Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolution - Plant a Church!

Here’s a New Year’s resolution – Plant a Church

My friend, Dr. Ed Stetzer, Director of LifeWay Research says,  “It’s a good day to start a church”.

I believe Ed is right and not only is he right but at the top of 2016 resolutions for Christian Evangelicals, pastors, churches, staff members and volunteers should be “Plant a Church”.

It’s really time we in the Church start thinking differently about Church Planting.  Perhaps you have heard the often-told adage that 80% of all new church plants fail.  That is just a lie that Satan would want us to believe and easily available research indicates just the opposite.  While there is no comprehensive research on the total number of new churches started annually, the most recent research on literally thousands of new church starts show that 99% of all new churches survive the first year, and 68% survive to year four.   Moreover, of the churches that survive, more than 70% are self-sufficient financially by the fifth year. (source: “Church Plant Survivability and Health Study 2007” By Ed Stetzer and Phillip Connor February 2007)

As a former pastor and executive team leader at two of the nations largest and fastest growing mega churches, it’s hard for me to admit but studies show that newer, smaller churches do a much better job as well in fulfilling the Great Commission.  This is particularly true if we define making disciples as the combination of making a commitment to Christ, attending church and being baptized. 

According to Christian A. Schwarz, the founder and head of the Institute for Natural Church Development (NCD), the statistics actually reveal that smaller is actually better and that ten smaller churches of 100 people will accomplish much more than one bigger church of 1000.

He writes:
“The growth rate of churches decreased with increasing size. This fact in and of itself came as no great surprise, because in large churches the percentages represent many more people. But when we converted the percentages into raw numbers, we were dumbfounded. Churches in the smallest size category (under 100 in attendance) had won an average of 32 new people over the past five years; churches with 100-200 in worship also won 32; churches between 200-300 average 39 new individuals; churches between 300-400 won 25. So a ‘small’ church wins just as many people for Christ as a ‘large’ one, and what’s more, two churches with 200 in worship on Sunday will win twice as many new people as one church with 400 in attendance.” ( Source: “Is Bigger Really Better? The Statistics actually Say "No"! - ChurchPlanting.com
New Year’s resolutions are too often broken. The commitment to plant a new church should not be the result of a sudden impulse.  However, we have been given the Great Commission for nearly 2,000 years and we know that it’s a calling that is given to all of His disciples.  Perhaps it’s time we consider the resolution to plant a new church.     


Monday, December 21, 2015

Essentials for Church Leadership

Churches need strong leadership.   John Maxwell says, “everything rises and falls on leadership”.   This is nowhere else as true as it is in the church. It takes courage to step into a role of leadership in a contemporary organization that is based on eternal truth and moral absolutes.  

In my ministry in visiting, encouraging and partnering with literally hundreds of churches, there are five essential aspects of church leadership that I am committed to never forget.   Here they are in a condensed form.  To make it interesting, the most important is actually the last one on the list:

1) Major on majors; minor on minors – While everyday there are definitely battles and struggles, we need to remember that every battle doesn’t need to be fought.   Successful leaders pick their battles to ensure that if the battle is worth fighting, it is worth winning.   People know that we live in an imperfect world and they are looking for leaders to make incremental improvements in those areas that are important.

2) Make time your friend – Every leader has exactly the same amount of time each day.   All too often, time management is not a church leaders strong suit.  One of the key principles to remember is that you need to manage your time rather than have time manage you.   Use a calendar, block out hours (yes hours, not minutes) in each day without meetings, without interruptions to accomplish that which is important.

3) Develop leaders – Jesus is a great example for us in developing people.  Jesus spent most of his time with those that were chosen to carry out the mission. These were not necessarily qualified, gifted nor remarkable individuals except that they spent quality time with Jesus.   Make leadership development intentional including identifying, equipping, challenging and releasing leaders.

4) Refuel Regularly – My friend, Lance Witt is the author of “Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul.”   In his book, he speaks of the front stage and back stage of every leader.   As church leaders, we are easily prone to burn out and succumb to spiritual attack.  One thing to remember is the three Rs in keeping our lives in balance: Recharge, Renew and Relax.  Even Jesus commented, “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).  This is a great lesson for our busy pastors that all too often rarely take any time off.

5) Remember your Role – The biggest advantage in the church is often overlooked.  We need to remember our role as under-shepherd as Jesus is the Good Shepherd and head of the Church.  This is not a ceremonial role but one that is active. Jesus leads through his Word, by modeling behavior and responding to our plans.  Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”

There are always new opportunities to improve our leadership.  Don’t be overwhelmed in the struggle but take every opportunity to learn from others and be sure to pass on those lessons to those you lead.



Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Conservative Christian

We all use labels, even when we say we don’t.   Understandably, labels are easy-to-use short cuts. They make it simple to know who is who.  Labels group ideologies and provide comfortable paths for us to follow.

Labels, like nicknames, are often prescribed to groups by outsiders.  In the church, we then subscribe to many of the labels that were originally pejorative terms.   'Lutherans' were so-named by Christians faithful to the Pope and Rome as these reformers were seen to follow Luther.  Methodists, Calvinists, Fundamentalists and even Roman Catholics were all pejorative terms at one time that were later embraced.

Christianity and Christian groups often attract labels.  Back in the 80’s the term “born again” was applied so widely that it soon lost its original meaning.  The term ‘evangelical’ was embraced and popularized by Rev. Billy Graham as a reaction to what was termed “fundamentalism.”  Today the word ‘conservative’ is so often the adjective modifying the noun Christian that you would think that political conservatism is inherently part of the Christian faith.

While it may be true that many Christians in the United States tend to be politically conservative, political affiliation is not part of the gospel, the Nicene Creed or any article of faith that I’m aware of in the church.   Christianity is all about a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  This relationship doesn’t fit in with any particular political persuasion and it can be argued that being a Christian is actually more of a radical orientation to the rest of the world.

Pastor and author David Platt in his book, “Radical” demonstrates that the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels encourage believers to ‘leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for Him’. To be a true disciple of Jesus calls for a ‘radical abandonment’ of a person’s life all for the privilege of following God.  Christians are to live daily with an urgent obedience to the Great Commission to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:16-20) – concludes Platt.

Christians need to be careful about embracing contemporary and cultural ideologies and then associating them with their Christian faith.   Lower taxes, guns, limited government, a strong defense, and a balanced budget may arguably be good political ideologies, however they should never be confused with Christianity.

Christians have been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:20).  Our faith is found in the essential gospel.  We embrace the unique opportunity for forgiveness for our sins because of the sacrifice that Jesus paid at Calvary.  The calling for those of us in the church is to love, forgive, serve and even sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel and the love of Christ.  We need no further label other than being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Science and the Bible Part 2

One of the more controversial claims that a Christian can make is that we exist on a ‘young earth’.   This belief is that God created the universe and all life during a literal six-day period described in the first chapter of Genesis.    Science teachers, politicians and even corporate executives that espouse such a belief have been summarily dismissed as religious simpletons and unintellectual. 

It's not just the scientists and the atheists that can be critical.   Not surprisingly, many well-known Christians including Evangelical pastors, theologians, heads of well-known seminaries and denominations are some of the biggest critics of what is known as “young earth creationism.”

However, like most science and a large portion of theology, we haven’t heard the last word.   Daily there are new discoveries that can either support or frustrate an argument or defense for young-earth creationism.

As Christians, if we agree that God created the heavens and the earth and look to the Bible as the source of truth, we can find some common ground between the relatively short (i.e. thousands of years) taught by ‘young-earth’ creationists vs. the unusually long (i.e. 4.2 billion years) timeframe that commonly is taught in science textbooks.

The Bible, while obviously not a science text book has been proven to be not only accurate in many scientific areas but has actually declared scientific truth long before it was generally accepted by the science and common understanding of the time.


Here are some examples:

1) The Bible declared that the earth is round (Isaiah 40:22) in 700 BC long before Aristotle was thought to be ‘mad’ by claiming the same thing. 

2) Jeremiah 33:22 states that the stars are innumerable, contrary to the common teaching that there were only about 1,100 stars based on what was visible to the naked eye. 

3) The Bible also said that each star was unique and different (1 Cor. 15:41) long before telescopes could confirm the endless variety in size, brilliance and temperature.

4) The book of Job, thought to be possibly the oldest book of the Bible written before Abraham and the patriarchs around 1,500 BC, has many interesting revelations regarding the earth and the cosmos. 
·      The earth floated freely in space (Job 26:7)
·      Light actually moved, i.e. light waves (Job 38:19-20)
·      The oceans contain springs (Job 38:16 Also Genesis 7:11)
·      Job may also have described dinosaurs (Behemoth in Job 40:15-24) and dragons (Leviathan is described as breathing fire in Job 41)

The Bible and Medicine 


Many have taken the Christian and the Bible to task for some medical claims that over the years have actually been proven to be true:
  •      The book of Leviticus (written prior to 1400 BC) describes the value of blood and that life itself was in the blood.  Note: Blood letting (based on the need of the menstrual cycle) was ‘scientific’ and popular until the late 1800s
  •      Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.”   Modern science agrees! 
  •           Regarding the Jewish rite of Circumcision, medical science has only recently discovered that blood-clotting in a newborn reaches its peak on the eighth day, then drops. The Bible consistently says that a baby must be circumcised on the eighth day.
Many of us read the Bible daily for inspiration, guidance and truth.  It is good to know that even in the area of science, we can trust it completely. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

DNA from Noah's Ark

Scientists have long believed that there was no scientific evidence supporting a global flood.   Some have claimed to have seen a large object on Mount Ararat and others have shown how the dimensions and instructions given to Noah would have been sufficient to accomplish the task at hand.  However, most scientists continue to be not convinced. 

However recent studies in DNA have shed new light on the subject. 

Can today's human diversity come from just three couples? – as little as 10 years ago, this was one of the ‘gotcha’ questions regarding the veracity of the Bible.   Evolutionists required hundreds of thousands if not millions of years to explain the diversity of the various races.  However that has all changed with DNA Genome:

·      In humans, each cell normally contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. Twenty-two of these pairs,  look the same in both males and females. The 23rd pair, the sex chromosomes, differs between males and females.
·      The Human Genome Project was declared complete in April 2003. One of its findings was that all humans have virtually identical DNA. They suggested that this is due to a population bottleneck in our past, where our numbers dwindled so low that we teetered on the brink of extinction.

Genesis states that eight people were on the Ark: Noah and his wife, their three sons and their three wives. So: 
·      There should be signs of a population bottleneck in which humanity almost became extinct.
·      Mitochondria are little compartments inside each of our cells which house the components to produce the cell's energy. They have their own, separate strand of DNA (separate from the main/nuclear/chromosomal DNA) and it's called Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Since only the mitochondria contained in the fertilized egg are used at conception, mtDNA is only inherited from the mother. 
·      Scientists have discovered there are three main mtDNA lineages found worldwide today. Evolutionists have labeled these lines “M”, “N”, and “R”.
·      Noah had three sons, each son had a wife which could be named “M”, “N” and “R” (interesting, these wives are not named in the Bible)

Scientists today identify Haplogroups M, N and R occurred somewhere between East Africa and the Persian Gulf.   The Bible says there was a migration after the flood:
·      Shem to Asia – and Israel
·      Ham to Africa
·      Japheth to Europe

Since humans have virtually identical DNA, the genetic diversity is consistent with thousands of years, not millions of years.
1.     In biology, the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of any set of organisms is the most recent individual from which all organisms in a group are directly descended. 
2.     According to Douglas L. T. Rohde Massachusetts Institute of Technology November 11, 2003
“This study introduces a large-scale, detailed computer model of recent human history which suggests that the common ancestor of everyone alive today very likely lived between 2,000 and 5,000 years ago. Furthermore, the model indicates that nearly everyone living a few thousand years prior to that time is either the ancestor of no one or of all living humans.”

Note how science is getting closer to understanding the true origin of man.  It is not billions, not millions, but 10s of thousands of years - - much closer to what the 'young earth' proponents suggest.  






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