Apr 24, 2013

Apr 19, 2013

God's Promise

It's been a rough week for America.

If you believe in the power of prayer, pray for our country and our people.

As you pray and work to establish a just and great nation, remember these things:

- When people fail, nothing of God fails.
- When people change, nothing of God changes.
- When people die, nothing of God dies.
- When our lives are altered by the unexpected, nothing of God is altered or unexpected.

People of God, know that God is still on his throne. And our God has promised: "For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" Jeremiah 29:11.

Amen!

Apr 17, 2013

THANK YOU!

We've all seen the horrific images from Boston.

When the first bomb went off and people were running away from the scene, our officers, firemen, firewomen, paramedics were running toward the injured.

They had no idea if there was another bomb, if there would be another explosion.

Twelve seconds later another bomb indeed went off.

And still our officers, firemen and women, and paramedics ran to the injured.


THANK YOU!!!

You exemplify what makes America great.

Apr 11, 2013

Unleashing the Dormant Potential of Evangelism in Every Church

Yes, the church has many problems. Yes, there are many faults. Yes, there are many ways in which the church has not lived up to her potential. 

Even with all its problems, faults, and shortcomings I still believe that the local church is the best tool to help people come to know Christ and to help those who come to know Christ to become fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.

Certainly there are other organizations that do a better job of introducing Christ to non-believers than the church. There are some organizations that do a better job of leading people in their discipleship than the local church.

However, I still believe, the local church is best gifted, suited, and designed to do both leading people to Christ and making disciples. Admittedly the churches haven't been doing a very good job of either of these lately, but I want to be a part of a church that's turning that around.

The question is how are people coming in contact with the local church? 

Was it the preacher? the programing? a mailing? advertising? a combination of those things?

The American Institute of Church Growth surveyed some 8,000 church attenders to see how they started coming to church. Here's what they found.
  • 1-2% were people with special needs and found their needs met at the church
  • 2-3% were walk-ins
  • 5-6% were influenced by a particular preacher
  • 2-3% came because they liked the church programs
  • 1-2% came because they responded to a visitation effort
  • 4-5% were reached by Sunday School
  • .5% came through evangelistic crusades
  • A WHOPPING 75-90% CAME THROUGH THE INFLUENCE OF FRIENDS OR RELATIVES
It's not even close. The best way to reach people is through personal invitations from members. 

In other words, the most effective and dangerous arsenal against the schemes of the enemy in any community are the members of local churches. We already have everything we need to reach people with the love of Jesus Christ. They are sitting in our churches every week. 

The task of leadership is to unleash the incredible latent power for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ that's laying dormant in our churches.

Equip and enable our folks in our churches to be the church! Release the people of God to be the minister members they are. 

Apr 10, 2013

What Are Pastors and Members Doing in Growing Churches?

Only God can grow churches. That's God's work.

But in growing churches, both the pastors and the congregations have a huge impact on the growth of the church. The reality is, there's quite a lot that pastors and congregations can do to prevent churches from growing.

While only God can grow churches, pastors have a tremendous impact on whether a congregation grows or not.

Let's get one thing straight. Pastors cannot grow churches. Just because a church has a new pastor, the pastor on his or her own will not lead to the growth of a church.

No one in the Lakewood community is going to start coming to church because James Kim is the pastor of the Little Church on the Prairie. We can post signs up all over town, send letters with my picture all over the city saying "James Kim is the Pastor of the Little Church on the Prairie!!!"

The reality is, the citizens of Lakewood don't give a rip that I'm the pastor at the Little Church on the Prairie.

Unless the pastor of your church has a name like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Chuck Swindoll, etc., it won't matter who the pastor is. People aren't going to start going to a church because of the person who is preaching there.

However, having said that, when people do come to church, how pastors preach absolutely matters whether a church grows or not.

No preacher can preach awesome sermons every time. However, if the pastor's sermon on a regular basis tanks, doesn't make a connection with the people listening, is boring, etc., it absolutely impacts the growth of the church.

One of my main responsibilities as the pastor is to preach God's truth and grace in a way that connects with people and their lives. Pastors have to do that.

Excellent preaching absolutely matters. That's the pastor's responsibility.

Then how do people come to church? Why do visitors come?

The primary way in which people will come to your church is through personal invitations from members who they respect and like - personal invitation, people who are respected and like. All those things are absolutely key in why visitors come to church.

1. Personal invitation - most people are not likely to show up to church knowing no one. Most people need a personal nudge, an invitation. People are most likely to go to church with someone they know and like.

2. Invitations from people they respect and like. Listen, if the invitation is being made by someone the entire office or the entire block knows to be a jerk, the last place anyone wants to be is in a church with a person like that. This is why our personal life absolutely matters in our witness to Jesus Christ. Our daily living either confirms the reality of the grace and love of Jesus Christ or it confirms why people ought to stay away from God.

Lastly, in growing churches you will find excellent preaching and worship where members are regularly inviting people to experience the joy of Christ, and where the actual coming to church experience is joy-filled and meaningful. 

This joy-filled and meaningful church experience is the result of a combination of what the pastors are doing and what the congregation is doing. They are all part of a team that is demonstrating in their ways the love Christ. All are necessary.

Only God grows churches. And pastors and congregations play a huge role in how a visitor experiences the love of God through a particular congregation so that they can move from being a visitor to a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

Apr 8, 2013

Suicide and Salvation

Many people around the world are praying for Pastor Rick Warren, his family, and the Saddleback Church community as they are coping with the death of Pastor Warren's son.

I ask that we continue to pray for Pastor Warren and his family. 

One of the inevitable questions that results from a tragic death like this is "Can Christians who commit suicide be saved?"


There are some terrible myths and misunderstandings about suicide and salvation.

In the fifth century, Saint Augustine taught that suicide was a violation of the sixth commandment - "You shall not kill."

And later Thomas Aquinas, taught that suicide was the most fatal of all sins because the victim could not repent of it.

So some Christians have taught over the years that those who commit suicide go to hell because they never have the opportunity to repent of their sin.

Let’s get some things straight.

Suicide is a terrible sin against God for only God has the power and authority over life. While suicide is a terrible sin, it is not an unpardonable sin

There is only one sin that Jesus says cannot be forgiven. 

Jesus says in Matthew 12:31-32, “Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
  • Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit – to deny the works of God by taking God’s works and attributing it to the work of the devil. 
  • While suicide is a sin, it is not a sin that God cannot forgive.
But how can God forgive a sin that a person doesn’t have an opportunity to repent for?

This line of question is a misreading of scripture because it doesn’t take seriously the completeness and the totality of the work of God for salvation on the cross of Jesus Christ.

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.

I want to take each of those phrases one at a time. 

Salvation is by grace alone. 

God tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Salvation is always God’s doing. Only God can save. And God saves because He is a gracious God. There is nothing that we can ever do, or not do, or say, or not say, that will merit being saved. It is totally God’s grace. It is totally God’s love that saves.

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith,” we are told. While God’s work of salvation is total and complete, it is only through accepting God’s gift of salvation that we are saved.

God tells us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life.” 

While God offers salvation to all, we must receive God’s gift of life through faith. 

God tells us in John 1:12, “But to all who received him, who believed in His name, He gave the power to become children of God.”

God offers the gift of salvation to all, but only those who receive God’s plan for salvation are saved.

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.

God tells us in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

And in John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

It is only Jesus who can save. There is no other way to salvation apart from Jesus Christ.

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.

So are Christians who commit suicide saved? 

Absolutely! To those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior God has forgiven us of all our sins.

In the course of any normal day, we sin many times – thoughts of lust, anger, jealousy, acts of unkindness, etc. And it’s not like God says, I will only forgive you of the sins that you repent of. It’s not like God’s going to say on the day of judgment, “You know James, you lived a pretty decent life, and you asked for forgiveness of all your sins, except for that one time when you lusted after that woman on August 10, 2005.  So, sorry dude, you’re outta here!”

Our salvation doesn't depend on us, but upon what God has already done in Christ. 

God’s work on the cross is complete.

Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.

Amen!

Apr 5, 2013

The Roles of Pastors and Members in Growing Congregations

Only God can grow churches. That's God's work.

Then how come so few churches are growing? Is God slacking?

The reality in the United States is that more churches are in decline than those that are growing.

So, what's the deal?

It is my belief that God desires for all his churches to grow. I believe God wants all churches to grow both in numbers - as more people come to saving faith - and in its impact and influence in the community.

Then, how come so few churches are growing?

The primary reason why so few churches are growing is because so few churches are willing to go through the pain of change.

Let me make some observations about churches that are growing and what roles the leaders and the congregation play in growing churches.

First, in order for a church to grow - even if your church is currently growing, in order for your church to continue to grow - it must change.

When a church ceases to change, it begins to decline and die. This doesn't mean that all change leads to growth, but it absolutely means that churches that are growing are changing as they grow.

Change is absolutely necessary for growth. You cannot have growth without intentional change.

Second, let us consider the role of the pastor in a growing church.

The primary role of pastors in growing churches are to articulate God's vision for the church. The primary way that pastors do this is by articulating the reasons for change and the consequences of not changing.

However, pastors cannot change congregations. Only God can do that. And only congregations can choose to change. Pastors can influence change by articulating the vision of God in a way that compels change, but pastors cannot change the congregation.

No matter how much pastors articulate and advocate for change, if the congregation does not change, there is no growth. There is no change.

Third, let us consider the role of the congregation in a growing church.

The primary role of congregations in growing churches is to live into God's vision for the church. And to do that, congregations must change. No congregation is fully living into God's vision for the church. There is always room for improvement. There is always room for change. Growing congregations are growing because they are constantly living into the vision God has for the church. Growing congregations are constantly changing.

When God's vision for the church is implemented as pastors articulate God's vision, and as congregations live into the vision God has for the church, there is growth.

That's what growing churches are doing. The pastors fulfill their role in articulating the vision of God for the church, and the congregations change into becoming the church that God is calling them to be. Such growing churches are constantly changing and growing into the life and ministry God is calling them.

So, here's the million dollar question, what's keeping you?

Apr 4, 2013

What We Do at the Little Church on the Prairie



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What we do…
  • We practice grace. No one’s perfect here. That’s why we all belong here.
  • We’re not building “monuments” to the Little Church. We will invest our money, time, and talents to making a difference in Lakewood and the surrounding areas.
  • We value the intergenerational nature of the Little Church. Families are intergenerational in nature. Therefore, we value doing life together.
  • This is our city. We’re all in this together. That’s why we can all choose to make our city a better place.
  • These are our people. The only requirement that we have for being a part of the Little Church is that you are breathing. If you’re not, we’ll call 911 for you.
  • We are open and will submit to the truths God reveals to us through his Scripture.
  • We appreciate excellence. We will do our best in our service to God, to our community, and to one another.
  • We are all on a journey together to live into God’s best for us. We would love the honor of journeying with you.

Apr 3, 2013

How to Be a Growing Church in an Anti-Church World

There was a time not too long ago when if you wanted to be taken seriously, you had to go to church. Going to church was the norm. That's what decent people did - so much so, even if you didn't go to church, you lied about going to church.

We don't live in that world anymore.

Church attendance, and church membership in particular, is no longer seen as a benefit. In many circles, it's actually seen as a detriment.

While it's easy to complain about the malaise of church membership, the reality for most of us leading churches is that this is the world we live in.

The question is not so much about the right or wrongness regarding church membership, but how can we be a church in the midst of an anti-church culture that is drawing people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ?

Even though our culture may be anti-church, I still believe that the local church is still the best way for people to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

So what does the church have to do in our anti-church reality? I'm no expert, but I think here are some places to start.

  1. Get over it. We have to be a seeker friendly church. Most established churches have almost a prideful attitude that while they may be a bunch of things, they are not like one of those seeker friendly churches. Well guess what, if you're not reachable, relevant, and connecting with people who are far from Christ, you are failing in the great commission. So get over it. Figure out better ways to connect with people who are not part of the church.
  2. People aren't going to start showing up at the church. Your people are going to have to start inviting people.
  3. When people to do show up, make it worth their while. I almost want to say another "get over it" here about a consumer church. The reality is we live in a consumer world. Before you can impact people to think differently about church and about their relationship with God, you've got to get people first. And to get people to stick around, the church has to be relevant. The church has to meet needs. The church has to make a difference in people's lives. 
  4. Make sure you know where you're taking people. There ought to be a plan for helping people become fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. It doesn't just happen by being around church. There's got to be a plan, a plan that works. 
One thing I know for sure: whatever it is your church is currently doing, it is perfectly suited to produce the results your church has been experiencing. 

If you want different results, you're going to have to start being a different kind of church.