The Foundation of the Church – 1 Corinthians 3:11
The Builder of the Church – Matthew 16:18
The Cornerstone of the Church – 1 Peter 2:6
The Head of the Church – Ephesians 1:22
The One Who Grows the Church – 1 Corinthians 3:7
Does your church promotion, worship gatherings, events include and point people to Jesus? or just to your brand?
Are you, Pastor / Planter, communicated as the foundation, builder, head, key component, grower of the church? or have you led people to see Jesus as the essential key?
Do you carry the weight of the church on your shoulders, when Jesus clearly has taken that weight upon himself?
Do you trust Jesus with the growth of your church, listening to Him for guidance and direction for the future of your church?
A little update from my day job….
Louisiana Baptists Church Planting Advisory Council Meeting was held yesterday. The Council heard reports on New Churches across Louisiana, Church Planting Training, Compassion Ministry, and State Missions Offering allocations for Church Planting. Here’s a synopsis:
- 86% to our goal of 300 new churches from 2010 to 2020.
- 33 projected church plants for 2020. Two churches started in January. Six new churches in process for February.
- 57% of new churches started since 2010 have been non-anglo. 82 African-American, 35 Hispanic, 12 Asian, 18 Other.
- In the pipeline for 2020 – 8 new Hispanic churches, 2 Portugese, 2 Asian (Burmese and Cambodian).
- 64 churches started in North Louisiana (25%);193 in South Louisiana (75%), including 70 new churches in New Orleans or 27%.
- 3,749 Baptisms in church plants and replants since 2010 – 14.5 per church plant. (includes first 3 years of ministry)
- 13,977 Commitments to Christ reported by new churches since 2010 – 54 per church plant. (includes first 3 years of ministry)
- Because of the generous giving of Louisiana Baptist Churches to the Georgia Barnette State Mission Offeringin 2019, we were able to increase supplements to church plants and replants by over $10,000 per plant and give each current church plant in Louisiana a bonus at the end of 2019.
Pray for Louisiana Church Planters who are on the front lines of reaching people and meeting needs in our state.
Lake Charles is projected to be one of the fastest growing communities in Louisiana for years to come. Oil and gas and chemical manufacturing are booming and have only slowed down slightly with drops in oil prices. Carey Baptist Association and Director of Missions Bruce Baker serve this area, representing Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jefferson Davis Parishes. Planters and partners are needed to reach a growing population and a key area for our state for years to come. Check out some data on this area:
- Population of Carey Baptist Association: 241,662 (up 3% since 2010). Calcasieu, Jefferson Davis, and Cameron Parishes.
- Worship Attendance in 72 SBC churches: 9,128 Only 3.8% of the population worshipped in a SBC church on any given weekend in 2018.
- Bible Study Attendance: 5,227 (down 20% since 2010). Only 2.2% of the population attended Bible Study in an SBC church on any given weekend in 2018.
- 72 SBC churches for a church to population ration of 1 to 3,356 residents. Our state average & our goal for each association is 1 to 2,850. NAMB suggests 1 to 2,000 as a good mark. 12 new churches would be needed to get to 1 to 2,850 in the Lake Charles area.
- 57 SBC churches in Calcasieu Parish for 1 to 3,563. 10 churches in Jefferson Davis Parish for 1 to 3,158.
- Only 10 non-Anglo SBC churches for 1 to 6,714 church to non-anglo population.
- Evangelical Population: 59,161 or 24% of the population.
- Those with No Religious Affiliation or None’s: 65,878 or 27% of the population. So there are now more None’s than Evangelicals.
- Roman Catholic Population: 83,950 or 35% of the population.
- Mainline Protestant: 11,157 or 5% of the population.
- 7,302 students currently attend McNeese St. University.
- 63% of Carey Association churches are under 100 in attendance. 38% under 50 in attendance.
- 28% of Carey Association churches with zero baptisms in 2018.
- Projected Job Growth is 2.5% in 2020 and 3.1% in 2021.
Pray for planters and partners.
Ever thought about taking your churches Kids Ministry to the streets? I think we should. Most children’s ministry is focused on reaching/teaching/discipling kids that show up at my church on the weekends or midweek. Some of the questionable outcomes of this:
- Are we teaching kids that church is all about them and most importantly, about them having fun, falling just short of disciple-making?
- In wanting to grow our churches, are we talking about kids as only hooks to get their parents “butts in the seats” (to quote Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act)? “If the kids have fun, the parents will come back” ~ church growth quip.
- Children’s facilities can cost mega bucks. No matter how hard we try, we CAN’T out Disney, Disney.
- Are we cutting the rug out from under parental responsibility for discipling kids as they become more and more dependent upon the “professionals” down at the church?
AND the big one: WHAT ABOUT THE MAJORITY KIDS THAT ARE NOT COMING TO THE FULL COLOR KIDS MINISTRY EVENTS AT OUR CHURCH EVERY WEEK?
In my region of 345,000 people, demographic reports show that around 21% of the population is age 14 or below. That’s around 69,000 kids!!!! In my denomination, which is one of largest in the region with 11,500 worshipers on any given Sunday, approximately 18% of that number are children under 14. Meaning on any given week only 2,500 or so kids are attending. Which is only about 4% of the population in the 14 and under age bracket. We average about 7,000 each year for Vacation Bible School, which is a 1-week, 4-hour overdose of Sunday’s Kids Ministry. That gets us to 10%. Add the other evangelical groups to the mix and best figures, after consulting with other church leaders, give us a number of 4,500 kids in an evangelical church each Sunday for faith and fun. That’s only 7% of the kids in our community. And many of these kids are growing up with absolutely no or very little Gospel story or Christian witness in their lives. Are we losing a generation as we strategize on how to improve our children’s facilities? and preach loudly about God being taken out of schools? and continue to think of kids ministry as a facilities focused ministry? and considering the # of kids that need to be reached, can we even build a big enough facility to do what’s needed?)
A New Vision for Kids Ministry
What if we began to consider the 93% in our Kids Ministry strategy? Not neglecting the 7%, providing faith and fun on Sunday’s as we are, but also thinking of new ways to get God’s story into the lives of kids in our community. When you think of it like this you’ll realize there are more opportunities then you might imagine. Here’s a few ideas:
- Encourage your congregation to get involved in schools on their terms, not yours. There are a variety of mentoring, tutoring, encouraging opportunities that will equal relationships with unchurched families in the community and opportunities to invest in kids. Our church recently provided free popcorn for an area schools open house and met several families in need.
- Partner with local kids organizations that are serving children and asking (if not begging) for volunteers. In my community, there’s the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, local multi-housing complexes, private schools. And we’ve found many of them are open to you sharing THE story as part of your work.
- Get involved in local recreation and sports leagues by encouraging adults to get involved in coaching kids. Volunteer coaches are usually desperately needed, especially in inner cities. Provide some training on how to be a character building influence on kids and keep relationships going. These opportunities can lead to lifelong relationships of encouragement and mentoring between a child and an adult, who will forever be know as “Coach” to the kid.
- Multiply what you do on-site, off-site. You’ve made great backdrops and costumes, produced cool videos and posters, you’ve bought expensive curriculum, and prepared awesome crafts. And you’ve trained volunteers who are loving it. Why not look for an avenue to multiply that in the community? Do the VBS at a local multi-housing complex or another church that would not be able to do it for the kids in their neighborhood. Do a one day kids ministry event at a local park or multi-housing complex utilizing all the stuff you’ve done over the past few months. One church in our state, extends their VBS every Summer to a private daycare with over 200 kids, multiplying their efforts to reach more kids.
- Local Festivals provide opportunities to show kids and families that faith is fun by providing some of the crafts or games or other elements you do each week. This is a great way also to build trust with community leaders and parents. And you can say, “if you like what we do here, you’ll love our Kids ministry at ______ Church on Sunday.” Our local associations have Block Party Trailers with many of the supplies you’ll need for this type of outreach.
- Get the Kids involved. Instead of seeing them as hooks to get more “butts in the seats.” See them as missionaries who can invest in their friends and demonstrate that faith is fun and meaningful in the community. Teach kids that it’s important to serve and that faith is not just about them but others, by taking them on a local mission trip to the park or festival or multi-housing complex for Kids Ministry Day.
- Start or get involved in a mentoring program for children without dads, grandparents raising grandchildren, foster children, etc.
- Instead of VBS. I heard of one church that instead of VBS they encouraged neighborhood Bible Clubs during the summer and trained and empowered people to reach the kids and families around them, utilizing the same curriculum sets and production quality, but in yards and subdivision common space all around the city.
- Other ideas?
We’ve reached a point where we can’t keep preaching about culture decay, how God has been kicked out of schools, and bad parenting. We’ve got to get involved. The doors are open in our communities. It won’t be easy, but salt is no good left in the salt-shaker.
How could your church take kids ministry to the streets?
Challenging words from Nik Ripken in his latest book The Insanity of Sacrifice:
“Safety is not one of God’s core values.”
- Do we share our faith as long as it is safe?
- Do we send mission teams as long as it is safe?
- Do we witness to our neighbors as long as it is safe?
- Do we make financial decisions as individuals and churches based on how safe those decisions are?
As one who leads others and values mobilization of others into missions, safety is too often a top shelf concern of mine. Great reminder that safety is relative to God and not a top shelf concern for the Almighty, nor should it be for His people.
Ripken argues that danger IS and SHOULD BE a part of the life of the faith filled follower. How tied is your faith to safety? Have you said no to an opportunity or a side of town because of the idol and illusion of safety? Is your faith in God lived out only in safe, comfortable environments where you’re never challenged, never have to sacrifice, never have to stress over the needs of others? Maybe it’s time for us to embrace the tension of discomfort and put more faith in God’s power.
More great quotes from Ripken:
- “Clearly, there is a sense in which the danger of our lives increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with Christ… the closer we are to Jesus… the more danger we will face in our lives.”
- “faithfulness to the commands of God holds more value than safety every time! The people of God are called to faithful response whether it is safe or not. If we are faithful, we will go and we will send and we will share and we will speak and we will give and we will pray… even when it is not safe.”
- “It will probably be safer for you to not share your faith with your neighbor. It will be safer for your church to not send out mission teams. It will be safer for you to not get on that plane. It will be safer to not let the world get under your skin. It will be safer to gather for worship each Sunday and simply go through the motions. It will be safer to keep financial resources close to home.”
- “God’s people value faithfulness and obedience. And we consider it a holy privilege to do exactly what God has called us to do… even if it is not safe.“
Lord, set us free from the idol and the illusion of safety.
Check out Nik Ripken’s great new 90 Day devotional called The Insanity of Sacrifice.
What does Jesus want for me this year?
Jesus has actually already decided what He wants for us in the new year. We could answer that question with so many great promises from Christ – Abundant life, Joy, Fruitfulness, Eternal life and so much more. As I think about that question, three words stick out to me: BELIEVE – FOLLOW – DISCIPLE.
Jesus wants us to believe him for big things. When asked what the work he wanted us to do was, Jesus replied – Believe! (John 6:29) That’s it. Jesus wants us to believe. The promises he gives for belief range from joy to supernatural power. It’s believing in, trusting in, and staying connected to Jesus that fuels everything in the Christian life. The older I get the more I understand why Jesus talked so much about believing. It’s hard. To believe, we fight doubt, fear, negative thoughts, doubters, fearmongers, critics, and more. What do you need to believe Jesus for this year? Salvation, Provision, Power, Overcoming Doubt and Fear? Make this year a year of BELIEF.
What did Jesus call people to do? Simply to Follow Him (Matthew 4:19). To follow someone means to make them the leader on the highway of life. You’re following their lead, listening to their instructions, and taking your cues in life from them. For us, that would include starting everyday with a commitment to follow Him, denying ourselves and putting the will of Jesus and the needs of others first, committing to listen to God through regularly reading His Word – the Bible, asking him for direction and wisdom for the journey through prayer. We are all following something or someone. We have the opportunity and invitation to follow Jesus. Make this year a year to FOLLOW.
What did Jesus command? Go and Make Disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). What does Jesus want from my life? from my church? He wants Disciples. Disciple, the verb, means to teach and train others. So the command to go and make disciples is to draw others in and teach them to believe and follow Jesus. Most Christians probably see this as the job of the pastors, but it’s a command and desire of Jesus for all his people. And what if every believer and follower of Jesus, discipled one other person this year? The impact of obeying this desire and call of Jesus would be immediately felt in our time. Two questions for the New Year: Who are you discipling? and who is discipling you? We all need to be learning from those ahead of us in the journey and we need to be passing on the faith to someone behind us in the journey. Make this year a year to DISCIPLE.
Dave Travis and Leadership Network have given us a great, short look into the future of church in North America with the book What’s Next: 2020 Edition. Many have sensed that the future may require some adjustments and new thinking about some of the methods we have relied on. Churches are either digging in, hanging on for survival, or making adjustments to meet the future. The short book What’s Next: 2020 is a good short primer that will help church leaders adjust thinking for the future. It would be great to go through as church staff or to give to key leaders in your church as you think about the next 10 years.
Most of the book is confirmation of things we’ve heard over the last few years:
- Reaching Millennials is both a must and a huge challenge.
- Tax breaks and incentives for churches and parishioners will probably go away in the future.
- Church buildings will get smaller and less traditional.
- The church must embrace multi-ethnic ministry in the future.
There are a few surprises in the book. Here’s a few takeaways from my Kindle Highlights:
- In 2019, Millenials will overtake Boomers as the largest generation group.
- Almost one in three Americans is Millenial.
- 45% of Millenials are non-white, making them the most racially diverse generation. 20% of Millenials are Latino, 14% Black, 6% Asian.
- Millenials have a stronger desire to excel at Parenting than any generation before. And kids come first in priority for this generation more than ever before. (Think Helicopter Parenting).
- Millenials are delaying, but not rejecting marriage. 57% are unmarried, compared to 43% of Gen X’ers.
- Millenials have the highest percentage of households in poverty. The are also more likely to rent their homes. And they are less likely to migrate or move than previous generations.
- They are more educated, at least have more degrees than previous generations.
- Millenials are underrepresented in even the most thriving, fast growing churches in America.
- Travis notes several things that are working in efforts to reach millenials. I’ll affirm one here, that we definitely see in Louisiana – Churches planted by and led by millenials tend to reach more millenials.
On Decline of Christianity in America:
- Nominal Christianity is dying. Faithful Christians are still faithful to attend, pray, serve their neighbors, and accept the Bible as wholly true, and in the same numbers as prior generation.
On Outreach and Evangelism:
- Travis notes the opportunity to reach people with technology, giving great examples of churches who have effectively used tech for evangelism and outreach.
- Family ministry is on the upswing. We have the opportunity to help people get married and help young parents pursue effective parenting. “young people today may be confident about many things, but not about the daunting task of raising a child.”
- The role of Groups in reaching people. Travis asserts that radical hospitality becoming a core value will help us reach the future generations. The longing in today’s culture is for social connections. Groups and gatherings in homes provide that necessary element like few other things.
- “We have to be willing to be radical in extending ourselves, our homes, and our group life to those who don’t yet believe and may never believe or walk with Jesus. This can feel disruptive in a group. But those who can handle the tension will yield kingdom fruit.”
- Travis discusses in detail the role of media, Youtube, AI, Instragram in outreach and church ministry in the future. “We need to be thinking visually all the time, because that’s how people are reached emotionally today.”
On Church buildings:
- “Build it and they will come” is giving way to “take your show on the road.”
- We will see less 3,500 seat auditoriums and more 800-1200 multipurpose buildings.
- There are now and estimated 65,000 multi-site congregations in North America, with over one third of them beginning as the result of a merger.
- Growing churches are becoming more multiplication minded, thinking about a second and third site out of the gate.
- “healthy, vital churches should be multiplying, because that’s what creates a future for our beliefs, and hope for those whom we’ve yet to reach for Christ.”
On Tax Issues for Churches:
- Travis sees the future being dire for Property Tax Exemptions, Gifts from attenders to churches not being taxed as income or being tax-deductible for the giver, and Pastor’s Housing Allowance Tax Breaks.
- Implications: Church Building construction will be affected. Buildings will become smaller and less noticable. We’ll see more shared facility arrangements with churches and business and churches and non-profits.
- A Huge Implication: Churches must adjust to the non-tax incentive for givers by teaching attenders the eternal value of true stewardship beyond tax implications. The question I’ve asked: Will lukewarm people give without an earthly incentive? We will definitely find out in the future.
There is much more in this short book that will make for meaningful conversation among church leaders and staffs. Put it on your reading list for early this year.
What do you think will change over the next decade? How do you think these issues will affect your church in the future? Are you thinking differently about church than you were in 2009-2010?
One of the best tools I’ve discovered for scripture memory sense the Topical Memory System, has been the Bible Memory App. I have loved this App. It has helped me memorize over 1,000 verses in the last year and a half. It also has helped me diminish the amount of time spent on Social Media, giving me something with eternal impact to do in spare moments, besides scrolling news feeds. I’ve wrote about it HERE and HERE.
How to get started with the Bible Memory App:
- Download the App, open and account, find the Verse Library and start with the Group of Verses called “Verses for Children.” About 20 verses that are short, familiar, foundational.
- After that, move to the Group “Top 100 Verses.” Another great group of verses that are short, familiar, foundational.
- After that, pick another verse library category that speaks to where you are in life. Or, you can search for a group that you would like to connect with. I started with the Topical Memory System Group, because those verses were familiar to me. Right now, I have a group that is trying to memorize every YouVersion.com “Verse of the Day.” Find the group HERE. Will be starting a 2020 “Verse of the Day” group next week.
- Put together a group with your Small Group, family, accountability partner, or for your church.
I have loved this app. It has worked well for me. Check it out. Every moment spent memorizing scripture makes an eternal impact – “the word of the Lord endures forever” 1 Peter 1:25.
Anonymous questions sent in by the wives of pastors reveals the depth of pain, loneliness, and uncertainty that they often endure. At our recent Louisiana Ministers Wives Retreat, a panel sought to answer these and other anonymous questions. The name of the Session was “The Joy, the Questions, and the Tears”:
- How do I continue to show love to people who openly disrespect and criticize my husband?
- How do I deal with the anxiety of always worrying about what my husband may say, not say, do or not do?
- How do I address the many different opinions of what is expected of me as a pastors wife?
- How do I know who might be a “safe” friend for me in my church?
- What can I do to find peace as a pastor’s wife?
- How do I live with my church’s expectations of my children?
- How do I address my troubled / rebellious child’s issues with my high expectation church?
Pastors wives are often stand between the flawed, struggling person that is her husband and the flawed, sheep like people that he desperately wants to lead well. She sees his desperation and wants to help him. She sees their demands and wants to protect him. She wants them to know how special he is. She wants to be herself and feel safe among friends as her husband grows, her children struggle, her pain needs an outlet, and the lost need her savior. I’m grateful for my wife who has walked this narrow road with me. She give me great strength in the vulnerable moments of this dangerous calling. Praying for other Minister’s Wives as they walk this narrow path with the God-called men in their lives.