Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Students Using Technology for the Lord

My wife and I are blessed to have a fine young man staying with us a couple of weeks this summer. He is a college student from Alabama who is in Connecticut helping us create a massive database that we will use to prioritize areas that need new church plants. Part of this process included downloading nearly 200 demographic reports on every community in the state. Eric was sitting in a chair in the office with his phone in hand. I thought he was texting. Then my printer started spitting out reports. One after another, the reports just kept printing. He had figured out how to use my wireless network to print directly from his phone. Not only did I not know that was possible, but I would have never even thought to ASK anyone if it was possible. But to a college student, it made perfect sense.

This is another reminder to all of us that the next generation expects to use technology not only in their daily lives, but in their Christian service. Churches that want to reach the next generation are going to have to learn how to use technology as part of their ministry efforts. Fortunately, if we do not know how to use technology for ministry, we can find a student and let them do it for us. I suspect we would be surprised just how many technological things students would do for us if we would just let them. Not only CAN they do it, but the WANT to do it. It is time to make them true partners in our ministry and let them use their technological skills for the Lord.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

One Day or Today? - Guest Post by Alex Sanfilippo

“One day, I am going to start doing that…”
“Sometime soon I am going to stop doing this…”
“I’m going to working on that soon…”

Stop saying one day, and start saying today. Be a person of action.

How many times have you heard these questions asked; both from people around you, and yourself?
The reason so many people struggle with this is because we are comfortable, or lazy. We feel like we have plenty of time. Everything is okay. Things aren’t that bad, they may not be good, but they aren’t bad enough to need to be changed. I have also hear a lot of people saying that they will start or stop something after a certain milestone. People say it is okay to live the way they are until a certain day or time passes and that is when they will start working on things.

Time is always running
Don’t let yourself get into a mindset of automatically saying why you can’t do something right now or why you do not need to do anything right now; that will shape your lifestyle. Instead, start looking for reasons that you can begin to do things. If you look at great men and woman in history; how often is it documented that they would say an excuse for why they couldn’t do something at that time? I’m no history teacher; but if I had to guess, I would say that these words were never said by the people that we have all read about!

Today, I want to challenge you to stop saying why you cannot do something right now. Stop being lazy, don’t let yourself be comfortable where you are right now. And begin getting a sense of urgency in regards to the time that you have. Choose today to become a better person. Focus on what you feel like God may be calling you to in the future, and start living that way! Take the small steps, as your steps begin to grow, so will your life and future.

Matthew 24:44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Matthew 25:13Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

More on this topic:
The best time to plant a tree is 25 years ago. The second best time is today. Be a person of action; take steps toward the future you want today.

Alex Sanfilippo is a blogger at Paradigm Shift.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Practical Help for Bivocational Pastors

For many years I served as a bivocational pastor and as a ministry leader assisting bivocational pastors. During that time I learned a lot about various aspects of being bivocational. I have written many articles over the years that address those various aspects. Yesterday a good friend of mine wrote an article on the subject of bivocationalism. After reading that article, it occurred to me that perhaps having all the articles I written on bivocational ministry listed in one place might be helpful to others. Therefore, the list is below. Happy reading.

Bivocationalism and Young Adults

Challenges of Being a Bivocational Pastor as a Young Adult

Dealing with Pastoral Burn Out in Bivocational Ministry

Bivocational Ministry is NOT Negative

Bivocational Ministry is Normal

Bivocational Ministry is Becoming More Common

Bivocational Pastors Burn Out if they Do not Delegate

Importance of Bivocational Pastors Sharing Leadership in the Church

The Bivocational Life

Healthy Bivocational Churches are led by Teams

Lay People in Bivocational Churches Will Help if Trained

The Local Church is the Best Place for Training Lay People to Help Bivocational Pastors in Ministry

Formal Theological Education is Helpful But Not Required in Bivocational Ministry

Real Life Challenges of Bivocational Ministry

Real Life Advantages of Bivocational Ministry

How Important are Lay Preachers in Bivocational Churches?

Helping Bivocational Pastors Avoid Burn Out

Could Pastors of Small Churches Be Out-Sourced?

Libraries Given Books on Bivocational Ministry

Helping Pastors in Small Churches Learn to Delegate

Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Planting Deaf Churches Across Connecticut

When I was growing up, I attended some great churches that had a heart for reaching others. Several of those churches had a deaf ministry, which typically included having a deaf interpreter during the worship service. My sister even learned American Sign Language so she could take part in that ministry at one church we attended. I always thought it was cool to sneak a peek at the deaf as they signed the songs during worship, it always seemed so moving. Many deaf people became believers in Christ as a result of those deaf ministries.
But as I look back on those experiences, it occurs to me that we never let the deaf lead. I do not ever recall having a deaf guest speaker, or a deaf deacon, or a deacon guest singer or deaf person sharing a testimony. An interpreter could have just as easily told us what they were saying as he/she told the deaf what we were saying. I do not think we were intentionally trying to discriminate, I think it was more of a communication barrier. It just never occurred to us to let them lead. As well intentioned as I think our efforts were, I think the unintended consequence of not letting the deaf lead was that we implied that they were somehow "second-class" Christians. They could come to church and take part in a limited range of ministries that we offered them, but could not be fully engaged in the life of the church or could they aspire to leadership. Lord, forgive us for our attitudes, even if they were in ignorance.

Recently I met a deaf pastor who leads a deaf church. His name is John Hayhow. He leads Living Hope Deaf Church in Manchester, CT. His church grew out of a deaf ministry that First Baptist Church of Manchester has had for a number of years. There came a point where FBC realized that if Living Hope was to move to the next level, they had to be more than just an appendage of the hearing congregation. Living Hope needed to become it's own church. John, and his wife Lori, were the logical choice to lead this new church and prayerfully accepted this task.
What I love about Pastor John is that his heart is not just to reach the deaf of Manchester, but to start deaf churches around the state. He has a huge state map hung on the wall of his office showing the places he would like to start deaf churches. John happens to also be a well known fly fisherman. Now he connects fly fishing with fishing for men. He has tied a fishing fly and pinned it on the wall in each town across Connecticut where he has deaf people coming to his church from. His goal is to start Bible studies in those towns, and eventually additional churches. Most hearing people, such as myself, would have never dreamed of such a goal. We would have been content with a handful of deaf people over in one section of the church taking part through an interpreter. But when we let the deaf lead, their ambition and their passion for Christ far exceeds our own. I look forward with anticipation to assisting Pastor John in starting deaf churches across Connecticut. If you are interested in partnering with Pastor John in this effort, contact him at

Monday, June 17, 2013

College Students Changing the World One Project at a Time - Guest Post by Brian Pellegrini

Not to sound arrogant, but I am very proud of myself and my friends. Though we are all 22 years old or less, we have bucked the "live for yourself" attitude of our peers and done some amazing things in the last few years. We have been out of the country several times, not on vacations, but on mission trips serving the Lord. We have been to Athens, Greece helping out refugees. We have stood in the very spot where Paul preached about the idol of the unknown gods. We were in Corinth as well serving others and bonding with some of my very closest friends.

My friends and I have been to Port Au Prince, Haiti, working with orphans. We saw and experienced things that broke our hearts and made an impact in our lives . It made us think about how much we take for granted. We witnessed homelessness and poverty that make the U.S. poverty look like a cake walk. During all of this, I grew much closer to God, and learned to thank Him for the friends and family that I have been blessed with.

Some of the group I hang with have been to Honduras and Ecuador on mission trips. Nearly all of us have helped lead youth group at our church, even though we are only a few years older than those we are leading. Some of my peers lead worship in our church (ah, I skipped that project, LOL). But my former pastor did make me preach one Sunday! Wow, that was a trip!

I love the fact that my friends inspire me to do good things with my life. They have never pressured me to do things that could mess up my life. Real friends do not do that. I have the greatest friends in the world. They stick by me no matter what and make me accountable for the things I do. When I am with them, I feel like nothing can go wrong. We are always together. It is not unusual to see a group of us hanging out, going to the movies, or playing basketball. They help me with my faith, pushing me, challenging me, pushing my heart and brain to get closer with God. I do not know where I would be without them.

Not only am I blessed with great friends, but I have great parents too. What can I say about them? They are amazing! My mom and dad support me through everything. They are helping me pay for college. They have supported me while I have changed my college major three times and transferred schools twice. They have been behind me the whole way. They even let me live in their house and feed me (and trust me, THAT is expensive!). They have the most fun too. My mom likes to dance, as most of you know, and as much as it embarrasses me, I love seeing her happy. My dad is one of the biggest rednecks ever. We shoot, go mudding, and go to the woods all the time. I love my parents!

At the end of the summer, my fellow College Youth Leaders and I are leading a program at our church called Youth Explosion. This will be the sixth year our church has had this week long event. Due to a budget crisis at our church, our church was unable to bring in the outside speaker and helpers that we normally use. Just when it looked like the whole thing would be cancelled, we college students stepped up and took on the whole thing. We are doing all the fundraising, planning, music, videos, teaching, and getting the food, doing whatever it will take to impact 100 teens for a week. In a day when many college students are abandoning the church, my friends and I are very proud to see years of hard work that others invested in us come to fruition as we become the leaders for reaching the next generation. Do not give up on us, we are JUST getting started.

Trust me, I have friends that are proud of a lot WORSE things than ^^^^^^ so rejoice with us about what God is doing in our lives. It is something to be proud of.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Father's Plans for Us

History of Father’s Day
          Father’s Day was first suggested by Sonora Dodd in 1910 in Spokane, Washington. Her father raised her alone because her mother had died when she was young. Single fathers were pretty much unheard of in those days. When a mother died, single fathers either quickly remarried or gave their children to relatives to raise. But Sonora’s dad did not do either and instead raised her alone.
          When others were celebrating Mother’s Day, she could not take part since she did not have a mother. She wanted a similar event to honor fathers so she could express her deep love to the father who worked so hard to raise her alone.
          She originally planned to celebrate the day on June 6 but the ministers in town who had agreed to help her with the project needed extra time to prepare special Father’s Day sermons so they selected the 3rd Sunday of June.
          We still celebrate Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June each year. Mrs. Dodd died in 1978 but was pleased that Father’s Day had become a national celebration before her death.
          Like Mrs. Dodd, we should all appreciate our fathers, or if we did not know our father, then the man who was/is the “father figure” in our lives.
          It is not easy being a dad or a father figure.
We should appreciate our fathers, or the father figures in our lives, because modern fatherhood is in trouble.
          The American family is falling apart.
          The divorce rate is approaching 50%.
          1/3 of all children in the U.S. live in homes without a father present.
          A growing number of children have no meaningful relationship with their father.
          Children, especially boys, who do not have a good male role model have a higher risk for engaging in self-destructive behaviors.
          Children, especially boys, who live in a home where the father does not attend church, are significantly less likely to attend church themselves as adults.
          Children who did not bond well with their earthly father have significantly more difficulty accepting the concept of a loving heavenly Father.
          Children abused by a male have almost overwhelming difficulties accepting the love of a heavenly Father.

Psalm 40:5 - LORD my God, You have done many things— Your wonderful works and Your plans for us; none can compare with You. If I were to report and speak of them, they are more than can be told.
          Perhaps we had a great earthly father figure. Perhaps our earthly father figure may not have been all that we wanted him to be. But our heavenly Father has always been working behind the scenes and has big plans for our lives.
          Though we may wonder where God is when we go through difficult times in life, He is always working behind the scenes. When we look back, we often see His hand more clearly than when we were going through the actual experiences.
          Though we may never understand ALL of God’s plans, if we want to have a healthy view of our heavenly Father, it might help us to know at least some of His plans for us. There are at least three plans that the heavenly Father has for each person here.
John 1:12-13 - But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.
          The first plan God wants for us is that we become one of His special children.
          Though all people are God’s children in a general sense, God has given special rights to people who have trusted Christ as Savior and developed a personal relationship with Him. Those who receive God as Father are given the RIGHT to be called his children.
          Though it would be great if everyone accepted His fatherhood, many have rejected Him. We accept the fatherhood of God through a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ.
          Those who receive His fatherhood become his special children and discover a relationship with the ultimate father figure in the universe. Regardless of our relationship with our earthly father, God wants to fill the void in our lives as our heavenly Father.
          We may feel that we are unworthy to be one of God’s special children. Notice the passage says that we become His children because He desires it, not because we deserve it. God looked at all the billions of people on this planet and chose us to have a personal relationship with. Because God chose us, He did something inside of us to open our hearts and minds so we could come to know and understand Him.
          Have we responded to the call of God and embraced Him as our Heavenly Father? If not, we should make Him our Father on this Father’s Day by repenting of our sins and placing our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Joshua 1:8 - This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night, so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.
          The second plan God has for us is that He wants us to prosper and have a good life.
          That does not mean we will all be rich and live in mansions, it means that our lives will be filled with the things that make life worth living. But there is a condition to this plan being fulfilled in our lives. God says that if we study the Bible and carefully follow its instructions, THEN we will have a prosperous and successful future.
          Numerous researchers have shown that following biblical principles leads to a more successful life.
          Scientists have now proven that prayer speeds healing after surgery and during treatments for cancer.
          There are a number of healthy diets on the market that are derived from Biblical principles.
          A number of relationship gurus draw their advice from the Bible.
          Financial planners agree that following the principles of saving and generosity found in the Bible is GREAT personal financial advice.
          A Christian businessmen’s group has proven that applying Christian principles to business increases profits.
          This does not mean that we will never have struggles or difficulties in life. It means that God will work through our struggles and difficulties to turn them into opportunities for prosperity and success.
Galatians 3:8 - Now the Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed in you.
          The third plan God has for us is that He wants to bless the world through us!
          Though the promise of the Messiah was first given to the Jews, God knew all along that the Gentiles would get to be in on the blessing.
          Now we get to take the blessings God has given us and share them with the world.
          We live in a self-centered world and Christians need to go against the self-centered culture around us and live in a way that blesses others.
          This is not just a “group thing.” God has a part for each individual to play in making the world a better place.
This summer my youngest son Jonas is in Haiti. He is investing 74 days in sharing the love of Christ with orphans. Though he is not yet a father, he is displaying the Father’s heart of love to children who have no father.
          Spending a summer in Haiti may not be what God’s plan is for me, or for you, but God does have a plan for each of us that includes being a blessing to someone else.
          Are we working with God to make the world a better place or still just living for ourselves?
          Are we willing to step outside our comfort zone and let God use us to change the world?
We may not know ALL of God the Father’s plans for our lives, but we do know that God’s plans for us include:
          The first plan God wants for us is that we become one of His special children.
          The second plan God has for us is that He wants us to prosper and have a good life.
          The third plan God has for us is that He wants to bless the world through us!
Are we following God’s plans for our lives?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Church Planters Need to Laugh

I have been involved in church planting for nearly two decades. Church planting is a lot like being in the Marines, it is the toughest job you will ever love. Each month we gather with church planters in our area for a monthly Church Planter's Network meeting. Normally we have a meal, then a short time of devotions and prayer, followed by some type of training that the planters requested. It has been very beneficial to all the leaders involved.

But this month we decided to do something different. We decided to invite other church planting leaders from around the state who were involved in other networks to join us for dinner and fellowship. My wonderful wife, who is an amazing cook, created a culinary masterpiece of chicken, lasagna, and all the trimmings to go with it. We played games and we laughed a lot. Then we played some more games and laughed even more. One man said, "I have not laughed that hard in years."

The "administrator" in me did slip in a little promotion for the My Hope evangelism effort that I talked about in yesterday's blog (click here to read that). But other than that, the point of the evening was fun and fellowship.

Sometimes, I think we Christian leaders get so focused on the serious business of ministry (and what we do is very serious), that we forget to just laugh. I am reminded of King Solomon's words in Proverbs 17:22 "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Too many of us have crushed spirits and need to rediscover our joy in Christ. We need to remember what King David said in Psalm 126:2 "Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, The Lord has done great things for them.” The laughter on our lips does not come from the vulgar jokes of our fallen culture, or the cruel pranks of twisted minds, it comes from the gratitude that wells up within us as we think of all that Christ has done for us. We all know there are times to be serious, to weep and to mourn. But too many of us have forgotten what the wise teacher said in Ecclesiastes 3:5, there is "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." Last night, it was about laughing, and it was a real blessing.

If you have not laughed lately, find some Christian friends and have dinner together. Tell stories. Tell jokes. Watch a funny video. Play charades. Enjoy the life God has given you.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Using Our Homes for Evangelism

My wife and I have always enjoyed using our home for Bible studies, summer children's Bible clubs, youth group meetings or just one on one dinners with those we felt led to minister to. Though there are some that may not feel comfortable inviting others into their home, for us, it just seemed natural. That was why we got excited when we heard about the My Hope America evangelism effort through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Though most people connect Billy Graham with massive city wide crusades, Dr. Graham's latest effort is focused on helping people use their homes for evangelism.

The My Hope evangelism campaign has been successfully done in dozens of countries around the world. Now it is coming to America in November. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is producing a high quality television show, which will air in major markets around the nation in November. The basic concept of the evangelism campaign is that Christians invite some friends over to their home for dinner or dessert. After enjoying a time of fellowship they watch the program together on television. When the program ends the host shares for 3-5 minutes about their own journey of faith and invites those who are interested to consider a commitment to Christ. What could be more natural than a person inviting their friends over for dinner and sharing with them the most important thing that has ever happened to them!

Recently I was blessed to lead a training for this evangelistic effort in Manchester, Connecticut. More than 70 people from a dozen churches gathered for training at the First Baptist Church of Manchester. One lady said afterwards, "I did not think I should come since I am not a pastor, but I am glad I did because I realize that this is the simplest way to share the Gospel I have ever heard of." Another person wrote to me on Facebook a couple of days after the training, "I am so excited about this evangelism opportunity, I can hardly wait for November to get here."

If you live in Connecticut or Rhode Island, I would be happy to come to your church and lead the same training. Though I will do my best to come anytime, my preferred training time is Sunday evenings. The training takes 90 minutes and there is no cost to the church.

If you live in Vermont, I will be leading one training session there, at Faith Community Church, Barre, on Saturday, August 24 at 7 PM.

If you live in any other state, just go to to find a list of trainings that are happening in your area.

If there are no trainings in your area, you can train yourself online at:

If we do not share the Gospel with our own neighbors, who do we think will?

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Next Generation: The Hope of the Church

Much has been written about how the next generation is abandoning the church. Though this is a very real issue, what has been under reported is that those young people who are remaining in the church are more passionate than ever about their faith. That came to mind when I read from 1 Samuel 3 yesterday in my morning devotions. I have listed selected verses below for us to discuss.

1 Samuel 3:1, 7, 10, 19-21

1 The boy Samuel served the Lord in Eli’s presence. In those days the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread. 7 Now Samuel had not yet experienced the Lord, because the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 10 The Lord came, stood there, and called as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel responded, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.” 19 Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and He fulfilled everything Samuel prophesied. 20 All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, because there He revealed Himself to Samuel by His word.

In the first verse we see that Samuel was only a boy, yet served the Lord. Somehow we have come under the false impression that young people are the church of tomorrow. We must accept the reality that they are the church of today and can serve the Lord today. They may lack the polish and maturity they will have in the future, but they have much to offer the church right now, if we will let them be the church of today.

Notice that the second half of that of that verse says that special words from the Lord were not common in Samuel’s day. Yet, the Lord was about to reveal Himself to a boy. I believe the same is true in our day. It seems that many churches have lost the powerful touch from God they once had. Yet, young people are experiencing God in powerful and personal ways. They may be the very ones to help the rest of us understand the Lord in a deeper way.

Verse seven reminds us that Samuel had not yet experienced the fullness of the Lord, though he had often been in the Lord’s presence. But that was about to change. Samuel was about to have his first powerful experience with God. The rest of his life would be characterized by such powerful moments. As I consider the young people who are in church today, many of them long to experience the fullness of God. That is revealed in the passion they show at youth camps and Christian concerts. But they have not yet come into their own. They are on the edge of something great. I look forward with great anticipation to seeing how they soar like eagles with they step off the edge.

Verse ten reveals that the Lord spoke to Samuel. Those who know the whole story may remember that the Lord actually spoke to Samuel three times. Since Samuel had never had that experience before, it took three times for him to realize it was the Lord. But when Samuel finally realized who it was speaking to him, his response was correct, “Lord, Your servant is listening.” Young people today may not always hear or understand what the Lord is saying when He speaks into their lives. But they will figure it out eventually, and I am confident that when they do, they will listen to Him and follow Him to accomplish great things.
The final three verses I highlight show how Samuel began to serve the Lord. The entire nation knew of his faith and was impacted by his ministry. That was a long way from being a confused kid in the temple trying to figure out what God was saying, but he made the transition. I believe that in the pews of today’s churches there are young people sitting who will be used by God to accomplish amazing things for the Lord. Those young people are the hope for the future of the church, and I am excited about what God is going to do through them.

To help churches reach the next generation, Dr. Terry Dorsett has written this informative book. Filled with practical ideas and powerful testimonies of churches making significant impact on the next generation, this is one of the "must have" books for people who care about the next generation. Order your copy at:

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Thin Line Between Self-Promotion and Jealousy

Self-promotion. Ugggg. I hate that phrase. Yes, I know there are some egotistical people who always seem to be promoting themselves. We all know some people like that and it can get annoying. But to be honest, I think sometimes Christians use that phrase as a "nice" way to talk bad about people they are jealous of.

For example, I have often heard pastors of churches that do not do outreach accuse fellow pastors who use mass mailing or newsprint ads as being self-promoters. In reality, the pastor using the ads simply has a deep burden for the lost and wants to use every means possible to reach as many as possible. From his perspective those ads are promoting the Gospel of the Kingdom. He cares not whether people know who he is, he just wants people to know who Jesus is.

Or what about a pastor who has a radio or television program. Is he a self-promoter because he gains a certain degree of notoriety through those avenues of ministry? Clearly, it is possible that his ego might swell, and he could become a self-promoter. But many a good pastor has preached faithfully from his pulpit, and had his sermons broadcast around the local community, or even the nation, on television or radio without falling prey to ego. He does it not to promote himself, but to join God in His efforts of world evangelization.

Or what about the Christian writer. He works hard to write Bible lessons, tracts, books and blog posts that he prays will impact the lives of people he will never meet on this side of heaven. Is he a self-promoter because he writes such things and then shares them with others?

Or what about the Christian leader who feels led to start a Bible college or other ministry training institution. Does he do this because he wants to promote himself, or because he wants to train others to teach and preach the Word so that all people can have a chance to hear the Gospel before the Lord's return?

In any of the examples I have given, it is possible for the person to be a self-promoter, but it is also possible for that person to simply be following the leading of the Spirit to expand the Kingdom of God using the skills that God has gifted them with. Those of us who may never be famous must make sure we are not critical of those who may achieve some level of fame. Let us refrain from being jealous. Attempting to mask our jealousy under thinly veiled attacks on the character of others by calling them self-promoters reveals our own wicked and evil hearts.

Let us rejoice when a church down the road grows beyond the size of our own. Let us rejoice that people listen to certain pastors on the radio or television. Let us rejoice that some writers have the ability to say things in ways that inspire, educate and motivate people to be better Christians. Let us rejoice in what God is doing in His kingdom instead of trying to tear it down. Let us stop using the phrase "self-promotion" as a weapon to attack those whom we are jealous of and let us spend our energy and efforts lifting up Jesus instead.

For more devotionals like this one, consider Touching the Footprints of Jesus

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What is the Pastor's REAL Job?

Many pastors are on the edge of burnout. This is especially true for single staff pastors and bivocational pastors. The goal of many of those pastors is to finally grow their church large enough so they can be either “full-time” (if they are bivocational), or hire additional staff members (if they are a single staff pastor). They imagine that when that day finally arrives they will suddenly have more time to spend with their family, or go fishing, or attend their children’s softball games. While that may be true in some situations, I fear that many of them will be frustrated when they realize that a larger church requires them to work even longer hours and attend more meetings and do even more visitation. The problem is not the size of our churches, nor the size of our staff, nor the fact that some pastors are bivocational. The problem is how most ministers, and the congregations we serve, view ministry altogether. Somehow, we have gotten the mistaken idea that the pastor is the one who must do all (or most) of the teaching, visitation and decision making. That idea is not rooted in scripture, instead it comes from the warped view of the “professional clergy” that Western civilization has attempted to super-impose over scripture.

Pastors have forgotten that our primary ministry is not to visit the hospitals or the shut-ins or chair committee meetings. According to Ephesians 4:11-16, the pastor’s primary ministry is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Until that happens, the saints are not yet mature and they will continue to be tossed about by whatever the latest religious fad is blowing in the wind. Pastors have somehow gotten confused in their thinking and instead of quipping the saints to DO the ministry; many pastors are doing the ministry themselves. Because of that, pastors are exhausted and near burn out. They think that hiring another staff member or giving up their part time job will fix it. But that is only a symptom of the problem. The problem is that we have not equipped the saints.

When I share this idea with pastors, they often tell me that I do not understand their situation. Their church EXPECTS them to do the entire ministry and if they do not, they will get fired. My response to that is that the pastor should be teaching the whole counsel of God to the congregation, not just the parts that itching ears want to hear. We must teach the congregation to expect the deacons and Sunday School teachers and small group leaders to handle much of the day to day ministry of the church while the pastor focuses on equipping leaders and the study of the Word. Some will not like that being the pastor's main duties. But when did we decide to only do ministry that everyone likes? Some do not like the pastor being paid a full time salary, but most of us are willing to fight to get it. Some do not like paying for extra staff members, but pastors ask for it anyway. Some do not like the color of the carpet or the style of the music, but the pastor pushes for these things if it is needed. Why not also push to release the lay people to DO the work of the ministry instead of just having professional clergy do it all? Anything we do will have someone who does not like it, but if it is the right thing to do, then we must be the leaders God has called us to be and lead.

I am not saying that it will be easy. But if this is what God has called us to do, we must do it. We are not the hirelings that have been brought in to make the sheep fat and happy inside the pen. We are shepherds who lead the sheep to good grass out in the pasture (and they have to walk out there themselves if they want to eat that grass). It will take effort but it can be done. It is time to stop doing everything on our own and start doing the main thing God called us to do, equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.
In response to the great need for pastors to train lay people to assist them in high level ministry, Dr. Terry Dorsett wrote the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church. It is being used by over 4,000 churches across North America and is helping both bivocational and single staff churches gain a whole new perspective on what the pastor's job really is.
Click here for more details:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why Plant a Church?

There are many reasons why people plant new churches. Some reasons are noble, such as a desire to reach more people for Christ, to plant the Gospel in an under-churched area, or to serve a community that has been forgotten in the name of Christ. Some reasons are less noble, such as a desire to do it our way, an unwillingness to submit to existing structures, or to prove a point to someone that we can do it better than they could. If we are considering planting a new church, we must ask the Spirit to help us look deep into our hearts to determine if our motives are indeed honorable. If they are not, we need to ask the Spirit to change our motives. We should refrain from starting a new church until the Spirit has confirmed that our motives are right.

Dynamic Church Planting International suggests five good reasons for planting churches. I have listed those reasons below and added my own thoughts for why those reasons are valid.

1.   To follow the biblical strategy

Throughout the book of Acts we see that everywhere Christians went, they started new churches. This was the normal biblical pattern. Somehow we have lost that biblical pattern in our North American assumption that bigger is better. While we should thank God that some churches have grown quite large, that was not the normal expression for most churches in the New Testament. Most churches remained small, partially because they were constantly sending out groups to start new churches in nearby areas.

Some people say that we too many churches already. But statistics reveal that more churches close every year. Early in the 20th century, there was one church for every 430 Americans. At the start of the 21th century, there is one church for every 6,194 Americans. We are losing ground each year. Though we should try to help existing churches become stronger, ultimately, we must also start many new ones in order to reach our nation for Christ. This was, and remains, the biblical strategy.

2. To evangelize effectively

Christian Schwarz, author of Natural Church Development, surveyed over 1,000 churches from 32 countries and 6 continents. He discovered that small churches, which he defined as those that average 51 in attendance, were 16 times more effective in winning new converts to Christ than megachurches. Schwarz did not mean that as an attack on mega-churches. It was simply the facts that came out of his research. The reality is that one church cannot reach everyone.

Rick Warren says in one of his books, "It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people." This is obviously true when people speak different languages. They need a church in their own language. But even when the same language is spoken, there are incredible differences in culture among various groups.

Consider the differences in how generations worship. Congregations that are effective in reaching baby boomers are often not as effective reaching Generation X. This is because sermons about marriage and raising kids, which speak powerfully to baby boomers, do not relate to single, young people. Likewise, churches that speak into the hearts of single, young adults, may not adequately prepare senior adults for the changes they can expect as they retire or become grandparents. New churches need to be started to reach every segment of society.

Some say that instead of church planting, we should teach established churches to do a better job of evangelizing. Yes, we should definitely try to do that, but Tim Keller says that Dozens of studies confirm that the average new church gains most of its new members (60-80%) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshipping body, while churches over 10-15 years of age gain 80-90% of new members by transfer from other congregations.” If we want to evangelize effectively, we must start new churches.

3. To gather in the harvest

Surveys and research has shown that our culture views the church as largely out of touch, old-fashioned, insensitive and even hateful or bigoted. Though this may not be a true description of the church, most of us would admit that many churches feel closed to outsiders. Cliques often form and it can be very difficult for a new person to ever really feel accepted in an established church. Because of this, even when a person decides to become a Christian, they may remain outside of established churches. If we are to gather in the harvest, we must start new churches.

Many people who are being saved through Christian radio or television, or through one on one witnessing from friends, are not being gathered into a church. We need new churches that have a more open feel to them to reach these people. We need churches that can use innovative and culturally-relevant methods to reach our culture while retaining a strong, Bible-centered gospel message. This will allow us to gather in all of those who are coming to Christ from a variety of ways.

4. To reach people groups

The diversity of harvest requires a diversity of churches to make disciples of all people groups. Though there may be many churches that effectively reach whatever the “majority culture” is in the community, there are many sub-cultures that do not fit in those churches. As previously mentioned, languages groups feel more comfortable learning the Bible in their own language.  But it is not just language, culture or ethnicity that separates people. Social economic issues separate people as well. While all churches should welcome everyone to their groups, sometimes they do not. And even if a church welcomes everyone, not everyone feels welcome.  New churches can be started for all these various groups.

5. To fulfill the Great Commission

Jesus told us to go into the entire world and preach the Gospel, baptizing people who accept Christ and then teaching them to obey the Word of God. How can one church, no matter how larger or strong accomplish that command? It cannot. The Great Commission can only be started when many new churches are started around our community and around our world. If we want to obey the last command Jesus gave us, we must start new churches.

Interested in starting churches? Go to and click the “Mobilize Me” button. If you are interested in partnering with a church plant in Connecticut, just send me an email at