Friday, April 30, 2010


gospel driven church

Dan Masshardt, newly ordained and associate pastor of the South Fairview Church of God near New Cumberland PA shared this insight from Jared Wilson on his (Dan's) blog CHOOSE TODAY.
To read the rest of Jared's comments and the comments on his comments, click the link at the very top of the page. - Steve

I'm a big fan of the "simple church" concept, but I have experienced just how daunting a task it can be to under-program my church. We are inundated constantly with opportunities for activity from other churches (which we don't want to turn down lest we appear uncooperative and standoffish), advertised "movements" local and national (which are good at getting people excited), and "good ideas" from our own community (which we are reluctant to deny lest we break someone's heart). But what all this so often amounts to is a church that is merely busy, and busy does not always equal diligent or successful.

Here, then, are 10 reasons to under-program a church:

1. You can do a lot of things in a mediocre (or poor) way, or you can do a few things extremely well. Craig Groeschel has some great things to say about this subject. Also check out Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger's Simple Church.

2. Over-programming creates an illusion of fruitfulness that may just be busy-ness. A bustling crowd may not be spiritually changed or engaged in mission at all. And as our flesh cries out for works, many times filling our programs with eager, even servant-minded people is a way to appeal to self-righteousness.

3. Over-programming is a detriment to single-mindedness in a community. If we're all busy engaging our interests in and pursuits of different things, we will have a harder time enjoying the "one accord" prescribed by the New Testament.

4. Over-programming runs the risk of turning a church into a host of extracurricular activities, mirroring the "Type-A family" mode of suburban achievers. The church can become a grocery store or more spiritual YMCA, then, perfect for people who want religious activities on their calendar.

5. Over-programming dilutes actual ministry effectiveness. Because it can overextend leaders, increase administration, tax the time of church members, and sap financial and material resources from churches.

6. Over-programming leads to segmentation among ages, life stages, and affinities, which can create divisions in a church body. Certainly there are legitimate reasons for gathering according to "likenesses," but many times increasing the number of programs means increasing the ways and frequencies of these separations. Pervasive segmentation is not good for church unity or spiritual growth.

7. Over-programming creates satisfaction in an illusion of success; meanwhile mission suffers. If a church looks like it's doing lots of things, we tend to think it's doing great things for God. When really it may just be providing lots of religious goods and services. This is an unacceptable substitute for a community on mission, but it's one we accept all the time. And the more we are engaged within the four walls of the church, whether those walls are literal or metaphorical, the less we are engaged in being salt and light. Over-programming reduces the access to and opportunities with my neighbors.

8. Over-programming reduces margin in the lives of church members. It's a fast track to burnout for both volunteers and attendees, and it implicitly stifles sabbath.

9. Over-programming gets a church further away from the New Testament vision of the local church. Here's a good test, I think: take a look at a typical over-programmed church's calendar and see how many of the activities resemble things seen in the New Testament.

10. Over-programming is usually the result of un-self-reflective reflex reactions to perceived needs and and an inability to kill sacred cows that are actually already dead. Always ask "Should we?" before you ask "Can we?" Always ask "Will this please God?" before you ask "Will this please our people?" Always ask "Will this meet a need?" before you ask "Will this meet a demand?"

Thursday, April 29, 2010


When the Church of God of Landisville began its journey to follow the Holy Spirit from an inward to an outward-focused church, our elders started with a prayerful examination of the Word. As we began to sift the data of our particular congregational culture and our distinct mission field, we were drawn to the words of Matthew 9:35-38.

Originally we spoke of this as our scriptural map but as we moved along in our journey, the idea of a compass seemed a better way to communicate to the postmodern mind, especially Generation Xers and beyond. Maps come in various forms. Road maps, for example, mark the locations of various destinations and identify the roads and bridges that have been constructed to allow persons to go from one spot on the map to another. A topographical map focuses on the contours of the terrain of an area--ridges, mountain ranges, passes, valleys, lakes, and rivers. Sometimes towns and villages are included, but a topographical map is about describing the land not identifying the destinations.

When the first explorers enter a new territory, they do not generally have well-developed maps. They operate with a compass. Their first intention is to see what lies within that territory. The compass gives them a sense of direction in what is yet uncharted territory. A compass helps the explorer arrive at a destination even when a map does not exist. You simply need to have a way to orient yourself to "true north" and a general sense of where that destination lies in relationship to "true north" from your starting point.

Postmoderns value mystery, exploration, intuition, experience. They see life as a journey more than a destination. Maps are the tools of destination. They are comforting, sometimes commanding clearly prescribed routes. Compasses are about journey to the destination. The idea of compass fits the imagery of the Church and the Holy Spirit. Christ is the "true north" and the DNA of the Holy Spirit are the compass settings that keep us oriented on the "true north". In keeping with our understanding of discovering the will of God by what be considered the magnetic leading of God, a scriptural compass is a solid metaphor ... the starting point for the theological foundation that gives life to the ministry of the Church of God of Landisville.

This material is from my D.Min. project Fanning Into Flame the Gift: Understandings and Strategies That Effectively Implement a Spiritual DNA of Outreach in a Local Church. (C) 2005 by Stephen L. Dunn, pp. 35-36.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Kem Kemmeyer at the blog Less Clutter Less Noise has an interesting report from a group called Shrink TV. It is a movement to move from more to less in an intelligent way. Some of the counsel:
  • Shrink grandioseness (become more personal)
  • Shrink expenditures (optimize financial resources)
  • Shrink communication methods (combine the right message with the right tools for the right people at the right time)
  • Shrink the web (use social media tools, effective content and simple usability and design methods to make the web more personal)
  • Shrink assimilation (effectively close the back door as people begin to naturally connect, serve and immerse themselves in the local body)
As you think about strengthening the ministry of your church - consider these evaluative challenges. Could the "shrink movement" lead to your church being immeasurably more. - Steve

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Will Mancini, on his blog The Clarity Evangelist shares an interesting thought.

#2 The most acceptable idol in ministry today is missional service. This idea was stirred by a comment by Matt Chandler. I will paraphrase it: “Transformation comes through our relationship to Jesus, not through our engagement in mission.” Anytime good things happen in the name of Jesus, the good thing can eclipse Jesus. Right now, altruism is in and much activity is happening in the name of “external focus,” “missional communities” and social justice. Let’s beware of thinking too highly of our own goodness or allowing the Martha in us to work out the Mary in us.

Read more at Mancini

Friday, April 23, 2010


Earlier we introduced you to Will Mancini. In a posting dated March 18, 2010 he builds upon the teaching of Thom Rainier and Eric Geiger in Simple Church with some observations about missional maps and our communication to church attenders/visitors. Mancini writes:

Just imagine if every regular attender’s experience at your church was saturated with a picture that points to discipleship. What if this picture trumped everything else in church communication? The benefits would be huge.


  1. Connect the mission with a few “best” ministries
  2. Present Jesus and guide people toward life change in Him
  3. Remove complexity and clarify a pathway of involvement
  4. Limit time “at church” to release people to “be the church”
  5. Filter which ministry ideas fit best and which ones don’t fit
  6. Build a climate of invitation that encourages new commitment
  7. Shape a culture of Christ-following over program-consuming
From Steve: I'd love to get your feedback on this idea, especially after you gave gone to his website to get a more detailed understanding.

For more go to Missional Map

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Vision starts with a new set of eyes and a new mind. Human sight is limited by the boundary of our range of sight. The best human eyes may see the horizon even at a great distance, but we are incapable of seeing what lies beyond the horizon.

The limitation of human sight also limits the human mind. We may be able to conceive a road map to get us to the horizon. If we don't believe we have the resources to get us there, however, we may not set out on that journey. Or we may chose a destination that stops well short of that horizon, satisfied that we have moved forward instead of pressing on the gain the prize.

Romans 12 reminds us to be "transformed by the renewing of our mind." We let God reshape our thinking and understanding. We let God introduce his thoughts into our thinking. And then we commit to think like God instead of asking God to think like us. We begin to dream the big dreams of God and see how God wants our vision achieved. Both our thinking and action step out of the box where we now reside and head for the promised land beyond the horizon.

So when you ask God to transform your mind and give you a new set of eyes, what fo you dream of seeing for the Kingdom?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Too often we seek to engage in vision under our own power. Instead we need to remember something Doug Fields says in his book FRESH START: "God takes care of the POWER part, we take care of the cooperation part."

If we attempt to carry out our vision under our own power, dependent upon what we are capable of accomplish instead of cooperating with God's power - at best we will only do what we desire to do instead of what God has called us to do. Any vision that can be achieved without God's active involvement and empowerment is really not God's vision. And God's vision cannot be accomplished apart from trusting Him to equip us and resource the mission strategy that carries out that vision.

What does that involve? We will continue describing this in our next post.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Will Mancini describes himself as a "clarity evangelist." He writes a blog/website by the same name. Glenn Smith, a superb church planting coach used by my denomination pointed me towards this blog. One thing led to another and I found myself reading Will's summary of a teaching time from Alan Hirsch. Here are some powerful thoughts from Alan:
  • How can you improve on Jesus’ plan of discipleship? He said, “Die.”
  • If we don’t get Jesus right, we create a toxic system, that produces toxic people.
  • If you want to reproduce, you have got to be “reproduce-able.”
  • With disciples you can go places, with consumers you can’t.
  • We must act our way into a new way of thinking not vice versa.
  • We engaging a people group, we can’t preempt the gospel with our version of church (structure).
  • The church is a “scratch and sniff” experience of the Kingdom.
  • Incarnation is how the God engaged the world. He doesn’t overwhelm us, he invites us.
You can read more of this post. Click
We have also added Will's blog to our blogroll.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Faithful and fruitful churches operate from a clear and compelling vision. More than a mission statement and its program strategy, a vision describes the outcome that you are working for as a congregation in mission. So many churches try to operate by a vague vision, but the greater clarity you can have in identifying that vision, the better chance you have of realizing its accomplishment. Trying to operate with no vision is a formula for failure and unfaithfulness.

It is not without significance that Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where this is no vision, the people perish." The translation of this in The New International Version provides even greater clarity. "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint ..." Without vision, a people have no focus and dissipate the energy for vision accomplishment in peripheral ways and unimportant matters.

Now let's add one more dimension to the vision discussion. Churches need to embrace God-sized vision. They serve a great and awesome God. Too many times the people of God do not bring glory to God because they do not pursue the vision that God seeks to give them. Even if they bother to discover that vision, they sometimes places human boundaries on it because they are too enamored with its achievability by their own human resources. God does not depend upon our resources. He provides His resources to us and through us.

Do you have a vision and what is its source? If you vision can be achieved without God's empowerment, then the vision is probably not from God.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


This article appears on Christianity Today's blogsite from its column OUT OF UR. To read more go to:

Who Are the De-Churched? (Part 1)

Some are leaving the church because they've received a false gospel. Others are leaving because they've found the real one.

In days gone by, missional efforts were focused on presenting and demonstrating the love of Christ to non-Christians. But in the 1980s a new term was coined to describe the growing number of North Americans without any significant church background. They were called the unchurched. Untold numbers of books were written about them. Ministry conferences discussed them. Church leaders orchestrated worship services to attract them.

The shift from “evangelizing non-Christians” to “reaching the unchurched” was perceived as benign at the time, but it represented an important shift in our understanding of mission. The church was no longer just a means by which Christ’s mission would advance in the world, it was also the end of that mission. The goal wasn’t simply to introduce the unchurched to Christ, but—as the term reveals—to engage them in a relationship with the institutional church. This paved the way for the ubiquitous (but flawed) belief today that “mission” is synonymous with “church growth.” (Another post for another day.)

Well, another new term is on the rise and gaining attention among evangelicals in North America. Those without a past relationship to the church are called unchurched, but there are many with significant past church involvement who are exiting. They are the de-churched

Jethani describes them:

As I’ve traveled and encountered de-churched Christians, including some friends, I’ve found they tend to fall into three categories. (These are generalizations, as all categories are, but they may prove helpful.)

1. The Relationally De-Churched

These Christians have come to recognize that human beings are the vessels of God’s Spirit and not organizations. They may have first engaged the institutional church because they longed for meaningful relationships with other followers of Christ. They may have joined a small group or found a tight network of friends through whom they lived out the “one another” commands in Scripture.

But over time it dawned on them—This small group is really my church. These are the people I am living out the gospel with. Why do we need the big institution? Ironically, a number of house churches have started as megachurch-spawned small groups—a trend even documented by Time magazine back in 2006 and currently seen in the “Organic Church” movement.

Ultimately the relationally de-churched leave the institution because the programs proved less effective at fostering faith and love than relationships with actual people. And the authenticity they crave and experience in their small group eclipses the relative shallowness of the wider church. Let’s face it—authenticity becomes more difficult the larger a group becomes. But it’s worth noting that these folks haven’t abandoned the church theologically, they’ve just redefined it apart from the 501c3 organization we culturally identity as a “church.”

2. The Missionally De-Churched

“If the church were doing the work God appointed it to do, there would be no parachurch organizations.” Have you heard that one before? It’s a popular defense I heard many times while serving with a campus ministry in college—and there is some truth to it despite the self-righteous cheekiness.

If the relationally de-churched abandon the institutional church because they desire authenticity, the missionally de-churched leave because they are die-hard activists. They are driven to see the world impacted by the gospel whether via evangelism, compassion, justice, or other facet of God’s restorative work. They may become frustrated that the institutional church spends enormous amounts of energy and resources maintaining itself rather than advancing the mission.

I’ve had a few friends deeply involved in such parachurch groups confess that “even though we don’t take communion or baptize, in every other regard the ministry functions as my church.”

3. The Transformationally De-Churched

Last spring we published an issue of Leadership Journal which included an article by John Burke, pastor of Gateway Church in Austin. Gateway is comprised of many recovering addicts, and as a result the church has incorporated a lot of recovery group values into its community—rigorous honesty, acceptance, dependency on God, and grace. But Gateway is an exception. Many churches give these values lip-service, but few are able to instill them into the culture.

In that same issue of Leadership, Matt Russell wrote about the year he spent interviewing de-churched people in his community. He wrote:

Most people left church not because they had a deep theological problem with something like the virgin birth or the resurrection of Christ. They left because people in the church have the tendency to be small and mean and couldn’t deal honestly with their own sins or the sin of others. As one man put it, “People in the church were more invested in the process of being right than in the process of being honest.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010


This post appeared on the EXTERNALLY FOCUSED CHURCH NETWORK. It is written by Eric Swanson. You can follow this blog by clicking it in RESOURCE LINKS section of our home page or by going to:

Recently, as I’ve been speaking at externally focused events, I have asked those in attendance, “How many of you want to change the world?” Invariably, every hand goes up. And here’s where the nickle drops; everyone wants to change the world but very few people are giving the opportunity to do so. The job of leaders…spiritual, visionary leaders, is to give everyone in their Bailiwick the opportunity to regularly engage in changing the world.

Liz and I have a son who lives in another country. When he shares his faith he tells college students, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and part of that plan is to help change the world.” Then he tells them about the compassionate good news of Jesus and his kingdom. “What do you suppose our campus would be like if every student was a follower of Jesus?

“Our campus would be an awesome place.”
“And what if everyone in our city was a follower of Jesus?”
“Well, there would be no street children…no hungry people, no homelessness…there would be jobs and people would love each other, even those who are hard to love…and our city would be awesome…and everyone in our country would want to move to our city”

What if…
…we gave people the regular opportunity to do nothing less than change the world?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The nice thing about having people who register as FOLLOWING this blog is it gives me a better idea as to who is regularly a part of this dialogue. It also allows me some tools to receive evaluative feedback about the usefulness or lack thereof of what we are posting. Don't be afraid to identify yourself in this way.

If you're trying to figure out the reason for ELMO in this post, stop trying do hard. I am just having a little fun at 1:45 in the morning. Brian McClaren in his book The Church on the Other Side says that humor (or a sense of one) is essential to speaking to the postmodern heart and mind.

This past Monday I initiated an experiment within my own congregation to provide an on-line small group Bible study for people who have no small group time in their lives. Rather than be "hidden"on our website, it is in a free-standing blog so that the public might either feel to join in, or by at least bookmarking it, "listen in" to hearts within my congregation. It's called Biblical Joy and I invite you to eavesdrop yourself by going to:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Note from Steve: Dan Masshardt from the ERC Commission on Evangelism posted this comment recently on his blog CHOOSE TODAY. This might make the beginning of a good discussion at your next leadership team meeting.

When it comes to customer service, Chick-fil-A is top notch.

Pastor Craig Groeschel relates this story:


Our family stopped for a short lunch at Chick-fil-A in Daytona Beach, Florida. An employee named Sally greeted us at the fast food restaurant; and, noticing our large family, came out from behind the counter to gather tables and seat us together.

That simple gesture doesn’t sound like much, but it immediately caught my attention. I’ve noticed that it is not uncommon to receive exceptional service at Chick Fil-As.

After she delivered our meal to our table, we struck up a conversation with Sally. This exceptional employee had been with Chick-fil-A for over 20 years. When I asked her why she would stay in the same job for so long, she said she enjoyed serving people like our family.

I noticed that the franchise owner was actually in the restaurant having a meeting with three others. (I recognized him from his picture at the front counter that actually had his cell phone listed.) I approached him to brag on Sally, and he said he hears that all the time.

One of the people he was talking to was a sweet lady from Chick-fil-A Corporate that recognized me from a leadership conference. Before long, we exchanged information, and I left with coupons for free food on my next visit to Chick-fil-A.

While I enjoyed the food at Chick-fil-A, I enjoyed seeing a great leadership culture that extended all the way to the people taking your orders even more.

You can access more of Dan's thoughts at


Kem Meyer is on the staff of the highly innovative and outward focused Granger Community Church in Indiana. On his blog he has started a dialogue that you might want to bookmark and begin following.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


A church committed to the leadership of the Holy Spirit moves from a foundational principle - WE SERVE A GREAT GOD WHO CALLS HIS CHURCH TO A GREAT VISION. The work of the church is carry out ministry in way that assures we are reflecting God's greatness through our practices. This means we aspire to be more than merely a good church but to be a Great Church that serves a Great God.

The mortal enemy of the church that seeks to reflect God's greatness is what we might call "business as usual" - doing what comes naturally instead of doing what is inspired and empowered by God. Our nature has been shaped by a fallen world and too often the church seeks to baptize its fallen nature by aspiring to simply do good. When God sanctifies His church, He gives it a new nature - and that requires the Church to develop patterns of ministry that grow to reflect the new nature God has given the church. This means engaging in intentional practices that allow us to conform not to the world, but the character of Christ.

Theologically we speak of this as sanctification - instantaneous and progressive. We are now the Body of Christ. We have to learn to behave like the Body of Christ.

God is a 24/7 God and His ministry is a 24/7 "business."

Inward focused churches tend to operate in this way:
The pastors and staff engage in the business of ministry all the time.
The leaders engage in the business of ministry most of the time.
The people engage in the business of ministry some of the time.
This is business as usual in an inward focused church.

A church never reflects the greatness of a Great God by doing business as usual.

A church committed to reflecting the greatness of a Great God believes it is the business of the whole church to be involved in ministry all the time. A church with this focus understands that the church in its various venues - home, work, family, community, church program is at work 24/7 -- and what each member does to be about the Father's business enables the Body of Christ to be a work 24/7.

Next post: 7 Foundational Practices to Reflect God's Greatness

Monday, April 5, 2010


Since 2002 we have had a sister church relationship with a Navajo congregation at Tsaile AZ. During this time we have sent three teams to conduct Vacation Bible School for them. Generally this has meant 85 to 125 children, teens, and adults. You can read about this in an earlier post.

This effort with Tsaile has created some interest and momentum in partnerships closer to home. As people have returned from the Navajo Reservation overflowing with stories of ministry and changed lives (including theirs), people who cannot make the commitment in time and money have sought ways to get out of the familiar territory of in-house programs. We were one of the original members of the Lancaster County Council of Churches. LCCC has made a high priority ministry to the poor and the homeless. Our people have embraced a Feeding Team ministry housed at an inner city Lutheran Church. The entire church is involved in providing food stuffs for the meal. A smaller team of 6-7 persons prepare the meal in our church kitchen on Wednesday night, and then an additional team of 12-15 persons go to the site and serve those persons in their care. But as they have fed the folks there, people in our team have started "paying attention" to the lives of their clients. More and more they have sought ways to begin dialoguing with the people, and providing ways to meet spiritual needs, as well. As my congregation is predominately white and middle class and their guests are generally poor-white, Hispanic, and African-American; this serve as a regular cross cultural ministry. We now have more than 25 persons from various parts of the church who have made this their ministry.

Meanwhile, our people are planning an additional VBS to Tsaile next summer. Scenes like those in this post will be repeated with new faces and new lives changed,

Next post: Why we believe cross cultural partnerships are essential to the outward-focused church.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


The student ministry at our church (Church of God of Landisville) is called BURN. The name comes from the mission to help kids burn with passion to serve Jesus Christ and the impact their generation to follow Him. The front door of BURN is not a typical youth group on Sunday night. It is a midweek worship gathering that includes music (our own student band) and insightful teaching, testimonies from the kids, and fellowship. Generally the kids start gathering around 6:00 with things kicking off around 6:30. Worship begins and the rest follows. Generally they wrap up around 7:45-8:00 (it is a school night) but many times kids stay afterward for prayer and some godly counsel. Seven months ago our youth group had 12 kids on its best night (usually a party). Now more than 100 kids are part of BURN, not just from the church, but from the community youth center we operate (the Agape Center) and their friends from the local high school across the street.

Several weeks ago after an extended period of teaching called "Real Vs Fake" when the kids were confronted with the call to be serious committed disciples, 16 students gave their hearts to Christ at a worship gathering. Soon after several more were added. Jeremy Moyer, our Youth Director, asked about baptizing these new believers, with which I enthusiastically agreed.

But here's the twist. We have 12 kids desiring baptism, but at that baptism they were going to share testimonies about their journey to faith. Many of their friends would not come to the church for a regular service in our sanctuary with its magnificent marble baptistery. Many of them had not even made it to the gym where our student worship is held.

So we opted instead for Baptism at a Beach Party. On a Saturday night before Easter, BURN through an outreach event - a Beach Party at the pool at Hempfield Recreation Center. There, as the party wrapped up, we held a baptismal service. 75 teens (and some parents and adults) heard these 12 kids share their stories and then witness the powerful experience of the Spirit's presence as we baptized them in the pool (sometimes with other kids in the water a few feet away).

Changed lives are a powerful force for the church. Baptisms in neutral territory multiply the impact.

Friday, April 2, 2010


I never met a pastor or a church leader who didn't like something free. I have a free copy of Craig Groeschel's new book IT for the best post someone sends me for submission to this blog. I have a half dozen other great titles for outward focused Christians for the runners up. All posts will acknowledge you as the author and any contact info you might want included. Send your posts to me at Deadline for submission is April 10th.


Easter Declaration

And now Christ is risen from the dead!
The firstfruits of eternal life.
No more are we under the power and penalty of sin.
Now we are free to be a New Creation.

Jesus Christ lives
and because He lives, we also live
abundantly and eternally.

We are the church, redeemed by the Cross
renewed through the Resurrection.
We are the continuing, living Body of Christ

We are the Easter People
and hallelujah! Is our song.