Thursday, October 24, 2013

Five Missional Misfires

Every church would say they are in it for the mission. Which is why misfiring on that mission is something to be avoided at all costs. Yet it happens all the time.

Here are five of the most common misfires:

1. Seeing other churches as the competition.

When I started Meck in Charlotte over twenty years ago, there was a large and once-thriving church experiencing stagnation and severe financial struggles. In an interview, the pastor was asked why the church was facing such difficulty, and his response was telling: “When we started, we were the only good Bible-teaching church around. Now there are more to choose from.”

I remember being stunned at the complete orientation toward transfer growth from existing believers, and the complete blindness to the vast numbers of lost/unchurched people.

But even more, I was taken by how strongly so many people involved in local churches view other local churches as the competition, as if it’s McDonald’s against Burger King.

I remember saying to our earliest core group, and have continued to say ever since, “We could have a hundred churches around us, and it wouldn’t matter. We’re not after churched people!” I would often go further and add, “We’re not even primarily after people looking for a church…we’re after the person who, right now, the last thought on their mind is being in a church this weekend.”

Bottom line: If you see other churches as the competition, you are reducing the mission to reaching the reached. That is not the Great Commission. Instead of being fishers of men, you’re just keepers of the aquarium.

2. Criticizing “seeker” churches for being all evangelism and no discipleship.

It used to make me mad, now I just sigh at the ignorance. First, that they would bring out the tired moniker “seeker” when it is so passé, even among those churches that once consciously wore the label. Second, that they insist that if you prioritize the lost or unchurched in your outreach, you are somehow de-prioritizing the existing believers in your community or those who have moved into your area and are in need of a good church home.

Why the insistence on a false dichotomy that it either has to be evangelism, or it has to be discipleship?

The Great Commission makes it clear that we are to do both. Why can’t people see that if a church prioritizes the lost with outreach, as Jesus said we are supposed to, it doesn’t mean they aren’t strengthening existing believers for life in Christ and the cause of Christ? And why insist on taking shots at churches that are oriented toward the unchurched in their outreach as if they don’t care for the believer, or discipleship?

It’s such a straw man.

Bottom line: If you can’t make evangelism and discipleship a “both-and” instead of an “either-or,” you will never fulfill the “both-and” nature of the Great Commission, which was to “make” disciples and then “teach them everything.” And if you insist on this misfire, you will end up dropping the ball with one or the other side of Jesus’ marching orders.

3. Saying you’re after the unchurched, but clearly targeting the already-convinced.

For most churches, this isn’t conscious. They talk about reaching the lost, or going after the unchurched, but when you examine their “front doors” – meaning their weekend services, website, mailings, ads – they are targeting the person actively looking for a church home, or someone already in one. Regardless, it is clear that it is assumed they are a Christ-follower.

“Dynamic preaching!”

“10-week series on James!”

“Communion this weekend!”

“Looking for a good church home?”

“Fifty-voice choir!”

Really, who is attracted to any of this? Only the already convinced, and often already-churched.

If you think touting that your church is bigger, better, more dynamic, has better Bible study or its own worship band with CD’s is going to reach the “nones” that are now the second-largest and fastest-growing religious segment in the country, then you need to get out and meet a few.

Bottom line: If you say you’re after the unchurched, and want to reach the unchurched, then for heaven’s sake (literally), try targeting them.

4. Substituting social justice for evangelism.

In what is arguably a reaction against the previous generation’s emphasis on social morality – namely abortion and same-sex marriage – young Christians (and now older ones as well) are giving renewed emphasis to matters of social justice, including a new interest in public policies that address issues related to peace, health and poverty.

This is all well and good.

The misfire is when the mission of the church is reduced to social justice. In other words, we’ll buy Tom’s Shoes, but not witness to Tom.

Bottom line: Social ministry should not be paired against evangelism. We should extend the Bread of Life as well as bread for the stomach. But we must never begin, and end, with the stomach alone. The scandal of the cross – and humanity’s desperate need for it – doesn’t play as well as the hip work of IJM or supporting Bono in Africa. Yet think how tragic it would be to have compassion for the immediate needs of this life, but not the eternal needs of the life to come.

So yes, buy a pair of Tom’s Shoes.

Just don’t forget Tom.

5. Thinking outreach is offering them what they already have.

A flyer recently arrived in my mailbox from a new church plant, promising me relevant and practical messages; contemporary “urban” music and great coffee. The idea is that if you offer such things, people will come who wouldn’t normally come.

It’s a subtle and enticing temptation. All we have to do is encourage casual dress, offer Starbucks coffee, play rock music, and then deliver a “felt needs” message in a style similar to the popular speakers of the day and we will automatically grow.

And if you want to guarantee your growth comes from a younger demographic, just throw in skinny jeans, designer t-shirts, and a noticeable tattoo. It will instantly turn the most middle-of-age pastor into a Millennial magnet.



People already have those things. They do not need to go to church to find them. If they want Starbucks, they’ll go to Starbucks; if they want to hear contemporary music, they have iTunes and their iPod. They may appreciate those things once they attend, but it is not what will getthem to attend.

This approach may have worked back in the 80’s and 90’s, but that was because the typical unchurched person was a Baby Boomer who had been raised in a church, just starting to have kids. They had the memory and the experience; once they had kids, they actually wanted to find a church. When churches took down the cultural barriers associated with attending (eliminating stuffiness, boredom, irrelevance, empty ritual, outdated music), Boomers were attracted.

And yes, back then, if you built it, they came.

But this is no longer our world, and hasn’t been for quite some time.

As uber-marketer Seth Godin notes, “The portion of the population that haven’t bought from not waiting for a better mousetrap. They’re not busy considering a, b and c and then waiting for d. No, they’re not in the market...As a result, smart marketers don’t market to this audience by saying, ‘hey ours is better than theirs!’”

Bottom line: The foundational way that people divorced from the church and a life in Christ will come to church and find that life in Christ is if a Christ-follower does three things: build a relationship with them, share how Christ has intersected the deepest needs of their life, and then invites them into the community to see, hear, taste and explore.

And actually, that’s pretty much the bottom line for all five.

James Emery White
Editor’s Note
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president.  His newly released bookis The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press).  To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Friday, March 15, 2013

30 Reasons Church Leaders Need a Coach

By Scott Thomas

A church planter's life can get pretty lonely. Even the best can unintentionally paint themselves into a corner due to how many new situations they face. This is why the most successful planters need a coach. A good coach can save planting pastors a ton of time and heartache.

Here are 30 reasons why you should consider finding yourself a planting coach:

1. Coaching helps to remind a leader of the Gospel.

2. Coaching exposes a leader's blind spots.

3. All leaders are capable of succumbing to sin's deception.

4. Leaders are models for faithful obedience.

5. Coaching is preventative maintenance for a leader.

6. The stakes for a church leader are high.

7. Coaching models biblical community.

8. Coaching provides a prayer partner for the leader.

9. Leaders can be prideful.

10. Leaders are often lonely.

11. Coaching is a practical means for a leader to pay careful attention to self.

12. Coaching brings encouragement to the leader.

13. Coaching can protect the flock from a leader’s mistakes and bad decisions.

14. Coaching improves a leader's perspective and objectivity. 

15. Coaching facilitates the leader's growth and equipping
16. Coaching sharpens a leader's calling.

17. Leaders lead where they have walked themselves.

18. Coaching is a means for intentional accountability and submission.

19. Coaching helps a leader identify and fight arrogance.

20. Ministry is a difficult and complicated task.

21. Leaders in a coaching relationship model discipleship.

22. Shepherds need to be shepherded.

23. Coaching sharpens a leader's skills and abilities.

24. Coaching provides a safe sounding board.

25. Coaching is fun.

26. Coaching encourages friendship.

27. Coaching provides affirmation for a leader's decisions.

28. Coaching enables personal sanctification.

29. Coaching protects family and marital health.

30. Coaching is a means to obtain gospel reflections from a fellow leader.

Scott Thomas is the President of Acts 29 Network and Pastor of Global Church at Mars Hill Church. Scott has been a pastor for 30 years—first as a youth pastor and then as a lead pastor and church planter/church replanter for 16 years.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Seismic Shift in Outreach

The Seismic Shift in Outreach
There has been a seismic shift in outreach that few church leaders are understanding, much less pursuing.
From the 1950’s to the 1980’s, the vanguard of evangelistic outreach was direct proclamation of the gospel.  Whether the crusades of Billy Graham or the creative approaches of Willow Creek Community Church, presentation led the way.
This led to joining a community, and eventually, being discipled into participation with the cause.
From the 1990’s thru the 2000’s, community took the lead.  People wanted to belong before they believed.  Skepticism was rampant, and trust had to be earned.  Once enfolded, Christ was often met in the midst of that community.
Cause, again, was the last to take hold.
From the 2010’s forward, “cause” has become the leading edge of our connection with a lost world, and specifically the “nones” (and it is increasingly best to replace the term “unchurched” with the “nones”).  Consider the recent Passion Conference in Georgia.  What arrested outside media attention was the commitment to eradicate modern-day slavery, not the 60,000 students in attendance much less the messages related to the Christian faith.
In a word, “cause.”
This made the gathering of 60,000 college students in the Georgia Dome for that cause become attractional.  In other words, then and only then did “community” come into play.  Then, after exploring that community, Christ could be – and was – introduced.
Think of this shift in terms of moving people through stages of introduction:
Unchurched >>> Christ >>> Community >>> Cause
Unchurched >>> Community >>> Christ >>> Cause
2010’s -
Nones >>> Cause >>> Community >>> Christ
It is important to note how far the message of Christ is from the mind and sentiment of the average “none.”  It’s not that the church should “bury the lead” in terms of putting Christ at the end of the line – remember, we’re talking strategy.  It’s just that leading with Billy Graham’s simple “The Bible says” was a strategy designed for people in a different place spiritually than many are today.
The more post-Christian a person is, the more evangelism must embrace not only “event/proclamation”, but “process” and “event/proclamation.”  Earlier models were almost entirely “event/proclamation” oriented, such as revivals, crusades, or door-to-door visitation.  As I’ve written about in other places, this is only effective in an Acts 2, God-fearing Jews of Jerusalem context.
“Process” models are needed in Acts 17, Mars Hill, nones/skeptical contexts.
Like the one we live in today.
The presentation of Christ must remain central to our thinking, to be sure.  That is the only reason we are even talking about strategy; the goal is to present Christ and Him crucified.  But is that where we start?  On Mars Hill, the spiritual illiteracy was so deep that Paul had to begin with cultural touchstones, lead in to creation, and work his way forward.
It took him a while to get to Christ.
And community?  It matters, but the average person has tastes of that already.  Maybe not functional, but they don’t seem as drawn to it as they used to be.  Perhaps it is because of the lure and illusion of social media, or because they’ve simply given up on it, but it’s not the great “search” it once was.
So there has been a great, seismic shift.  Today, it is cause that arrests the attention of the world.
Which brings us to the challenge.
First, to recognize the seismic shift, and begin to strategize accordingly.
Second, to realize how difficult this will be.  If cause is in the lead, and community close behind, the church is at a deficit.  In the minds of many, our causes have been mundane (let’s raise money for a fellowship hall!) or alienating (Moral Majority!).  And the close second of community?  Our reputation for dysfunction in that area is legendary.
But there is great irony in the challenge.  Jesus wed mission and message together seamlessly, proclaiming the Kingdom that had come while healing the leper and feeding the hungry.  He mandated concern for the widow and the orphan, the homeless and naked, the imprisoned and hungry, while speaking of the bread of life and a home in heaven.
In other words, we should have been nailing this all along.
And if community is lurking in the back of the minds of people as a felt need, that should be a calling card as well.  Jesus challenged his followers about the importance of observable love toward one another as the ultimate apologetic for His life and ministry and message.
And even if it takes a while to get to Christ, He should be presented raw and unfiltered in all of His scandalous specificity.  As Moltmann proclaimed, “the crucified God.”
So as we ponder the rise of “cause” as the cultural bridge over which to walk, perhaps the greater truth is more elemental:
Do all three.
Imagine a church that had community, cause and the undiluted message of Christ in the vanguard of its efforts.
It might just become the church Jesus had in mind all along that would reach the world.
James Emery White
Editor’s Note
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president.  His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press).  To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Conversations that Connect

Conversations that Connect 

by Colette Carlson

Conversing naturally is key to your success in the business world. Knowing when to initiate a conversation, keeping it interesting by asking effective questions, sharing your own stories and ending a conversation with kindness is an art. Create connections by following these seven steps:

Step 1: Exude confidence. When you're comfortable in your own skin, you make others comfortable. If you take the attitude that you bring something to the table, you will see that attitude reflected in others. Remember: Enthusiasm is infectious.

Step 2: Show up with something to say. Always be on the lookout for material. Although it may sound contrived, I read The Wall Street Journal looking for interesting, timely information that I can share at my next get-together: a party, association meeting or business affair. Think about keeping a file that you can review before your next event.

Step 3: Begin with a question. Besides showing interest in someone, one simple question can start an entire conversation. Asking something a bit unusual sets you apart from the crowd. Rather than, "What do you do?" ask, "How do you enjoy spending your weekends?"

Step 4: Find common ground. The surest way to build rapport is to find something you have in common and build on that interest. Don't shy away from topics that have nothing to do with business. They often create the perfect connection.

Step 5: Focus on others. Putting your energy and interest in another person marks you as a great conversationalist. Englishman Raymond Mortimer once described the art of conversation in the United States as "not tennis, in which you return the other fellow's serve, but gold, in which you go on hitting your own ball." Keep that back and forth volley going with conversation.

Step 6: Be inclusive. Excluding others in the group is a conversation killer. Make eye contact with everyone in the group, not just the person who asked you a direct question.

Step 7: Close a conversation with class.
When a conversation naturally lulls, take advantage and say, "It's been my pleasure talking with you. I hope our paths cross again soon." Before leaving, be certain to thank the hosts.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


One day a man was walking down the street on his way to work. As he walked down the street, there were dogs on just about every front porch and they all would bark as the man walked passed them. However, there was one dog that he remembered, because this dog was just sitting there and he was whimpering and whining and moaning, you know the little whimpering sounds dogs make when they are wounded or in some sort of pain. Well, this particular dog was just sitting there on the front porch making those sounds.

The man was curious as to why this dog wasn 't barking like the other dogs and why he was whimpering. He couldn't figure it out, so he just kept walking to work. The next day he was in the same situation where he was walking down the street and saw the dogs once again and this same dog that was moaning and groaning the other day was doing the same thing today and he just couldn't figure it out. Well, he walked passed for an entire week and every day the dog would be there moaning and groaning. So, finally, the guy got fed up, he said, "Let me find out what's going on." So he went and knocked on the door and a guy came out and said, "Yes, how may I help you?"

He said, "Sir, is this your dog? "

"Yes, that's my dog. "

"Well, what's wrong with him?"

The owner of the dog said, "What do you mean?"

"Well, he's been sitting here moaning and groaning, whimpering and whining for an entire week. The rest of the dogs are barking, your dog should be barking too, why is he moaning and groaning?"

The owner said, "Well, he's actually sitting on a nail." And the guy said, "What! Your dog is sitting on a nail. Why doesn't he get off?"

"Well, it just doesn't hurt him enough."

Story by Les Brown
Some churches are like this dog. They do not like the situation that they are now in but since it doesn't hurt them enough, they choose to remain in that situation. 

They want to win souls and grow spiritually but they are afraid to get off their nail. 

What they are doing now in the church is very comfortable. Even though the congregation is small, they are able to pay their bills and have enough to pay their some programs and activities. 

They are so afraid of doing something different and actually get very upset if someone tells them to do so. For the next 20 or 30 years, they will sit on that nail until grave claims all of them.

A sad story but thousands of churches around the world are sitting on their nail.

Are you and your church sitting on the nail?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Five-Finger Prayer

The Five-Finger Prayer

1. Thumb (people who are close to you)
Your thumb is nearest to you. So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember. To pray for our loved ones is, as C.S. Lewis once said, a "sweet duty".

2. Pointer (people who point the way) 
The next finger is the pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. Keep them in your prayers.

3. Tall Finger (people in authority)
The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God's guidance.

4. Ring Finger (people who are weak) 
The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger; as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need your prayers day and night. You cannot pray too much for them.

5. Little Finger (your own needs)
And lastly comes our little finger; the smallest finger of all. Which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. As the Bible says, "the least shall be the greatest among you." Your pinky should remind you to pray for yourself. By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.

Use your daily routine of life to reinforce your prayer life:

When you first wake up - Praise your Creator

When you shower or bathe - Ask for cleansing of your soul; confess, repent and receive forgiveness

When you eat - Give thanks not only for the food, but for your family, home, life, etc.

When you go to work or school - Pray for those with whom you come into contact

Where to Pray...

Jesus tells us where to pray in Matthew 6:6: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

How to Pray...

In Matthew 6:9-15 Jesus tells us how to pray when He gives us the pattern for prayer in what is now referred to as the Lord's prayer.

"This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Arrow Principle - 2nd Edition

The Arrow Principle - 2nd edition
Have you ever felt that no matter how hard you try, your church or organization just cannot grow? Maybe it’s time you apply the Arrow Principle: find the right people and build a competent team.

The Arrow Principle first appeared in 1987 as a one-page delineation in my Church Growth Manual. Since then many people, both from the churches and secular organizations, have heard me shared the Arrow Principle. However, it was not until 2007, while ministering in the Philippines that I was inspired to elaborate upon these principles and put them in book form. This year, the second edition is published and will soon be in the bookstores.

Ministers from both the Evangelical mainline churches and the Charismatic/Pentecostal churches had asked for more materials and details on how these principles may be effectively applied to their ministries. That triggered a writing project that took one and half year.

This book is obviously not a scholarly or theological monograph. I have written it with the purpose of serving as a practical guide for contemporary church management and growth. 

In future postings, I will share with you more about the principle that helps so many pastors to organize their churches for greater growth. 

God bless,
Rev Albert Kang