Friday, April 27, 2007

Comeback Churches, How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can Too


Next Tuesday, May 1, B & H Publishing Group will release a new book from Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson called Comeback Churches.

I haven't been as excited about a new book since Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger's Simple Church.

Thom, Ed, and a team of researchers surveyed 300 churches from across ten different denominations that recently achieved healthy evangelistic growth after a significant season of decline. What they have discovered is an exciting method of congregation reinvigoration.

I've posted a 29-page sample in the Pastors Area of LifeWay.com. I hope you will take the time to read it and then order the book.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Value of a Listening Ear

Listening is a valuable commodity. A good example is 20-year-old Ryan Fitzgerald. According to abcnews.com, Ryan got 5,000 calls after posting a video on YouTube saying he was available to listen to anyone who wanted to call him. You can read the story here...

If you would like to improve your listening skills I have an excellent article posted in the "Pastors as Shepherd" section of our site called 10 Tips for Good Listening Skills. It's by Richard Dodge. This would be a good investment of your time today.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Tongues, Demons, & Healing

Dr. Jimmy Draper is the former President of LifeWay. He wrote a series of articles on doctrinal issues that appeared last week on BPNews.net. Here are the articles that have been posted so far...

Barna says we are missing the point on the Virginia Tech tragedy


(Ventura, CA) - Researcher and bestselling author George Barna says the current public debate about the implications of the Virginia Tech tragedy is missing the point.

"The animated conversations about gun control, campus security, counseling standards, campus communications, drug abuse and mental health funding do not address the core issue raised by this event. This situation is not primarily a challenge to politicians, educators or police. It’s a dramatic wake-up call to parents."

Barna indicated that he was sympathetic toward the parents of the college student who murdered 31 classmates and faculty before taking his own life. But he also stated that it sometimes takes a crisis to focus attention on important issues that a society must address.

Read the rest of his article at Barna.org

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre, Resources for Church Leaders


I've struggled this week with how to help you all as you minister to your church family in light of the terrible tragedy that has hit our nation. I've pulled together articles, worship readings, prayer guides, and images you may use to help your church family deal with the tragic events and mobilize prayer support and other support that God may lead you to.
Virginia Tech Massacre, Resources for Church Leaders

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Baptist Collegiate Minister Prayer Request

This is a prayer request from the campus minister at Virginia Tech. Join me in lifting up these concerns before God...

We have been overwhelmed by the support and prayers of our campus ministry family around the nation. Thank you for the emails, calls, and prayers. We obviously can’t respond to them all right now, but know that they have been a huge encouragement. We are doing all we can here to help students walk through the first steps of grief. Here are some prayer requests…

  • Pray for the students as names are released today and the reality of connections and relationships bring the grief to another level.
  • Pray for the family of Brian, a grad student in our ministry who was killed yesterday. Pray for our alumni and students that were close to Brian as well.
  • Praise for a gathering of 300 plus students here last night to pray and begin to walk through the grief process.
  • Pray for wisdom for our staff (Laura, Mark, Leah, Susan) and student leaders in all the opportunities that will come through relationships on campus this week.
Again, thank you, thank you so much for all the prayers and encouragement.

Blessings,
Darrell Cook
BCM at Virginia Tech

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Help for Recognizing Your Graduates


I spent most of the morning updating resources to help pastors or other church leaders honor graduates. You can find the links here Graduation Recognition and Mother's Day Resources.
I updated the following:
  • I had fun updating the sermon with information from 1989 (the year most 2007 high-school graduates were born).
  • I updated power point graphics.
  • I created a new PowerPoint presentation.
There is also excellent Mother's Day resources there (including 10 sermons). But I have not added to or updated these yet.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Church Switchers article says they leave for a different type of church

According to a new article from LifeWay Research relating to their "Church Shifter" research, they say that, "Church switchers often choose a new church that is different in several ways from their previous church."

The article discusses findings related to Worship style, Church size, Denomination change, Preaching, and Involvement.

The topic that caught my attention was Preaching. I remember visiting a couple that had stopped attending the first church I pastored. Their reason was that my preaching was not strong enough. Even though it was 20 years ago, I still get a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about it. I was devastated.

The great thing, is that with God's help, we can do something about this. Look at what they found in their research about preaching.
Twice as many church switchers typically consider the preaching at their current church to be relevant, interesting, understandable, and challenging compared to their previous church.

Ninety-one percent say the preaching is relevant; only 44 percent found the preaching relevant at their previous church. Similarly, 91 percent say at their current church, the preacher holds their attention; only 37 percent were this interested at their previous church. Eighty-six percent are challenged by the preaching at their current church to live and think as Scripture teaches; only 39 percent were challenged in this way at their previous church.

Eighty-seven percent base their selection of a church on preaching. Nine out of ten church switchers have found preaching that meets their need for relevance, interest, and clarity.

"The importance of the pastor and preaching in a believer’s spiritual journey cannot be overstated," McConnell said. "From the church switchers" perspective, changing churches has enabled them to find better preaching that addresses two of the top reasons they left their previous church: lack of help to develop spiritually and the pastor was not a good preacher."
If you are looking for some help in improving your preaching, be sure to check out the Preaching Skills section of Proclaim Online Sermon Helps from LifeWay.

7 Reasons to use the Telephone instead of Email

A new book just hit the shelves called Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home (Knopf, April 2007). It's written by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe. You may read an excerpt here.

I found a good article on NPR.org that reviewed the book. Their article included "Seven Reasons to use the Telephone instead of Email."
  1. When you need to convey or discern emotion.
  2. When you need to cut through the communication forest.
  3. When you need to move fast.
  4. When you want a remote communication to be private.
  5. When you need to reach someone who doesn't check their email.
  6. When you want people to be able immediately to engage and respond.
  7. When you need to send a harsh email, you can soften the blow (or distance yourself from it) by calling first with advance warning.
You can read the article here...

As pastors, we need to be very careful about the use of e-mail.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Honor Your Father and Mother

It doesn't surprise me but it does delight me when I see secular people grasping for a biblical solution when their worldly methods have failed. A great example is in a county in China where special investigators are trying to find out how you treat your parents before they will allow you to remain as a government official.

The article is found at Reuters Oddly Enough and is called Want a promotion? Treat Mom well. Here's a quote from the article...
China's leaders are fretting about how to support its aging population, and worried about slipping moral standards as younger generations rush to take advantage of the booming national economy.
Here's a quote from God's Word...
Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

Monday, April 9, 2007

God Debate: Sam Harris vs. Rick Warren


There is an informative article available now featuring Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and atheist Sam Harris. You can read the whole 5000 word (that's long) article at God Debate: Sam Harris vs. Rick Warren. I do hope you'll find some down time to read it for a couple reasons:
  1. Rick's good at explaining our conservative, Christian world-view in ways normal people can understand.
  2. It's helpful to hear an atheist's basic arguments so we can get over our fears of being questioned.
Two additional features of this article online include...
  1. In the introduction to the article, the Newsweek editors included background to the debate. I especially appreciated the mention of Pascal's Wager, "It is rather simple: it is smarter to bet that God exists, and to believe in him, because if it turns out that he is real, you win everything; if he is not, you lose nothing. So why not take the leap of faith?" You can read the introduction to the debate here...
  2. Poll Results. A belief in God and an identification with an organized religion are widespread throughout the country, according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll. Nine in 10 (91 percent) of American adults say they believe in God and almost as many (87 percent) say they identify with a specific religion. Christians far outnumber members of any other faith in the country, with 82 percent of the poll’s respondents identifying themselves as such. Read more here...
Warren summary at the end of the article:

I believe in both faith and reason. The more we learn about God, the more we understand how magnificent this universe is. There is no contradiction to it. When I look at history, I would disagree with Sam: Christianity has done far more good than bad. Altruism comes out of knowing there is more than this life, that there is a sovereign God, that I am not God. We're both betting. He's betting his life that he's right. I'm betting my life that Jesus was not a liar. When we die, if he's right, I've lost nothing. If I'm right, he's lost everything. I'm not willing to make that gamble.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

How JAGs and Pastors Deal with Conflict on the Battlefield

I was listening to NPR this morning to a story about the JAGs (Judge Advocate Generals) and how they are being trained at the Judge Advocate General school at Charlottesville, Virginia.

They used a series of battlefield simulations to try to translate their book knowledge to the chaos they may find on the battlefield in Iraq. I thought about how what they are learning would be helpful for pastors who are thrust into church conflict battlefield.

One of the main lessons they learn is that on the battlefield, it's not always about what is legal (someone levels their weapon and you eliminate the threat), but what is culturally appropriate, what is strategically effective, and what makes sense in a counter insurgency. The trainer said that there are times that if you just eliminate the threat, it may escalate the problem.

I think that as pastors and church leaders, there are times on the church conflict battlefield that we think that it's the right thing to do and that we have the right to eliminate the threat (ask a member to leave, give someone a piece of our mind, etc.). But in many cases, it escalates the problem.

I think it would be great to have church conflict battlefield simulations for pastors to help us translate the great knowledge we get in seminary to the real world.

You can listen to the audio from that program here: NPR : JAGs Take a More Central Battlefield Role

6 Exercises to Maintain Unity in Your Church Family

I just posted an article by Rick Ezell (one of my favorite writers) called 6 Exercises to Maintain Unity in Your Church Family.

He says, "Unity is not uniformity. Uniformity comes from without. Unity is not unanimity. We will never agree on everything. In fact sometimes, we must agree to disagree agreeably. Unity comes from within; it is a matter of the heart."

He also says, "Unity, like the heart, may very well be the most important muscle in the body. " So "to keep it healthy" Rick offers 6 Exercises for your churches heart to help it maintain unity.

The other cool thing is that he has four model sermons in a series called "God's Peace Corps." Links to the sermons are in the article.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

New Sermons to Help Promote Unity in Your Church

I've just posted four new sermons on the EXTRA! Sermon Helps page that are by Rick Ezell

  • Making Peace With God (Selected Scriptures)
  • The Steps to Reconciliation (Genesis 33:1-11)
  • The Unexpected Response (2 Samuel 9:1-13)
  • Being a Peacemaker (Matthew 5:9)
These have excellent content. You can access them on the EXTRA! Sermon Helps page.

Powerful Music for Easter Week - Thief 2006


I'm sitting at my desk posting some great sermons and listening to Chronology Vol. 1 - from Third Day which is a combination of re-mixes and new recordings of their best stuff. I just got to track 4, "Thief 2006." What amazing lyrics and what powerful music.
It tells the story of the crucification from the standpoint of the thief on the cross. My favorite lyrics:
My time has come, I'm slowly fading
I deserve what I receive
Jesus when You are in Your kingdom
Could You please remember me

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Center for Missional Research Study finds 75 percent of Americans believe in the Resurrection

I was really grateful to find this one today. Ed Stetzer and the folks over at the "Center for Missional Research" at the North American Mission Board (http://www.namb.net/cmr) released a new study last week showing among other things, that "75 percent of Americans believe in the Resurrection."

You can view the study along with support materials here. Be sure to note the research they did related to James Cameron's recent documentary, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." It's fascinating.

Their main takeaway is...
So, what can we learn from these numbers? First, the general public, and even those who only show up at our churches on Easter and Christmas, may actually agree with the greeting, “Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!” Our message to congregants on Easter Sunday may not require a defense of the physical resurrection so much as an explanation to its meaning and redemptive power for the individual sitting in the pew. And guess what—people carry their beliefs with them in our communities throughout the year. Three of the next 4 adults you encounter probably believe this foundational truth of the Christian faith.

I think this has important implications for your preaching and teaching this weekend.

Monday, April 2, 2007

LifeWay Research Examines the 'Church Switcher' Phenomenon

Brad Waggoner and the folks at LifeWay Research have a very nice set of articles dealing with the ever present problem of why people leave your church. They also have an insightful audio interview and a powerpoint presentation explaining their results.

Check out http://www.lifewayresearch.com/