Is Church Revitalization Necessary?

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“ … and they restored the house of God to its proper condition and strengthened it.” ~ 2 Chron. 24:13b

During the early years of king Joash there was a great revitalization of faith and worship among those in Judah. When I read through this passage it reminds me of the great need that the Western church has for revitalizing Christianity; we’ve become extremely complacent, trudging along with lack-luster faith.

Western Christianity is hemorrhaging! Seventy percent (70%) of the U.S. population reports a connection with Jesus Christ, yet according to David Olson, on any given Sunday, less than 17.5% of the population actually attends an orthodox worship service.[1] Even more sobering is the reality that American churches would need to plant 2,900 new churches a year, just to keep up with the current pace of population growth.[2] With 80 to 85 percent of churches in America either plateauing or in decline,[3] there is an urgent call for church revitalization and planting. For this reason, the church must re-engage the missio Dei, the sending of God, and shift to a missional praxis. The Western world has become the new mission field.

Even though Olson’s statistics display that only 17.5% of the population in North America is attending Sunday services, Doug Murren of the Murren Group, declared that number to be too high and suggested Olson’s 2008 numbers were lagging a bit behind; his ghastly number of only 12% is staggering.[4] Furthermore, Murren’s research indicates “20% of people leave their church every year, which would require a visitor rate of at least 30% of a church’s size per year, just to grow.”[5]

The Barna Group assessed that “more than one-third of America’s adults are essentially secular in belief and practice.”[6] With a population of roughly two hundred forty million Americans, one hundred seventy million of them (71%), either consider themselves as having no religious affiliation at all or Christian in name only.[7] As JR Woodward observed, “Functional Christendom has given way to a ‘spiritual,’ secular and pluralist society where a growing number view the church with suspicion and some with downright disdain.”[8] The Western world is officially a mission field and is in dire need of apostolic movement.

If these numbers do not cause you to see the vital need for revitalization and church planting then nothing will—but perhaps you’re among the complacent crowd? My call to you today is not for you to get up on the soapbox and scream out for revival, but to begin revival within your own heart. Start living the life of Christ on mission within your home, neighborhood, and community—get activated in your faith. If evangelicalism is to re-engage the Western culture it will not be with political agendas but with a true apostolic movement, where Christ is Lord and the Church is on mission.

[1] David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis: Groundbreaking Research Based On a National Database of Over 200,000 Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 181.

[2] Ibid., 181.

[3] Aubrey Malphurs, Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 200.

[4] Doug Murren, “De-Churching or Re-Gathering,” themurrengroup.com, March, 2015.

[5] Ibid., 5.

[6] George Barna and David Kinnaman, Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2014), 16.

[7] Aubrey Malphurs, Planting Growing Churches For the 21st Century: A Comprehensive Guide for New Churches and Those Desiring Renewal, 3rd Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 12.

[8] JR Woodward, Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2012), 30.

Urban Church Planting and The Diaspora

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If you’re a church planter and you haven’t heard the term diaspora, you will—soon enough. One of the major shifts in global population is the flowing dispersion of immigrant people groups. Envision how airplane traffic controllers track flights.

The world is seeing great numbers of people shifting from country to country. Whether the movement is due to refugees—fleeing persecution, or for temporary visa status—for work—regardless, the peoples of the world are on the move—and God is doing something amazing! He’s bringing people to us.

What Immigration Tells Us

Western churches, especially urban church plants, will be forced to reach people of ethnicity—not that urban churches haven’t always done this—as cities become more diverse than culturally segregated (think Chinatown, Little Italy, etc.). The good news comes to us by reaching the diaspora of the nations.[1] Almost makes me think of Psalm 2:8, “All the nations you have made shall come…”

Immigration to the United States is the cause for population growth.[2] Without immigrants (legal), the United States would not be growing in population, but declining. Just to clarify, if you’re linking immigration with the Hispanic culture, let me help you. Currently, Germany and Ireland are the top two countries with diaspora peoples coming to the U.S.—Mexico is third, but only by a small portion of one percent, compared to the United Kingdom (4th).[3]

Being Great Commission Churches

Great Commission (Matt 28:19) churches will need to engage the diasporic peoples in order to see the gospel delivered domestically and globally. With the recent news of the IMB’s shortfall and need to release close to 800 people, churches will once again have the pressure of the Great Commission task. This may be a good thing (not people being laid-off, that’s always bad), in the sense that churches will be forced to evaluate their understanding of the missio Dei.

So, if we cannot send more missionaries overseas, what is the answer that God may be giving us? Here’s the bigger picture: there are immigrants who choose to return back to their homeland after getting settled within a new country; those who do return are known as the diaspora.[4] Reaching the diasporic peoples within urban communities is one way to help spread the gospel, while alleviating the costs of training international missionaries.

How Does This Effect Church Planting?

The immigration “game” and diasporic models play a huge role in urban church planting. Since urban areas across the globe are growing (urbanization) then planting more churches within the urban context is necessary. Domestic church planters will be expected to reach across cultures, socially and evangelistically. We call this E–2 to E–3 evangelism.

To see a true church planting movement (CPM) occur within the U.S., church planters must be prepared to contextualize the gospel with simplicity—for the purpose of reproducibility. The current model is not sustainable; meaning, we cannot expect to wait for church planters to graduate seminaries and become some type of dynamic leader. Only a lay leader style of bi-vocational (at best) ministry is simply reproduced through discipleship—much like the first century or any major CPM in history.

Regardless, things are changing, and if you’re an urban church planter or a pastor, you might want to begin considering how you are going to reach these people groups. But don’t worry, this stuff is what guys like me study and try to develop (working on it now!). Just think about it. Tell me your thoughts…


[1] J.D. Payne, Strangers Next Door: Immigrations, Migration, and Mission (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2012), 151.

[2] Steven A. Camarota, “Projecting Immigration’s Impact On the Size and Age Structure of the 21st Century American Population,” www.cis.org, December, 2012, accessed September 3, 2015, http://cis.org/projecting-immigrations-impact-on-the-size-and-age-structure-of-the-21st-century-american-population.

[3] Susanna Groves, “Http: //www.diasporaalliance.org,” http://www.diasporaalliance.org, March 13, 2015, accessed September 3, 2015, http://www.diasporaalliance.org/americas-largest-diaspora-populations/.

[4] Payne, Pressure Points, 9-10.

How Should Church Planters Respond To Gay Marriage?

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This is the cover article for this month’s Church Planter Magazine.

The Reality

After twelve years, he was leaving his wife and kids, “I realize that I can no longer live in the shadows and secrets of my day-to-day life,” was the way that he revealed being gay. I’ll be honest—I saw it coming—it was just a feeling that I had. And so, I had waited for him to talk to me about it. I’ll also admit that as a pastor I felt torn inside, one part of me wanted to weep for him, while another had compassion, while yet some other deeper aspect realized that he had just entrusted me with a hidden secret, one that he knew would change his life. He wasn’t confiding in me to explain a struggle; this was a decision to live life. If you’re like me, you’ve had one of these conversations and if you haven’t—you will.

In a recent doctoral seminar, my professor stated, “Our culture is now living in the shadows of the Church.”[1] This means that the early church lived within a pre-Christian culture, not knowing anything about Jesus; however, this is not the case today. As George Barna asserts, ninety-nine percent (99%) of unchurched people are aware of Christianity.[2] As church planters and pastors, our calling hasn’t changed. The gospel must be preached, transforming hearts to turn from sin, while the compassion of Christ must be evident within our lives. So, we need to ask some important questions: (1) How do we exegete our modern culture? (2) What is the church planter’s biblical response to gay marriage? And (3), how do we respond, practically?

The Shadowed Life

While my friend described living in a secret life of the shadows, he actually didn’t know how right he was. In the twenty-first century, believers and unbelievers are living within the shadows of two thousand years of Christendom. In exegeting our culture, church planters must be able to discern it, comprehend it, and then properly engage it. This is a non-negotiable; it will be and must be an aspect of every planter’s toolbox.

Church planters are cultural architects; we’re the innovators and creators who navigate through any society and people group. So, first, let’s acknowledge that there is a dilemma within evangelicalism, one that we can’t look at exhaustively here, but one which must be mentioned, that of gay Christians. For our discussion, we’re going to assume that we’re trying to engage a gay culture of unchurched people, who know about Christianity. We also must assume that all culture will disrupt, influence, or change the liturgy or worship of the ecclesia, whether by music, clothes, food, art, or values and beliefs. Aubrey Malphurs clarifies, “Culture affects all churches. There are no exceptions.”[3]

A church planter cannot engage any neighborhood rightly, without first (1) understanding who the people are (discernment), (2) what they’re values and beliefs are (core values), (3) how they repeat or translate those values and beliefs (ethos), (4) and how they practice them (praxis). We must gauge all four of these before we can truly understand the people that we’re going to engage. Paul does this in Athens, as he walks around, he assesses their religious idols and liturgies, so that he can contextualize the gospel (Acts 17:16-31). So, in exegeting our Western culture, it is clear that there is a paradigm shift in sexual morality. We have to ask ourselves, what is the church planter’s biblical response to gay marriage, as we stand within the shadow of the church?

Biblical Response

First, let’s be honest, homosexuality is not a new practice, nor is it a new challenge to the Church. The Apostle Paul, arguably the best church planter ever, noted that the early church was filled with gentiles who practiced idolatry, drunkenness, or some form of sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:9­–11)—and somehow, the Church squeaked by in growth. I say “squeak by,” tongue and cheek because we know better, the Church grew exponentially. This meant that the gospel was more than sufficient to reach and transform any people group and sin-laden behavior. Admittedly, I view homosexuality as sin, I’m not going to apologize, but I do empathize with people who are seeking companionship in emotional and physical connections. As well, I view sexual immorality the same way that I view drunkenness or idolatry; I don’t categorize the yearnings of our flesh. Biblically and historically speaking, homosexuality was ingrained into the Greco-Roman culture and was engaged by the church head on. And even though it was not God’s intention, the early gentile church was filled with regenerated sexually immoral people.

Sometime near 30-33 AD, as recorded by Matthew (19:4), Jesus provided the creation mandate, that God created mankind male and female—even though the context’s question is about divorce—Jesus is not defending our current definition of marriage. What He is clarifying is that, pre-Law, God created two people who would come together in a duality of oneness. The distinct proponent of the marital bond between a man and a woman is not solely about a blessing or even abiding within the Law, but that the twoness of God’s design would become one “flesh.” For this reason, two like-sexes can never establish the duality of one (or twoness of one) because they only possess an innate design of the same gender. It’s really not about law, ethics, or marital rights; it’s about God’s design and illustration of the miraculous unity of two people—to become one flesh. God’s design is a harmonization of souls, which symbolizes the beauty and uniqueness of the Godhead.

As well, evangelicals recognize that all people are sinners (Rom. 3:23) and in need of God’s grace. This means, just as the early church, in our modern culture, church planters must acknowledge that sin exists and is defeated by Christ’s work on the cross. Yet, we must also destroy the hierarchal structure of “forbidden” sins, which keep people from the grace of God. This means that we cannot pick and choose which sins we tolerate and which ones we do not. One of my biggest objections to those who strongly oppose gay marriage is their quick defense of heterosexual fornication and co-habitation. Their defense states that it is “OK” to have two church members of the opposite sex living together and engaging in sex (i.e. “we’ll look the other way”), but God considers two people of the same sex engaging in the same sexual behavior, as an abomination.

My point: no sin is justified. The biblical response demands that the Church not turn a blind eye to sin, but have compassion to those struggling with sin, and create relationships with all people, for the sake of the gospel. So, whether hetero or homosexual, the holiness of God demands that each person examines his or her own “body” (1 Cor. 6:12–20). As an ex-drunk, I realized that my drinking was idolatry. This does not mean that consuming alcohol is idolatry, but it certainly was with me. I allowed alcohol to take the place of God. In retrospect, I was saying that God could not handle my stress load, or relate to my hard work and anxiety, but the cold beer or glass of wine, could. Likewise, in this case, there is no distinction between drunkenness and someone’s sexual immorality; both are not God’s intended creation for the body or relationship with Him.

Practical Engagement

If we’re engaging an unchurched gay culture that has knowledge of Christianity, to some extent, then let’s assume that most gays have a presumption about judgment and sin. It’s pretty safe to say that gays have heard the fire and brimstone message of Hell. I’ll also assume that they’ve shut that door—pretty hard. They’ve probably also heard about the biblical Leviticus, Romans, and Corinthians’ arguments and know how to navigate those confrontations. So, why are we trying to engage a culture with confrontation, debate, and argumentation? As if winning a debate has ever brought anyone closer to Christ? Let’s try another way.

One of the beautiful aspects of the gospel is not only the grace provided through salvation in Christ, but the connected deliverance, freedom from sin, and joy in which it brings. A recent Barna poll showed that Americans are increasingly lonely, stressed, and worried about their future.[4] The gospel meets all of those needs; that motivates me. We live in a day and time when gospel engagement is not only necessary, but is vital. So, how do church planters practically engage the gay marriage issue?

The honest and right answer is to respond to gay marriage in the same way that the Church engaged it within the first century. With love, grace, and truth. Each new convert to Christianity was called to embrace holiness, acknowledge grace, receive forgiveness, and rest in the hope of eternal salvation through Christ Jesus. In the first-century, the gospel was infectious within a perverse and immoral culture, and it always will be—as long as the people presenting the gospel acknowledge their own sin and communally express the love of Christ. Church planters can engage the gay marriage issue in the same way that they engage any immorality or sin—through the lens of Christ coupled with a fresh recognition of their own salvation (Eph. 2:8–9).

For us, it must be about praxis. Jesus made a point of going to the demonized, outcasts, prostitutes, and extremely diseased. He touched them, sympathized with them, and embraced them. Jesus ate with them, walked with them, and sometimes even defended them (though, not their sin). Our difference in ministry is that we are presenting Jesus, being incarnated within community, to those who are affected by sin, sickness, or culture. We expect sin-blinded people to “get it,” even though we, ourselves, never “got it.” We must admit, there is no little girl that wakes up desiring to become a prostitute one day. We exegete culture because sometimes culture causes people to become things they do not desire to become. Jesus was the best example of how to read and incarnate into culture.

So, church planter, —it is your calling to exegete the culture. You should contextualize the gospel and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to help transform a broken and hurting heart. You should assist a gathered community of Christ-followers to help, not hinder, reconciliation. Church planters are bringing a resurrection community into a worldly society. And, while some in the gay community may not be “struggling,” certainly we acknowledge that, but we do not change the way that we present gospel truths or compassion, empathy, and the reality of sin’s captivity. Therefore, church planters are bringing with them the kingdom of God and must view the gay marriage issue as every other sin—redeemable by the blood of Christ.

[1] J. D. Payne. Contemporary Issues Facing The Church. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. August 7, 2015.

[2] George Barna, and David Kinnaman. Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Publishing), 48.

[3] Aubrey Malphurs, Look Before You Lead: How to Discern and Shape Your Church Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 74.

[4] Barna, 20.

Hi-Jacked! What To Do When Believers Move In To Steal The Vision of The Church

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This article is a cover article for Church Planter Magazine. Get the App for your iPad and iPhone here.

Hi-jacked!

“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”[1] was the voice from Captain Jason Dahl and then another voice came over the plane’s loud speaker, “Ladies and gentlemen: here the captain. Please sit down, keep remaining seating. We have a bomb on board. So sit.”[2] That was the voice was Ziad Jarrah, one of the hijackers from the United Airlines flight 93 on September 11th, 2001. While this was such a tragic and mortifying event and hardly one comparable to churches that are “hijacked,” the fact that churches are sabotaged may have the same mortifying feeling to the church planter or pastor.

Whether you’re a mega-church pastor or a church planter with a small core team, there will always be other believers who will come in, as the Apostle Paul put it, “to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus…” (Gal 2:4). Perhaps their intentions are not as severe as to bring in damnable heresies, nor with malice to destroy and kill; nonetheless, when transfer growth occurs within a core or within a thriving church, believers can even subconsciously, attempt to hi-jack the vision of the church. From experience, let me list three ways to protect the vision of your church.

Be Very Observant

My wife and I once belonged to an Acts 29 church plant. At the time, I was in my early seminary years and should have been listening more than I was thinking and talking, but one essential that I noticed, was the way that the pastor soaked everything in. He was a hawk. He knew who everyone was and when a visitor came in, he made sure to ask where the visitor came from, if they belonged to another church, were unchurched, visiting, or seeking a home. At first, I thought this was a little intrusive, but one day we took a long ride to a conference and along the way he taught me an invaluable lesson about vision and people—especially other believers. It’s no secret to many pastors, but I was young and inexperienced—that when believers leave a church, they tend to bring their problems, concerns, and soon-to-be corrections, with them. Basically, they want to make your church their perfected home. This is when believers can hijack your church’s vision.

For some smart church planters, they may employ a policy of “no believers,” and while I have never taken things to that extreme, I do ask all of the right questions. The need to have the hawk eye is for the purpose of protecting the vision and the flock. Other believers who “know” church may have good intentions, but they may not understand what you’re trying to accomplish for the kingdom. Over the few years of building a church from a core of 20 to over 120, one of the main aspects I focused upon was conversion growth. I have become very proficient at spotting church hoppers and believers seeking out a new church to fit their mold. When I’m told that they’ve come from another church, I try to ask why they chose not to attend it that particular Sunday. The observant eye and ear can pick up on body language, tone of voice, and content/context of words. Sure, it takes discernment, but the last type of person that you want coming into the fold is someone who is already bitter, holding a grudge, and a sewer of discord. Inevitably, that person will eventually sow the same discord, division, and bitterness into your church. As well, the visitor may be very well intended, but completely miss the vision altogether—this is when they want to be hands on in everything, or perhaps an arm chair quarterback (i.e. you should do this, you should do that, etc.). Be observant of people.

Be Ready To Introduce People To The Door

I read a quote recently accredited to Tyler Perry, which stated, “It doesn’t matter if a million people tell you what you can’t do, or if ten million people tell you no. If you get one YES from God, that’s all you need.” That pretty much sums up the fortitude that a pastor needs to have. While people are surely important and we love them (regardless), those who come in with their own agendas need to be shown the door—the quicker the better. I realize this sounds harsh, but for some believers, they are coming “to” church instead of being the church, and while that, too, may sound cliché, they just won’t fit in with how your church is following its intended vision for growth and outreach. In the end, it will be better for all to part ways. You may be able to help them find another church in the community, which is more suited for their beliefs, but be polite. There is a time when this becomes apparent and the use of discernment is vital.

In another church, I once had someone join and then after a few weeks make ultimatums and demands of change, none of which were aligned with the vision that was designed for that church (note to self: make sure you go over the reasons for joining and the candidate understands the vision). And yet, through many conversations, this person just couldn’t understand what church planting was about and how we were reaching people. It was time for me to spell it out for them—“this may not be a good fit for you, I’m sorry.” Did they look surprised, yes—but it was for the best. Does it hurt? Yes, it definitely doesn’t feel good, but just like Moses had the vision to lead the people towards the Promised Land, those few men who spied out the land did not follow that vision, nor believe that God was capable to achieving it through them. In return, it took Israel a lot longer (40 years) to achieve the vision and mission that God had for them.

Be Prepared to Lose Income

Sometimes, not all of the time, but I have definitely noticed the fickle nature of people and the dark side of vengeance, that when things don’t go a certain way, people become jaded. I once had a good friend when I was a kid. We played all kinds of sports together—you name it, we played it. However, if we picked teams and he didn’t like how the outcome was going, he was taking his ball and going home—no joke, he did. My other friends and I were stuck to face the music. Eventually, we came to play with a back-up ball, we learned from our mistakes. Sometimes, we just need to realize the fall of humanity, that some believers are not going be a good fit for the vision of the church. But when this occurs, do not be surprised for them to tell other people rumors, half-truths, or made up stories, in an attempt to have them leave too. And by the way, they’re taking their wallets with them; so don’t shout out, “Mayday! Mayday!”

Whatever you do, do not be intimidated by a wallet. Some believers actually think that their money matters (or that it is actually theirs); that God is not in control, but instead, the Bank of Bob Smith. This can be especially true for the small church planter who has only 20-30 people and one person with the deep pockets. That one person, if he or she is not gospel and Christ-centered can fracture a core if they do not get their way. For this reason, do not ever allow the offering of one person to be so significant that you lose your focus on the mission and vision. That doesn’t mean that you ask someone to give less, it means to become less dependent upon their offering—maybe put some away in a separate fund, and use a certain amount for general funds. Either way, Christ comes first, every day, all day.

If you always have this mindset, you are essentially preparing yourself for anything that comes along. However, let’s be honest, this scenario intensifies when the church grows to about 80-100 and the church plant takes on some debt or a pastor’s salary (like yours!). Now, all of a sudden the real anxiety filters in. In the restaurant business, we use to say, do not bite your nose off to spite your face; meaning, you never wanted to wash dishes, so you were careful about what you said and how you treated the “dishdog.” But once his work was done, then it was ok. Don’t be like that. You’re sending a false signal that money trumps vision—it doesn’t. A true authentic move of God happens when obedience and surrender to God are present. This doesn’t mean that there will a gravy train of money flowing in when Daddy Warbucks leaves town; no, it may just be that God will bring you through a difficult stage for later understanding. We don’t always need to be in a growth stage. Remember, there are seasons of planting seeds, growing, cultivating, and harvesting.

So, I believe that if you apply these three things: being observant, ready to release, and prepared to lose income, your vision should remain intact and passionate. And that is the main goal that Christ is always glorified and His mission is met with full unity, accord, and love: “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1-3 ESV). God bless.

[1] “Summary of Flight 93″. United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Retrieved June 23, 2008.

[2] Hirschkorn, Phil (April 12, 2006). “On tape, passengers heard trying to retake cockpit”. CNN. Retrieved June 23, 2008.

Three Areas That Propel Church Growth

It is my privilege and joy to be a servant of Christ. I have found such great love and witnessed a great fortitude among many within the church that I pastor. Recently, I shared with them the three vital keys to our growth. When I arrived at the church, three years ago, there was approximately twenty active members; today, we are in the midst of an authentic move of God; true conversion growth, with new members coming forward. So, some might think this makes me more of an expert—hardly!

But, being a past church planter, an evangelism pastor, and now a church revitalizer, I do have a sense for finding a the missional DNA (mDNA) of a church. So, what’s the formula? What’s the new program? Honestly, you’ll never hear or read that from me—as I believe that God innovatively and authentically works within each body of Christ to reach each community. However, when the church’s mDNA meets the community’s DNA, a double helix is formed for interlocking growth–but, that’s my next book. Suffice it for now, that I provide the three key areas that we have focused on and continue to focus on.

Before, I divulge those; let me just say that the vision that God gave to me three years ago is terrifyingly precise. I say terrifyingly because there is a love that Christ has for His church—make no mistake that it is His—in that, He is unyielding with fervor, passion, protection, and strength for her. As the pastor, I passionately pray for the church universal and the one I serve, especially, as we engage our faith on either the frontlines of casual Christianity or brutal martyrdom. I pray for wisdom repeatedly—to lead with integrity and resolve and to lead by example. Everything we do is prayerfully conceived, thought out, and done with the aspiration of serving our King—everything that we do has purpose—from the way we worship, the style of worship, to the liturgical way our service is conducted and scheduled—these are all sought to honor God, exalt Christ, in the power of the Spirit, to edify the body. There is a vision and there is a mission. With that all being said, I’ll now address the three things, which have propelled us to move forward.

1. The Gospel

This is my first love. When I was baptized years ago, the verse which I declared was Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation.” As well, I relate to the Apostle Paul’s words, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel…” (1 Cor 9:16). As the pastor, I am fully dedicated to the gospel—I will not waiver, I will not compromise, I will not sell out to worldly goods, satanic attacks, fleshly pride, prosperity, or coercion.

One of my favorite pastors is now the president of the International Mission Board, David Platt; when he gave his last message before the church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, he said, “We don’t have time to waste on games in the church… resist comfortable, casual, cultural Christianity, because that’s not Christianity.” If our focus is on anything more than the gospel transformation through Christ—we’ve missed God’s will for our lives & our mission. Every week, the one constant that comes from the pulpit and taught, is the gospel.

As well, the gospel must be sent. Those with the gift of apostleship are cultural architects. We are to engage our modern culture, read it and understand it. The gospel is the driving force of our lives. As we endeavor to show grace to those who may not know Christ, we recognize God’s great love and mercy that was given to us. The gospel reminds us that Christ came and humbly served man–we are directed to do the same within community.

2. Unity in Love

When I arrived at the church, God gave me a mandate—that mandate was to love a people, but not just any love, a missional and Christ-centered love—to reach the hearts of the congregation and the hearts of the community. And so, I stress, WE MUST BE OF ONE ACCORD (Phil. 2:2)—inseparable—the time has come for the church to engage the faith in truth—we are THAT generation.

Our forefathers faced hard times, and our fathers faced difficult times—it is now our time to face up to the challenge and do it in unison. Yet, one thing I know and have experienced, you may agree, churches never grow when there is division more than unity, tradition more than innovation, complacency more than passion, and love of self more than others.

And so again, I as a pastoral elder, I have promised to defend them unabashedly, for the unity of love in the church, and if I ever see division or a cause for division, by the power of Christ and the authority of the church, which was given to me, the church can rest assured that their under-shepherd will protect them. I love them each very deeply and uniquely.

3. Worship in Heart

Worship is more than music; it is our walk, our talk…our thoughts. The word worship comes from worthiness, or honor—God is rightfully due honor. But we also honor God with our music. One of the saddest things I have witnessed in churches and assuredly the Lord has seen, is discord within His church due to worship styles—to me, it is an aberration of godliness…it is unacceptable. We have more important issues at hand—namely, the gospel.

When I arrived at the church, four summers ago, the music director and I sought the best possible way to incorporate the old hymns and the new music, for the sole purpose of the gospel, reaching across cultural, generational, and age lines—it was/is not an easy task. The current vision of the church stresses that we humble our hearts and raise our hands to God—for He has put a new song in our heart. We put aside our “comfort zone” with the understanding that church is not about me—it’s about the gospel—it’s about seeing true conversion growth. Our worship must come from the heart—whether from a screen, a hymn book, or something else—if it is not from the heart then it is all lip service—God will not reward lip service. Worship from the heart.

And so, I encourage you now, to love one another, serve one another, reach out to one another, and allow the gospel of Christ to transform you. Seek how your church can find the missional pulse of its church and community, fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt 28:19), and doing so with one accord.

Let’s also make this declaimer: While these three areas have proven results for the church I serve, it is not a cookie cutter blueprint. There is no silver bullet. Unity and the gospel; however, I would stress are non-negotiables, but love can be expressed in differing ways. With wisdom, seek how the Lord can be moving the body of believers that you’re connected to. If you have any questions, feel free to email me pastor@oakhallbc.org