Congregational Life and Ministry

Meet and Greet: 11/16/17

Dream Big, Dream Often


Evelina and I are presently en route to Florida so I’m going to run the Meet N Greet through next Wednesday!!  Be sure to share this post with your readers to get more people involved and more links shared!

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend everyone!!  Strap on your party shoes and join the fun!  

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find…

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Congregational Life and Ministry

Are You Pushing God Away?

The Light Breaks Through


The story has been told of a believer, Frederick Nolan, who was fleeing from his enemies during a time of persecution in North Africa. Pursued by them over hill and valley with no place to hide, he fell exhausted into a wayside cave, expecting his enemies to find him soon.

Awaiting his death, he saw a spider weaving a web. Within minutes, the little bug had spun a beautiful web across the mouth of the cave. The pursuers arrived and wondered if Nolan was hiding there, but on seeing the unbroken and unmangled piece of art, thought it impossible for him to have entered the cave without dismantling the web. And so, they went on. Having escaped, Nolan burst out and exclaimed:

“Where God is, a spider’s web is like a wall,

Where God is not, a wall is like a spider’s web.”

Where God is not, a wall is…

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Congregational Life and Ministry, The Week in Review

Kingdom Impact for the Week of November 13th


The Week Ahead:

On Sunday our country was hit with another shockwave.  A man with a gun and a history of mental issues in his life went into a church in a small Texas town and killed or wounded nearly 50 of the members of that church.  The fallout from that event has the church considering tearing down the building and relocating.  How can you enter that building again with all the pain and sorrow attack to what once was a place of peace and comfort?  God will heal their wounds, but healing takes time and loss leaves a hole in the human heart.  I ran across these words that struck me in this time of grief.


Out of the dark forbidding soil

The pure white lilies grow.

Out of the black and murky clouds,

Descends the stainless snow.

Out of the crawling earth-bound worm

A butterfly is born.

Out of the somber shrouded night,

Behold! A golden morn!

Out of the pain and stress of life,

The peace of God pours down.

Out of the nails — the spear — the cross,

Redemption — and a crown!


Monday: “Dare to Disagree” A very insightful TED Talk.  Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but as Margaret Heffernan shows us, good disagreement is central to progress.

Tuesday:Rural Ministry Has Unique Challenges and Opportunities”

Ministry in rural America is about relationships and patience.

Wednesday:  “Leaders Need to Humility”

One of our greatest gifts as a leader is humility.  If we are armed with enough humility a leader is open and willing to learn from others.  This post examines this in more detail.

Thursday:  “Using Rap and Hip Hop Music to Connect with Today’s Teens”

Rap music is not just genera for African American teens.  It is widely popular with many teens.  I will share an interview with a Christian teacher who is using it to connect with young people.


The Week in Review on The Light Breaks Through.

Monday: “The Danger of Silence”

“We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t,” says poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.

Tuesday: “Creating a Family-based Ministry Environment in your Church”

 The Family-based model is the last model left to explore. What makes this approach unique is that Family-based ministry isn’t a program, it’s a mindset. It returns the church back to its biblical foundation and the Deuteronomy understanding of the role of parents.

Wednesday: “How We Handle Grief is a Reflection of our Understanding of Heaven.”

The devotional theme for today is “Blessed are they.”  I am not here to glorify their accomplishments or lift them up because these saints are especially kind and good people. This was by far the most popular post in the wake of the Texas massacre.  Our prayers go out the family and that community.

Thursday: “Three Key Components of Leadership”

A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.”–M. D. Arnold


The information in this weblog is provided “AS IS” with no warranties and confers no rights.

This weblog does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of the Northern Illinois District. It is solely my opinion and if you know me or follow this blog long enough you will learn I have many. Some deeply insightful some may be the result of too much Cajun spice in my diet.

Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts you would not be the first to do so. In the comments section of each blog entry, but I reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever (abusive, profane, rude, or anonymous comments) – so keep it polite, please. It’s just a blog. It is designed to be a place for people to come and be encouraged. And don’t we all need a little more sunshine in our lives?

Congregational Life and Ministry

Creating a Family-based Ministry Environment


It is common for Orthodox Jews to recite every morning and evening of every day Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This section of the Torah is written on the door frames of their homes. There isn’t a practicing Jew today who can’t quote it from memory. It is popular as John 3:16 is for the Christian. The core of the Old Testament is summed up in these few sentences.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

We have discussed in previous posts three modern Sunday School alternative models. The Family-based model is the last model left to explore. What makes this approach unique is that Family-based ministry isn’t a program, it’s a mindset. It returns the church back to its biblical foundation and the Deuteronomy understanding of the role of parents. It is the responsibility of the parents to take their calling back and to “impress upon their children” the Word of God. Parents are the best examples to talk with their children about faith and then to live out that faith walk daily. Back in olden days, each child knew his or her place in the family and in their faith journey.

The Foundation of the Model.

Family-Based Ministry described by Brandon Shields.

Most closely resembles the age-segregated ministries common in the 20th century.
Rather than completely revamping the existing ministries and starting over, this approach builds on it, using the ministry platform to equip parents and encourage intergenerational discipleship within its framework.

Family-based ministry finds its strength in its intentionality to take formerly age-segregated events and make them intergenerational or family oriented and the style is more easily achieved with the existing models and culture

Because it does look similar to what currently in place, sometimes it can be challenging to change the underlying culture of the church towards family and transition to a family-focused church.1

The Downside of this Model.

As much as I love giving ministry back to parents because it is biblical, this model can become internally focused. Parents have a greater lasting impact on their children than a youth pastor or church volunteer. Equipping, encouraging and ultimately empowering parents to live out their calling as the primary faith influencers in their children’s lives is really important. I don’t want to in any way minimize that. My question is where in this model is there room for the outsider? That family that does not have a relationship with the Risen Lord? In my experience, those who are not already believers have little interest in being connected to Jesus. Connecting them to Jesus and the church comes over time, it is something that the Holy Spirit has to nurture over time. The church that adapts this model must find intentional ways to build outside relationships into the system.



If you have been following this series here are all the models of family ministry.


Congregational Life and Ministry, Parenting, Sunday School

Is A Family-Equipping Model Right For Your Church?


What is the one thing the church can never have too much of?  Answer.  Young families!

How do you go about making this wish a reality?  Well, probably not by using the approach below:

It started with Rent-A-Wife, a small Petaluma, California, company created by Karen Donovan to help clients decorate their homes, balance checkbooks, run errands, etc. Donovan, who launched her business through a small ad in the local newspaper, is already thinking big after four months of operation. She wants to hire her father to initiate Rent-A-Husband and her two teens to start Rent-A-Family. “We can do what any family does,” the newfangled entrepreneur joked. “We can come over and eat all the food, turn on all the lights, put handprints on the walls, take showers and leave the towels on the floor. When clients are finished with Rent-A-Family, they’ll have to call Rent-A-Wife. – Campus Life, October 1980.

 Family-Equipping Ministry Model

A Family-Equipping church begins with the mindset that we will intentionally equip parents to be the primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives.  The idea of having parents take responsibility for the instruction and discipleship of their own family is not some new-fangled concept but a time-honored tradition.  Martin Luther in writing the Small Catechism in his introduction said, “The deplorable, miserable condition which I discovered lately when I, too, was a visitor, has forced and urged me to prepare [publish] this Catechism, or Christian doctrine, in this small, plain, simple form. Mercy! Good God! what manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and, alas! Many pastors are altogether incapable and incompetent of teaching [so much so, that one is ashamed to speak of it].”

The Origins of this Model

 Timothy Paul Jones coined the term family-equipping ministry to describe the family ministry paradigm that he and Randy Stinson developed for the School of Church Ministries at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Soon afterward, Randy Stinson located and brought together an informal coalition of ministers who were doing in practice precisely what he and Jones had sketched out in theory. Leading early practitioners of the family-equipping model included Jay Strother at Brentwood Baptist Church in Tennessee, Brian Haynes at Kingsland Baptist Church in Texas, and Steve Wright at Providence Baptist Church in North Carolina [1]

In many ways, the family-equipping model represents a middle route between the family-integrated and family-based models. [2]Semblances of age-organized ministry remain intact in family-equipping contexts. Many family-equipping churches even retain youth ministers and children’s ministers. Yet every practice at every level of ministry is reworked to champion the place of parents as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives. Because parents are primary disciple-makers and vital partners in family-equipping ministry, every activity for children or youth must resource, train, or directly involve parents. [3]

Whereas family-based churches develop intergenerational activities within existing segmented-programmatic structures and add family activities to current calendars, family-equipping churches redevelop the congregation’s structure to cultivate a renewed culture wherein parents are acknowledged, trained, and held accountable as the primary faith-trainers in their children’s lives. As in family-integrated churches, children whose parents are unbelievers are connected with mature believers in the types of relationships that Paul described in his letter to Titus (Titus 2:1-8). Every level of the congregation’s life is consciously recultured to “co-champion” the church’s ministry and the parent’s responsibility.[4]


In a future post, I will lay out the benefits of this model in supporting families while also strengthening the spiritual formation of our young people. Below are some of the benefits I will explore in depth.

Steve Wright, who’s making the transition to church planting missionary in South Florida but who for years served as a family minister at Providence Baptist in Raleigh NC notes:

  • Family-equipping ministry seeks to make Christ above all else beautiful and declares an uncompromising Gospel to those who do not know Christ (Galatians 1:6-9).
  • Family-equipping ministry is measured by lasting disciples rather than attendance campaigns and focuses on the glory of our matchless Savior (John 15:1-15).
  • Family-equipping ministry truly partners with parents and prioritizes the task of resourcing, training, and involving parents as the primary disciplers of their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
  • Family-equipping ministry prioritizes and champions equally the two institutions that are God-given: the Family and the Church (Acts 2:42-47).
  • Family-equipping ministry seeks men who are biblically qualified pastors rather than charming activity directors (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
  • Family-equipping ministry develops a ministry environment that is healthy for a student pastor and his family; an environment where pastors will desire to stay long past today’s destructive, brief tenures (Matthew 10:10).
  • Family-equipping ministry seeks to mentor students for adulthood, marriage, and family rather than seeking to develop lifelong youth group attendees (1 Corinthians 13:11).
  • Family-equipping ministry invites, teaches, and expects older generations to invest in those younger in the faith (2 Timothy 2:2).

[1] For the model as practiced by these ministers, see Jay Strother, “Family-Equipping Ministry: Co-champions with a Single Goal,” in Perspectives on Family Ministry, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville: B&H, 2009); Brian Haynes, Shift: What it Takes to Finally Reach Families Today (Loveland, CO: Group Publishing, 2009); Steve Wright with Chris Graves, reThink: Is Student Ministry Working? (Raleigh: InQuest, 2007).

[2]Much that is found in Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide (Colorado Springs: Cook, 2009) fits in the overlap between the family-based and family-equipping paradigms, at least from an organizational and programmatic perspective; many of the associated publications may be helpful in resourcing the development of family-based and family-equipping ministries. The content and approach of materials from The reThink Group seem in many cases to be driven more by ecclesial pragmatism than by substantive theological or biblical considerations.

[3] (3) For the “resource, train, involve” principle as well as the term “co-champion,” see Steve Wright with Chris Graves, reThink: Is Student Ministry Working? (Raleigh: InQuest, 2007).


Other blogs on Sunday School:





Congregational Life and Ministry

Do You Need an Equipper In Your Life?

The Light Breaks Through


The church is not a gallery where we exhibit the finest of Christians. No, it is a school where we educate and encourage imperfect Christians. Source Unknown

A few months ago, at a ministry conference, I was challenged to define my personal core values.  I struggled with that for several hours.  At first, I came up with, “I am fearfully made and sent out.”  That sounded good but seemed to miss the mark.  Upon further reflection, I settled on three critical foundational words, “Equip, Encourage and Empower.”  So, I thought I would share with you what those three words mean to me and how they play out in my life.  My prayer is that this may inspire you to summarize who you are and how you have been called to live out your calling as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible backdrop for this discussion will be…

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Congregational Life and Ministry, Millennials

Millennials Want a Courageous Church


This post continues a series on the kind of church young people today are seeking.  It should be clear by now that this is not all that different from what most people are seeking. However, there are some stark differences in the level of importance one group places on these factors over and above another.

Millennials are seeking a courageous Church

Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.[1]According to Barna Research on Millennials a common struggle young people today are faced with are cultural challenges.  And the issue the church faces is how does it respond to that challenge of teaching cultural discernment to young adults?  Here is how Barna describes the landscape: “Millennials need guidance on engaging culture meaningfully and from a distinctly Christian perspective. This idea of finding a way to bring their faith in Jesus to the problems they encounter in the world is one of the most powerful motivations for today’s practicing Christian Millennials. They don’t want their faith to be relegated to Sunday worship, and this desire for holistic faith is something the Church can speak to in a meaningful way. “

So, what does this mean?

People in their twenties want to be challenged to think about difficult messages. They don’t just want to have easy topics each week. Millennials want to dive into difficult-to-understand topics and passages and explore how they apply. Take young people on a spiritual journey of discovery through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.  Provide an environment where you can have a dialogue to discuss real issues. For example, “Here’s why you should stay sexually pure until marriage. Here’s why it’s good to tithe. How do you witness to the LBGT community?”

Imagine a sermon series that address the question, “Can I be a Christian IF…” and you fill in the blank with some of the tough issues of our day, such as woman’s reproduction rights, social justice, race relations, and there is even some question if you can be a Christian if you are on one political side or the other. I understand there are some pastors out there getting nervous just thinking about taking on such possibly divisive issues.  Something for you to consider, if we can’t have these conversations in the church where can we have them?  Where can members go to get a balanced biblical dialogue about the questions that are running through their minds?  The internet is not the new source of truth.  And who better to lead this discussion than a person well versed in the understanding of the truth of God’s Word and the compassionate soul to respect other viewpoints, yet still point people to God’s divine plan for humanity?  Of course, to pull this off requires courage.

A Word of Caution

Jim Fiebig says, “There’s a fine line between courage and foolishness. Too bad it’s not a fence.”  This post is not a license to be mean or condescending.  Millennials and no one else wants to be apart of a church that condemns and appears intolerant. We want to approach tough issues with sensitivity and love while still holding to the truth of God’s Word.  That is a fine line and I don’t know where that line is until we cross it.  But we need to find a way to lead in this changing, scary at times post-Christian society.  May God gives us the courage and the wisdom to do just that.

[1] Eddie Rickenbacker, Bits & Pieces, April 29, 1993, p. 12.

Other posts on the topic:

Congregational Life and Ministry, Wisdom From Our Church Fathers

The Church Needs Theological Checks and Balances

Weight Scales

Charles Swindoll shares this story in his book, “Living Above the Level of Mediocrity.” Several years ago, I met a gentleman who served on one of Walt Disney’s original advisory boards. What amazing stories he told! Those early days were tough; but that remarkable, creative visionary refused to give up. I especially appreciated the man’s sharing with me how Disney responded to disagreement. He said that Walt would occasionally present some unbelievable, extensive dream he was entertaining. Almost without exception, the members of his board would gulp, blink, and stare back at him in disbelief, resisting even the thought of such a thing. But unless every member resisted the idea, Disney usually didn’t pursue it. Yes, you read that correctly. The challenge wasn’t big enough to merit his time and creative energy unless they were unanimously in disagreement!

Now while that works for Walt Disney because his creativity was far ahead of his peers, that does not work with the truth of God’s Word.  We as pastors and church leaders are not called to create some new creative truths that are not grounded in what is already written in Scripture.  The apostle John gives a stern warning against such theological creativity at the end of the Book of Revelations. 1I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”  In an attempt to create a theological checks and balances Luther describes the danger of any church leader, even the Pope, claiming to have supreme authority.  In an earlier post I review the three walls Luther challenged, because they were ignoring warning signs that have led to doctrinal impurity in the church.  And now that these errors were in the church’s teaching, the walls were preventing the church from correcting the false teaching.  These walls are easy to build but even harder to tear down once they are erected.  In this final post we examine the final wall.

In his 1520 Letter to the Christian Nobility. Luther’s attacks the premise that only the Pope can call an Ecumenical council to deal with errors in church doctrine.

It is important here to define what an Ecumenical council is: ecumenical councils are assemblies of Patriarchs, Cardinals, residing Bishops, Abbots, male heads of religious orders, and other juridical persons, nominated by the Pope. The purpose of an ecumenical council is to define doctrine, reaffirm truths of the Faith, and extirpate heresy. Council decisions, to be valid, are approved by the popes.[1] Participation is limited to these persons, who cannot delegate their voting rights.

Luther’s argument: For when the pope acts contrary to the Scriptures, it is our duty to stand by the Scriptures, to reprove him, and to constrain him, according to the word of Christ in Matthew 18:15: “If thy brother sin against thee, go and tell it him between thee and him alone; if he hear thee not, then take with thee one or two more; if he hear them not, tell it to the Church; if he hear not the Church, consider him a heathen.” Here every member is commanded to care for every other. How much rather should we do this when the member that does evil is a ruling member, and by his evil-doing is the cause of much harm and offense to the rest! But if I am to accuse him before the Church, I must bring the Church together.

They have no basis in Scripture for their contention that it belongs to the pope alone to call a council or confirm its actions; for this is based merely upon their own laws, which are valid only in so far as they are not injurious to Christendom or contrary to the laws of God. When the pope deserves punishment, such laws go out of force, since it is injurious to Christendom not to punish him by means of a council.

Summary; no person regardless of their place, position, or education level can be considered errorless. That position is reserved only for the Word of God.  We need to have in our congregations, our churches and church bodies a way to regularly have a healthy check and balance on our theology. It is easy to get sloppy and allow all kinds of false teaching and practices to creep into churches.  We need to regularly be in God’s Word and not be tempted to have reached a level where continued growth is not needed.

As Luther points out in this letter, Let us, therefore, hold fast to this: No Christian authority can do anything against Christ; as St. Paul says, II Corinthians 13:8: “We can do nothing against Christ, but for Christ.” Paul says to the Corinthians, II Corinthians 10:8, “God has given us authority not for the destruction, but for the edification of Christendom.” Who is ready to overleap this text? It is only the power of the devil and the Antichrist which resists the things that serve for the edification of Christendom; it is, therefore, in no wise to be obeyed, but is to be opposed with life and goods and all our strength.

[1] Hubert JedinKleine Konziliengeschichte, Freiburg, Herder, 1960, 9


Congregational Life and Ministry, Millennials

Millennials Want a Community Church


In his 1983 acceptance speech for the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, [Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn] recalled the words he heard as a child when his elders sought to explain the ruinous upheavals in Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” He added, “If I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: ‘men have forgotten God.'”  – John Wilson, reviewing “Solzhenitsyn and the Modern World, in Christianity Today, Feb 7, 1994, p. 57.

Interesting that even back in 1983 a shift was happening; more and more people were drifting away from God.  As millennials enter adulthood that trend has reached a critical mass. Millennials defined as 18-34 by 2015 are not attending church as much as some previous generations.  Barna Research reports, “about one-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds are practicing Christians, meaning they attend church at least once a month and strongly affirm that their religious faith is very important in their life.”  What are the factors keeping them away? To be clear I am speaking in generalities here.  Not all Millennials fall into this category. It is always a bit dangerous to peg an entire group based on market research, so keep that in mind as you read this.  Millennials are individuals.  Millennials are also a very talented group, with enormous potential to radically change the world.  When Millennials find their unique calling, watch out world.

Millennials want Authentic Community.  

Community is nurtured through intentional, authentic, honest, real relationships.   A community is not a Sunday morning only experience.  This unique relationship is formed by living life together.  It is forged over the hot coals of brokenness and restoration.  Over the coals of tackling difficult faith issues, and societal contradictions through this journey of faith. Community means daring to have uncomfortable faith conversations.

Millennials Want an Active Role in the Church’s Transformational Story

“Millennials aren’t looking for the perfect church, they’re looking for a captivating story to join.” Rusty Gates

Millennials are seeking a more prominent role to play in the Gospel story than merely sitting in the pews.

They have heard countless sermons on all of the various parts of the body of Christ and the many spiritual gifts given to the people of God.  Now they are looking for a way to put their talents and passions to work as a vital part of the church and school.  Before you get overly excited and think, great now, we can put their names on the ballot or all those vacant board positions, don’t! Pump the brakes on that one. It not about serving on some board it is about joining fellow believers on a faith journey where relationships are formed.  Being a Sunday-morning-only church does not produce, deep, meaningful relationships for Millennials. If we are honest, that doesn’t create deep, meaningful relationships with most Christians.

Among those Millennials remaining active and connected to the church, relationships are the glue that connects them.  The most positive church experiences among Millennials are relational.

“Seven out of 10 Millennials who dropped out of church did not have a close friendship with an adult, and nearly nine out of ten never had a mentor at the church.” David Kinnaman

Before you start thinking their demands are unrealistic.  That desire to connect relationally with the church is biblical.  Here what Jesus says in John 15, Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.” (CEV) My call to the church that wants to reach Millennials be a John 15 relationally connecting church.

In summary, Millennials are seeking anything different than anyone else.  It is not rocket science.  It does not require you to change your worship and your constitutions.  It requires you to focus on the Work of God, teach and preach the truth.  Focus on God’s mission and carry out that mission in that impacts the people in your community.

More on this topic: