for us all. Simpson explains that our very dissatisfaction indicates a longing for God. Understanding this longing can bring us closer to Him, and that is where true spiritual health and vitality reside.

Superheroes Can’t Save You: Epic Examples of Historic Heresies TODD MILES (B&H ACADEMIC)


omic superheroes embody the hopes of a world that is desperate for a savior. But while those comic creations rescue those in need and defeat mighty villains, they cannot save us from our greatest foes—sin and death. Throughout the history of the church there have been bad ideas, misconceptions, and heretical presentations of Jesus. Each one of these heresies fails to present Jesus as who the Bible reveals Him to be. In Superheroes Can’t Save You, Miles demonstrates how these ancient heresies are embodied in contemporary comic superheroes. Miles compares something everybody already knows (who the superheroes are) with what they need to know (who Jesus is), in a book that makes vitally important Christian truths understandable and applicable to a superhero-infused culture.

50 • Facts & Trends

The Gospel Comes With a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World ROSARIA BUTTERFIELD (CROSSWAY)


he word hospitality often invokes a scene of a gracious host welcoming guests into a beautifully appointed home prepared with perfectly presented meals. However, the biblical call to hospitality is a call to much more. In The Gospel Comes With a House Key, Butterfield invites readers into her home and shows from her own life and experience how “radically ordinary hospitality” can be a bridge for bringing the gospel to lost friends and neighbors—something she experienced herself on her journey to Christ. Such hospitality welcomes those who look, think, believe, and act differently from us into our everyday, sometimes messy lives. Christians will be inspired and equipped to use their homes and tables as a way of showing a skeptical, unbelieving world what love and authentic faith really look like. SPRING 2018

These and other resources are available at LifeWay Christian Stores and

A Look Inside New CSB resource puts the four Gospels in order—chronologically by aaron Wilson


or the past two months, I’ve been reading through the Gospels chronologically using the new Holman Bible resource, the CSB Christ Chronological. This 144-page hardback presents the details of Christ’s life in historical order and parallel format using the Gospels. Passages from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are color-coded—blue, green, red, and purple, respectively—to allow readers to differentiate between each Gospel as it describes the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Here’s why I’m thoroughly enjoying the CSB Christ Chronological (and why you may want to check it out, as well). I’m freshly motivated to read all four Gospels. Everybody has certain books of the Bible they’re more drawn to and those they struggle with. When it comes to the Gospels, I often shy away from Mark for its brevity and John for its more poetic style (I know I’m unusual in this). Luke is my favorite Gospel for its meticulous recording of historical events. Reading the Gospels adjacent to one another keeps me from overindulging in one Gospel at the expense of others and provides a more full scope of Jesus’ life. I’m learning interesting facts. Reading the Gospel accounts side by side is opening up new discoveries to me about Scripture. For example, I’d always assumed the Beatitudes found in Matthew and those in Luke are from the same discourse. In actuality, these are likely two separate speeches—the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and the

Sermon on the Plain in Luke—that, as the CSB Christ Chronological points out, could have represented something like a keynote address Jesus may have preached a number of times as He traveled among towns. I’m encouraged to let Scripture interpret itself. In an age where Google, Siri, and Alexa can answer questions at the mere utterance of a voice command, doing painstaking research on a difficult subject or passage seems like a lost art. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I actually looked up a reference listed in the column of my study Bible. However, after reading books of the Bible side by side, I’ve been encouraged to seek out Scripture to interpret itself more often. It’s amazing to see how parallel accounts from different portions of the Bible shed light on some of its more difficult passages. I’m gaining a more robust picture of Jesus’ life. In reading the CSB Christ Chronological,


I’ve grown more appreciative that God has given His church four Gospel accounts instead of just one. Each author’s description of events adds more clarity and insight to the 33 years that marked Jesus’ journey from birth to the ascension. Some stories, such as the parable of the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son, are recorded by only one author. Had God not given us four Gospels, those precious stories could have been lost to the church. John ends his Gospel with the words, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if every one of them were written down, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25 CSB). I’m glad the CSB Christ Chronological serves as a helpful tool for reading and studying the four Gospel accounts written as a gift to the church. AARON WILSON (@AaronBWilson26) is associate editor of Facts & Trends.

Facts & Trends • 51

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Profile for Facts & Trends

Facts & Trends -Spring 2018 - SOAR  

Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing info...

Facts & Trends -Spring 2018 - SOAR  

Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing info...