SUMMER 2018 • FACTSANDTRENDS.NET
‘God Is Pouring Out His Spirit on the Nations’ How LifeWay is taking part in the growing global church
+WHY YOUR CHURCH NEEDS GREETERS HOW SUNDAY SCHOOL CHANGED THE WORLD SHOULD CHURCHES GO INTO DEBT?
“I finally realized that even if my job isn’t important, the Lord loves me the exact same.”
WHEN YOU GET IT, IT CHANGES EVERYTHING. Moral stories become a master plan. A church becomes a culture of grace. Good deeds become a holy mission. This is the work of the gospel. This is The Gospel Project. Learn how the bigger story centers your church on the gospel at gospelproject.com.
STORY | CULTURE | MISSION
National Collection Week November 12-19, 2018
For 25 years, Samaritan’s Purse has been sending gift-filled shoeboxes to children in need around the world. You can be part of this worldwide effort of evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication of the body of Christ by packing a shoebox full of simple gifts. “Declare His glory among the nations” - Psalm 96:3
Learn more at
Bring Beth Moore to your church or small group, and youâ€™ll bring a powerful day of prayer, worship, and Bible-focused teaching to those who need it most. Learn about hosting the simulcast in your church at LifeWay.com/LPSimulcast
9/15/2018 BETH MOORE
Worship with TRAVIS COTTRELL
Event subject to change without notice.
Read more about LifeWay’s global ministry in our cover section.
COVER SECTION 16 ‘God is pouring out His Spirit on the nations’ How LifeWay is taking part in the growing global church. By Lisa Cannon Green
FEATURES 22 S hould churches go into debt? How to know if the blessing is worth the burden. By Art Rainer
26 Are you an evangelical? It depends. Defining evangelicals has frustrated researchers for decades. By Bob Smietana
30 Show me a story How to bring the gospel to life while preaching. By Jim Burnett
32 On-site or off-site groups Which model works best for your church? By Chris Surratt
34 W hy men and women can—and must—work together Both bring amazing contributions to the body of Christ. By Faith Whatley
38 S unday school Origins of the evangelistic movement point the way forward. By Aaron Earls
42 W elcome Three reasons greeter ministries are still relevant in 2018. By Thom S. Rainer
44 Hot hands and cold churches Christianity in the age of analytics. By Aaron Earls
DEPARTMENTS 6 Inside F&T A God-given vision and mission. By Carol Pipes
11 Insights Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting the church and our world.
48 On Our Radar Relevant and practical resources for you and your church.
JOIN US ONLINE FactsAndTrends.net
Visit FactsAndTrends.net for exclusive online content. Read additional pieces from our writers and editors, as well as contributions from other Christian leaders.
Daily Insights Visit FactsAndTrends.net/DailyInsights to subscribe to our e-newsletter.
9 From My Perspective Disruptive times call for steadfast values. By Thom S. Rainer
FACTS & TRENDS • 5
Volume 64 • Number 3 • Summer 2018
A God-given vision and mission
n 1891, James M. Frost led Southern Baptists to establish the Baptist Sunday School Board. His vision was a publishing house that would create and distribute literature to help churches in the South disciple people in the Word and ways of God. I wonder if Frost imagined that churches outside the southern United States—even around the world—would one day benefit from the ministry he began. At the dawn of the 20th century, 82 percent of all Christians lived in Europe (68 percent) and North America (14 percent). In contrast, 11 percent lived in Latin America, 5 percent in Asia-Pacific, and 2 percent in Africa. Today, slightly more than a third of all Christians live in Europe (24 percent) and North America (12 percent). More than half of the world’s Christians now live in Latin America (25 percent) and sub-Saharan Africa (26 percent), while 13 percent live in the Asia-Pacific region. We are seeing incredible growth of Christianity in the global south. In places where the gospel is spreading like wildfire, there is a desperate need for discipleship resources and training for church leaders. LifeWay is responding to that need through its LifeWay Global team. Beginning on page 16, we’ll give you a quick tour of the places where God is using LifeWay to provide trustworthy, biblical resources—from Mexico to Southeast Asia. As followers of Christ, we have much to celebrate as we witness the gospel spread across the globe. In 1900, more than half of the world’s population (54.3 percent) was unreached with the gospel, according to researchers at Gordon-Conwell’s Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Today, that percentage is down to 29.3 and is expected to drop another 2 percentage points by 2050. That doesn’t mean the job is finished—almost 1 in 3 people (more than 2.1 billion people) have not been evangelized. We must diligently continue to fulfill Christ’s commission to make disciples of all people. More than 100 years ago, Frost received an incredible vision and God-given mission. With some borrowed money and a borrowed office, he laid the groundwork for what would become one of the largest providers of Christian resources in the world. The LifeWay employee team stands on the shoulders of those who came before us—each generation laboring to help churches in their mission of making disciples. LifeWay continues to adapt to the changing needs of the church while staying true to its mission—providing biblical solutions for life. Carol Pipes, Editor in Chief @CarolPipes | Carol.Pipes@LifeWay.com
6 • FACTS & TRENDS
Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing information, insights, and resources for effective ministry.
PRODUCTION TEAM Editor in Chief | Carol Pipes Senior Editor | Lisa Cannon Green Managing Editor | Joy Allmond Senior Writer | Bob Smietana Online Editor | Aaron Earls Associate Editor | Aaron Wilson Graphic Designer | Katie Shull LIFEWAY LEADERSHIP President and Publisher | Thom S. Rainer Executive Vice President | Brad Waggoner CONTRIBUTORS Jim Burnett, Art Rainer, Chris Surratt, and Faith Whatley ADVERTISING Send advertising questions/comments to: F acts & Trends Advertising One LifeWay Plaza Nashville, TN 37234 Email: Carol.Pipes@LifeWay.com Media kits: FactsAndTrends.net/Advertise This magazine includes paid advertisements for some products and services not affiliated with LifeWay. The inclusion of the paid advertisements does not constitute an endorsement by LifeWay Christian Resources of the products or services.
Subscriptions For a subscription to Facts & Trends, send your name, address, and phone number to FactsAndTrends@LifeWay.com.
Permissions Facts & Trends grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or classroom, provided copies are distributed free and indicate Facts & Trends as the source.
Contact Us: FactsAndTrends@LifeWay.com Facts & Trends, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234 Facts & Trends is published quarterly by LifeWay Christian Resources. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, copyright 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.
Becoming a Welcoming Church New from Bestselling Author Thom S. Rainer
Bestselling author Thom S. Rainer (I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church) has a game plan for churches to become more hospitable. In a format that is suitable for church members to read individually or study together, Rainer guides readers toward a practical framework for making a difference for guests who visit their church.
Also available: We Want You Here Book to give guests
Welcoming.Church or visit your local LifeWay Christian Store
FROM MY PERSPECTIVE
Disruptive times call for steadfast values
hat comes to mind when you think of disruption? Perhaps you envision the building of a dam, which causes water to travel in a different direction and possibly form a new body of water. Maybe you think about disruption as it relates to business. Henry Ford’s Model T disrupted the transportation industry. Burger King’s “have it your way” service disrupted the fast-food industry. Today, we might think of Amazon and how it’s changing the way people buy products. Disruption occurs when something or someone changes an established path and, typically, the outcome of a situation. Make no mistake; we’re in a disruptive state right now. We’ve witnessed massive cultural shifts in Americans’ beliefs and behaviors. Many churches are experiencing a decline in overall church attendance, as well as the frequency with which members attend. Local churches are rapidly changing the manifestation of how we at LifeWay do ministry. So what do we do in a time of disruption and how do we move forward? First, we remember our LifeWay vision statement— Biblical Solutions for Life. This simple statement encompasses who we are and where we’re going. From there we reflect on our five core values: Trustworthy LifeWay is rooted in the unchanging words of Scripture. The Bible is the plumb line for all of LifeWay’s resources and for everything we say and do. We need the watching world to know that no matter what, LifeWay will not compromise the inerrant Word of God. We will be trustworthy. Collaborative Our organization is working together as one as much as I’ve ever witnessed it. Even our new headquarters was designed with collaboration in mind. We also collaborate with local church leaders in providing the types of resources they need. When they succeed, we succeed.
Innovative God doesn’t need LifeWay, but as long as He chooses to use us, we will seek to be innovative in finding ways to serve churches. How we do things cannot be the way we’ve always done them. As I’ve said time and again, we change or we die. To serve the Church, LifeWay will continue to innovate across the entire organization. Comprehensive LifeWay seeks to serve the Church in her mission of making disciples. While we cannot meet every need, the mission of Christ compels LifeWay to be comprehensive in the wide range of resources, events, and services we provide. Since its beginning, LifeWay has served churches primarily in the United States. As we witness the explosive growth of Christ’s Church in South America, Asia, and Africa, we commit to serving churches around the world. Today, LifeWay provides resources in 164 nations and in a multitude of languages. Transformational Since 1891, we’ve said we’re about being used by God to transform lives and churches. We don’t exist for ourselves. It’s all about serving her, the bride, and serving Him, the groom. We praise God for using LifeWay to transform lives, marriages, families, and churches. Our vision statement and five core values represent who we are at LifeWay. If we forget them, we may be tempted to sing the siren song of compromise when disruption comes. Or we may fail to change at all and not move in a direction that will allow us to serve churches for the long-term future. I am excited about what God is doing through LifeWay for the glory of God and for the good of churches, individuals, and those coming to Christ. We do not take LifeWay’s ministry for granted. Instead, we remain dedicated to the mission of creating resources to serve Christ’s Church and providing biblical solutions for life. THOM S. RAINER (@ThomRainer) is President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Read more at ThomRainer.com.
FACTS & TRENDS • 9
YOU CAN DESTROY YOUR LIFE. Eric Geiger offers a sobering reminder that many great and godly people have imploded; none of us are above the risk. Looking at the story of David’s infamous implosion, we will learn how to ruin our lives (so we won’t), and also how to find hope if we do—as all of us need His grace.
INSIGHTS Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world
Churchgoers say they tithe, but not always to the church
ost churchgoers say the Bible commands them to give. But their tithes don’t always go in the offering plate. Half of Protestant churchgoers say their tithes can go to a Christian ministry rather than a church. A third say tithes can go to help an individual in need. And more than a few (18 percent) say tithes can even go a secular charity, according to a new study by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. “For many churchgoers, tithing is just another term for generosity,” says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. For the study, LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Americans who attend services at a Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month—as well as 1,000 Protestant senior pastors. Most churchgoers believe they are commanded to give. And many believe in the idea of tithing, which is often understood as giving away 10 percent of a person’s income. Eighty-three percent agree when asked, “Is tithing a biblical command that still applies today?” Eight percent say it is not. Ten percent aren’t sure. Pastors are less likely than churchgoers to say tithing is still a biblical command. Seventy-two percent of pastors say tithing is a biblical command that still applies today. Twenty-five percent say it is not. Three percent are not sure. Of pastors who say tithing is still a biblical command, 73 percent define tithing as giving 10 percent of a person’s income. More than half (56 percent) say it should be 10 percent of a person’s gross income. Seventeen percent say it should be 10 percent of a person’s net income. Eleven percent say a tithe is whatever a person sets aside to give, while 7 percent say it is whatever the person actually gives. More than half (54 percent) of churchgoers say they give at least 10 percent of their income to the church. And tithes can be spread around, according to churchgoers. Ninety-eight percent say money from tithes can go to their church. Half (48 percent) say funds can go to a Christian ministry. A third say tithes can go to another church (35 percent) or an individual in need (34 percent). Some churchgoers (18 percent) say their donations to a secular charity can be part of their tithe. Fewer than half of churchgoers (47 percent) say only giving to the church counts for tithing. Source: LifeWay Research
FACTS & TRENDS • 11
Half of churchgoers have never heard of the Great Commission
hey were Jesus’ last words before He ascended to the Father and have driven the church’s mission the last 2,000 years, but 51 percent of American churchgoers say they’ve never heard of “the Great Commission.” A new study from Barna Research found a troubling lack of awareness of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Not only do half (51 percent) say they’ve never heard the phrase, 25 percent say they’ve heard of it but can’t remember the exact meaning. Fewer than 1 in 5 (17 percent) say they’ve heard of the Great Commission and know what it means. When given a list of five verses containing prominent words of Jesus, 37 percent could pick out the Great Commission.
A third (33 percent) still said they percent say their last sermon about weren’t sure if any of those verses were missions was specifically on the Great it and 16 percent chose the Great ComCommission. Among Southern Baptists, mandment (Matthew 22:37-40), which 28 percent say that’s the case. is often summarized as “Love God and love others.” Among U.S. churchgoers, HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE GREAT COMMISSION? evangelicals are the most likely Among U.S. churchgoers to say they know the Great Commission (60 percent) and the most likely to correctly identify the passage (74 percent). 25% The increased familiarity Yes, but I can’t recall among evangelicals probably has 51% the exact meaning No to do with greater emphasis on the phrase from the pulpit. Non-mainline pastors are more likely than mainline pastors to 17% mention the Great Commission Yes, and it means… in a missions sermon (15 percent versus 6 percent). 6% Among Baptist pastors, 18 I’m not sure Note: Does not equal 100% due to rounding.
A young girl who received Christ and was baptized in the waters of the Amazon river outside Manaus, Brazil. IMB PHOTO
12 • FACTS & TRENDS
INSIGHTS Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world
How churches welcome guests Among Protestant pastors Have an opportunity to meet the pastor after the service
Have greeters at the entrances Have cards guests are asked to complete
Have a central location where guests can learn about the church
Set aside time during the service for regular attenders to welcome guests
Periodically host an information session for new people to learn more about the church Have books in the pews for all attenders to indicate they were present that collects visitor information
Have gifts for guests
Have greeters or attendants in the parking lot
Ask guests to stand in the worship service Other
PHOTO BY LUKAS, PEXELS
Source: LifeWay Research
Notes: None of these <1%. Respondents could select all that applied.
What’s dividing America? Hint: It’s not religion
ost American young people say the U.S. is divided, but they don’t believe religion is the primary reason. A recent study by PRRI and MTV of 15- to 24-year-olds found young people are most likely to say the issue that divides our country is politics (77 percent), followed by income (57 percent) and race (48 percent). Just 38 percent felt America was divided by religion. Young people say Americans very divided by politics
Percent of 15- to 24-year-olds who say Americans are divided by the following:
40 20 0
Not that divided or not at all divided
Wealth or income
Source: PRRI/MTV 2017 National Youth Survey
FACTS & TRENDS • 13
Are evangelicals an endangered species? Not likely.
any have spoken as if evangelicals are disappearing from the American religious landscape. According to analysis of the data from the General Social Survey, however, the share of Americans who attend an evangelical Protestant church has been consistent for the past 20 years. In 1996, 25 percent of Americans attended an evangelical Protestant church. By 2016, the number had fallen only one percentage point to 24 percent. Since 1972, evangelical church at-
tenders have grown from 18 percent of the population. After reaching 30 percent in 1993, the share has hovered around 25 percent, ranging from 27 to 23 percent. Meanwhile, attendance at mainline Protestant churches has suffered a precipitous decline. In the mid-1970s, close to 30 percent of Americans attended a mainline Protestant church. After decades of membership loss, only 10 percent said they attended in 2016. Corresponding to the mainline drop
has been the rapid growth of religiously unaffiliated Americans, also known as the nones. According to GSS, 5 percent of Americans were nones in 1972. That number stayed relatively stable for the next 20 years. But starting in the early 1990s, the religiously unaffiliated began to experience explosive growth. By 2016, 22 percent of Americans were religiously unaffiliated, only 2 percentage points behind evangelical Protestants. Source: GSS.Norc.org
14 â€˘ FACTS & TRENDS
INSIGHTS Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world
Church discipline rarely occurs
ew churches have disciplined their members for misconduct, according to a new study from LifeWay Research. More than 8 in 10 Protestant senior pastors say their church has not disciplined a member in the past year. More than half say they don’t know of a case when someone has been disciplined. “It’s one of the topics churches rarely talk about,” says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. According to the survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors, 16 percent say their church has disciplined a member in the last year. That includes 3 percent in the last month, 5 percent in the last six months, and 8 percent in the last year. McConnell says in general, church discipline would apply when offenders refuse to acknowledge their wrongdoing, persist in it, or are no longer qualified for leadership. He suspects some churches may have informal discipline processes. And some church members may leave rather than going through church discipline. Where there is formal discipline, a group of church leaders often must agree for formal discipline to take place. “There’s some red tape involved for churches,” he says. “It is not easy to be kicked out of a church.”
Americans picture inclusive eternal life
n John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” but some modern Christians aren’t quite sure about that. According to Pew Research’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, 66 percent of American Christians say many religions can lead to eternal life. That sentiment is most popular among mainline Protestants (80 percent) and Catholics (79 percent). Most Orthodox Christians (68 percent), black Protestants (57 percent), and evangelicals (52 percent) also agree. Among non-Christian groups, Hindus (96 percent), Buddhists (83 percent), and Jews (79 percent) are most likely to agree many religions can lead to eternal life. Belief in many paths leading to
eternal life drops to 50 percent among Christians when specifically asked about non-Christian faiths. Almost 3 in 10 Christians (29 percent) say their religion is the only true faith and another 12 percent say only Christianity will lead to eternal life. Majorities of Catholics (68 percent), mainline Protestants (65 percent), and Orthodox Christians (59 percent) say some non-Christian religions can lead to eternal life. In 2016, LifeWay Research found 64 percent of Americans say God accepts the worship of all religions. The one demographic holdout is evangelicals, among whom 48 percent agree. Americans are also hesitant to say non-Christians spend eternity in hell. While 84 percent of those with evangelical beliefs say that is the case, only 40 percent of Americans as a whole agree.
Among those affiliated with a religion, the percent who agree many religions can lead to eternal life
Historically Black Protestant
2014 Religious Landscape Study, QH1, Asked only of those with religious affiliation.
Source: PewResearch.org FACTSANDTRENDS.NET
FACTS & TRENDS • 15
‘God Is Pouring Out His Spirit on the Nations’ How LifeWay is taking part in the growing global church
By Lisa Cannon Green
Juárez, Mexico, is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The border city near El Paso, Texas, saw more than 800 homicides last year. Crime, violence, and gang activity are so widespread the U.S. government warns Americans to reconsider traveling there. But churches in Juárez have a vision to transform the city with the Word of God. In partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources, they’re distributing Bibles by the thousands—and they don’t plan to stop until every household in Juárez has one. The grass-roots movement has already placed more than 20,000 copies of LifeWay’s Spanish-language Biblia del Pescador, the Fisher of Men Bible, into the hands of the people of Juárez.
16 • FACTS & TRENDS
“With the Bible they have courage, they have hope, and they have peace,” says Eva Uria, general manager for LifeWay Mexico. Every day, she sees what research confirms—outside North America and Europe, Christianity is growing rapidly. In Mexico, it’s increasing nearly three times as fast as in the United States, with an estimated 22 million new believers by 2050, according to Pew Research. But as churches in Mexico and other nations celebrate the growth of God’s kingdom, they also face a harsh reality—it can be tough for new Christians to find biblically sound resources to support their newfound faith. “Much of the church around the world is growing in a Third World context, where there isn’t a robust Christian publishing community,” says Craig Featherstone, director of LifeWay Global. He’s seen the same pattern worldwide, particularly in the global south—Latin America, Africa, and Asia—where millions are turning to Christ. “God is pouring out His Spirit on the nations,” Featherstone says. “There’s explosive growth in the church internationally, and they don’t have access to the resources they need. The gap demands a response.” Stepping into that gap isn’t as simple as some might expect, according to Featherstone. Although LifeWay is one of the world’s largest Christian publishers with a broad array of resources, those materials don’t always translate seamlessly into other cultures. Yet LifeWay distributed Christian content to 164 countries last year, touching more than 4 million lives. Resources were licensed in more than 60 languages. Leadership and discipleship courses were offered around the globe. The effort to saturate Juárez with God’s Word is one of many initiatives—
and this year, LifeWay plans to do more. “The need is so great around the world that we’re just scratching the surface,” Featherstone says. “LifeWay exists to serve the church in her mission of making disciples—and that promise extends to the ends of the earth.” Growth in the global south In the United States, researchers frequently point out Christianity’s shrinking share of the population, but in other parts of the world, the picture is strikingly different. The world will gain 750 million Christians between 2010 and 2050, Pew says—almost all of them in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Less than 3 percent of the increase will occur in North America, while Christians in Europe will actually decline by nearly 100 million people. A.S. Thomas saw the trend in India when LifeWay brought Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer to Hyderabad for a women’s event in 2016. Attendance grew throughout the three-day event until a “jam-packed” session on Sunday night. Thomas, general manager of LifeWay India, estimates the sessions drew a total of 10,000 people. “People were blown away by the passion Priscilla brings,” says Thomas. “They’re just hungry for the truth.” Although Pew estimates only 3 percent of India’s population is Christian, Thomas points out India has 1.3 billion people—about four times as many as the United States. So that tiny sliver of India’s population amounts to tens of millions of Christians. And Pew’s growth projections don’t
Local church members deliver Biblia del Pescador, the Fisher of Men Bible, to people in Juárez, Mexico. PHOTO PROVIDED BY QUE TODO JUÁREZ TENGA UNA BIBLIA
FACTS & TRENDS • 17
More than 20,000 Bibles have already been distributed throughout Juárez. PHOTO PROVIDED BY QUE TODO JUÁREZ TENGA UNA BIBLIA
account for people moving to evangelical Christianity from a different Christian tradition—a trend Eva Uria says she sees in Mexico. Although Mexico was 96 percent Catholic as recently as 1970, the number fell to 81 percent by 2016, according to Pew. Meanwhile, evangelical denominations have grown dramatically in the past 10 years, Uria says—even though, for some, conversion comes at a price. When an earthquake hit Mexico City in September 2017, officials wouldn’t help evangelical churches, says Usías Alameda Grano, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Dios en las Alturas (First Baptist Church God on High) in San Antonio Tlatenco, Puebla. “Our music building was a total loss, as were some houses of our brothers and sisters in Christ,” he says. “Authorities denied us their help, being very specific about the help only being for Catholic churches. “But God provided all the help we needed through His children.” While Baptist seminary students and relief workers brought food and clothing, the church asked LifeWay Mexico for assistance with an even bigger need: Bibles. “They told us, ‘It’s true that we need food. It’s true that we lost our homes. It’s true that we don’t have blankets to cover us,’” Uria says.
“‘But mainly what we need is Bibles. People are really scared. We want to give them hope. We want to give them peace. And the Word of God is alive and He will do His job.’” ‘Beautiful plans’ In Juárez, Bibles arrive by the truckload. Believers gather for training, then deliver them door to door in neighborhoods. They hope to give away more than 400,000 Bibles, concentrating on the city’s most crime- and drug-infested areas. “It’s the dream of thousands of friends who love God and have known Him through His Word,” declares a Facebook page devoted to the cause. More than 75 pastors are part of the citywide campaign, with the motto “That All Juárez Has a Bible.” The movement has inspired a broader initiative called Caravan of Hope, which stretches the entire length of the U.S. border with Mexico, says Jim Cook, a LifeWay retiree who now coordinates this project for LifeWay. “Pastors’ associations all along the border are raising money, training their people, and then going out and evangelizing using the Fisher of Men Bible in Spanish,” Cook says. Bibles are funded through donations, and Luis Ángel Díaz-Pabón, editor of the Fisher of Men Bible, has pledged to match each donated Bible with another.
18 • FACTS & TRENDS
Díaz-Pabón has also trained more than 1,400 volunteers to evangelize as they distribute the Bibles, Cook says. Enlisting people like Díaz-Pabón, an evangelist in Latin America for more than 40 years, is essential for reaching different cultures, Featherstone says. American voices, translated into new languages, may not resonate with audiences in other nations. “Part of serving in context around the world is to find messengers who are trusted, respected, and known in those parts of the world,” he says. For LifeWay, that has meant publishing books by authors such as Miguel Núñez, a physician-turned-pastor in the Dominican Republic; Sugel Michelén, an expert on preaching; and Otto Sánchez, an expert on discipleship. “We’re creating original content in Spanish, and churches and ministries are responding well to that,” Featherstone says. Uria says she’s excited about plans to distribute LifeWay’s resources in bookstores, retail stores, and department stores in Mexico. “This is God’s ministry, and we see His hand in everything,” she says. “So we know He has beautiful plans for Mexico.” ‘The crazy way’ Thousands of miles away, in India, Thomas and the LifeWay India team
are making plans to reach 250,000 kids with the gospel. They’ve done the math—if 10,000 churches get Vacation Bible School kits, and each church gets just 25 kids to attend, that’s a quarter million children learning about Jesus. “We said, ‘Let’s do this the crazy way—let’s just ask God for something amazing,’” Thomas says. In India, “the crazy way” means launching VBS simultaneously in six languages—English, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Kannada, and Telugu. It means print-on-demand VBS kits priced at $12, with subsidies to help churches that can’t afford even the $12. Pastors, he says, are loving it. “We’ve really tailored the content,” Thomas says. “For example, the songs are transliterated so kids can sing it in their own languages. All the lessons, the recreation cards, and everything is going to be in their language.” LifeWay’s presence in India means it’s easier to make trustworthy content available and affordable, Featherstone says. “You produce resources locally so they’re affordable, you price them in the local currency, and you distribute within the country,” he says. “It’s a more dynamic way to serve people.” Technology also helps, he notes. Social media, online training, and electronic distribution provide dynamic ways for LifeWay to reach people around the globe. Many of the items distributed in India and other countries are the same trusted resources familiar to churches in the United States—studies from Explore
the Bible, books such as Experiencing God, Audacious, and The Love Dare, reference tools for pastors, and more. “We have the privilege of taking the content LifeWay publishing teams produce to the ends of the earth,” Featherstone says. Other resources are created specifically for a global audience. LifeWay published several Indian authors for the first time this year: Anand Mahadevan, a senior editor for The Economic Times in India; Merilyn Jemimah Amirtharaj, a blogger who speaks to young women; and well-known pastor Stanley Mehta. A recent online survey illustrates the need for solid biblical resources in India, Thomas says. Pastors were asked to name the church’s greatest challenges in India. Repeatedly, they said they didn’t
have systematic discipleship programs and couldn’t afford to buy curriculum from abroad. “Those pastors’ voices are all saying, ‘We need to be trained. We need access to content. We need access to resources,’” Thomas says. “As the gospel is shared, people’s hearts will respond—but that’s only part of the job. People then need a plan for walking through the journey of discipleship.” Anchored by the Word Reaching the nations isn’t a cookiecutter process, Featherstone warns. “This is not like franchising McDonald’s,” he says. “By having a presence in these countries, we’re developing face-to-face relationships. We hear the
“Wonderfully Made” with Priscilla Shirer was LifeWay’s first women’s event held in southern India at Hyderabad Baptist Church, a megachurch of about 25,000 members. LIFEWAY PHOTO
FACTS & TRENDS • 19
As the gospel is shared, people’s hearts will respond— but that’s only part of the job. People then need a plan for walking through the journey of discipleship.” — A.S. Thomas, general manager of LifeWay India
heartbeat of the churches and ministries and say, ‘How can we best serve you?’ And then we create unique solutions in each country.” In some nations, a custom approach is essential because evangelizing is illegal and distribution of Christian content is limited. “Compared to the USA, the availability of Christian books is like the availNorth America +7.5% ability of water in a desert,” says John Diedrich, director of a LifeWay partner in one such country. In that country, LifeWay and its ministry partners focus on training. More than 3,000 people in 80 churches have studied Experiencing God in the local language. More than 25,000 people have participated in marriage training events, and 250 have been trained as entry-level marriage counselors. “We researched the life transformation that came just from reading Christian books,” Diedrich says. “We found a great gap between being exposed to God’s truth and applying it to the reader’s life. “We started our training company to help people connect the dots—to help move the Word from their minds into their hearts and lives.” Anchoring the Word in people’s hearts remains at the core of LifeWay Global, Featherstone says. Around the world, LifeWay’s top resource—by far—is the Bible itself. “People are desperately hungry for God’s Word,” he says. “So whether it’s India or Mexico or Brazil or West Africa or any other part of the world, the Bible is still the leading resource.” And LifeWay’s devotion to the Bible doesn’t go unnoticed, Featherstone says. 61% of the worldwide church is in the global south “People love and respect our commitment to the Word of God,” he says. “Because of LifeWay’s unwavering commitment to biblical fidelity, we are trusted 700 million evangelicals worldwide in need of biblical resources and respected across a broad spectrum of evangelicals worldwide.” 164 countries where LifeWay distributed biblical resources in 2017 Churches who send mission teams overseas are doing the right thing, Featherstone says. And as they go, he offers one suggestion—don’t arrive empty-handed. 4 million lives impacted in 2017 by LifeWay’s global ministry “If you’re sending people to another part of the world, show up with discipleship resources and 60+ languages in which LifeWay content is licensed training,” he says. “If you provide resources and training, you’ve got the potential to have an enduring ministry impact.” 14 million copies of RVR 1960 Spanish Bible translation distributed
GLOBAL MINISTRY BY THE NUMBERS
LISA CANNON GREEN (@lisaccgreen) is senior editor of Facts & Trends.
300 LifeWay “mini stores” inside churches in India
20 • FACTS & TRENDS
PROJECTED GROWTH IN CHRISTIANITY, 2010 TO 2050 Worldwide +34.6%
Europe -17.9% Asia-Pacific +32.8%
Middle East and North Africa +43%
Sub-Saharan Africa +115%
Latin America and Caribbean +25.3%
Sub-Saharan Africa +115%
120% 100% 80% 60% Latin America and Caribbean +25.3%
Middle East and North Africa +43%
North America +7.5%
Source: Pew Research
FACTS & TRENDS â€¢ 21
Should churches go into debt? How to know if the blessing is worth the burden By Art Rainer
22 â€¢ FACTS & TRENDS
Should churches go into debt? This question often elicits passionate responses from people at various points on the yes/ no spectrum. The passion is often driven by a desire for their church to make the best decision to advance the gospel in their community and around the world. And this is a good thing. Debt is not a sin, but the Bible isn’t exactly a fan of debt This point needs to be made at the start. Some treat taking on debt as sinful. It’s not, at least on its own. Psalm 112:5 tells us, “Good will come to the one who lends generously and conducts his business fairly.” God would not reward someone (the lender) who is knowingly participating in the sin of another (the debtor). But it is also important to note the Bible doesn’t encourage every church to go out and get a bunch of loans. We find three primary principles about debt in the Bible: 1. Be cautious about bringing a church into debt. Proverbs 22:26-27 says, “Don’t be one of those who enter agreements, who put up security for loans. If you have nothing with which to pay, even your bed will be taken from under you.” When considering debt, we are to be extremely cautious. We do not want to find ourselves in a position where we can’t afford the payments. 2. If you do go into debt, your congregation will be burdened. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.” The lender has authority over how you use your money—at least the portion the lender gets. Even if a church wants to use that amount of money for something different—like international missions, a benevolence fund, or a local outreach—the freedom isn’t there to do so. And this burden will hang over the congregation until the debt is repaid.
FACTS & TRENDS • 23
If your church is in no financial position to take on debt—thus defaulting on payments—it could hinder your public witness.” —Art Rainer, vice president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
3. Debt provides another opportunity to sin. Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked person borrows and does not repay, but the righteous one is gracious and giving.” The Bible is clear about the obligation of debt. Payments are required. The Bible refers to those who do not repay their debts as wicked. If your church is in no financial position to take on debt—thus defaulting on payments—it could hinder your public witness. Not only this, it sets a bad example for those you lead. Because of this, we revert back to the first message—be cautious about going into debt. And remember, these principles apply to both personal and church debt.
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Debt can hinder ministry One of the greatest concerns about a church’s debt is that it can cause a church to miss out on unanticipated ministry opportunities. Debt tightens a church’s budget. The money needed for debt repayment is already committed. You cannot use it for anything else. If an unanticipated ministry opportunity arises that requires funding, the church may have to say no because of a lack of margin, not a lack of desire. Debt can also create tension in the church. I’ve seen church members get in heated conversations over the topic of church debt. Like most money topics, debt has the ability to create a wedge between members. This tension can erode a church’s
24 • FACTS & TRENDS
ability to move forward. Finally, debt can discourage generosity. Financing large projects through debt can create distance between church members and the project. There can be a decreased sense of ownership and mission. And debt repayment doesn’t typically encourage generosity, either. Getting members engaged on the front end of a project is usually the best way to encourage generosity for the endeavor. Debt can advance ministry Now, debt is not always detrimental to a church’s ministry. At times, it can help the church move forward. And since most of the time church debt centers on facilities, let’s begin there. Buildings have their capacities, and there are times when buildings get too full. A church building that is too full on a regular basis can discourage guests, limiting the church’s impact. A new or expanded facility can significantly help. Sometimes a church can’t wait three to five years for the completion of a capital campaign. A loan can help advance the ministry much more quickly. Debt can also assist a church with an unexpected crisis, assuming a quick payoff from promised funding such as an insurance policy. Taking on the bare minimum amount of debt to get up and running after a storm damages the church facility, for example, can sometimes be necessary. Choosing debt is a serious decision If your church does opt for debt, you’re making a weighty decision. The Bible makes this clear. Here are four questions to help you assess whether it is right to take on debt. 1. Is the debt for a ministry need or want? “If you build it, they will come”
is the wrong philosophy. Debt is not the time to take shots in the dark, hoping for a positive outcome. 2. Can we pay off the debt quickly? Once again, this is not about a hope. Can you actually pay off the debt in a timely manner? If the debt payoff requires a huge increase in giving over just a few years, it’s best to wait. 3. What is the budgetary impact? Will this debt cause us to be on the financial edge? Will we need to reduce ministry budgets to account for the payment? 4. What are our other options? Debt should not be a first resort. It may be easier, but that doesn’t mean it’s wiser. Consider all your options before diving into debt. Debt is not a sin. But it is a burden.
Sometimes a church can’t wait three to five years for the completion of a capital campaign. A loan can help advance the ministry much more quickly.” —Art Rainer, vice president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Before entering into a loan agreement, churches should be fully aware of the consequences of debt. Make sure you weigh the burdens of debt against the blessings it can bring. ART RAINER (@ArtRainer) is a vice president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The author of several books, he lives with his wife and children in Wake Forest, North Carolina.
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Wake Forest, NC
Are you an evangelical? It depends. By Bob Smietana
Defining evangelicals has been frustrating researchers for decades. When you read a survey of evangelicals, it helps to know how researchers are identifying them.
Depending on who you ask—evangelicals are one of the largest religious groups in America.
Or they are few and far between. They’re mostly white. Or they’re diverse. Evangelicals are growing. Or they are in decline. In other words, it’s complicated—even for researchers who study religious groups for a living. And while evangelicals have been making headlines the past few years, it’s not always clear which evangelicals the news reports are talking about. That’s in part because evangelicals don’t have a pope or an official institution that defines their theology. And many aren’t part of a denomination that can keep track of them.
26 • FACTS & TRENDS
“At its heart, evangelicalism is more about a group of teachings than an institution,” says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. Still, researchers have determined three main methods to study evangelicals—self-identification, denominational affiliation, and belief. All three methods of evangelical identification have strengths and weaknesses, says McConnell. All three are trying to measure what religion researchers call the three “Bs”— belonging, behavior, and belief. And each offers a different picture of what evangelicals look like. “When you’re reading an article, book, or news report about evangelicals,” says McConnell, “it’s important to know which approach to identification was used.” Are you an evangelical? The most common approach—known as self-identification—is to ask people, “Do you consider yourself a born-again or evangelical Christian?” If they say yes, they’re counted as evangelicals. “It’s the easiest method—because it’s one question—and it’s fairly effective,” says McConnell. “We do see differences between Americans who are self-identified evangelicals and those who are not.” Pew Research, one of most influential research organizations in the United States, uses self-identification for many of its surveys. First, researchers ask several questions to sort Americans into distinct faith groups—Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, other non-Christian faiths, or nones (those with no religious affiliation). They also ask if respondents self-identify as evangelicals. But this approach has downsides, says
McConnell. For example, there are people who attend evangelical churches but don’t like the evangelical label and so they don’t call themselves evangelicals. Still, self-identification is useful. “It’s helpful to see if someone feels like they belong to a particular group of people,” McConnell says. “And it gives a hint that they identify with some of the teaching and behaviors that go along with that group’s label.”
At its heart, evangelicalism is more about a group of teachings than an institution.”
Where do you attend church? —Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research Researchers also use a set of guidelines—known as RELTRAD, short for “religious traditions”—to sort people by denomination. The General Social Survey (GSS) uses this method. So did Pew in its 2008 and 2014 Religious Landscape Surveys. The RELTRAD method is more complicated, says McConnell, because more questions are involved. First, Christians are divided primarily among Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians. Researchers then ask what denomination a person belongs to or what is the denomination of the church they most often attend. If people say they are Baptist, then researchers ask if they are Southern Baptist, National Baptist, Free Will Baptist, Missionary Baptist, etc. Individuals are then sorted into one of the three Protestant categories based on denomination and race: evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and black Protestants. This approach helps us understand Americans’ churchgoing behavior, says McConnell. The downside? In a time when denominational loyalty is down, it’s harder to know if everyone in a specific local denominational church shares all of that
FACTS & TRENDS • 27
EVANGELICALISM IN THE U.S. AMONG AMERICANS
15% Evangelical by belief Source: LifeWay Research
42% Self-identify as born-again or evangelical Christian Source: Gallup
24% Attend an evangelical Protestant church Source: GSS
denomination’s beliefs. “In every church, there are people who embrace the teaching of that church and denomination,” says McConnell. “And then there are people who buy into some of the teaching but not all of it.” The behavior approach—or identifying evangelicals by church attendance and denominational affiliation—can also miss self-identified evangelicals who attend churches not traditionally associated with an evangelical denomination. Still, in the big picture, this approach works well, says McConnell. There are fairly distinct differences in how people in the different streams of Protestantism—evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and black Protestants—respond to survey questions. Those groups respond differently from Catholics and Orthodox traditions as well. Those differences are helpful, says McConnell, in seeing how distinct Christian groups view social, ethical, theological, and practical questions. Researchers can also compare how Christian groups and non-Christians respond to different questions. “Some of the core characteristics shine through,” he says. What do you believe? In recent years, researchers have begun identifying evangelicals by their beliefs. For instance, Barna identifies evangelicals based on nine shared beliefs. In 2015, the National Association of Evangelicals and LifeWay Research developed a definition of evangelical belief based on the “Bebbington quadrilateral.” That framework looks at four key characteristics of what evangelicals believe—the centrality of Jesus’s death on the cross; a high regard for the Bible; the importance of conversion or new
28 • FACTS & TRENDS
birth; and a focus on actively sharing one’s faith. LifeWay and the NAE also consulted with a group of theologians and church leaders—and tested a series of questions before settling on a set of four core statements. Those who strongly agree with each of these statements are considered evangelical by belief: • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe. • It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin. • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation. Several studies using this new approach have found significant differences between self-identified evangelicals and evangelicals by belief. A LifeWay Research survey of adults in the U.S. found fewer than half of self-identified evangelicals qualify as evangelicals by belief. Evangelicals by belief are also more diverse than self-identified evangelicals. Fifty-eight percent of evangelicals by belief are white, 23 percent are African-American, and 14 percent are Hispanic. Five percent claim another ethnicity. By contrast, 70 percent of self-identified evangelicals are white. Fourteen percent are African-American. Twelve percent are Hispanic, and 4 percent claim another ethnicity. One of the challenges of using the evangelicals by belief model is that evangelicals don’t always agree on what they believe. However, this approach—combined
with others—sheds more light on the evangelical movement, says McConnell. “When we’re talking about religion, we care about theology,” says McConnell. “This is the only approach that directly measures such beliefs, allowing researchers to look at evangelicals from a different angle.” The question of race Perhaps the most complicated part of categorizing faith groups in the United States involves race. Specifically, how should researchers treat historically African-American churches and denominations? Because of segregation, African-American Protestants developed their own congregations, denominations, and networks. And this tradition—known as black Protestants— often views social, cultural, and religious questions differently from mainline or evangelical Protestants. African-American Christians who attend an evangelical church or identify as evangelical or born again may not be counted as evangelicals. For example, for years Gallup has asked people if they are born again or evangelical, but then counts only white respondents as evangelical. African-Americans are counted as black Protestants. The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) counts white Protestants who say they are born again or evangelical as white evangelicals. Protestants from minority groups are classified as black, Hispanic, or other Protestants. Under RELTRAD, Southern Baptists in general are considered evangelical. African-American Southern Baptists, however, are considered black Protestants—since they most likely attend a predominantly African-American church. This approach may have to be reworked
in the future as evangelicals—like the rest of America—become more diverse. “Like all Christians in the U.S., [self-identified] evangelical Protestants are experiencing a substantial racial and ethnic transformation,” PRRI points out in its survey methodology. “Young evangelical Protestants are far more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations. Only half (50 percent) of evangelical Protestants under the age of 30 are white, compared to more than three-quarters (77 percent) of evangelical Protestant seniors (age 65 or older). Twenty-two percent of young evangelical Protestants are black, 18 percent are Hispanic, and 9 percent identify as some other race or mixed race.” McConnell says for now, splitting Protestants into three categories—evangelical, mainline, and historically black—is still effective. Christians in each of those categories tend to hold distinct views on how to apply their faith to cultural issues—as well as to issues in the church. And there’s a long history of church divisions along denominational and racial lines. That has shaped how Christians in different groups practice their faith. “Our history still affects us,” he says. “Still, we may have to rethink these categories in the future.” As the debate over the word “evangelical” continues—with some Christians dropping the label completely—many wonder if the term can be saved. McConnell believes the theological meaning of “evangelical” still matters. “The word ‘evangelical’ comes from the Greek word for ‘good news,’” explains McConnell, “and the mission of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ isn’t going away.” BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.
FACTS & TRENDS • 29
Show me a story
How to bring the gospel to life while preaching
By jim burnett
Last year a giant camped out in my office for several weeks. He was an imposing fellow, standing 9½ feet tall. Who was he? Goliath—or at least a life-size Styrofoam version of the mighty Philistine warrior. The last two messages in a sermon series dealt with David taking down Goliath. I wanted people to see just how big Goliath was in comparison to David.
30 • FACTS & TRENDS
It’s one thing to read about someone 9 feet 6 inches tall. It’s another to see him towering above you. That figure helped drive home the story. Many biblical lessons can similarly be enhanced if we add the visual to the audial. Edgar Guest was right when he said, “The eye is a better pupil, more willing than the ear.” But even if we don’t have a physical illustration, we can use imagery in our teaching. That’s why I believe Jesus used parables to teach the gospel. He wanted to paint a picture in the mind of His hearers so they would remember the truth and be transformed by it. Jesus used creativity to teach and preach the gospel. Shouldn’t we do the same? Recently I preached a four-week series titled “Celebrating God’s Creativity Through the Arts.” Each Sunday a local artisan joined me on stage, highlighting a different discipline of art, such as pottery and painting. People are still talking about the spiritual lessons learned during the sermons as the artists plied their trades. Recognize creativity as a tool of application and transformation Creativity is from God. The very first verse of the Bible reminds us of this: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Being creative sometimes requires us to think outside the box or color outside the lines when we tell His story. Jesus taught imaginatively. In His parables, Jesus used fictional characters to speak to people in their context. His listeners responded in great numbers. Are you using creative and innovative methods in your teaching to help people grasp God’s unchanging truth in their changing context? Do you use screens so people not only hear a message but see it? How about sermon
props or displays to give extra insights with your preaching? Use the gifts and talents of your people Jesus often involved people as He taught and practiced the gospel. When teaching the powerful lesson that God is our ultimate provider, He used a little boy’s fish and bread and His dozen disciples to facilitate the miracle. He involved people. Of the four artisans I enlisted for the series, two were from our own congregation: a married couple with amazing proficiency in their disciplines. The wife was a potter and the husband a sculptor. Two other artisans from our community, a leather tanner and a well-known painter, also participated. As they demonstrated their skills, I preached and interacted with them to link spiritual truth. The Sunday I preached about how God conforms us to the likeness of His Son, the sculptor shaped the image of Christ out of a mound of clay. I reminded the congregation that God is at His bench molding, fashioning, and shaping something special into our lives. We are His clay, but Jesus is His model. Unpack your uniqueness Jesus used innovative ways to share the good news. Don’t be afraid to do the same. Employ the unique abilities God has given you in your ministry. Sometimes the only way to know if you have certain talents is to use them. Jesus used stories to cement the truth in His hearers’ minds. His parables were profound and continue to be used today. Whether you use sermon props, illustrations, stories, or other creative methods, just make sure you are delivering the message in a way that
connects with the congregation and comes from your own unique passions and abilities. Spread the Word through technology Here in our Mississippi county, more than 40,000 people aren’t connected to a church. We want to reach them—and creative use of technology can help. Recently a church member posed a challenge to our people: He wanted members to share our Facebook Live service from their smartphones. They agreed. Now, in addition to those in weekly attendance, 800 to 1,000 people view our services online. This technology does not cost us one cent. While worship by proxy is not a good practice, those who view the services and hear the message online may be prompted by the Holy Spirit to come and visit in person. In fact, we’re expecting them. We never want to change the truth of the gospel, but we also never want someone to fail to hear that truth because we’re communicating it the same way we always have. Get creative with your preaching and teaching, even if it means a giant man fills up your office for awhile. JIM BURNETT is pastor of Willow Pointe Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
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FACTS & TRENDS • 31
On-Site or Off-Site Groups Which model works best for your church? By Chris Surratt
We all know small groups and discipleship classes are an essential part of helping people experience community and grow in their faith. But churches often disagree about the best place for these groups to meet. Should churches host small groups or discipleship classes on-site at the church building? Or should groups meet off-site in people’s homes or other locations? There are pros and cons to each approach. A wise ministry leader will weigh the tradeoffs between the two and design a system that best fits the church’s context and vision.
32 • FACTS & TRENDS
On the other hand, there are several good reasons for hosting classes or groups off-site. There are several good reasons for groups to meet on-site. On-site groups promote easier assimilation. The thought of showing up at someone’s home for a group experience is daunting for many people, especially if they are new to the church and don’t have a relationship with the small group leaders. It’s much easier to step out of a church service and into a classroom for group time. On-site groups streamline child care. Concern about child care is one of the main barriers for families joining groups. It’s also a barrier for potential group leaders. Not every home has adequate space for child care. You automatically erase that barrier by providing groups that meet on-site during a church service with child care. On-site groups provide more consistency. Church leadership can better guide groups that meet on-site. Staff members or group coaches can visit a group to help a leader. Start and stop times are also more clearly defined. A group leader doesn’t have to worry about people sticking around for an hour or two after the group has officially ended. On-site groups simplify training. All of the leaders are in one place every Sunday, so providing information and ongoing training can be accomplished by asking them to come 30 minutes early, or stay 30 minutes after. It’s more difficult to find a convenient time for off-site leaders to gather in one location.
Off-site groups are easier to scale. There are only so many rooms in a church building, and the current trend is not to build educational space. Once those rooms are full at optimal times, there’s nowhere else to go. Small groups that meet off-site can be anywhere, including homes, apartments, break rooms, coffee shops, and clubhouses. Off-site groups promote more transparency. Because off-site groups are not restrained by hard time limits, there is more time for members to share their lives with one another. If a deeper conversation is needed after the official group time ends, it can continue in the kitchen. There’s no pressure from another class needing the room for the next hour. Off-site groups can have greater missional focus. The chances of an unchurched person or a nonbeliever attending an on-site group are low. Group members can more easily invite an unchurched neighbor to their homes for dinner with the small group. Also, an invitation preceded by a personal relationship is more likely to result in a member sticking with the group. Off-site groups foster deeper relationships. Sitting in someone’s living room invites conversations that would not necessarily take place in a classroom. Group members can get to know the leaders better by asking about pictures and mementos in the home. Kids are also naturally a part of the life of the group by just being present in the house during the meeting.
While there are several good reasons for hosting on-site or off-site discipleship groups, here’s another idea—provide both. Eddie Mosley, groups and assimilation pastor at LifePoint Church in Smyrna, Tennessee, says: “When considering on- or off-site groups, weigh the options. Do not eliminate one to start the other, but consider how you can utilize the advantages of both situations.” Ultimately, we are called to make disciples within biblical community. That transformation can take place in a multi-use classroom in the church building or in someone’s living room, but it needs to happen somewhere. CHRIS SURRATT (@ChrisSurratt) is a discipleship and small groups specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a ministry consultant and coach with more than 23 years of experience serving the local church.
FACTS & TRENDS • 33
Why men and women can—and must—work together By Faith Whatley
34 • FACTS & TRENDS
There’s a married woman somewhere out there having a one-on-one dinner out with a male friend—without telling her husband. Meanwhile, there’s a man who cc’s his wife on every email correspondence— even on work-related exchanges. This same guy refuses to ride alone in an elevator with any female colleagues. The first scenario is an example of harmful behavior; the other is an example of unnecessary behavior. It’s important—especially as seemingly more and more Christian leaders are caught in scandal—to make sure the right boundaries are in place to protect your marriage, your ministry, and your soul. But in doing so, it’s easy to put up so many boundaries you alienate yourself or stifle the giftedness and friendship of the opposite gender. After working with many men for many years at LifeWay, I know how being brothers and sisters in Christ is modeled. I have many “sacred siblings”—a term coined by Jen Wilkin. These brothers are men I have cried, laughed, and disagreed with while working together over a substantial amount of time. Particularly for those of us in ministry, we should act and react as if our co-workers of the opposite gender are our sacred siblings and treat them like the family of faith God intended. But I don’t think God intends for us to be only sacred siblings; I think He wants us to be friends. Ministry teams, church staffs, and Christian organizations can accomplish so much more if men and women have healthy friendships. It’s important for men to understand most women are not temptresses. And it’s important for women to understand
most men have good intentions. It’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to the news about our Christian leaders and overcorrect. Here are a few thoughts on striking the right balance between having appropriate boundaries and incorporating healthy work and ministry practices— and developing meaningful friendships. First, let’s address healthy work and ministry practices. Men •Ask her opinion. Many women, until they completely trust the room (especially with many men around the table), may not give their opinions. If you sense a female leader is being too quiet, stop and ask her view on the topic at hand. I’m sure she’ll have something to say that will add value. • Value her intuition. It could save you from making mistakes along the way. I’m not suggesting you should always take her lead on the decision, but her view will allow you to be more informed as you make the decision. • Understand her struggles. If a female on your team is married or has children, she’s trying to balance many things other than work. Women tend to be the ones who keep families connected and plan family gatherings, vacations, and milestone events. Single women do this as well with their extended families. • Treat her like the equal she is. Women do not respond well to men talking down to them, acting like they are children or helpless. Women • Keep your cool. I realize some women are more emotional than others. If you are on the more intense end of the spectrum, you need may need to practice your “game face.” Your overreaction can
FACTS & TRENDS • 35
We need to respect each other, but not fear one another. And the more we recognize that, the more we can accomplish in Christ’s church—together.” —Faith Whatley, director of Adult Ministries for LifeWay
be a stumbling block for resolution. But it’s important for all leaders to be calm, no matter their gender. • Be adaptable. When you continue to bring things up that have already been decided or something you didn’t necessarily agree with, it could lead to men disregarding your concerns in the future. • Value his view and his leadership. I have worked alongside hundreds of men in my 20-plus years at LifeWay, and I have learned something significant from each one. I look to them for leadership even if I have worked for them, served alongside them, or have supervised them. • Don’t embarrass him. As I have worked with men, if I don’t agree with the decision or their view, I ask them to “help me understand.” It makes the conversation less confrontational. Plus, I may not have all the facts regarding how the decision was made and this could help me see the bigger picture. Now that we’ve talked about work and ministry practices, it’s important to implement healthy friendship practices that respect boundaries while not stifling God’s good design for harmonious, co-ed community. • Do make sure your spouse has met or has a relationship with any team member of the opposite gender with whom you work closely. This helps your spouse connect the dots when you mention a person you work with.
36 • FACTS & TRENDS
• Don’t violate policies set for your church or ministry organization that protect you. At LifeWay, no man and woman can go to lunch together or travel together alone. This has been an important policy and one that—when I was younger—felt old-fashioned, but it has been God’s protection in many ways. • Do be careful when texting team members of the opposite gender. It’s important to finish sentences like “call me” or “are you here yet?” so nothing is questionable if a spouse sees the text. Instead say, “Call me, I need to talk to you about the X” or “If you are here, I need to talk to you about X.” Just finish the sentence so nothing could be misinterpreted. Church leaders aren’t used to having women at the leadership table, but it’s happening more often as time goes by. So it’s crucial for men and women to work well together. Not only this, but we also have a lot to learn from one another. Men often struggle to develop women as leaders, and women can have the same struggle when it comes to mentoring men. But it needs to happen. The bottom line is, a leader is a leader—whether male or female. Both are gifted. Both are called. Both bring amazing contributions to the body of Christ. We need to respect each other, but not fear one another. And the more we recognize that, the more we can accomplish in Christ’s church—together. FAITH WHATLEY is director of Adult Ministries for LifeWay Christian Resources.
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*Data taken from Barna Group, 2017. ** Data taken from MOPS International, 2017.
Sunday school Origins of the evangelistic movement point the way forward By AARON EARLS
Robert Raikes was like a lot of cause-oriented millennial evangelicals. As a writer, he stuck to impartial reporting instead of sensational “fake news.” He fought against inhumane prison conditions and founded a program to educate underprivileged children. But Raikes wasn’t a millennial. He was born in 1736, not 1986. He was, however, part of a generation of Christians who sought to live out their faith in the public square for the good of others. And part of those efforts included the founding of Sunday school.
Etching of Robert Raikes interceding for one of his scholars.
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Sunday school beginnings Visiting a friend outside his hometown of Gloucester, England, Raikes observed local children cursing, gambling, and fighting, according to Thomas Walters’ 1930 biography Robert Raikes, Founder of Sunday School. Horrified, he asked a local woman about it. She replied, “This is nothing [compared] to what goes on on Sundays. You’d be shocked indeed if you were here then.” The woman told Raikes people couldn’t even read the Bible in peace at church due to the chaos caused by the children. They worked at a factory every day of the week except Sunday. So on that day “they behaved in a most unrestrained way.” Raikes returned home determined to help children like those he saw. He was the publisher of a local paper, so his mind probably went quickly to literacy and education. At the time, education was primarily the realm of the middle class or higher, according to John Mark Yeats, associate professor of church history at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Many children of the poor worked horrible hours in factories during the week—often in excess of 12 hours a day,” says Yeats. “Those on the lower end of the economic spectrum often did not have
access to educational opportunities due to their overburdened work schedules, which kept them trapped in a cycle of poverty.” Walters writes that when Raikes opened his Sunday school in July 1780, he spent the next week inviting children from poor families to participate. Many objected that their children did not have proper clothes for school. Raikes responded that if the children’s clothing was fit for the streets, it was fit for them to come to his school. Those first school days began at 10 a.m. with teaching. The students were dismissed for lunch and came back around 1 p.m. After a reading lesson, they would go to a church service. That was followed by another round of classroom instruction until around 5:30 p.m. when they were sent home. After more than three years of Sunday school, Raikes published a small account of its successes in his newspaper, making no mention of his own involvement. Others had started similar programs in previous decades, but papers in London picked up Raikes’ story and the idea began to spread. Employers began to notice a change in the children’s behavior. “They have been transformed from the shape of wolves and tigers to that of men,” said one manufacturer. Other evangelical reformers—including several better known now for abolition efforts, such as Hannah More, William Wilberforce, and John Newton—began to join the Sunday school movement. “Some historians have posited that the Sunday school movement did more to empower the lower class than any other thing in the early 19th century,” says Yeats. What began as a small group with Raikes in 1780 grew to more than 200,000 students across England in only 20 years. By 1850, the number had climbed to 2 million. As education became more common, Sunday schools began to transition into a religious training program for all ages. “We see this happen rather quickly in the U.S.,” says Yeats.
When our Sunday schools become only training programs for devoted Christians to get more knowledge, they miss out on the very thing that made the initial foray into the project so worth it.” —John Mark Yeats, associate professor of church history at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
This transition continued until today when Sunday school is almost exclusively seen as a means to teach Christians more about the faith they’ve already come to embrace. To many, its evangelistic and social ministry origins remain unknown. But others continue the tradition of Raikes by using Sunday school to reach beyond the walls of the church to those in need around them. Modern movement What started as a service project for Sherrie Poirrier’s Sunday school class at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia, has grown into its own nonprofit organization to serve a mobile home park. Poirrier says her Sunday school group went one day to the park to give out free clothing, household items, furniture, and Bibles. After that day, Poirrier says her heart was broken for the people there. She immersed herself in a bread ministry already serving the mobile home park. Eventually, she became the leader of Living Bread Ministry and wanted to do more as she saw the overwhelming needs. “It’s right in our town and most don’t even realize it,” Poirrier says. “People are strangled by the bondage of drugs, domestic abuse, and alcohol.” Much like Raikes centuries earlier, Poirrier saw the needs and wanted to bring the gospel to bear
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on her community—and it started with helping to educate the children in the mobile home park. “We have a camper on one of the lots where we provide free tutoring to the children,” she explains. The ministry offers adult Bible studies on Saturdays and year-round family activities. Funded solely by donations, Living Bread Ministries helps those in the area with groceries, medical bills, clothing, car repairs, and school supplies. Ross Ramsey is doing a similar ministry to a local apartment complex with First Baptist Church in Allen, Texas. Volunteers from Sunday school classes come to a Saturday training and
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to think. to create. to lead.
then go into the neighborhood to help people and share the gospel. Ramsey says the outreach—driven by Sunday school—has resulted in an explosion in leaders, increased personal evangelism, members discovering their identity in Christ, and a more diverse congregation. “I have never seen anything like this that has gotten people from being passive in the pews to being ambassadors for Christ in the street,” Ramsey says. Sunday school is the perfect place to start an outreach ministry, he says, because that’s where a church’s labor pool is. “Our Sunday schools were full of people not doing anything, so that’s where I started.”
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That’s where Salem Evangelical Covenant Church in Oakland, Nebraska, started as well. The 50 people gathered each week would take up a Sunday school offering. It was barely enough to cover the costs of their children’s curriculum, says Kate Webster. Then she visited her niece’s church and got an idea. Salem Covenant took an old shoebox and “bedazzled it—just covered it with gemstones and ribbons,” she says. The church also decided to use the Sunday school offering to bless others. “One Sunday a month, we would give what was collected to a person or anything we thought could benefit from it.” The very first week of using the Sunday school offering for others, the church received more than three times what it had previously received in an entire year. The money was given to a local family in need. Since then the tiny church has given away tens of thousands of dollars—but Webster is clear this is about more than the money. “It’s about the love, the prayers, and support being shared with our community and even those beyond it,” she says. “It’s about teaching our kids—and adults—what’s important.” Those efforts are reminiscent of Raikes and the founding of Sunday school itself. Yeats says it’s what modern-day churches should keep in mind. “There are amazing ways to transform a community, if we can be attentive to societal needs, meet those needs, and ensure the gospel is communicated clearly.” To capture the heart of Sunday school’s origin and continue that into the 21st century, modern Sunday school programs must reach beyond their classroom walls, according to Yeats. “When our Sunday schools become only training programs for devoted Christians to get more knowledge,” he says, “they miss out on the very thing that made the initial foray into the project so worth it.” AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of FactsandTrends.net. Bob Smietana contributed to this article.
Above: Volunteers from Sunday school classes at First Baptist Church, Allen, Texas, go into the neighborhoods around the church to do ministry and share the gospel. PHOTOS PROVIDED BY JILL RAMSEY
FACTS & TRENDS • 41
Three reasons greeter ministries are still relevant in 2018
By Thom S. Rainer
You might be wondering if a greeter ministry is still relevant in 2018. Do we even need greeters any more?
It’s a fair question. Shouldn’t we expect everyone in the church to be friendly to guests? Why do we have to ask people to do what they should be doing anyway? Perhaps in an ideal world with an ideal organization with ideal people such an approach would work. But that’s not our world, and that’s not our church. We, therefore, greatly need greeter ministries for three reasons.
It’s a focused ministry Many of our members are already involved in other ministries. The leaders who are checking in and caring for children can’t go to the parking lot to greet people. The worship team that is making quick adjustments before the service begins can’t drop what they are doing and become greeters at the doors. The Sunday school or small groups teacher is waiting on other group members to arrive. He can’t leave the room and man the welcome center. We need people in ministry whose sole focus at the moment is greeting people. We need church members who understand greeters do more than
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merely saluting people upon arrival; we need them to be praying about the encounters they will have each week. For some, they will have a divine encounter with a guest. That man or woman or child who is visiting your church comes with expectations and needs. The first line of ministry takes place with greeters. Simply stated, the greeter ministry is too important to be a casual thought in church life. As I noted, I have been consulting with churches for over three decades. I see what an incredible difference a good greeter ministry makes. I know churches where the greeter ministry was used of God in
part to bring a true transformation and revitalization to the congregation. And I know people who were not followers of Christ who were greatly influenced toward the gospel by greeters. Our churches need greeters. Our congregations need to take seriously this ministry and make it a key part of the life of the church. It moves people to strategic locations Can you imagine walking into a restaurant to learn that the host or hostess is somewhere in the kitchen? Would you go looking for him or her if they weren’t there to greet you? A greeter is a leader in ministry. It is critical that these leaders are strategically located where they will make first and powerful connections with guests. When we have a good greeter ministry in our church, we know where every greeter will be. We know the specifics of every assignment. You see, without an organized greeter ministry, we are not likely to be where the guests are. We are not likely to see them when they arrive. It is not an overstatement to say the presence of greeters in strategic locations could very well have an eternal gospel impact on someone. It’s just that important. It commits volunteers to specific times A pastor once contacted me with a sense of desperation. He asked me to conduct a consultation for the specific purpose of determining why guests showed up late for the worship services. It was a consistent and troubling pattern. Children’s workers were frustrated because they were signing in children of guests late. The workers were not
It is not an overstatement to say the presence of greeters in strategic locations could very well have an eternal gospel impact on someone.” —Thom S. Rainer, President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources able to begin the lessons on time for the other children. Greeters also had their challenges. They wanted to be on duty when guests arrived, but many of the guests were late. They too had to wait before they were able to go to the worship services. The murmuring grew among the members as the pattern continued. So the pastor retained me for one of the most focused consultations I had experienced. “Please tell us,” he said, “what options we have about guests who arrive late.” My process was simple. I would be among the greeters. When a guest arrived late, I would ask three or four brief questions, including a non-threatening question about their late arrival. By Sunday afternoon, I had solved the mystery. The pastor thought I was a genius. His evaluation of me was overrated. In fact, I knew the answer as soon as I spoke with the first late arriving guest. She told me she was not late. Confused, I looked at the church’s website. The time of the service was incorrect! The church had its website re-done a few weeks earlier. In the process of revamping the site, the worship time was listed incorrectly by fifteen minutes. I have seen this mistake more than once. There are many lessons to this story, but let’s focus on one of them. All the workers in the church were waiting on
the guests, even to their own inconvenience. They wanted to be in the right place at the right time when guests arrived. Such is the encouragement I offered the pastor. Among the many reasons we have a greeter ministry is to welcome the guests at the specific time they arrive. We want our churches to be welcoming churches, but we can’t welcome people we miss. THOM S. RAINER (@ThomRainer) is President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. This article is excerpted with permission from Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom S. Rainer. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.
DIG DEEPER • Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom S. Rainer • We Want You Here by Thom S. Rainer Available at LifeWay Christian Stores and LifeWay.com.
43 • Facts & Trends FACTSANDTRENDS.NET FACTS & WINTER TRENDS 2016 • 43
HOT HANDS & COLD CHURCHES Christianity in the age of analytics By Aaron Earls
In 2018 sports, analytics is king. Minute pieces of data drive multi-billion-dollar decisions. But for the church, Jesus is King. And the Holy Spirit should guide eternal decisions. Can churches be data-driven and Spirit-led? Christian researchers and many pastors have discovered that data and research can play an important part in following the Spirit. Churches already are using data, often without realizing. If you know how many people attended your worship service last Sunday, you have a piece of data about your church. But as more data about communities and individuals becomes available, how do churches sift through piles of numbers to find the right information to help them make wise decisions? Getting hot Everyone knew basketball players could “get hot” and begin making more shots. The beloved classic arcade game NBA Jam even had the announcer yell, “He’s on fire!” after a player made three shots in a row. But then a 1985 sports analytics paper seemed to douse those flames. The initial research, “The Hot Hand in Basketball: On Misperception of Random Sequences,” claimed an NBA player’s perception of being “hot” did not predict a hit or miss on the next shot. In other words, the raw numbers said hitting a previous shot had no bearing on the likelihood of making the next one. However, thanks to advancements in data tracking, a 2014 study found NBA players who were shooting well often attempted more difficult shots and faced tougher defense. When accounting for those variables, the researchers found a “small yet significant hot-hand effect.” NBA Jam was right after all.
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Similarly, researchers say there may be things churches aren’t accounting for because they simply aren’t using all the available information. “I have seen churches celebrate the fact they have had 25 percent of people attend a church who have never attended before,” says Matt Engel, research fellow with Leadership Network. “But when they looked at the next step in the data—did those new attendees come back?—the answer was no.” Virtually every church tracks bodies, budgets, and baptisms. “The best next step,” says Eric Swanson, director of engagement and big data initiatives at Leadership Network, “is to begin combining different data points in order to get insights. How do giving, baptisms, and attendance compare from this time last year? Are trends going up, down, or are they flat?” In addition to tracking trends in their churches, leaders can evaluate their communities to better understand those they are trying to reach. “Pastors can learn so much more about the city and their people and then begin to act on that data to increase what is going well and decrease what is going bad,” says Swanson. Research helps church leaders understand the best strategy for fulfilling the Great Commission, according to Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “It’s less about if and more about how,” says McConnell. “Research can direct churches to the most effective means of reaching the people around them with the gospel.” Numerous free demographic research reports are available. Churches can use websites such as census.gov and city-data.com to explore the makeup of their city. Other websites, such as
TheARDA.com from the Association of Religion Data Archives, provide useful information about the spiritual demographics of American counties. Entities of denominations, such as the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, often have research available to churches upon request.
Research can direct churches to the most effective means of reaching the people around them with the gospel.”
Growing cold —Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research executive The idea of using data and research director strikes many pastors as antithetical to what Scripture teaches. Paul told the church at Corinth to “walk by faith, not by sight.” Is being informed by data the opposite of that? Paul commanded believers at Ephesus to “be filled by the Spirit.” Are we in danger of being filled with numbers, instead of the Spirit, if we evaluate research before making a decision? A broader look at the Bible gives us a different perspective. In some ways, our spiritual understanding can be an additional data point. Swanson points to Hebrews 11:27 saying Moses left Egypt “not being afraid of the king’s anger, for Moses persevered as one who sees him who is invisible.” Knowledge of God and His character allowed Moses to make what seemed to be a dangerous decision. Similarly, Caleb and Joshua accounted for God’s promise when they suggested the Israelites go into the Promised Land, while the others made their choices based on the size and strength of the inhabitants. For Swanson, one of the most applicable biblical examples is Nehemiah. When his brother and other men from Judah returned to the Babylonian city of Susa, Nehemiah asked them for two pieces of data: How are the people? And how is Jerusalem?
FACTSANDTRENDS.NET FACTS & & TRENDS TRENDS •• 45 FACTSANDTRENDS.NET FACTS 45
“The answers changed his life because he began acting upon the data he received,” says Swanson. “He let the data emotionally touch him.” This motivated Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem to do something about the information he was given. He spent the first half of the biblical book rebuilding the broken city and the second half rebuilding the broken people. “Nehemiah figured out a way for data to be actionable,” says Swanson. “The bottom line is pastors and Christian leaders should figure out what is most important to them, then figure out a way to measure it.” For Christopher Keefer and First Baptist Church of Poolville, Texas, what was most important to them was reaching their community. They found some data that opened their eyes to the needs around them—and opened doors for the gospel. Making the shot As a bivocational pastor and a public school teacher, Keefer could see the community around the church was changing, but the 140-year-old congregation didn’t quite grasp what was happening outside its walls.
DIG DEEPER •C hurch Toolkit at LifeWay Research: LifeWayResearch.com/toolkit/ • TheARDA.com
He says the church had ceased to reach out to its immediate community and needed to rediscover its mission field. So his first step was gathering data to show his church exactly what was happening. Keefer worked with his local Baptist association to get demographic data and develop a profile of those living within a two-mile radius of the church. Because of his teaching background, he knew how to obtain the Texas Education Agency’s report on Poolville Elementary School, directly across the street from the church. The church completed a survey to discover the needs of local people. He also partnered with the Percept Group, a ministry research firm, to produce a “ministry area profile” for his community. Members of the church had not come to grips with what was happening around them. “Before the research, they spoke of the community like nothing had happened,” Keefer says. “So many people mentioned how the community did things back in the 1950s and ’60s.” But the church members actually lived in neighboring cities, leaving a “doughnut hole” around the church building where only one member lived, according to Keefer. “This project and research turned their eyes back to the community they worship in,” he says. First Poolville realized a growing number of Hispanic families lived nearby. More than 6 in 10 students at the school were classified as “economically disadvantaged.” Parents often work in surrounding areas and don’t get home until well after dark, Keefer says. The data showed the need, but the church relied on the Holy Spirit to help understand how to meet that need. Keefer says the research was a “prompter” for the congregation, but it was the many hours of prayer and the unity within the church during the discussion
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and planning that demonstrated the Holy Spirit’s leading. The congregation of fewer than 30 people decided to start a weekly after-school program for kids. The physical needs of the children are met. They are fed, given more food for home, and provided with school supplies. The kids often make a craft to give as a gift to their parents or other family members. They also participate in a Bible study. In the small community, nine children have attended the church’s Kids’ Club. Five of those are new to the church, four of whom are unchurched. Research didn’t make that happen. But research gave Keefer and First Poolville the information needed to make a wise choice. Data-informed, but Spirit-led “Nothing in Scripture says we are to be irrational,” says McConnell, “or that we shouldn’t care about reality. Jesus knew about the reality around Him. He recognized the need and met it. That’s what research best enables us to do.” Still, the church leader must always be ready to “walk away from the rational to follow the Holy Spirit,” McConnell says. The Spirit’s leadership should always be the determining factor. “We don’t put our trust in surveys,” says McConnell, “but in our Savior.” For Christian researchers, it’s not about following the numbers at any cost. It’s about using data to make decisions— taking information into consideration, and then following the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The data-informed, Spirit-led congregation can have even more confidence than the basketball player who feels he can’t miss. That church might even be on fire. AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of FactsAndTrends.net.
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ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church
Books & Bible Studies
The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home RUSSELL MOORE (B&H)
Why do our families have so much power over us? In The Storm-Tossed Family, best-selling author Russell Moore points out whether you are married or single, whether you are childless or herding a quiver full of offspring, you are part of a family. Family is difficult because family— every family—is an echo of the gospel. Family can be the source of some of the most transcendent human joy, and family can leave us crumpled up on the side of the road. Family can make us who we are, and family can break our hearts. In his latest work, Moore, whose previous book Onward won Christianity Today’s 2016 Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year Award, addresses how family dynamics are able to shape various cultural perceptions and responses to societal situations.
Longing for Motherhood: Holding On to Hope in the Midst of Childlessness CHELSEA PATTERSON SOBOLIK (MOODY)
Childlessness remains a taboo topic in today’s culture, especially in Christian circles. Many women feel isolated, ashamed, or uncertain of how to reconcile this trial with a loving God. The death of the dream of motherhood— whether from infertility, barrenness, miscarriage, or the loss of a child—is one of the hardest journeys women can walk through. Chelsea Sobolik shares her own journey of childlessness and how she ultimately came to view her story through the lens of Scripture and our hope in Christ. She discusses the comfort we have in knowing the Lord is sovereign, and that His love is sufficient. Longing for Motherhood is a tender, truthful companion for a difficult journey, and an aid in ministry for those facing this challenge.
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Letters to an American Christian BRUCE RILEY ASHFORD (B&H)
What does it mean to be an American Christian? In Letters to an American Christian, Bruce Ashford, author of One Nation Under God, addresses overarching issues of the relationship between Christianity and politics, speaks to the way historic Christian belief informs specific political issues, and challenges readers to take seriously both our heavenly and earthly citizenships. In the midst of a rapidly changing national and political landscape, Ashford, professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, reminds us of two important truths: we can’t afford to shrink away from our earthly citizenship, and we can’t afford to lose sight of our heavenly citizenship.
These and other resources are available at LifeWay Christian Stores and LifeWay.com.
The Marriage Challenge: A Finance Guide for Married Couples
Mere Hope: Life in an Age of Cynicism
ART RAINER (B&H)
JASON G. DUESING (B&H)
God has a plan for your marriage and your money. It starts with a challenge. Will you accept? For many couples, the collision of marriage and money is the beginning of relational havoc. But does it have to be this way? What if the collision of marriage and money no longer tore couples apart but brought them together? What if money were no longer a topic to argue about but a topic around which couples rallied? What if the collision of marriage and money actually helped couples find contentment and purpose? In The Marriage Challenge: A Finance Guide for Married Couples, financial expert and author of The Money Challenge Art Rainer takes you on a journey to a financially healthy marriage. Get started on the right foot, or get back on the right track, by accepting the challenge and realizing God’s design for money and marriage.
How are Christians to live in such difficult times? Uniquely among all people, Christians are called to embrace a hopeful outlook. Mere Hope, from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Jason G. Duesing, offers the Christ-centered perspective that Christians share, and that Christians alone have to offer a world filled with frustration, pain, and disappointment. For those in the midst of trials, suffering, and injustice, mere hope lives. The spirit of the age is cynicism. When our leaders, our families, and our friends let us down at every turn, this isn’t surprising. But we need another perspective; we need hope. Rather than reflecting despair or indifference, Duesing, author of Seven Summits in Church History, argues our lives ought to be shaped by the gospel of Jesus—a gospel of hope.
Worship Essentials: Growing a Healthy Worship Ministry Without Starting a War MIKE HARLAND (B&H)
Everybody talks about the worship, but nobody does anything about it. The well-known quote associated with Mark Twain actually goes like this—“Everybody talks about the weather...” But changing it to “worship” seems appropriate. With Worship Essentials, Dove Award-winning worship leader Mike Harland helps leaders do something about it. Perhaps no subject about church generates more opinion and passion than worship music. Harland, a veteran worship leader and ministry coach, offers the tools worship leaders need to build biblically faithful and effective worship ministries without bringing the disruption that often accompanies change. Psalm 67:5 reads, “Let the peoples praise you, God, let all the peoples praise you.” Worship Essentials is here to help.
FACTSANDTRENDS.NET FACTS & TRENDS • 49
ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church
Books & Bible Studies
The Vines Expository Bible: A Guided Journey Through the Scriptures with Pastor Jerry Vines GENERAL EDITOR: JERRY VINES (THOMAS NELSON)
The Vines Expository Bible offers scriptural truth alongside guided explanations from influential preacher Jerry Vines. With biblical exposition and practical teaching culled from years of faithful ministry, Vines presents helpful insights from God’s Word in the warm, pastoral manner for which he is known. Features include: • 200 “Presenting the Message” detailed outlines from Jerry Vines’ sermon archive • 100 “Living the Message” articles with illustrations for living the Christian life • 200 “Applying the Message” notes that help you see the relevance of Scriptures for your walk with Christ • 300 “Discerning the Meaning” word studies that illuminate the meaning of key words in Scripture
James: Faith/Works MATT CHANDLER (LIFEWAY)
The Book of James is filled with practical wisdom for Christians, calling us to live out genuine faith through good works. This new Bible study from well-known pastor Matt Chandler reminds us that in our own ability, we cannot stand in the face of adversity. Without faith we could never find the strength to trust God. We would never be able to see above the trials we meet and keep our eyes focused on the King while counting our trials as joy. This is the essence of James. We don’t work to be saved; we work because we are saved. The 13 sessions, which feature videos with Chandler, help participants better apply James’ practical teaching, including dealing with adversity, extending mercy to others, using our words for good, fighting against the desires at war within us, and recognizing the importance of prayer.
50 • FACTS & TRENDS
ColorFull: Celebrating the Colors God Gave Us DORENA WILLIAMSON (B&H)
Teaching our children to be “colorblind” is not truthful or helpful because it minimizes the gift of sight and God’s glorious work. Children need an accurate vision that teaches His artistry in creating all people with beautiful color. Everything God made is good, because He said so. A short walk through Genesis 1-2 displays God’s intentionality in creation bursting with vibrant colors. In ColorFull, author Dorena Williamson tells the story of best friends Imani and Kayla, who are learning to celebrate their different skin colors. As they look around them at the amazing colors in nature, they can see their skin as another example of God’s creativity. This joyful story takes a new approach to discussing race: instead of being colorblind, we can choose to celebrate each color God gave us and be colorFULL.
A Look Inside The Gospel Project launches new discipleship tools for small groups and families by Joy Allmond
ince its inception in 2012, The Gospel Project has been used by more than a million adults, teens, and children. And that’s just been in Sunday school. Now, two new Gospel Project resources make it easier for families and small groups to engage in discussion with a clear understanding of how each text fits into the storyline of Scripture. Gospel Foundations and The Gospel Project for Kids: Home Edition are available for preorder from LifeWay. As many congregations have adopted a home-based small group model, Gospel Foundations was created to meet the needs of churches’ discipleship efforts outside the walls of the church building. Home Edition is to help families— whether they home-school or engage in traditional education—supplement biblical education and child discipleship. “We are grateful to see how The Gospel Project curriculum has been embraced by the church so far,” says Michael Kelley, groups ministry director for LifeWay. “These new offerings will help people in small groups in living rooms and families around the dinner table see more clearly the beauty of the gospel story.” Gospel Foundations is a 42-session resource that helps churches walk people through the story of Scripture and see how it all points to Christ—while allowing for a few weeks’ break—and still complete it in a year. Home Edition was born out of a conviction that parents are the primary disciplers of their children and that the church is called to partner with them.
“We’ve had so many parents who home-school asking for a resource they can use,” says Brian Dembowczyk, managing editor of The Gospel Project. “And we are glad to be able to address that need with this resource. But we’re also excited to give parents a way to disciple their kids in the home.” The LifeWay Kids team has already built has six semesters’ worth of materials. Two 18-session volumes per year are scheduled to be released over the next three years. Each Gospel Foundations and Home Edition lesson includes a compelling, visual-heavy video component—a creative departure from the traditional teaching videos or sermon excerpts. “Our heart has always been to help churches and families encounter Jesus through His Word and then live according to the Great Commission,” says Trevin Wax, Bible publisher with B&H Publishing Group, who helped launch The Gospel Project in 2012. “These new resources are designed to aid churches and families in spiritual growth, evangelism and discipleship. We want people to be immersed in God’s
Word, captivated by the missionary heart of God, and passionate to see more people come to faith in Christ. I can’t wait to see how the Lord uses these resources in the lives of His people.” JOY ALLMOND (@joyallmond) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.
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Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing info...
Published on Jun 29, 2018
Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing info...