Jesus in town

What If He Actually Came Today?

After watching some of the latest historical Jesus shows on television, I wondered how Jesus would be received if he’d make a similar physical visit today. Would his mission be similar? He’d be coming at a similar time when the religious establishment has calcified around certain practices, places, rules and rituals. Would he seek to shake […]

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When Jesus Becomes a Fill-in-the-Blank

People describe the Christian faith as a “personal relationship with Jesus.” But in the church, how have we gone about encouraging and developing that relationship with Christ? Curiously, church services, classes and programs rarely pursue that relationship like, well, like a real relationship. It’s not for lack of good intentions. At some point, years ago, […]

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Big small

Big Ways to Think Small

While some churches are shrinking into oblivion, others are growing into oblivion. Sometimes numerical growth squishes the very things that appealed to those who fueled the growth. This is often the case with new church plants that launch with fanfare but eventually dissipate. What happens? A commenter on my earlier article, “I’m Not Being Fed […]

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High priest

The Regime That Runs Your Church

How would people describe your church’s organizational and leadership structure? Close-knit community–or secret syndicate? Every congregation–and each ministry within it–takes on a style of governance that shapes its work and effectiveness. As I’ve worked with churches over the past 40 years I’ve noticed several different organizational profiles. Some work well for certain congregations. Some are […]

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Easy Answer for Church Survival

These are challenging times for churches in America. Increasingly, they realize that if something doesn’t change, they won’t survive. But what is it that must change? How they answer that question actually predicts their future. “Our church is shrinking away,” they say. “We’ve lost half of our people.” Often they ask, “What needs to happen to […]

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spiritual diner

‘I’m Not Being Fed at This Church’

“I don’t feel we’re being fed at this church,” Bill admitted. He’s thinking about switching to another church–where he can be “fed.” What does Bill mean? It seems that Bill, and many others who express similar feelings, go to weekend services expecting to receive encouragement, solace or inspiration. Their expectations are often unmet. These expectations now form […]

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Nice receptionist

The Ministry Breakthrough of the Year

I was explaining “radical hospitality” at a church workshop. I almost choked when I said my usual line: “Radical hospitality goes beyond a smiling greeter at the door.” I was aware that this church hadn’t yet covered even the basics of hospitality. The office staff had developed a reputation of junkyard dogs–repelling visitors, members and […]

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Girl looking for mentor

Turning Pew Sitters Into Heroes

It’s pervasive. Most of the people in the pew have internalized the notion that ministry is the responsibility of the professionals on stage. The job of the pew sitter is . . . to sit. And watch others do the work. That mindset is killing the church. The current system perpetuates the idea that the Christian […]

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preaching monolog

Kicking the Sermon Habit

It may be well-intended. It may be well-researched. It may be well-executed. But, the sermon, as we know it, fails to deliver. The weekly lecture isn’t just failing those who sit silently in the pews. The form itself is repelling much of today’s population, particularly men and younger generations. One of the most often mentioned reasons […]

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wedding ceremony

Shacking Up: A Church’s Surprising Response

As the church, what works better: to curse the darkness or light a candle? Many seem convinced that God is calling them to curse. First and foremost. This seems especially true in matters of sexuality. For example, consider the issue of couples living together outside of marriage. For some church leaders, this is the ultimate test […]

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