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FOLLOW ME What it takes to make disciples


FOLLOW ME What it takes to make disciples

“Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” From that day forward, Jesus walked with His disciples, teaching them to obey God’s commands, showing them how to live their lives devoted to God and on mission with Him. Jesus discipled them so they could disciple others. The Church’s mission is to make disciples. Unfortunately, many struggle to fulfill their task. Churches have multiple programs to help people grow. But are those programs developing new Christians into disciples who make disciples?

10 Show me the way Most Christians want to be better disciples. They just don’t know how to get there. By Bob Smietana

16 Now that I believe, what’s next? Teaching basic disciplines helps new believers grow toward spiritual maturity. By Sam O’Neal

20 Anchored in community Small groups are essential for building discipleship. By Michael Kelley

22 Creating a discipleship revolution Deliberate strategy for discipleship can transform a church and its members. By Jim Burnett

2 • Facts & Trends


9 30 26




48 5 From My Perspective

Seven indicators of true church discipleship. By Thom S. Rainer

26 Life is short. Make a difference. Churches need change leaders willing to make a difference. Are you? By Thom S. Rainer

30 Unlocking the truth Four keys for sharing the gospel. By Ken Braddy

33 The ‘M’ word How to talk about giving so people won’t tune you out. By Todd McMichen

36 P roceed with care

When a pastor is accused of misconduct, church leaders must be both swift and cautious. By Bob Smietana

40 A first step in following Jesus Eight ways to lead others in Bible engagement. By Philip Nation


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

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

48 Calibrate Five ways for your church to meet your community’s needs. By Kate Riney

51 The Exchange Taking the assembly line out of discipleship. By Ed Stetzer

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IN EVERY ISSUE 4 Inside F&T Follow Me: Learning to recognize the Shepherd’s voice. By Carol Pipes


Can’t wait until the next issue? Make sure to visit FactsAndTrends.net for exclusive online content. Read additional pieces from our writers and editors, as well as contributions from other Christian leaders.

FactsAndTrends @FactsAndTrends Facts & Trends • 3



Volume 62 • Number 4 • Summer 2016

Follow Me: Learning to recognize the Shepherd’s voice


n John 10, Jesus describes the ideal shepherd. He knows his sheep and his sheep know him. They follow him because they recognize his voice. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about this passage. She grew up on a farm where her family raised livestock, including sheep. She explained that over time, sheep come to associate the sound of the shepherd’s voice (or even whistle) with certain benefits. Contrary to popular opinion, sheep aren’t dumb. They know who feeds them, protects them, and cares for their needs. They can distinguish their keeper’s voice from others. But what about newborn lambs? How do they learn to recognize the shepherd’s voice? My friend confirmed my suspicions. From birth, lambs are conditioned to follow the flock. Sheep get a bad rap for their herd mentality, but God created them with an instinct to stick together as a means of survival. That instinct allows the lambs to flourish. Even sheep that are introduced to a flock will follow the other sheep until they too recognize the shepherd. I think that’s a great picture of discipleship. As disciple-makers, we help others learn to recognize the voice of our Savior. The body of Christ is like that flock of sheep. We bring along non-believers and new believers, walk beside them, lead them, teach them, and always point them to Jesus. In this issue of Facts & Trends, we look at what it takes to make disciples. Many Christians want to grow close to God, but they don’t know where to start, says pastor Robby Gallaty in our cover story. Many churches struggle to fulfill the one central task of the Christian life: making disciples. With that in mind, we asked several Christian leaders to share how they lead people to disciple others. We hope you find encouragement as well as some practical ways to create a culture of discipleship in your churches.

Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors, church staff, and denominational leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing information, insights, and resources for effective ministry. Production Team Editor | Carol Pipes Managing Editor | Lisa Cannon Green Senior Writer | Bob Smietana Online Editor | Aaron Earls Graphic Designer | Katie Shull

LifeWay Leadership President and Publisher | Thom S. Rainer Senior Editor | Marty King

Contributors Ken Braddy, Jim Burnett, Michael Kelley, Todd McMichen, Philip Nation, Sam O’Neal, and Kate Riney

Advertising Rhonda Edge Buescher, director, Media Business Development Jessi Wallace, Magazine Advertising Specialist Tim Huffine, Marketing Sales Strategist Send advertising questions/comments to: One LifeWay Plaza, MSN 136, Nashville, TN 37234 Email: MediaOptions@LifeWay.com Media kits: LifeWay.com/MediaOptions 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 free print subscription to Facts & Trends, send your name, address, and phone number to FactsAndTrends@LifeWay.com.


Carol Pipes, Editor @CarolPipes | Carol.Pipes@LifeWay.com

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: Email - FactsAndTrends@LifeWay.com Mail - F  acts & Trends, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0192 Facts & Trends is published quarterly by LifeWay Christian Resources. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, copyright 2009. Used by permission.

4 • Facts & Trends



Seven indicators of true church discipleship


ost church leaders want to see the people who attend their churches grow into fully committed followers of Christ. Unfortunately, many churches do not have a clear process for discipleship with clear expectations for members. Churches today are experiencing a disciple-making deficiency, with thousands of church leaders asking, “What do I do to make and grow disciples in my church?” In our study of transformational churches, we began to see a common pattern in churches that were more effective in making disciples. The attendance rate of members was higher, and the dropout rate was lower. Here’s a look at some of the common indicators of true discipleship we found in these churches: 1. Members read and study the Bible daily. Research has shown that daily, personal Bible study is the clearest indicator a Christian is growing spiritually. Daily Bible reading has the highest correlation to other spiritual disciplines. So much of the Christian life flows from Bible reading— worship, evangelism, prayer, ministry, etc. Disciple-making churches exhort, encourage, and provide resources for members to be involved in daily Bible study. How are you motivating and modeling daily Bible reading?

3. Members are sharing their faith on a regular basis. In Acts 4:20, Paul and John declare to the Sanhedrin, “We cannot help but speak of the things we have seen and heard.” True disciples of Jesus cannot be silent about their faith. How many of your people are sharing their faith with others? How are you regularly and systematically teaching your people about witnessing? 4. Members are generous with their giving. Stewardship is a clear indicator of whether you are making healthy disciples. How is your church’s total giving? What is the weekly per capita giving? What is your plan to teach your people biblical stewardship?

Church, Eric Geiger says church leaders should be monitoring what portion of the congregation is doing some type of ministry or missions every year. This is one of the most neglected metrics of church health. Does your church have clear expectations that members are to be involved in those activities that cause them to look beyond themselves and care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of others?

7. The church has an entry-point class all new members attend. The class should not only provide information about the church (doctrine, polity, staff, etc.), but it should also establish the expectations of members (see items 1-6). Does your new members class define what it means to be a follower of Christ? I often hear the objection: “If I led my church to have these high expectations of members, we would have a mass exodus.” But research shows just the opposite. Higher expectations bring more positive behavioral patterns. People want to be a — Thom S. Rainer part of something that makes a difference. If church leaders expect little 5. Members are expected to attend a from church members, they will get litcorporate worship service each week. tle. If they raise the bar of expectations, True disciples of Jesus are going to be most members will respond positively. connected to the body of Christ. They As more church members engage in aren’t going to be Lone Ranger Chrisdaily Bible reading, group Bible study, tians. If your church has 700 members evangelism, corporate worship, ministry, and only 200 in weekly attendance, you missions, and giving generously, they have 500 people missing something from will become more effective disciples for their spiritual lives. What portion of Christ. And churches will grow stronger your membership is actively involved and become healthier. in worship? How are you encouraging Thom S. Rainer (@ThomRainer) is president and those who are forsaking the assembling CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. together to join in worship?

If church leaders expect little from church members, they will get little. If they raise the bar of expectations, most members will respond positively.

2. Members are engaged in some type of Bible study group. We have found assimilation of those in a group is five times greater than for people who attend worship services only. Assimilation is strongly related to discipleship. What percentage of your people are involved in some kind of group? And how are you promoting Bible study as an essential part of church discipleship?

6. Members are involved in ministry and missions. In the book Simple


Facts & Trends • 5


Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world

Religion by states


merica is increasingly becoming a land of haves and have-nots in matters of faith. Non-religious Americans, who seldom or never attend religious services, make up at least a third of the population in about two dozen states, according to Gallup. Meanwhile, roughly half the population in about a dozen states describes itself as “very religious,” attending services weekly or almost every week. TOP STATES FOR “VERY RELIGIOUS” AMERICANS


Mississippi 63% Alabama 57% Utah 55% Louisiana 54% Tennessee 53%

Vermont 56% New Hampshire 55% Maine 50% Massachusetts 46% Oregon/Washington (tie) 45%


Millennials no longer headed to the chapel

Religious liberty on the decline

ecular weddings are on the rise among younger Americans. City hall weddings have nearly doubled in Manhattan since 2008, according to The New York Times. Nationwide, fewer than half of millennial weddings take place in a church or other place of worship. By contrast, two-thirds of older Americans were married in church.

growing number of Americans believe religious liberty is on the decline and that the nation’s Christians face rising intolerance. They also say American Christians complain too much. • Two-thirds (63 percent) say Christians face increasing intolerance, up from half (50 percent) in 2013. • A similar number (60 percent) say religious liberty is on the decline, up from just over half (54 percent) in 2013. • Forty-three percent say American Christians complain too much about how they are treated, up from 34 percent in 2013. Religious liberty has become an increasingly contentious issue in American culture—with disputes over birth control, same-sex wedding cakes, headscarves at work, and prisoners’ beards. “Most people now believe Christians are facing intolerance. However, a surprisingly large minority perceives Christians to be complainers,” said Ed Stetzer, former executive director of LifeWay Research. “Both of those facts will matter as Christians profess and contend for their beliefs without sounding false alarms around faux controversies. It won’t be easy to strike that balance.”



24 9

Non-religious leader in a secular location

18 65

A religious leader in a secular location A religious leader in a church or place of worship Other/Refused


AGE: 18-29



Source: LifeWayResearch.com

50-64 Source: PublicReligion.org

6 • Facts & Trends


The God gap: At home and abroad


omen remain more interested in faith than men, both in the United States and around the world, according to Pew Research. Six in 10 U.S. women say religion is very important in their lives, while two-thirds pray daily and 4 in 10 say they go to services at least once a week. Among American men, fewer than half (47 percent) say religion matters to them. About half pray daily, and one-third say they go to church weekly. There’s a similar gap worldwide. Pew estimates religious women outnumber men by about 97 million worldwide. The gap in church attendance and practice is particularly evident among Christians.

Christian women worldwide Christian men worldwide




Muslim women worldwide Muslim men worldwide

Weekly attendance



70% 72% 71%

Daily prayer


Belief in heaven

91% 89% 78% 76%

94% 93% 88% 88%

Belief in hell Belief in angels

88% 84%

86% 85%

Source: PewResearch.org

Americans love to move, but most settle close to Mom


ccording to the Census Bureau, about 1 in 8 Americans moves each year, while the typical American will move about a dozen times in a lifetime. Still, many end up close to Mom, according to the Upshot Blog at The New York Times. Half live within 18 miles of Mom, while three-quarters live within a few hours’ drive.



within 615 miles

within 18 miles

5% over 1,418 miles 40%

within 5 miles

For example:

If your mom’s house is in downtown Houston, Texas...

5 miles away is Interstate 610 18 miles away is El Franco Lee Park 222 miles away is Greenwood, Louisiana


within 222 miles


within 1,418 miles

615 miles away is Tuscaloosa, Alabama 1,418 miles away is Silver Springs, Maryland

Sources: NYTimes.com, University of Michigan FACTSANDTRENDS.NET/FOLLOWME

Facts & Trends • 7


Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world


Year of the zettabyte


y the end of 2016, annual Internet traffic will bypass 1 zettabyte. To give some perspective, a zettabyte equals 1,000 exabytes, which translates into 1 trillion gigabytes—or roughly 3 trillion photos of your kids or pets. Source: PopSci.com

Even atheists feel spiritual peace


growing number of atheists and “nones”—those who have no religious affiliation—say they feel spiritual peace and well-being on a weekly basis. Pew Research found 31 percent of atheists and 40 percent of nones in the United States said they regularly felt spiritual peace in 2014. That’s up from 28 percent of atheists and 35 percent of nones in 2007.

Deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being weekly or more:

Evangelicals 75%

Muslims 64%

Catholics 57%

Nones 40%

Jews 39%

Atheists 31%


What pastors believe about the apocalypse


recent survey of Protestant pastors about the end times found more are likely to be pre-trib (believe Christians will be taken up in a literal rapture before the tribulation period that precedes the Second Coming) and pre-mil (believe the millennial kingdom described in Revelation 20 will be a literal 1,000-year period during which Jesus reigns on earth following Christ’s second coming). Here are a few of the findings. You can read the entire report at FactsAndTrends.net. 8 • Facts & Trends

Source: PewResearch.org

49% 48% Nearly half of pastors believe the Antichrist is a figure who will arise sometime in the future.

Nearly half of pastors hold to premillennialism. Thirty-one percent espouse amillennialsm, while 11 percent hold to postmillennialism. Eight percent say none of these, and 4 percent aren’t sure. SUMMER 2016

Americans split over church, state roles in marriage


s it time for the wedding chapel and the courthouse to get a divorce? Most Americans (52 percent) now believe the state should have no involvement with religious marriages, according to LifeWay Research. Despite this, many Americans still want clergy to sign marriage licenses.

Clergy should no longer be involved in the state’s licensing of marriages:

Agree 39% Disagree 52% Not sure 10% Source: LifeWay Research

Christians and payday loans


ayday lenders now outnumber McDonald’s restaurants in the United States, according to the Federal Reserve. The lenders offer small loans at high interest rates. A typical $300 loan comes with a $45 finance charge for two weeks. Most of the loans are rolled over. A LifeWay Research survey of Christians in 30 states found most are skeptical of such loans. Still, 17 percent of Christians say they have taken a payday loan in a time of need.

Among LifeWay’s findings:


86% say the government should protect borrowers

57% say loans should be capped at 18% interest or less

6% say their church has a plan to help those with payday loans

Among Christian Americans:


It is a sin to loan someone money when the lender gains by harming the borrower financially.

Slightly more than a third (36 percent) of Protestant pastors believe in pretribulation rapture. Twenty-five percent believe the concept of the rapture is not to be taken literally. Eighteen percent believe in posttribulation rapture.


Source: LifeWayResearch.com Sources: LifeWayResearch.com, The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis FACTSANDTRENDS.NET

Facts & Trends • 9

Show me the way

10 • Facts & Trends





By Bob Smietana

bout a dozen years ago, Robby Gallaty and David Platt were just a couple of guys sitting in a Chinese restaurant, talking about Jesus. The two made an odd couple: Platt was an unassuming seminary student in New Orleans; Gallaty, a towering former drug addict and new believer. For months, they met every week to discuss the Bible, theology, and the Christian life over plates of General Tso’s chicken, with Gallaty jotting down notes on napkins. Then Gallaty would go out and try to practice what he’d learned. Those meetings changed the course of Gallaty’s life. He’d become a Christian not long before and wanted to follow Jesus as a disciple. But he didn’t know the way. “I wandered aimlessly in my Christian life, uncertain of how to proceed,” he writes in his book, Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples. Those meetings at the Chinese restaurant taught Gallaty the basics of the Christian faith and helped him practice being a disciple. He learned how to draw close to God and then to go out and share what he’d learned. Platt would go on to become an acclaimed pastor, author, and head of the International Mission Board. Gallaty eventually went to seminary and now serves as pastor of Long Hollow Church, just north of Nashville, where he tries to pass on what he’s learned about becoming a disciple to his church and others like it. Still, he hasn’t forgotten those early days. Many Christians, he believes, want to grow close to God. But they don’t know where to start. “When people in the pew don’t know what to do,” says Gallaty, “they don’t do anything at all.” That’s left many churches struggling to fulfill one of the central tasks of the Christian life: making disciples.

BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND In the Great Commission, Jesus told his followers to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). While churches know how to baptize people and teach them about Jesus, they don’t always disciple them well, says Claude King, a discipleship specialist at LifeWay. ISTOCKPHOTO.COM


Facts & Trends • 11

King says pastors often teach people what to believe, but don’t always help them put those beliefs into practice. “We figure if people know the right things, maybe they will do the right things,” he says. “But we haven’t focused on obedience.” Discipleship involves both learning and doing, says King. Combining the two can help people grow spiritually. The goal is to make disciples who become more Christlike—who act and love as Christ did. An effective discipleship strategy begins with that goal in mind.

Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, and Bible study don’t transform people into Christlike disciples. They create space in a disciple’s life for God to work. — Eric Geiger, vice president of Resources at LifeWay

church leaders back to the drawing board. They’re starting by asking, “What is a disciple?” and then, “Are we producing disciples?” To help them focus on discipleship, the church is also asking some practical questions: When people are part of the church, what will they learn, what will they do, and who will they become? Those are the right questions to ask, says Eric Geiger, author of Simple Church and vice president of Resources at LifeWay. When churches talk about discipleship, Geiger says, they often think about choosing a Bible study series or curriculum. But he suggests they take a bigger picture view of discipleship. “Let’s talk about discipleship as a whole,” he says. “Then we can develop a strategy for making disciples—then we can decide what content to teach along the way.”

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE “The measure for discipleship isn’t how many times a week you read the Bible, although that is important,” says King. “It’s how much you are growing in Christlikeness.” Carolyn Taketa agrees. Taketa, executive director of small groups at Calvary Community Church in Westlake, California, says her church has been rethinking its discipleship strategy in recent months. The church has many programs to help people grow, mostly by teaching them about the faith. But those programs may not be turning new Christians into disciples. “Are all of our small groups making disciples?” she said. “I hope so, but I’m not sure.” That question sent Taketa and other 12 • Facts & Trends

Developing Christlikeness starts by building some basic habits of faith, such as praying, reading the Bible, and serving others. Those are often best learned in community, says Rick Howerton, a small group and discipleship specialist for LifeWay. Howerton says churches use two main strategies for discipleship. First is the “Christo-centric” approach, modeled after Jesus and His disciples in the Gospels. In this approach, one teacher or mentor disciples a small group of three to four people. Then there’s what he calls the “church-centric” approach, which sets discipleship as part of the life of the larger community. Every part of a church’s life—from Sunday school and youth group to mission trips and outreach projects—is meant to help build disciples. SUMMER 2016


At Long Hollow Church, Gallaty uses a little bit of both. His strategy for discipleship includes large group worship and small groups, along with “D-groups,” which focus on intensive discipleship. The D-groups, which launched this year, will usually stay together for about a year and half. They are small, usually three or four people who meet with a mentor. The D-groups are especially helpful for new believers or those who want to go deeper, says Gallaty, who modeled his approach on both the Gospels and the work of 18th-century English theologian John Wesley. “Wesley clearly understood the only way new believers’ lives can be genuinely changed is by creating a community around them where their new beliefs can be practiced, expressed, and nurtured,” he writes in Growing Up. Having a small group of peers gives Christians a place to practice their faith. The D-group approach has the added advantage of a mature Christian acting as a mentor. “This kind of disciple-making is up close and personal,” Howerton says. The church-centric approach to discipleship is a bit less intensive and more organic. Churches set up an environment that fosters spiritual growth, including worshiping in community, hearing the Word preached, being in a small group or Sunday school class, and serving those in need. Discipleship then becomes a part of the ongoing life of the church. Both approaches can work, says Howerton, if they combine Bible study and opportunities to practice the faith outside of church. “You won’t make mature disciples if all the activity happens in church or small groups,” he says. “If people are doing nothing between meetings, they are not

moving toward maturity. You might have great community—but you aren’t having great disciple-making.”

BE CONSISTENT Once a church decides on a strategy, an important next step is choosing a consistent curriculum, according to discipleship experts. The curriculum should focus on the core teaching and practices of Christianity, says King. That way new disciples will be sure to learn the essentials of the faith. He compares discipleship to getting a college degree. There are some electives, but there’s also a set of core concepts and classes every student needs. The same is true for faith, says King. Having a set curriculum will help cover all the basics. It also makes it easier for disciples to pass on what they’ve learned. “Once people go through the process, they can use the same curriculum to disciple others,” says King. Howerton agrees. “I’m not suggesting that taking people through a series of Bible studies will make them mature,” he says. “But a series of studies is an essential tool in the disciple-making toolbox.” The curriculum and strategy should work together to create an environment fostering spiritual growth, according to discipleship experts. Geiger puts it this way: Discipleship should help people get to a place where God can transform them. He points to spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, and Bible study. Those disciplines don’t transform people into Christlike disciples. But they create space in a disciple’s life for God to work. “Richard Foster, in his classic work, Celebration of Discipline, said these spiritual disciplines don’t change you,” says Geiger. “They put you in the path where God can change you.”


Facts & Trends • 13

Disciples aren’t widgets. Jesus is very patient. And the kingdom is slow. — Jonathan Dodson, author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship

The right match of strategy, community, and curriculum can do the same for discipleship, he says.

KEEP IT SIMPLE. THINK LONG TERM. Even the best discipleship strategy doesn’t guarantee success. And discipleship often takes a long time, says Jonathan Dodson, author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship. Dodson warns discipleship can’t be reduced to a system, where you enter as a new believer and pop out the other side as a disciple. “Disciples aren’t widgets,” says Dodson. “Jesus is very patient. And the kingdom is slow.” In the end, discipleship is about helping people be rooted in Christ and welcoming them into God’s family. “We have this new identity in Christ,” he says. “So now live out this new identity as a disciple.” In his book, Dodson draws on what he calls the “three conversions.” Christians are converted to Christ, to community, and to missions, he says. So discipleship isn’t only individual spiritual growth. It’s also about helping people become part of

DIG DEEPER •D  isciples Path: An Intentional Plan for Discipleship

a church family—a step often missed in the discussion about discipleship, he says. “Discipleship comes with people attached,” Dodson says, “just like Jesus comes with people attached.” That kind of view can help a church change from a collection of believers in the same room into a community. But it’s not easy to pull off at a time when people church-shop and are less likely to commit. “It’s easy in our culture to retain that thin commitment because if you don’t like one church, you can go down the street and find another one,” he says. When done right, discipleship can counter that trend and help Christians “buckle in and be family,” says Dodson. So have a good strategy and be wise about choosing curriculum. But remember to have faith in the gospel. “Don’t be afraid of slow discipleship,” he says. “Don’t be afraid of your church growing slowly—the gospel transforms us very slowly.” And don’t be afraid to start small, adds Gallaty. He suggests pastors seek out a few people who are “faithful, available, and teachable” and dive deep with them. After a year or two, those new disciples will be able to go out and pass on what they’ve learned—and perhaps start a discipleship group on their own. “I tell pastors—you can’t microwave a disciple,” he says. “It’s a Crock-Pot recipe. But the results are worth the wait.” BOB SMIETANA (Bob.Smietana@LifeWay.com) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.

•M  asterLife: A Biblical Process for Growing Disciples by Avery T. Willis Jr. •G  ospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson •G  rowing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples by Robby Gallaty 14 • Facts & Trends





o become mature, disciples need a clear and simple path. That’s the idea behind the Disciples Path, a six-part study from LifeWay designed to help Christians move from new believers to disciple-makers. The series, designed with the help of more than a dozen veteran disciple-makers, helps new disciples understand the Bible better, learn core doctrines, and practice spiritual habits that can lead to transformation and maturity. “This resource was created by disciple-makers, for disciple-making,” says Brian Daniel, manager of shortterm disciple resources for LifeWay. Disciples Path is intended for new believers, or what Daniel calls “new disciples,” as well as those Christians whose spiritual growth may have stalled. Most Bible study curriculum is built around four core principles: knowledge, community, practice, and

modeling. Disciples Path group studies emphasize modeling and practice without diminishing in importance knowledge and community. “New disciples need someone to model the faith,” he says. “And they need practice.” Among those practices are prayer, Bible study, devotion, worship, service to others, and sharing the gospel. Each lesson includes a seven-day Bible reading plan, along with suggested activities for time between small group meetings. The disciple-makers behind the Disciples Path were concerned that practical application of the lesson sometimes is neglected. “Disciples Path elevates modeling and practice,” he says. “That’s what makes the Disciples Path approach uniquely disciple-making.” Like all LifeWay resources, the Disciples Path is rooted in Scripture. That’s the foundation for disciple-making, says Daniel. “People who go through Disciples Path will be in the Bible every day,” he says. “We are trying to help them establish disciplines and practices for a lifetime.” To help disciple-makers, LifeWay has created a set of training videos for new leaders using the series, along with a downloadable training guide. For more information, visit LifeWay.com/DisciplesPath.


Facts & Trends • 15

By Sam O’Neal

16 • Facts & Trends




iving birth is hard work. That’s a truth every mother knows from hard-won experience. Quite a few fathers know it, too—especially if they were in the room for the long, slow, painful miracle that brings a new life into the world. (I’m not proud of it, but I fell into a deep and impenetrable sleep after each of my sons was born. I was exhausted just from watching everything my wife endured!) Giving birth is also hard work in the kingdom of God. Disciples of Jesus can spend countless hours studying the basic doctrines of our faith, learning methods for evangelism, engaging in meaningful conversations, serving to meet people’s needs, and more—all for the privilege of witnessing the miracle of those who are spiritually dead in their sins becoming born again through the power of Christ. That isn’t the end of the process, however—far from it. Like a new mother cradling her baby, we aren’t finished with our work when someone we care about experiences the joy of new life in Christ. In fact, our work has just begun. To that end, here are two key principles for helping new disciples of Jesus grow toward maturity.

TEACH BASIC DISCIPLINES It’s important for new disciples to understand they cannot work their way into a relationship with God. Salvation is a gift offered through God’s grace—something we can receive but never earn. Still, new believers have a lot of work to do. Like all Christians, they must invest in their own spiritual growth. The following disciplines are especially beneficial for helping new disciples work toward spiritual maturity: Teach them to submit to God’s Word. Most Christians understand they’re supposed to read the Bible. But reading

is easy. And as countless textbooks have proven, reading usually doesn’t lead to transformation. New disciples will benefit most when they approach the Bible not as a source of information in their lives but as the foundation for their lives. We must teach them to go beyond asking, “What can I learn from this text?” The more important question is, “What can I obey?” Teach them to converse with God. Most Christians know they’re supposed to pray. However, many Christians haven’t been taught how to pray. For them, prayer is a combination of ritual (“Thank you, Father, for this food”) and urgent requests when something has gone wrong. We give new disciples a tremendous advantage when we teach them to view prayer as an ongoing conversation with God—a conversation in which listening is just as important as speaking. Prayer can (and should) happen throughout the day. Ultimately, new disciples should view prayer as a way to remain focused on God’s will, not as a means of expressing our will to Him. Teach them to love others and live on mission. We do new believers a disservice when we imply (or directly state) that only mature believers should go on mission for Christ, or that new Christians should focus on their own spiritual development before taking steps to serve. It is by obeying Jesus’ command to love God and love others that new disciples will experience spiritual growth. This is a lifestyle they should adopt as quickly as possible.

TEACH BASIC DISCIPLINES IN COMMUNITY We can help new believers grow in their faith by teaching them to submit to God’s Word, teaching them to converse


Facts & Trends • 17


with God, and teaching them to love others. The next logical question is a big one: How? How do we go about teaching new disciples these things in a way that will spur them toward growth and maturity?

THE ANSWER IS COMMUNITY. New believers unquestionably can benefit by hearing about what it means to follow Jesus from sermons, books, Bible studies, podcasts, and so on. These are valuable tools. However, we will help new disciples maximize any information they learn about following Jesus if we allow them to receive and process that information in the context of relationships with other disciples—especially in the context of relationships with mature disciples. In the modern church, such relationships are typically found through small groups, Sunday school classes, and intentional mentoring relationships. One of the best things about spiritual growth in the context of community is the opportunity to ask questions. When new believers have relationships with mature believers, they can benefit from the experiences of those mature believers. They can actively ask questions about specific issues in their lives, rather than passively receiving information from a speaker or a book. 18 • Facts & Trends

Growing in community also gives believers the chance to take part in modeling or mentoring relationships. When new believers observe mature disciples, they gain a living template for what it looks like to think and behave as members of God’s kingdom. They can watch how mature disciples submit to God’s Word, converse with Him in prayer, and seek out opportunities to serve those around them—all of which provides new disciples with a better understanding of how they can follow suit. Ideally, new disciples will develop relationships with mature believers that allow for an apprenticeship style of learning with leaders modeling: 1. I do. You watch. 2. I do. You help. 3. You do. I help. 4. You do. I watch. People in many different cultures have used this model for thousands of years as a way of transferring a lifetime’s worth of skills from one person to another— fishermen, farmers, carpenters, bankers, and more. It also works great as a way to help new members of God’s kingdom find their footing, walk in God’s presence, and run toward Jesus. SAM O’NEAL (@SamTONeal) is content editor for LifeWay’s adult ministry team.


N E W S T U DY f r o m B E T H M O O R E


We were never meant to take this journey of faith alone or in secret. God has entrusted us with the great and mighty gift of the gospel, something too precious and life-giving to keep to ourselves. In this 6-session Bible study, Beth will encourage you to guard what God has entrusted to you, further His kingdom by witnessing to others, and pour into future generations just as Paul once mentored Timothy. Because in this journey of joy and hardship, we need each other to stay the course and live a life of faithfulness. Bible Study Book Leader Kit Leader Guide Audio CDs Scripture Cards

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20 • Facts & Trends


oes it really matter?” I’ve had that thought while driving home after a long day at work, knowing that in just a few minutes the doorbell will start ringing, and 15 adults and another 15 children will be in my living room for our weekly small group. When I’m tired, when I don’t know if I have the energy to take more prayer requests or lead another discussion, I wonder, Does it really matter? Probably most small group leaders do. The answer is yes. These groups matter, and they matter greatly. The writer of Hebrews, in his letter filled with exhortations of perseverance to a church undergoing persecution, reminded us very practically that we must anchor ourselves in community if we don’t want to drift from Jesus: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one

another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:2425, ESV). It’s a simple command—keep showing up. Meet together regularly. And, I would say, especially in small groups. Here are three reasons.

1. A SMALL GROUP IS WHERE WE ARE DISCIPLED. The words of Hebrews 10 show there is a greater purpose for our gatherings than just hanging out. In these groups we are to spur one another on and encourage one another to love. This is discipleship, and it happens together. The small group is where we can’t remain anonymous. Instead, it forces us to come out of ourselves and to encourage and seek encouragement from others as we grow together toward Christlikeness. The book of Hebrews is about growing, and growing together. These verses position our gathering together as one of


By Michael Kelley



the means by which we grow as disciples.

2. A  SMALL GROUP IS WHERE WE MIRROR GOD’S IMAGE. A deeply theological reality happens in small groups. If we go back to the beginning, when God created everything from the antelope to the zebra, we find a unique attribute in the crown jewel of His creation. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth” (Genesis 1:26). Scholars have debated for centuries the full implications of what it means to be created in the image of God, but surely at least part of it is humans’ unique capacity, desire, and even need to live together in community. In short, we were not created to be alone. The way we relate to one another, as Christians, mirrors the Trinitarian relationship. Something deep happens when we meet in groups. We aren’t simply getting to know one another. We aren’t just sharing about our lives. And we aren’t just keeping an appointment. We are mirroring the image of God.

3. A  SMALL GROUP IS WHERE WE ARE REMINDED. We are forgetful creatures, no matter if we’ve been in the faith for decades. Something happens in our lives, some circumstance overwhelms us, and we tend to forget. We forget God loves us. We forget He takes care of us. We forget He will forgive us. And when we forget, God gives us the gift of one another to remind us. Consider the words of John:

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:9-12). In these verses, we find the definition of love in the cross of Jesus Christ. But then we learn God’s love is “perfected” when we love one another. John is pointing us to the nature of God’s love. In times when we are prone

We were not created to be alone. The way we relate to one another, as Christians, mirrors the Trinitarian relationship. — Michael Kelley, director of Groups Ministry, LifeWay

to forget God loves us, the invisible love of God becomes visible through the way we interact with one another. In other words, we have an opportunity in our groups to remind one another of the invisible reality of God. Let’s not give up meeting together. Let’s instead understand the essential nature of these meetings for discipleship, for mirroring God’s image, and for reminding us of that which we are so prone to forget. Michael Kelley (@_MichaelKelley) is director of Groups Ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources.


Facts & Trends • 21

Creat in

tion olu


e l s p i h c ip re s i d a v

Turning your church upside down By Jim Burnett

22 • Facts & Trends




love introducing people to Jesus. But equally rewarding is helping believers, a few at a time, on their journey toward spiritual maturity. In the past four years of my pastoral ministry, God has led me to a radical paradigm shift. I finally get it. I understand why Jesus strategically poured himself into a handful of disciples. Through a personal relationship with these carefully and prayerfully selected men, He led them to salvation and spiritual maturity. As a result, they turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).



How responsible do your church members feel for the spiritual formation and development of one another? How many members actively and intentionally nurture and encourage at least one other believer toward transformation? The Great Commission is clear: Go make disciples. At Willow Pointe Church, we take that command seriously by linking people in discipleship relationships. Through different configurations, such as small groups, couple to couple, and one on one, the goal is to grow people to their full potential in Christ. One of the greatest joys of my ministry has been seeing people move forward, inch by inch, in their relationship with the Lord. It’s exhilarating to watch them transform from their salvation experience into active service and ministry, and then to become incredible and influential leaders. Sadly, it’s a joy many in the church have never experienced, because so few are enlisted to disciple others. I know some


Facts & Trends • 23

If you want your church to become a disciple-making church, you must model the behavior and personally prioritize discipleship. — Jim Burnett, pastor of Willow Pointe Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Christians feel intimidated by the thought of helping another believer grow. As church leaders we need to instill in them that having a relationship with Jesus Christ and bearing spiritual fruit makes them completely qualified. Recently our church conducted its annual discipleship survey. More than 100 people checked the desire to be discipled or to disciple others. We’ve found people are hungry to grow in the Lord and help others to do so. So how does one go about creating a culture of discipleship in the church? Here are five things that have not only changed our culture but also led our church to a discipleship revolution.

1. CHAMPION THE CAUSE If you want your church to become a disciple-making church, you must model the behavior and personally prioritize discipleship. I’m currently meeting weekly with five men and praying over adding two others. I’ve challenged our staff and elders to do likewise. Of those five men, I meet with three of them one-on-one and the other two I meet with as a trio. I’ve concluded that I can do nothing greater than pour myself into a few good men.

2. CREATE A DISCIPLESHIP STRATEGY Define for your people what transformation looks like and what a disciple looks like, and then equip them to make disciples of others. Discipleship occurs in community, so we encourage our folks to join a small group as well as some type of smaller discipleship relationship. Relationship is the key to discipleship. Through a relationship the disciple maker invites the disciple into a journey of transparency, self-discovery, and transformation. The journey centers on truth in the form of a topical study 24 • Facts & Trends

or Bible book study of their choosing. Disciplers then develop those they’re discipling into servants and eventually into leaders by personally walking alongside them, helping them plug into opportunities of ministry and missions.

3. PRAY FOR RIGHT CONNECTIONS Jesus spent a lot of time praying before He chose His disciples, and so should we. It’s been quite an experience watching the Lord pair people at Willow Pointe. Make sure your discipleship strategy is saturated with prayer. When it is, you’ll be amazed at how God makes the right connections. However, there will be times when people don’t connect well. If that happens, be ready to make adjustments.

4. MEASURE PROGRESS How do you know discipleship is taking place? Simply put, lives are changing. Someone who once was driven by anger and bitterness now has joy and peace. Someone who once was insecure and afraid is now confident. A person who has never served the Lord is now elbow-deep in ministry.

5. CELEBRATE THE WINS Transformation is the goal of discipleship, and when transformation happens, it needs celebrating. At Willow Pointe, we often have open microphones available for people who want to share their praise and their progress. These testimonies whet the appetites of other believers to go deeper in their own lives and in the lives of others.

A DISCIPLESHIP REVOLUTION The 30-year-old contractor did something he’d never done before and didn’t think was possible: He stood before 200 SUMMER 2016


people and shared his Christian journey. As Jack took the microphone, his voice quavered and tears began streaming down his face. The Sunday morning congregation was mesmerized as he described in detail how his life had been radically transformed the past few months. The catalyst for such a change was a discipleship connection with two other men in our church. He had no idea life under the lordship of Christ could be so good. A few months later, Sam, a 25-year-old medical professional who had come to Christ as a child, stood before the same church family and shared a similar testimony. He told how he had always been a reserved guy who struggled with panic attacks. He kept to himself, and this tendency almost destroyed his life. Then he was invited into a discipleship connection with two other guys—one was Jack. That discipleship relationship changed Sam’s life. Joy has now taken the place of his anxiety. He has learned, firsthand, the benefits of being discipled and now is committed to pour himself into other men. Jack and Sam’s story is being played out again and again at Willow Pointe Church. Women are connecting with women and men are connecting with men, and God is renovating their lives and upgrading their faith. Consequently, more and more of our members are transitioning from the spiritual stages of infancy to childhood, adolescence, and spiritual parenthood. From small groups to one-on-one connections, we as a church are experiencing a discipleship revolution. JIM BURNETT is pastor of Willow Pointe Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too...” — Acts 17:6b


Facts & Trends • 25

Life is short. Make a difference.

By Thom S. Rainer

26 • Facts & Trends


Editor’s note: With nine out of 10 churches in North America declining or growing more slowly than their respective communities, there is a great need for revitalization. “Too many congregations today are stuck; they are not moving forward,” writes Thom S. Rainer in his new book Who Moved My Pulpit?, available this summer. “At its essence, the Great Commission is about going. Such going requires forward movement, and it requires removing the obstacles that will hinder the progress.” Rainer provides an eight-stage road map for leading change in the church. This excerpt provides a quick overview of that road map.



t is a sin to be good when God has called us to be great. We do not refer to Matthew 28:18–20 as the Good Commission. It is the Great Commission. Nor do we read Matthew 22:37–40 and say we just read the Good Commandment. It is the Great Commandment. And when Paul wrote the magnificent 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, he did not say love was one of the good things. He said it was the greatest of these. I hope you get my point. When we read in Scripture those things that are really important, the Bible speaks of them in superlative terms, like “great” or “greatest.” Do you think God wants you to lead your church as a good leader or a great leader? I know. It’s a silly if not rhetorical question. God wants us to be the best stewards we can possibly be. Read the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30 or Luke 19:12–28 again if you have any doubts. Lives not fully lived are the worst kinds of stewardship. I presume you who are reading this book are church leaders. You are a pastor. A church staff member. An elder. A deacon. A key lay leader. God has given you a local congregation to steward. You have been given the talents. Will you use them wisely or bury them in fear or desire for comfort? I could provide you a plethora of data and statistics on the state of American congregations. It’s not a pretty picture.

We are reaching fewer people. Our back doors are open widely. Church conflict is normative. Pastors and church staff are wounded. Many have given up altogether. Of course, there are exceptions to the dire description I just provided. That’s the problem. They are exceptions.

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. — Joshua 1:9 Most of our congregations need to change. Many of our congregations are on life support and need immediate change. The great need in our churches is for change leaders who are willing to make a difference. The cost and the risks can be scary. But it wouldn’t be called faith if we could tackle these challenges in our own strength and power. It is a sin to be good when God has called us to be great. We need change leaders in our churches who are willing to do something great.

THE PROCESS OF LEADING CHANGE Let’s be reminded of the process of change in churches. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at time. Reviewing each of these stages of change is a good reminder that the process takes place one bite at a time.


Facts & Trends • 27

1. TAKE TIME TO PRAY. Hear me clearly. Deciding to shortcut this stage is a decision to fail. Sure, prayer takes time. And it could seem to be a much quicker process if you went straight to action. But leading change in the church can only work if it is Godled, God-powered, and God-ordained.


DIG DEEPER Who Moved My Pulpit? is for all pastors, church staff, and lay leaders who want to make a positive contribution toward leading change in the church. Who Moved My Pulpit? is a collection of stories of how God has used leaders to move their churches toward change and progress. It is the story of the work of God in local churches. Visit ThomRainer.com/ WhoMovedMyPulpit.

28 • Facts & Trends

If church members do not see the vital need to do things differently, they will be totally change resistant. Glen Marvell was particularly good at communicating urgency during a worship service. The pastor had been pleading with the church members to embrace a vision for reaching more young families. His pleas had fallen on deaf ears. But on one Sunday morning, he asked the congregants if they had any children or grandchildren who were not churchgoers. When he saw several nods, he went further. He asked those who had unchurched children and grandchildren to stand so that the church could pray for them. It was amazing. The church members were blown away. Over 80 percent of the attendees were standing. After a time of prayer, Pastor Glen looked over the congregation and said softly but forcibly, “Do you have any doubt now why we have to reach young families?” They got the point. They got the urgency.

3. BUILD AN EAGER COALITION. Leaders who attempt to lead change do not lead change alone. Take time to find that group of leaders who will charge the hill with you in leading this change. The book of Proverbs reminds us repeatedly to find others to help us accomplish our plans: “Without guidance, people fall, but with many counselors

there is deliverance” (Proverbs 11:14). In a similar vein: “Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). Lead change with an eager coalition.

4. BECOME A VOICE AND VISION OF HOPE. Leading change means you provide a clear path where the church needs to go. Church members want to be a part of something that makes a difference. And they want to make a difference themselves. But it is not just the path or the vision they need. They need to hear from leaders how God will lead them to this new point. They need to hear hope. Vision and hope create a powerful tandem toward leading change in the church.

5. DEAL WITH PEOPLE ISSUES. The most effective church leaders first love the members of the church. It’s not always easy with some of the criticisms and naysaying that’s out there. In chapter 7, I shared the change receptivity of a typical body of church members. The numbers are telling: • 5%: Eager for change. This group is wondering what’s taking you so long. • 20%: Open to change. They need to understand the details of the change, but they typically will be okay with it. • 30%: Followers. They tend to move where the loudest and most convincing voices are. •25%: Resistant to change. They like the church just the way it is. • 20%: Highly resistant to change. This group is not much fun. In leading change in a church, you are typically dealing with three major groups: those open to change; those who follow others; and those who are resistant to change. SUMMER 2016

It’s not easy. But it is critical you understand you are not dealing with uniformity when you are leading change. And you must love all the people.

6. MOVE FROM AN INWARD FOCUS TO AN OUTWARD FOCUS. One of the key reasons church members resist change is their inward focus. Unfortunately, many of our congregations have become religious country clubs where the primary purpose is to meet the members’ every whim and desire. Change leaders in churches recognize that the congregation is not ready for change in their present inwardly focused state. They take beginning steps to move the church to a greater outward focus.

7. PICK LOW-HANGING FRUIT. The concept of low-hanging fruit in leading change is simple. Demonstrate to the congregation that bigger change is possible by leading in smaller change toward the same goal.

8. IMPLEMENT AND CONSOLIDATE CHANGE. Not only does the change itself have to be implemented, that same change must become a part of the church’s culture. And here is the challenging reality: There will always be change to lead. It is a never-ending cycle of introducing change, implementing change, incorporating change, and introducing the next change. While I hope this brief review of the entire process of leading change has been helpful, it is my greater prayer that you will become a God-sent agent of change in your church. LifeWay President and CEO THOM S. RAINER (@ThomRainer) is the author of Who Moved My Pulpit? (B&H Publishing Group), from which this article is excerpted.

The Outward-Focused Leader


o you really want to lead change in your church? If so, you have to be a clear example of change yourself. Whether you are a pastor, elder, staff person, or lay leader, you can’t lead change without embodying change. Let me give you a clear example. I was leading a coaching group of 12 church leaders, eight of whom were lead pastors. All of them were in churches that were inwardly focused. I gave the group one external assignment. I asked them to be intentional each week about inviting someone to church or sharing the gospel of Christ with them. They were to be accountable to me via a brief e-mail each week. The results surprised me, really surprised me. At the end of one year, 10 of the 12 churches had begun to grow. All of the eight churches where the pastor made the commitment were growing. Did you get that? God used one person, a key leader, in 10 churches, to be His instrument for revitalization. Turnaround begins with you. Outward focus begins with you. Revitalization begins with you. Or allow me to be biblically precise. In each of these churches, God used one person as His instrument for turnaround. What can you do as a leader to become more outward-focused in your church? Are you willing to be accountable to someone for that Great Commission behavior? Many times change leadership is just that basic. —Thom S. Rainer FACTSANDTRENDS.NET/FOLLOWME

Facts & Trends • 29

Unlocking the truth 4 keys for sharing the gospel

30 • Facts & Trends



By Ken Braddy

haring doesn’t come naturally. Spend a short amount of time with a group of preschoolers and you’ll hear the words “mine” or “no” as one child reaches for the toy another child is holding. Younger ones among us often struggle to share. As we grow older, most of us mature and learn that sharing is a good thing, and we often enjoy it. We learn to share secrets with trusted friends, we share possessions with the needy, and many of us ultimately share life with a spouse. As we mature in our faith, we learn that sharing Christ with others is a privilege given to God’s people. However, many of us struggle to share the gospel. We hesitate. Our hearts beat fast. We don’t know how to start. We fear rejection. We hold onto the good news of Jesus Christ. The stakes are high. People’s eternities are in the balance. How can we encourage members of our churches and Bible study groups to share Christ with friends, family, neighbors, and strangers?


KEY #1: PRAY FOR THREE PEOPLE. Christians know people who are far from God. Whether they’re called seekers, the lost, or some other term, these are people who have not asked Jesus’ forgiveness and have not yet trusted Him for salvation. Every member of a congregation should be able to list three people they know who have not accepted Christ. The starting point for a person coming to Christ is often one catalytic believer who decides to pray for a friend, a family member, a neighbor, or a stranger. Encourage church members to pray for three lost people.

KEY #2: LEARN ONE GOSPEL PRESENTATION. Scripture tells us we should be ready to give a reason for the hope we have within us (1 Peter 3:15). It’s important for every believer to know one way to share the gospel when the time comes. For some people, it might be a presentation they learned at church. For others it’s the Romans Road. For others still, it might be a one-verse presentation they’ve committed to memory. There are even smartphone apps with simple gospel presentations. Help the members of your church choose a presentation, and help them become comfortable talking to others about Jesus using the presentation as a guide.

As we mature in our faith, we learn that sharing Christ with others is a privilege given to God’s people. — Ken Braddy, LifeWay

KEY #3: INVITE FIVE PEOPLE TO YOUR BIBLE STUDY GROUP. Every believer can and should pray regularly for three lost people to know Jesus as Savior. But every believer should also go beyond praying and invite those people, plus a few others, to their Bible study group. Open Bible study groups, such as Sunday school or life groups, expect new people weekly; they are designed to be places where people can drop in any time. In a group Bible study, non-Christians get to know Christians up close. They’re exposed to God’s Word, and they receive personal study


Facts & Trends • 31

guides that will help them study and reflect on God’s Word for themselves.

KEY #4: SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH AT LEAST ONE PERSON. While most Christians won’t be preaching to stadiums filled with people, any of us can sit down across the table from a lost person and in just a few minutes share the life-transforming message of the gospel. Praying for lost people, learning a gospel presentation, and inviting people to a Bible study are wonderful things to

At some point we must verbalize our witness. It helps to remember our role is simply to share the gospel. It’s the Holy Spirit’s role to take those words and bring about conviction in the heart of the unbeliever. — Ken Braddy, LifeWay

do, but at some point we must verbalize our witness. It helps to remember our role is simply to share the gospel. It’s the Holy Spirit’s role to take those words and bring about conviction in the heart of the unbeliever. Church leaders often talk about the importance of evangelism and reaching the lost, but sharing the gospel remains a low priority in the lives of many Christians. Jesus made it clear how important evangelism is to Him when He told His earliest followers they would be fishers of people (Matthew 4:19). It’s time for every believer to accept the challenge to share their faith as personal witnesses to the grace and forgiveness that has the power to transform lives. How is your church equipping people to share the gospel and unlock the Truth for those around them? KEN BRADDY (Ken.Braddy@LifeWay.com) manages the adult ongoing Bible studies for LifeWay and teaches Bible Studies for Life weekly as a group leader at his church in Tennessee.

FALL BIBLE STUDY: UNVARNISHED TRUTH LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum series is introducing the evangelism study Unvarnished Truth starting in September 2016. This six-session study will focus group members’ attention on the things they’ll need to know to share the gospel. Praying for three lost people, learning one way to share the gospel, inviting five people to the group’s Bible study, and committing to share the gospel with at least one person are included in this special study. If you want to make sure your people have a fresh encounter with the truth that they are God’s plan for sharing the gospel, perhaps this September’s Bible Studies for Life evangelism study is something to consider. Go to LifeWay.com to order studies for all age groups, or call and speak directly to a customer service specialist at (800) 458-2772.

32 • Facts & Trends








hen it comes to finances, many churches are just getting by. A recent study by LifeWay Research found a third of Protestant senior pastors say their church’s giving was under budget in 2015. LifeWay Research began studying the effects of the economy on churches in 2009, when the country was engulfed in economic woes. In October 2010, most pastors (80 percent) said the economy negatively impacted their church. That number dropped to 64 percent in 2012. In 2015, more than half (51 percent) of Protestant pastors said their church’s offerings were still affected negatively by the economy. Only 13 percent said the offerings were improving. Many pastors hesitate to discuss money from the pulpit, not wanting to offend seekers or overburden members. The struggling economy and stories of high-profile church leaders’ misappropriation of funds and moral failures have caused some pastors to avoid the money issue. But generous giving is a biblical instruction—and an important conversation to have with members. So here are some tips to help overcome fear and build confidence to start a conversation about giving. 1. Start small. Church leaders need to be aware they probably exist in a low-generosity culture for two reasons. First, people may be holding on


Facts & Trends • 33

to the myth that no church can be trusted with money. Second, many pastors have been absent from the conversation so there isn’t a strong history or culture to build on. Ramp up the conversation slowly over time before going big. If you start big, people may question your motives. 2. Be personal. Share a personal story of how God has been at work in your life teaching you about money. Maybe He met a need unexpectedly, provided beyond your wildest imagination, or has revealed to you how blessed you are. Be personal and practical. 3. Lead well. You’ll probably need to disciple your staff on what the Bible says about money. If you’ve been silent, it’s likely that few have been growing in that area. Your staff and church leadership look to you to lead the way, so pick

up the towel and serve them. You may want to read a book together on giving. 4. Pray weekly. Pray for the careers, financial provision, and needs of your people during your weekend worship service. I’m confident they are most likely underdiscipled in this area. They are chasing the wrong things, worrying about the wrong stuff, and unaware of the powerful ability of God to provide. Churchgoers need a money shepherd and a God who cares about their finances. 5. Read Scripture. God’s Word is full of His promises to provide for our needs. Each book of the Bible contains tremendous principles to apply. God is never-ending in His promises about our futures. Take the time to lead your people, allowing God to speak to them about one of life’s greatest pressures.

Source: LifeWay Research 34 • Facts & Trends


6. Reveal process. You will probably need to build confidence in the subject. If people assume churches do wrong things with money or are nervous about trusting your church, then help increase their confidence. Share openly about the checks and balances your church has in place. Talk about how wisely you invest money to make a difference. Don’t hide financial facts or important items about your books. Handle God’s money with the highest regard so you are never afraid to have a money conversation. 7. Deliver a message. Or even better, try an entire message series on money. Here are some topics you may consider addressing: • God is a giver • Money is a blessing • Lies we believe about money • Giving like God is fun (How does it feel to give a gift?) • God’s principles for money • God’s promises for your future 8. Thank them. Your church is making a difference every week in the lives of kids, youth, and adults. You are changing the face of your community and hearts on the other side of the world. Thank your people for their generous spirit. Show them how their gifts make a difference. Celebrate God’s resources going through your church to the kingdom. It’s OK to talk about money in church. God created it to bless our lives and bless others through us. He wants our lives to flourish pressed down, shaken together, and running over. Get confident. Redeem the topic. Refresh, renew, and release your people.



ork toward creating a culture of gospel-centered generosity in your church with Generous Life, a five-week stewardship emphasis co-created by Auxano and LifeWay. Generous Life will help all members of your church identify the type of giver they are and the kind of giver God is making them to be. The study provides five weeks of message outlines, adult group leader guides, youth group leader guides, children’s group leader guides, preschool leader guides, and a media kit. Use all of the elements together for a church-wide emphasis, or individually as needed in your unique context. Generous Life is available at LifeWay.com as a digital download.


BOOKS: • Plastic Donuts by Jeff Anderson •T  he Genius of Generosity by Chip Ingram •L  eading a Generous Church by Todd McMichen

TODD MCMICHEN (@ToddMcMichen) is chief campaigns officer at Auxano (Auxano.com).


I am beginning my FACTSANDTRENDS.NET/FOLLOWME giving journey.


I am growing to give at least once a month.



I am giving my first fruits I am growing t Trends • 35 (10% of my income) to Facts & beyond my tith the Lord. vision of my ch



teve (not his real name) had been attending a downtown church in a Bible belt city for more than a decade, and something was off. No major crisis. Just little signs of tension—especially from the pastor, whose sermons had acquired a sharp edge. He’d say things to rile people up, says Steve, and seemed on the edge of burnout. That worried Steve and other leaders. They were trying to attract new people to the small congregation while dealing with all the joys and headaches of keeping a church running. They loved their pastor and wanted him to be part of the future. But it wasn’t working. 36 • Facts & Trends

By Bob Smietana “We needed him to be a quarterback on Sundays, and complete a few passes,” he says. “Instead, he kept fumbling the ball.” Church members were trying to sort out the best way to respond when someone dropped a bomb, in the form of an email copied to the whole congregation. The email claimed the pastor had a series of inappropriate interactions with women in the church. The church was soon in crisis. Eventually, church officials intervened. The pastor was allowed to resign with a generous severance, and the church tried to move on. Still, the episode left a bitter taste in

Steve’s mouth. He’d considered the pastor a friend and understands pastors are human and make mistakes. But the pastor’s departure left him with unanswered questions and a sense the congregation had been betrayed. Steve’s church is not alone. The past few years have seen a series of high-profile incidents involving pastors accused of misconduct. Among them: • A megachurch pastor who resigned after having affairs. • A popular New York pastor who embezzled millions from his congregation. • A youth pastor arrested for inapSUMMER 2016

propriate contact with a member of the youth group. • A church leader arrested for drunk driving after a fatal accident. While serious pastoral misconduct remains uncommon, it does happen. And church members are left to clean up the mess. Few know what to do when the pastor goes astray. No one wants to believe a beloved pastor could betray their congregation. And no one wants to falsely accuse a pastor of wrongdoing. One wrong step can haunt a church for years.

HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE SITUATION? For their part, pastors want their church’s leadership to handle any accusations with care, according to a new LifeWay Research survey. Most say accusations should be kept in confidence until proven, though half say a pastor should step away from the pulpit while being investigated. And few think pastors who commit adultery should be permanently banned from ministry. “Pastors have a high regard for the office,” says Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research, “but they also want any investigation to treat the pastor fairly.” LifeWay Research asked pastors about how to handle allegations of misconduct. Researchers asked whether a pastor should step down during a church investigation; when, how, and whether the congregation should be informed about allegations of misconduct; and whether a pastor who commits adultery can return to the pulpit. The survey found disagreement over whether a pastor should step aside when accused of misconduct.

Forty-seven percent say a pastor should step aside while church leaders investigate the allegations. About a third (31 percent) say the church should leave the pastor in the pulpit. One in 5 (21 percent) is not sure.

A 2015 LIFEWAY RESEARCH SURVEY OF PASTORS WHO LEFT THE MINISTRY FOUND 3 PERCENT SAY THEY’D LEFT BECAUSE OF MORAL OR ETHICAL ISSUES. WHOM DO YOU TELL? Most pastors seem cautious about sharing details of alleged misconduct with the congregation. Few (13 percent) say allegations should be shared with all church members. Most (73 percent) say church leaders should keep allegations in confidence during an investigation. Fourteen percent are not sure. McConnell says pastors likely have good reason to be concerned about keeping allegations confidential. Sharing the allegations could lead church members to assume the worst about the pastor. “Most pastors and church leaders have not seen transparency modeled in a way that will avoid gossip and assumptions of guilt,” he says. Churches need to be mindful of legal concerns and the privacy of potential victims. A false allegation could lead to a lawsuit for slander, says Frank Sommerville, a Houston-based attorney who specializes in legal issues facing churches.


“You are walking a tightrope in those early days,” says Sommerville. “It’s easy if the pastor says, ‘Yes, I had an affair.’ But if the pastor denies the allegation, you need some kind of investigation to figure out who is most likely telling the truth.”

GET OUTSIDE HELP Experts say churches should not handle allegations against a pastor on their own. In cases involving abuse, child pornography, or embezzlement, call the police, say experts. If the pastor has broken a law, the police can best handle the investigation. Steve Joiner, director of the Institute for Conflict Management at Lipscomb University in Nashville, suggests churches also seek outside help to address accusations of moral or ethical failings. Sometimes a denominational leader will have a process for investigating the accusations and can set up interim pastoral care for the church. In other cases, another pastor or mediation expert can help. An outside party can focus on what’s best for the church without taking sides, either for or against the pastor. It’s hard for church leaders to handle emotionally charged accusations on their own. “You have to bring in a third party who has at least some neutrality,” says Joiner. The outside expert can guide the church through a process for addressing the accusations and any potential discipline. Having a clearly defined process will help everyone involved: church leaders, the pastor, and the congregation, says Joiner. Facts & Trends • 37

ACT DECISIVELY Whatever the process, accusations of serious misconduct should be tackled head-on. “Churches do best when there is immediate action by the people or structures that have responsibility for pastoral oversight,” says Ross Peterson, director of Chicago-based Midwest Ministry Development, which often works with pastors who have been disciplined for misconduct. That includes an initial investigation to see whether the accusations have merit. Sommerville suggests the pastor step down with pay during the investigation. The pastor should also turn in work computers, cell phones, and passwords for work email. The investigation should include interviews with those making the accusation, church staff, and other key stakeholders. The process should take about 10 days, says Sommerville. “You don’t want this thing dragging out. It’s easy to explain the pastor is unavailable for one week. It’s harder to explain if it takes three months.” He suggested church leaders keep the allegations confidential until the investigation is complete. After a decision is made, they can give the congregation some details. On this point, pastors seem to agree. Pastors are more comfortable sharing details with the congregation if a pastor has been disciplined for misconduct, according to LifeWay Research. Most (86 percent) say it is essential for church leaders to let the congregation know in such cases. When a pastor is accused of misconduct, chances are more than a few people in the congregation already know about it, Joiner says. Don’t let the rumor mill get started. Instead, if the pastor has to step down for a few weeks, provide some 38 • Facts & Trends

general information. In the beginning, details aren’t necessary. Instead, church leaders can tell the congregation some family issues have come up and the pastor needs time off, says Joiner. “Give the pastor a couple of weeks of vacation and just say the pastor is taking some sabbatical time and will be back on this date,” he says. “That raises anxiety and people get upset, but you can manage that.” Above all, says Joiner, don’t lie. That kills trust.

PASTORS ARE SPLIT OVER HOW LONG A PREACHER SHOULD REFRAIN FROM PUBLIC MINISTRY AFTER AN AFFAIR. If pressed for details by a congregation member, church leaders have to be cautious but as truthful as possible. Putting off a discussion of details is better than a denial, especially when the congregation member might be close to the truth. Misleading the congregation makes it difficult for people to trust church leaders. “It’s amazing how many church leaders will lie to cover and justify that as, ‘We are trying to save the church,’” he says. “You have to have some principles that guide how you engage with people.” With accusations of serious misconduct, it’s best to get the pastor out of the pulpit. That step may seem harsh, says Joiner, but it is best for everyone involved. The church can’t function properly when a pastor is under a cloud of suspicion, and the pastor can’t focus on preaching and leading the church, says Joiner.

While suspended, the pastor should have limited contact with church members. “Although it is often painful, churches do best when there is a firm boundary in place between the suspended/removed pastor and the congregation,” says Peterson. “Ongoing connections and conversation between the pastor and their friends/ supporters in the church creates all kinds of problems. It can be very hard on the pastoral family as well, but it seems to be better to have a firm, clear line on this, rather than ambiguity.”

NO CONSENSUS ABOUT ADULTEROUS PASTORS There’s much less consensus about what to do with pastors who commit adultery. Almost all say such pastors should leave public ministry for a time. Only 3 percent say an adulterous pastor does not need to step down. However, pastors are split over how long a preacher should refrain from public ministry after an affair. One in 4 (24 percent) supports a permanent withdrawal from public ministry. A similar number (25 percent) is unsure. About a third (31 percent) says a pastor should step down between three months and a year. “Paul taught Timothy that pastors must be above reproach, so some pastors believe there is no return to the pulpit after adultery,” says McConnell. “Yet Scripture also teaches forgiveness and encourages repentance. Many want adulterous pastors to have a chance at restoration.”

WHAT TO DO NEXT In a case of alleged pastoral misconduct, the goal is to restore the church and the pastor to health. Peterson says this means asking questions like: SUMMER 2016

Among Protestant Pastors: If allegations of pastoral misconduct are brought to the church leaders, they should have the pastor... Step aside while the church investigates


Remain in the pulpit until allegations are proven

• Is this pastor safe in ministry? • What would it take for the pastor to be safe again? • What do church members need to do to healthily process their likely conflicted feelings? • How can genuine healing happen in the church and among the affected individuals? Peterson says church leaders should provide care for everyone involved in the crisis—church members, potential victims, the pastor, and the pastor’s family. “Churches do best when they can trust that help is being provided, or at least offered, to everyone involved,” says Peterson. “This might include paying for counseling or offering someone who can serve as a spiritual friend or confidante to a person.” After allegations are proved or disproved and a decision is made about discipline, a church may need to do some soul-searching, Peterson says. Did church members or leaders unwittingly contribute to unhealthy ministry patterns? Did they encourage behavior that led to abuse? “This helps a church begin to move past the blaming phase and toward a healthy kind of responsibility,” he says. Looking back, Steve wishes his church had received more pastoral care during its crisis. Church members felt left out of the process and often felt saving the church’s reputation—and smoothing over the crisis—was the first priority for some leaders. Bringing healing to the congregation was an afterthought. “The pastor was going to quietly disappear,” he says. “We were left paying the bill.”

31% 21%

Not sure

Say an accused pastor should stay in pulpit while allegations investigated: Pentecostals ................................. 43 percent Baptists......................................... 35 percent Lutherans....................................... 27 percent Methodists..................................... 24 percent Presbyterian/Reformed pastors ..... 24 percent


of older pastors (those 65 and older) say an accused pastor should stay in the pulpit while allegations are investigated.

If a pastor commits adultery, how long, if at all, should the pastor withdraw from public ministry? Does not need to withdraw from ministry

3% 31%

Withdraw 3 months to a year Withdraw 2 to 10 years

17% 24%

Withdraw permanently


Not sure

Say an adulterous pastor should leave ministry permanently: Lutherans....................................... 47 percent Baptists......................................... 30 percent Methodists..................................... 13 percent Pentecostals ................................. 13 percent Presbyterian/Reformed pastors ..... 11 percent

Church leaders must inform the congregation when a pastor has been disciplined for misconduct

BOB SMIETANA (Bob.Smietana@LifeWay.com) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.

Note: Total does not equal 100% due to rounding. Source: LifeWay Research FACTSANDTRENDS.NET/FOLLOWME


of middle-aged pastors (45 to 54) say an adulterous pastor should withdraw for three months to a year.

86% Yes

7% 8%


Not sure

Facts & Trends • 39

A first step in


following Jesus

40 • Facts & Trends




just want our people to make some progress.” It’s a sentiment I’ve heard from many church leaders. It has also come from my own mouth about the churches I have led. Tired of the shock-and-awe style of event-driven ministry, we just want people to grow in their faith and faithfulness to Jesus. The people attending church want the same. But the “how” often escapes all of us. In 2012, LifeWay Research embarked on a project to understand the key elements that help a person mature as a disciple of Jesus. The team surveyed 1,000 pastors and 4,000 Protestant churchgoers across North America. Additionally, researchers did one-on-one interviews with more than 25 discipleship experts. From the study, eight attributes were identified that help people mature in their faith. The number one factor for spiritual growth should not be surprising: Bible engagement. Paul wrote the Scriptures are inspired, profitable, comprehensively good for us, and prepare believers for God’s assignment in their lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We know getting people into the Bible is the key to getting them growing in Christ. In the familiar passage, Paul highlighted the all-encompassing nature of what the Scriptures do for us and in us. In every way a believer needs to grow, the Bible provides the power and instruction for it. Churches have systems in place that facilitate Bible engagement. They

By Philip Nation are in the forms of regular worship services where the Bible is preached and a small group system where it is discussed. For many congregations, a quick tour of the ministries lets you hear preschoolers singing songs with biblical principles, children listening to the stories of the Bible, and student ministries discussing how the Bible applies to life. Beyond the standard congregational work of teaching the Bible in one-hour ministry increments, leaders must train believers how to personally engage the Bible. It must become a spiritual discipline for all believers. The idea of a “spiritual discipline” obviously carries two components: a spiritual act of devotion toward Christ and a foundational activity of maturing in Christ. Bible engagement has implications for the soul, mind, and body that directly impact our relationship with God. Reading the Bible requires intentionality; we must look into a book, consume its content, and then do something with it. Discipline is required to do this on an ongoing basis. We live in a sound-bite, 24-hournews-frenzy, Twitter-reading culture that consumes bits of information as quickly as possible. Much of what we take in or are exposed to is perceived as disposable. Thus, we have become great at consuming but terrible at applying. Bible engagement is a discipline that requires intentionality and regularity. Let me offer a few ways to lead


others in Bible engagement. Comprehensively. We tend to repeatedly read our favorite parts of the Bible. Meanwhile, other sections are left to be the clean, white pages with the gilded edges stuck together. (I’m looking at you, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Haggai.) Any one passage is best understood in light of the totality of the Bible. To be a follower of the Lord, we need the whole counsel of God. Putting together a Bible reading plan for the whole Bible is crucial for the serious disciple. Prayerfully. The Bible is not a sterile compilation of spiritual principles. It’s God’s self-revelation and thus a personal word to us. We need to study it in the context of our relationship with Him. In prayer, we can ask the Holy Spirit to personally lead us through His truth. Closely. The Bible should be read and studied with its parts in mind. We should take note of the historical context, original audience, and genre of each book. Poring over each passage is helpful. We need the big story, but we also need the particular truths of each passage. Rapidly. Though odd at first for many, doing quick reads is not disrespectful. Rather, it will give you the opportunity to see the whole and not be bogged down in the parts. As part of your comprehensive read, move quickly so your close study can take on more meaning. Facts & Trends • 41

Joyfully. Spiritual disciplines are sometimes perceived as duty rather than delight. As you engage the Bible, do so with joy. It’s the place where our Savior is speaking authoritatively to us. Audibly. Much of the Bible was originally delivered via speech to the people of God. For example, a copy of Paul’s letter to the Galatians was not given to each member of the church. It was most likely read aloud for all to hear. As you engage the Bible, read it out loud with inflections in your voice to better comprehend the drama unfolding before you in what God teaches us. There are two other ways we should see Bible engagement as a spiritual discipline. Historically, the disciplines have been perceived as only part of our private devotional life. They are personal, but not exclusively private. Instead, I hope you’ll see Bible study and all spiritual disciplines as personal, congregational, and missional.

read and study together, it will bring about unity and effectiveness in the church. Missionally. God’s self-revelation is a missionary act. With the Bible, He spans the eternal gulf to tell us who He is and what Christ has done for us. Engaging the Bible should also be a missionary endeavor for us. The people around us want to know the truth and need direction. We know—even if they do not— they need the gospel. Engaging those around us with God’s Word is part of the missional life of a believer. As we teach people to study the Bible for themselves, help them also study with their neighbor. The spiritual discipline of engaging the Bible is foundational to Christianity. It’s a beautiful gift given by our Savior. As we live our faith and lead others to do the same, do so in the power of God’s Word. PHILIP NATION (@PhilipNation) is director of content development at LifeWay.

Congregationally. The Bible was not written to “you.” It was written to all of us. It applies to you, but it also applies to God’s people. As you engage the Bible, discipline yourself to do it with brothers and sisters in the faith. As you

Survey of U.S. Protestant churchgoers


26% 19%




DIG DEEPER •H  abits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out by Philip Nation

42 • Facts & Trends

Every day

Once a week

A few times a week

At least once a month

Rarely or never

Note: Total does not equal 100% due to rounding. Source: LifeWay Research | Transformational Discipleship Study SUMMER 2016

ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church

Books Search: The Pastoral Search Committee Handbook By William Vanderbloemen (B&H)

Unashamed By Lecrae (B&H)

You may know Lecrae as the twotime Grammy winning rap artist, but in Unashamed, he reveals his past, his journey, and his perspective on faith and art. Before he shot to the top of the music charts, Lecrae Moore was down and out. As a child he faced physical and sexual abuse. Later on, his life was marred by an abortion decision, a suicide attempt, and a stint in rehab. But in the midst of it all, God drew Lecrae to Himself and sent him back out again as a cultural missionary. In Unashamed, Lecrae tells his story, all of it—from the glamour of the Grammy red carpet to the grime of inner-city streets. Along the way, the reader hears from Lecrae’s heart on how his faith influences all that he does. Instead of finding fulfillment in others, Lecrae describes the process of continually looking to Christ for true affirmation and ultimate approval.

After spending years focusing on connecting churches with pastors who fit their ministry context, William Vanderbloemen has written Search: The Pastoral Search Committee Handbook to guide church members through the process of finding the right leader. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the puzzle of planning for a seamless pastor search, but this handbook provides search committees, church leaders, and pastors a guide to asking the right questions in order to plan for the overwhelming process.

After 50 Years of Ministry: 7 Things I’d Do Differently & 7 Things I’d Do the Same

their ministry. Providing a candid look at his own work, Russell shares both the joys and sorrows of ministry. His transparency is intended to encourage ministers to stand firm in the faith and be faithful unto death.

A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness By John Piper (Crossway)

In this book, best-selling author and well-known pastor John Piper makes the case for why it is not only reasonable but also crucial that we view the Bible as absolutely perfect and totally reliable. Drawing much from Jonathan Edwards, Piper explores what Scripture teaches about itself from Genesis to Revelation. Highlighting the Bible’s “self-authenticating” nature and its unpar-

By Bob Russell (Moody)

Looking back over his ministry at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, Bob Russell says he wishes he could have a mulligan. In his latest book, Russell offers perspective after a lifetime of serving in the church with the hope that others will be inspired and encouraged in


Facts & Trends • 43

ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church

Books alleled ability to showcase God’s peculiar glory, Piper lays a solid foundation for Christians’ unshakeable confidence in the Bible.

None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different From Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) By Jen Wilkin (Crossway)

God is self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, immutable, omnipresent,

44 • Facts & Trends

omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign, infinite, and incomprehensible. We’re none of those. And that’s a good thing. Our limitations are by design. We were never meant to be God. But at the root of every sin is our rebellious desire to possess attributes that belong to God alone. In her new book None Like Him, Jen Wilkins calls readers to embrace

their limits as a means of glorifying God’s limitless power and invites them to celebrate the freedom that comes when we rest in letting God be God.

The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations By Anne Graham Lotz (Zondervan)

Many people see prayer like a broken cell phone or an out-of-date VCR—it doesn’t “work” and just adds extra


A look inside: Q&A With Priscilla Shirer on The Prince Warriors

T clutter to their lives. But as Anne Graham Lotz points out: in Daniel 9, Daniel poured out his heart to God, which led to heaven being moved, a nation being changed, and generations feeling the impact. The latest from Lotz helps readers pray effectively for their nation, for their families, and for themselves.

Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward By Nabeel Qureshi (Thomas Nelson)

Terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States have left millions wondering about the Muslim idea of jihad. Best-selling author and former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi offers a personal, challenging, and respectful answer to some of the toughest questions surrounding jihad, Islamic terrorism, and the rise of ISIS. And he answers them as someone who is deeply concerned for both his Muslim family and his American homeland.

alking with her sons about spiritual warfare over scrambled eggs one morning led best-selling author Priscilla Shirer on a new adventure—writing a young adult fantasy series, starting with The Prince Warriors. We asked Shirer about the book and what she hopes it accomplishes.

Why take such a risk and attempt something completely different from your previous work? Everything I’ve ever felt the Lord asking me to do has been a huge risk. But isn’t that what the faith adventure with God is all about—going where God says go and doing what He says do even if it’s not what we’re used to or most comfortable with? I think life would be pretty boring without a willingness to follow God into risky places of faith in full anticipation of seeing Him act on our behalf. When I think back on the journey the Lord has taken me on over the past 20 years of ministry, most every single thing He’s set in my path to do has been outside my comfort zone and has required a full reliance on His strength in order to accomplish it. With this series, God has given me a fresh opportunity to flex new creative muscles and trust Him. I’m grateful for the challenge that newness brings.

How do you balance the need to communicate truth with the desire to tell a great story? I wanted to have fun dreaming up a fictional environment and story. At the same time, I wanted hints of spiritual things to be tucked below the surface of the story—not so deep they can’t be mined, but not so conspicuous that a young reader would find the story “cheesy” and not stay until the end. The fact is, youth can smell “cheese” a mile away.

What do you hope to accomplish with this book? My prayer is that young readers will realize the battle against spiritual forces of wickedness is real and that they have access to divine armor that will enable them to walk in victory. Alerting the next generation to this reality as soon as possible will prepare them to be adults who make right choices, live in awareness of spiritual realities, and fight battles using divine weapons that actually work.


Facts & Trends • 45

ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church

Conferences ERLC National Conference August 25-26, 2016, Nashville, Tennessee Speakers: Russell Moore, Matt Chandler, Andy Crouch, Bryan Loritts, Andy Stanley, Jackie Hill-Perry, Gabe Lyons

American culture is in crisis. Whether it is the latest comments from politicians or recent stories in the news, evangelicals are confronted by a culture that is increasingly hostile to the gospel. So, what does it look like to engage the culture as Christians without losing the gospel? The third annual ERLC National Conference will prepare attendees for gospel-centered cultural engagement. ERLC.com/events/NationalConference2016

Abundance September 30-October 1, 2016, Fort Wayne, Indiana | October 21-22, 2016, Dallas, Texas Speakers/Artists: Lysa TerKeurst, Kelly Minter, Lisa Harper, Natalie Grant, Christy Nockels, Annie F. Downs

This two-day women’s event explores the sufficiency and generosity of Christ. The authors and teachers discuss how embracing God’s abundance transforms each area of our lives—in difficult seasons and in high places. In Him, little is much. In Him, hardship is blessing. In Him, hurt is healed. In Him, wrong is made right. LifeWay.com/Abundance 46 • Facts & Trends

Marriage Getaway October 7-9, 2016, Ridgecrest, North Carolina

Speakers/Artists: Steve and Debbie Wilson, Barrett and Jenifer Johnson, Mark and Christine Satterfield, Jackie and Stephana Bledsoe, Selah

This retreat offers married couples some much-needed alone time while also providing encouraging and topical marriage helps from some of the country’s most popular speakers and breakout leaders. LifeWay.com/MarriageGetaways

Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2016 October 7-9, 2016, Chicago

Speakers/Artists: Craig Detweiler, Makoto Fujimura, Rick Lawrence, Nikki Toyama Szeto, Jason Earls, The Skit Guys

Pipeline October 13-14, 2016, Nashville, Tennessee

Speakers: Thom Rainer, Paul Tripp, Carey Nieuwhof, Eric Geiger, Jenni Catron, Will Mancini, Mac Lake, Brad Lomenick, Daniel Im

Ephesians 4 says the calling of church leaders is not simply to do the work of ministry but to train the people in the work of the ministry. Pipeline is a leadership conference designed to equip you to do just that. The two-day event will help attendees learn how and why to create a leadership pipeline to develop people at every level in their church, from weekly volunteers to pastoral staff. The first day will feature plenary sessions as well as TED-style presentations to flesh out application and implementation. Q&As will follow each session. The second day will allow attendees to talk with consultants and trainers to assist leaders in implementing a pipeline plan at their church. Pipeline offers training that can be taken home and implemented immediately. MyLeadershipPipeline.com

A conference by youth workers for youth workers, the Simply Youth Ministry Conference prepares you for the challenges you face in ministry while immersing you in an extended, caring community. SYMC provides opportunities for deeper learning, authentic conversation, and renewed passion. YouthMinistry.com/Conference


Practical resources for you and your church

Digital apps




Wunderlist is a collaborative list tool. You can use it for everything from brainstorming to task management. Capture notes for a Bible study you’re leading. Or use it to create a to-do list for an upcoming outreach event. Church staff or volunteer teams can use Wunderlist to make meetings more effective by enabling members of the team to add topics, challenges, or tasks to the list, which then creates the agenda for your next meeting. The app allows team members to update the agenda in real-time throughout the week. Available for free on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, Windows, Kindle Fire and the Web, Wunderlist works seamlessly across all major devices to keep your life in sync.

Have you ever left an email in your inbox for days reminding you to follow up with someone if you don’t hear back? Or have you ever forgotten to send an email reminder to your small group about this week’s Bible study? Never fear, Boomerang is here. Boomerang is a Gmail add-on that allows you to write emails and schedule them to be sent at a later time. Or if you aren’t ready to respond to an email, use Boomerang to archive your message and then deliver the email back to your inbox at a designated time. Use Boomerang to redeliver emails when you haven’t heard back from someone or to remind yourself of a project deadline a few months from now.


5 Leadership Questions Hosts: Todd Adkins and Barnabas Piper Brought to you by LifeWay Leadership, each episode asks five questions of different guests or about different leadership topics. The aim is to inform and encourage Christian leaders. Guests have included Louie Giglio, Lecrae, Brad Lomenick, Dave Ramsey, Rebekah Lyons, and John Piper. LifeWay.com/leadership



The Insanity of God While serving as missionaries, Nik and Ruth Ripken faced the death of their son and potentially their faith. Their journey, chronicled by Nik in The Insanity of God (B&H Books), is now being turned into a film by the same name. Released in partnership with the International Mission Board, the movie will be the first theatrical release from LifeWay Films when it opens in 400 theaters across the United States on August 30. The Insanity of God follows the Ripkens as they go on a mission to interview Christians who have suffered for their

faith and ask them, “Is it worth it?” The Ripkens discover what God has been doing in the toughest parts of the world, retelling the stories of persecuted Christians in Africa, communist Russia, Asia, and the Middle East. They discover the church not only survives under persecution, but it thrives. This documentary will challenge how believers in the West think about the way they live out their faith. The hope of the filmmakers is that the film will spur the church to pray for those in persecution and become actively involved in loving well and sharing Jesus with the world.


Facts & Trends • 47

5 ways for your church to meet your community’s needs By Kate Riney

48 • Facts & Trends



Practical ministry ideas for your church


he Church is, by definition, countercultural. That doesn’t mean, however, our churches should be ivory towers cloistered away and out of touch with the needs of the community. To reach the lost and broken with the gospel, each church needs to be aware and reflective of its community’s assets and needs. Here are five ways your church can do that.

1. TAKE A WALK AND TALK. Map out a radius around your church based on how concentrated the population is in your area. For urban churches, tackle the 2- to 3-block radius of your church location. For more suburban or rural churches, you may want to take a 2- to 3-mile walk or drive. Walk around the area with staff leaders and key volunteers. Meet people hanging out at the bus stop, coffee shops, local eatery, the gym, etc. Ask these people about their lives and take notes. Get to know them and the challenges they face. Try to take on the posture of a missionary who has recently arrived on the mission field. By starting without assumptions, you’ll be better prepared to hear some surprising revelations. Ask open-ended questions: How does the surrounding community affect their lives (positively or negatively)? What is their involvement in any spiritual community? What’s the familiarity and impression people have of a) religion in general, b) Christianity, and c) your particular denomination or tradition? Ask about the history of the community. When did the community get its start and under what circumstances? What historical or cultural events and landmarks are important to the community? How has the area evolved?

The answers to these questions will be powerful indicators to you of how your church fits into the community and the unique challenges you’ll face reaching the people in it. You’ll also have better insights into how to develop authentic relationships with those in the surrounding community.

2. IDENTIFY COMMUNITY ASSETS. As you walk, take note of medical facilities, homeless shelters, day cares, schools, libraries, different types of housing (high-rise apartments, single-family homes, public housing, mobile homes, etc.), religious and civic organizations, public transit, gas stations, grocery stores, shopping malls, green space, recreation facilities, etc. Next, identify these assets on your map. Look first for assets, second for patterns, third for needs. Every community is different. A university town will be filled with research facilities, dorms, and libraries. A suburban community might have many grocery stores, dry cleaners, and restaurants. Hotels and offices may predominate in a downtown area, with few people living nearby. Maybe your area has lots of outdoor recreation, wildlife, and parks. Write all these patterns down and begin to draw some conclusions about the nature and identity of your community. Only then can you assess the community’s physical, relational, and spiritual needs.

3. ASSESS COMMUNITY NEEDS AND BEGIN DEVELOPING YOUR STRATEGY. Perhaps there are no grocery stores in your church’s area, only corner stores. Maybe you could offer a farmer’s


Facts & Trends • 49

COMMUNITY NEEDS ASSESSMENT MAP Draw a map of the community surrounding your church or future site. Include major streets, parks, and attractions. Label assets as you identify them. You can color-code or use a symbol key to help keep things simple.

List all public or private organizations and services such as banks, medical facilities, schools, libraries, day cares, shopping, gyms, museums, parks, etc.

market in your parking lot to bring quality, nutritious food to the local residents. Are there many day cares, but mainly overcrowded or underfunded preschools? Consider starting a church school for all those tots about to age out of day care. If the area lacks public transit, the church might offer a shuttle ministry to allow more people to attend worship services and church events. What cultures, ethnicities, and languages are represented around you? Try to see past the obvious and easily visible demographics of the neighborhood. Many elderly people may live in an assisted living or retirement community you’ve never noticed. They might love to be a part of your church family if the opportunity is available. Are there many people with different abilities in your community (those with cognitive disabilities, issues with mobility, sight or hearing impairment, etc.)? Consider making your church highly wheelchair-accessible, providing sign language interpreters, and tailoring your worship service production to the needs of all those in your community.



List all area churches, cathedrals, mosques, temples, home groups, etc., and include what they offer, such as day care, Vacation Bible School, free meals, clothes closet, prayer meetings, sign language classes, addiction recovery groups, etc.

After your group shares its thoughts on the community’s patterns or needs and you do some “blue-sky thinking,” pray and begin to prioritize those assets your church wants to offer based on what your community needs most. Some initiatives will be simpler than others to start, and you may find you can easily implement two or three projects at once. Outreach projects are best started one at a time, usually one a quarter. Try to stagger launch dates so the community isn’t confused by an onslaught of announcements and invitations that pull their focus in different directions.

HISTORY OF THE COMMUNITY Make a list of why and when the community was founded and how it has evolved. Include key historical events such as battles, land destruction, political movements, landmarks, natural disasters, changing demographics, etc.

CULTURE AND DEMOGRAPHICS List key demographics. Include ethnicities, generations, languages, customs, religions, family structures, political leanings, economics, food, art, clothing, and other self-expressions.


CONCLUSIONS AND NEEDS What conclusions can you draw about your immediate community based on these demographics and assets? Where do you see needs?

50 • Facts & Trends

5. BEGIN SETTING OR REDEFINING YOUR CHURCH CULTURE. This is potentially the hardest thing to do in any established organization, but it is possible. As you assess the community and begin implementing your findings, know that the DNA of your church will naturally change. You’ll need to constantly reassess how new projects are received and what your reputation is in the community. It’s worth it to make small adjustments strategically, rather than cutting whole initiatives and programs at once when they don’t go as expected. As in your initial walk and talk, you need to have your “ear to the streets” to gauge why a service your church offers isn’t working well. Perhaps it needs to be moved to a different time or people need child care in order to attend. Make small adjustments, reassess, and watch things evolve over time. The smaller the gap between community needs and the church’s offerings, the more people will be attracted to and enriched by your spiritual leadership. If your church truly desires to reach the lost, and grow and send disciples, then you need a clearly defined mission, vision, values, and strategy based on the community you serve. You cannot lead those to a life in Christ without knowing their unique needs and gifts. The Shepherd knows His sheep by name. Do you? KATE RINEY (@KateMRiney) serves on the Candidate Relations Team at Vanderbloemen Search Group, a pastor search firm that helps churches and ministries find their key staff.



Disciple-making: Taking the assembly line out of discipleship


hat if we misunderstand the primary function of being a Christian? Jesus told us to make disciples. But is that what we’re actually doing in our churches? When people talk about becoming Christians, growing as Christians, and sharing how others become Christians, it sounds as if there is a series of steps. We treat it as if it were a process made up of isolated building blocks. In this way of thinking, each part of the Great Commission is a sequence of events. Someone is evangelized, then baptized, then discipled, and then eventually goes on mission himself.

DISCIPLE-MAKING AS A HOLISTIC JOURNEY: EVANGELISM, DISCIPLESHIP, AND MISSION If we use the term disciple-making as our guide, that becomes our ministry focus—make disciples. Therefore, disciple-making must include people becoming disciples when they previously were not. That is where the evangelistic aspect is evident in disciple-making. People need to hear and respond to the good news of the gospel. We are to take and proclaim the gospel to them. So Jesus’ call to make disciples of all nations must include evangelism as an integral part of the approach.

Jesus on His mission of reconciliation. Disciple-making not only involves being made into a disciple yourself, it involves seeking to help make others disciples as well. Disciple-making involves sending people on mission.

A JOURNEY, NOT AN ASSEMBLY LINE As such, when we speak of disciple-making, we want to be clear we’re talking about a holistic approach that, to quote a well-worn phrase now, enables an irreligious person to become a fully devoted follower of Christ, who is personally involved in seeing others do the same. As the church participates in the call to

AN ASSEMBLY LINE? In the industrialized West, we see this as an assembly-line process. A lost individual begins the process and, after going through specific stops along the way, a fully developed disciple emerges at the end of the line. Evangelism is distinct from discipleship, which is distinct from missions. But is that really what Jesus is communicating to His disciples gathered on the mountain at the end of Matthew’s Gospel? Instead of seeing disciple-making as a series of steps, I believe there is a better approach. Look again at Matthew 28:19-20. In the original language of the New Testament, the only verb in the Great Commission is “make disciples.” Everything else is a function of that. Going, baptizing, and teaching are all acts that occur within the command “make disciples.” The command automatically leads into the activities of disciple-making. Because of this, I believe a better way to view disciple-making is as a holistic endeavor, not a step-by-step process.

Disciple-making not only involves being made into a disciple yourself, it involves seeking to help make others disciples as well. Disciple-making involves sending people on mission. — Ed Stetzer But disciple-making also includes what we have traditionally called discipleship, or the spiritual growth part of the Christian life. It’s that part of the Great Commission that instructs us to baptize them and teach them to observe all Christ has commanded. However, disciple-making is not only what we normally call discipleship. It is not something that happens only subsequent to conversion. Discipleship happens in the course of making a disciple. A person is made a disciple by being evangelized, learning and obeying the commands of Jesus, and engaging in the mission of Jesus. A disciple throughout the Scriptures is someone who is on mission. In John 20:21, Jesus tells His followers, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” A disciple is one who is sent out by


make disciples, atheists become active believers, materialists become missionaries. And disciple-making is the term that encompasses the fullness of that strategy: evangelism, discipleship, and mission. As Westerners and Americans, we love to compartmentalize things and see a process as a collection of sequential building blocks with each one distinct and separate. Instead, I think the Great Commission calls us to something that is holistic and all-encompassing. It calls us to make disciples. Disciple-making includes evangelism, discipleship, and ultimately being a mission-shaped believer who works so that others become disciples and engage in disciple-making themselves. ED STETZER (@EdStetzer) is former executive director of LifeWay Research. For more, visit EdStetzer.com. Facts & Trends • 51

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Facts & Trends - Summer 2016 -Follow Me  

Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors, church staff, and denominational leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by...

Facts & Trends - Summer 2016 -Follow Me  

Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors, church staff, and denominational leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by...