6 Questions That Will Help Your Next Sermon Reach Everyone

This is about removing assumptions in our preaching and sermon content, so ironically, we need to begin with a few assumptions.

When you preach, I assume your hope is to reach every person in your audience, connect them all to a new way of thinking, and lead them all to apply a new way of living. That’s the basic idea preaching, right? Provide true information that compels helpful application.

If we hope to lead everyone in the room to the truth of our message, we must start by connecting everyone in the room to us and our message. That’s not a simple task.

For instance, if you only had an audience of one, developing a message that will accomplish your connecting goal would be relatively simple. To grasp where one person is in their faith, understanding of God, and engagement in a Christian worldview is likely. Not necessarily easy, but certainly possible.

With an audience of 10, the task gets more complicated — potentially 10 times more complicated in fact. A larger audience brings a larger diversity of backgrounds, understandings, willingness to believe, and willingness to apply ideas or new truths.

Grow the audience to 100, or 1,000, or 10,000, and the task gets exponentially more complex.

In the face of this complexity, there is one preaching mistake I see more than any other:

Too many sermons are crafted around unshared faith assumptions.

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50 Shades of Theological Gray

How comfortable are you with theological unknowns?

My church upbringing formed a belief system that did not allow for any theological variance. There was black and white and not much in between, and a “lukewarm” verse taken out of context was always used to substantiate the point. If you ever hinted at a middle ground (the dreaded gray), you were called “liberal” and were considered to be sliding down the proverbial slippery slope. I’m not sure what is at the bottom of the slippery slope, but to hear my childhood church describe it, I assumed it was hell. Basically a slip ‘n slide with Satan.

It makes sense in some respect. There is absolute truth, and it certainly seems possible that opening up truth to interpretation could lead to a complete loss of truth. Many seminaries thrive on this fear. There is a legitimate argument to be made IF every issue has ONE absolute truth. To me, the definition of “issue” becomes the real “issue.”

Take Jesus, as an example. There is certainly absolute truth when it comes to his Messiahship. His death and resurrection are true and critical to faith.

But what about baptism (and the Christians get nervous)? Is it required for salvation? Does submersion count more than sprinkling? I won’t get us started on infant and age-of-accountability!

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How to Make a Guest’s First Sunday Count

Sure, you have a mission statement for your church.

We do, too. I bet our statements pretty much say the same thing, with only a variation of adjectives and action verbs. After all, God sort of gave us the statement in the first place.

Having a mission statement is obviously important, but ensuring the mission statement comes to life is more important. How we design for that is important. After all, if what’s written on the wall isn’t happening down the hall, then what good is the statement after all?

I recently heard a story that so beautifully illustrates the power of taking the mission personally, and it was birthed from our organizational design. I’d love to share it with you, because it was a massive reminder to me of what’s at stake very single Sunday in our churches.

A few weeks back a brand new guest came to Woodstock City Church (where I serve). She was new to church. Not just new to our church, but I believe new to church. Although she is married, she came alone this day. As she entered the doors, a volunteer at our New Guest kiosk greeted her (let’s call her Amy). We have kiosks just inside the doors of every entry point at our church to answer questions and help new guests navigate our building. After talking with the new guest for a short while, Amy offered to give her a tour of the building, getting to know her more along the way. As they walked by Waumba Land (our preschool area), the new guest shared something very personal — she had lost her pre-school child. Through the obvious emotions of that moment, she confessed she didn’t know where else to turn, but knew she needed to turn somewhere, so she came to church. Our church.

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What If Public Grace Generated Opportunities For Private Truth?

Do you like politics?

I hate it.

I’ll sound more Christian and say I strongly dislike it.

For a short season in my early twenties, I thought I wanted to be in politics. At least until a close friend told me I was WAY too honest and opinionated to be a successful politician. I’ve never played relational games for sport and I certainly will never be blamed for telling people what they want to hear. That’s the type of person I want in political office, and there are some like that serving today, but I’m not sure we as a people are ready to vote for that person en masse.

I guess we like to hear what we want to hear. We are certainly drawn to what we like to hear.

The portion of politics that would have been most challenging to me was fund-raising. To raise political funds, a candidate must make big, bold statements that rally the home crowd enough to drive funding — whether they believe it or not, or plan to act on it or not. It’s this type of “red meat rhetoric” that dominates the political landscape today. Every political commercial or staged speech rips apart the opposition while passing off the strongest of opinions only to strengthen internal support and raise funds. Politics is a game — not of truth and justice, and in many ways not even about votes, but a game of winning and losing dollars (which are then converted to votes).

To me, the Christian landscape in our country often mirrors the political landscape in our country.

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How to Increase Your Reach by Narrowing Your Focus

This is Part 7 (and the last) of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the fifth ingredient:

Ingredient 6: MAINTAINING A CLEAR FOCUS

In this last post, we are going to evaluate the most simple, yet counterintuitive ingredient to creating a continuously growing church.

Here’s our starting place: Logically, the more we offer at our church, the more needs we can meet. The more ministry we provide, the more people we will attract. If we offer Upward Sports, we can attract the recreation crowd. If we offer VBS, we’ll reach children outside of Sunday. If we have a Men’s ministry, we’ll get more guys to eat pancakes and pray together. If we offer Women’s ministry, we’ll give ladies a place to belong and do life together. We have to offer Sunday School, because, well, we’re a church! We need softball and basketball teams for adults, because where else will men recreate? And we have those fields out back, too. We should probably have a food pantry and clothes closet, because people in our community are in need and we are a church. Maybe a homeless shelter? And we should also have a school — and not just a preschool, but a real school.

That’s all well and good. It’s even logical. Some would say strategic, and most would say it’s church.

But here’s the counter to counterintuitive: It’s crazy complicated to offer countless ministries and programs. We would all agree making our church more complicated and complex does not necessarily equal more effective. It certainly doesn’t guarantee more people. Complication spreads our leadership too thin. It spreads our effectiveness too thin. It spreads our resources too thin. It happens subtly over time, often without us even noticing. Before we know it, though, our church is burdened with more than can be done well, and our reach and effectiveness will be hampered as a result.

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3 Keys to Create an Unchurched Entry Point at Your Church

This is Part 6 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the fifth ingredient:

Ingredient 5: DEFINING, DESIGNING, AND DEFENDING THE ENTRY POINT

Where do people enter your home?

Friends probably come through the side door — often called a “friend door” for that very reason.

Family most often through the garage. I have four kids, and they more spill into the house through the garage, rarely closing it, shoes and socks and various clothing dropped anywhere and everywhere except the laundry room in the process. But maybe that’s just me.

But what about guests? Where do guests typically come into your home? It’s different for guests, right? They aren’t yet friends (the jury is still out), so the friend door isn’t a great option. They aren’t family, so the garage probably should remain closed when we are expecting them (and we hope they keep their socks on, too). In my home when we have guests over, much like you, they enter through the front door. The front door is the guest entry point into our home. It might be a little further than the garage or side door, but it’s where they go. It’s more comfortable for them and for us, mostly because it’s designed with them in mind.

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Creating Continuous Church Growth Through Steps, Not Programs

This is Part 5 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the fourth ingredient:

Ingredient 4: PRIORITIZING STEPS OVER EVENTS AND PROGRAMS

The concept of “thinking steps, not programs” is ingrained in our ministry model. By nature we try to define where people are, where we want them to be, and how we can get them there. Programs and events don’t effectively achieve this goal. Easy, obvious, and logical steps, however, do.

As a church location of North Point Ministries, this serves as one of our Seven Practices of Effective Ministry. A simple Google search will provide you with more than enough information on this ministry model practice. In this post, I want to instead discuss why this approach is critical to barrier-proofing the church.

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The Keystone Habit That Creates Continuous Church Growth

This is Part 4 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the third ingredient:

Ingredient 3: SELECT THE RIGHT KEYSTONE HABIT

I came across the concept of “keystone habits” in Charles Duhigg’s book, “The Power of Habit.” I highly recommend it.

According to Duhigg: “Some habits matter more than others in remaking businesses and lives. These are ‘keystone habits,’ and they can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate. Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything.”

All organizations have keystone habits, which is significant to acknowledge, because habits always trump ideas or plans. As a church, like every other organization, we have keystone habits in place—most of us don’t know they exist. At best, we certainly have not been strategic in defining these habits to intentionally drive our mission and vision. In fact, if you are not experiencing the results you want, odds are your keystone habit is partially the culprit.

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5 Ways to Better Understand Your Unchurched Community

This is Part 3 of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

I’d like to ask a better question: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth wall again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have discovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the second ingredient:

Ingredient 2: KNOWING YOUR TARGET MARKET.

I spent a decade in the marketplace before transitioning into ministry. Most of those years were spent in marketing, specifically working with companies to better acquire new customers and increase the frequency of visits and/or purchases from current customers. As a business, that is how you increase revenue. It’s fundamental.

In the church, the same premise is true. We can grow attendance by reaching new people or increasing the frequency of our current attendees. The latter would make numbers look better and probably help each individual spiritually grow, but the Kingdom would not grow. And capital “K” Kingdom growth, not simply my church growth, is the real goal.

Therefore, to state the obvious, growth through sheep stealing is not good growth. If people leave another church to attend our church, the Kingdom does not win.

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6 Opportunities a Portable Church Provides (Discovering Permanent Success in a Portable Church, Part 2)

AT A GLANCE…

Read this if…
You are a church leader or church attender in a portable church environment.

This post in one sentence…
If we can see through the challenges of portable church, we can discover the many opportunities portable provides.


As a church leader, I’ve spent the better part of my professional Christian life in portable church. I’ve learned a lot, made some mistakes, found some advantages, and experience success without a building. In the previous post, we talked about portable church challenges. But there are also opportunities, and ways to succeed.

Let’s look at some portable church opportunities now, and then we can evaluate how to succeed as a portable church in the next post.


LOVING YOUR PORTABLE CHURCH

When you are in the midst of set up and tear down every week, it’s easy to forget there are advantages and opportunities that come with the territory. They are not readily evident at 5:30 a.m. when trailers are being delivered or at 3:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon as the tear down process concludes, but they are there. And when we look close enough, they become evident.

Like most difficulties in life, though, the frustrations and challenges of portable church can mentally and physically outweigh the opportunities portable provides. So before you get too frustrated with your portable challenges, consider these opportunities:

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