Saturday, March 26, 2011


From Ed Stetzer comes this insightful column: The Younger Un-churched: what do they really think?

Here is my latest column from the Spring 2011 issue of Facts and Trends magazine, focusing on the younger unchurched:
Adlai Stevenson stated, "That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another." He did not have a particularly high view of the next generation, but he does challenge us to consider the radical changes in thinking that are sometimes seen between generations.
The reality is that generations do think differently and different views emerge - and it is worth our time to consider them. As George Orwell said, "Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it and wiser than the one that comes after it."
This bothers some and challenges others. For me, my concern is not to rail against the next generation-- I want to reach them.

In the book, "Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them," I shared some of the findings from a survey conducted of 1,000 unchurched young adults about the issues of church and spirituality. The study revealed that the younger generation is more open to issues of spirituality than our conventional wisdom allows us to admit.
This generation is open to God and spirituality. When asked if they considered themselves to be spiritual, 73 percent of respondents age 20-29 answered affirmatively. They are interested in learning more about God or a higher supreme being. Eighty-two percent believe a person's spirit continues to exist in some kind of afterlife. Seventy-seven percent believe in the idea of heaven and 60 percent believe in the idea of hell. Perhaps most surprising, 66 percent even believe that Jesus died and came back to life.

The Jesus that they believe in, however, is in some ways a Jesus of their own creation. Only 57 percent believe there is only one God, the God who exists in the Bible. Fifty-eight percent believe the God of the Bible is the same as the gods or spiritual beings of other religions. Though Hinduism ascribes to a million gods, Buddhism has no god, and Christianity has one God, a majority of young adults believe that all of these gods are the same.

While there are clearly negative implications to this pluralism, there are also great opportunities for the church. Sixty-three percent said they would attend a church that presented truth in an understandable way. We need to be proactive about sharing the gospel to this demographic in clear, understandable terms. Simultaneously, we should defy the "Chicken Little syndrome" that believes the church is about to crumble under the weight of pluralism.

It's easy to look at some of the viewpoints of the younger unchurched and write them off. Rather than throwing up our hands in disgust, we need to extend a hand, exemplifying Christ and His gospel now more than ever. We need to enter into authentic relationship with a generation filled with brilliance and potential. We need to begin honest conversations with those who have honest questions.
You can read more about our research on the millennials here, and you can subscribe to Facts and Trends by emailing

Friday, March 25, 2011


From Chris Walker, Evangelism Coach, comes this counsel ...

The last two posts (part I and part II) shared common practices on welcoming visitors to church.  Here I simply want to give 20 blunders I’ve seen churches make in greeting visitors to church.
badbreath2 Feel free to add your own in the mix (use the comments below).
1.  No One Said Hello.
2.  Bad breath.
3.  20 question doctrinal exam to make sure you are acceptable.
4.  Survey family history and marital status and background check.
5.  No follow-up contact.
6.  Stale snacks / donuts / cookies.
7.  Bad coffee.
8.  Too friendly – smothering and not respecting boundaries.
9.  Body odor.
10.  No eye contact.  Or eye contact and weak smile, but no hello.
11.  Apathy in making a greeting.  Whatever.
12.  Limp handshake and a weak hello.
13.  Too much enthusiasm.
14. “Is this your first time here?”
15.  Hugs to strangers.
7500916.  Swarming on visitors all at once, like flies on fresh meat.
17.  Unclean bathrooms.
18.  Unsafe Nursery.
19.  Thinking hospitality is evangelism.
20.  Rude staring at hairstyle, body piercings, or choice of clothes (See How Not to Welcome A Visitor about the Secret Dress Code).

Friday, March 18, 2011


 Ed Stetzer recently shared these ideas with the Missional Outreach Network
 Many churches are built around themselves. One simple way to find out--draw a line down the middle of a board or piece of paper and have people within the church honestly assess what functions and ministries of the church are being done for the church versus reaching out to the community. Most likely, the need to lead the church to engage outside of her four walls will be obvious. Then, seek to mobilize the congregation to move outwardly any way that all of you can think of to do it.
Since it is easy to lose momentum and drift back into old patterns, here are a few ideas to help keep the outward focus fresh: 
  2. Plan some simple events to minister to people that involves a group of people from the church. Then have someone share brief testimonies of the outreach experience.

  3. Develop a simple outreach plan for the church and then highlight one different part each week in the worship services.

  4. Pray for God to change your heart and the heart of the church during public prayer times and pray Luke 10:2.

  5.  Provide training for people to better share their faith, like "Share Jesus Without Fear" or "More to Life Training."

  6. Make a big deal about baptisms by explaining what they represent and invite baptismal candidates to share their testimonies before the whole congregation.
  7. Meet monthly with key leaders to update, recast a vision for outreach, and pray for God to move in the lives of the church family to act on the vision.

  8. Develop a list of people who do not know Jesus and pray for them regularly with key leaders and before the congregation.

Monday, March 14, 2011


From GOD SPACE comes these helpful thoughts:

You will find most, if not all of the quotes I reference during my workshops below. I’m always adding outwardly focused quotes to this page, so please share yours by e-mailing them to me. If it’s possible, please note who the quote originated from.

* Evangelism is a sacred quest into the soul of another to find out where they are hungering for the “Living Bread.”

* A man convinced against his will is of the same decision still. Do not push or manipulate people into pre-mature spiritual births.

* Jesus dealt with each person uniquely. Canned approaches and sales techniques focus on man’s best efforts to bring about what only God can produce. Be careful not to deify the approach or method by which you came to the Savior.

* If you are not involved in the process of evangelism or planning to soon; you’re not following the Jesus of the Bible.

* There is only one thing we can do here on earth that we can’t do in heaven, evangelism!

* Talk to God about men before you talk to men about God!

* Is it possible that many people are not saying no to Jesus, but to the unappetizing ways we are presenting Him.

* Evangelism without listening is like playing golf blind blindfolded. (Larry Chrouch)

* I’m willing to bet the farm that in our post–modern Christian society the most important evangelistic skill is listening. (Todd Hunter)

* Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians because we are talking when we should be listening. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

* One of the best ways to persuade anyone is with your ears . . . by listening to them. (Dean Rusk)

* The ministry of noticing begins when we start listening with our eyes, seeing with our ears, and responding with our hearts.

* We have to find the back door to peoples’ hearts because the front door is heavily guarded. (Ravi Zacharias)

* Perfect people keep real people away! Be authentic! Avoid cliches and “bumpersticker” Christianity when talking about the faith.

* Don’t ask people to give their lives to God. Invite them instead to get a life from God!

* The call to do evangelism was given 2000 years ago; God is waiting for our response!

* Evangelism is much like the dating and courting process. In the end we are simply escorting people down the aisle to say I do to Jesus.

* If you are in a church that’s not outwardly focused on the work of evangelism expect a lot of conflict, nit-picking, and a lack of spiritual fervor and power.

* Effective evangelism starts where people are, not where we would like them to be.

* We need to come as learners and listeners not “know it all’s” when sharing our faith. Evangelism without listening is like playing golf blindfolded.

* We need to use their language not ours when conveying spiritual truth. Jesus modeled this!

* Good questions serve as a spiritual stethoscope to reveal the attitudes of one’s heart towards God. They also lead to self-discovery and communicate respect and dignity.

* If your approach to this work is lopsidedly “come and see” vs. “go and be” then it’s time for the scales to be adjusted. Jesus had no home games in His ministry!

* Because coming to Christ for most people involves a process, get excited when God uses you to give someone a “holy nudge” in the right direction.

* Prepare and serve your “gospel snacks” (short compelling stories of how God has been real in your life). They will create a hunger and thirst for the “Bread of Life.”

* We cannot be effective if we continue to cling to the old ways, the old strategies, the old assumptions. (George Barna)

* God can, has and will use anybody who is open to serving Him to convey the gospel. He will bless the efforts of His servants whether they are gifted as evangelizers or not. (George Barna)

* Evangelism that starts at the nonbeliever’s point of felt need and ties the gospel into that area of need has the greatest capacity for capturing the mind and heart of the non-Christian. (George Barna)

* We may confidently say that most, if not all, adults have been exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We may also suggest that every American has access to the gospel. But we may not conclude that every American has actually heard and understood the gospel. Until we present the message in ways that penetrate the consciousness of the people we seek to influence for Christ, we have not truly communicated. We have only made noise. (George Barna)

* Pastors and churches, today, who regard outreach to lost people as the church’s main business, and especially those who are perceived to prefer the company of lost people to the company of church people, are suspect, marginalized, and “shot at” by establishment Christians and church leaders. No major denomination in the United States regards apostolic ministry to pre-Christian outsiders as its “priority” or even as “normal” ministry. (Dr. George Hunter)

* Kindness is a language which the dumb can speak, the deaf can understand. (C.N. Bovee)

* Is it more important for us to be kind or right in our relationships with not-yet Christians?

* There is no kindness more cruel than the kindness which consigns another person to their sin. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

* Servant Evangelism = deeds of love + words of love + adequate time Deeds of love allow us to sneak into the hearts of those we serve. They are not enough on their own to bring someone to Christ, but they do create “phone wires” for transmitting the spoken message. (Steve Sjogren)

* John Wesley once commented that a mature Christian should be able to put his finger down anywhere in the Bible and work from that point to the gospel. That’s an admirable goal, but I would like to suggest another skill that’s needed just as much because of those modern construction techniques: A mature Christian should be able to put his finger down anywhere in today’s newspaper and work from that point to the gospel. Christians today must stop being satisfied with randomly collected biblical data and begin to aggressively pursue wisdom—the ability to apply what they know to their own lives and to the lives of unbelievers around them. (Tim Downes)

* Harvesting and sowing are not contradictory methods of evangelism vying for supremacy, but two complementary roles, each with it’s own focus and methodology. (Tim Downes)

* Only when we know what people are dealing with down deep in their innermost selves can we know how to effectively focus the gospel to their individual situations so that real healing can occur. (Ronald Johnson)

* The evangelist today must constantly remind himself that he is communicating in a world where the listener is used to silencing what he does not want to hear with the click of a remote control button. (Ronald Johnson)

* The reason to get in touch with the culture is not to adopt it but to engage it for the same reasons a missionary does . . . to gain a hearing for the gospel. (Reggie McNeal)

* How many evangelism programs have you encountered in which sharing the gospel assumes no relationship with the customer and Jesus is sold like soap? (Reggie McNeal)

* What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do. I used to say that I believed it was important to tell people about Jesus, but I never did. A friend kindly explained that if I do not introduce people to Jesus, then I don’t believe Jesus is an important person. It doesn’t matter what I say. We live for what we believe. (Donald Miller)

* I used love like money, but love doesn’t work like money. It is not a commodity. When we barter with it, we all lose. When the church does not love it’s enemies, it fuels their rage. It makes them hate us more. (Donald Miller)

* I realized that, instead of moving people closer to a salvation decision, an answer can push them further away. Rather than engaging their minds or urging them to consider an alternative perspective, an answer can give them ammunition for future attacks against the gospel. (Randy Newman)

* If you are anything like me you’ll have to fight tooth-and-nail to stay in the game (evangelism). Because although the home runs have been invigorating, my batting average over the years is abysmally low. (Bill Hybels)

* God wants to use us where we are, with what we know, right now. (Kent & Davidene Humphreys)

* If you want to have a large impact be committed to the small things.

* I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. (Mother Teresa)

* The Come-To-Us stance taken by the attractional church is un-biblical. The early church leaders all had a Go-To-Them mentality. (Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch)

* If the church limits God’s agency in this world to particular times and places that the vast majority of not-yet Christians have no access to, or no desire to attend, then the gospel is effectively hobbled. (Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch)

* Where God’s story, our story, and the biblical stories overlap is where effective evangelism takes place. (Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch)

* The real gospel is two sided - it’s truth and proof. (Robert Lewis)

* Good deeds, create good will, which opens the heart to the good news. (Eric Swanson)

* An individual gospel without a social gospel is a soul without a body and a social gospel without an individual gospel is a body without a soul. One is a ghost, the other a corpse. (E. Stanley Jones)

* “The church exists for no other purpose but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose.” (C.S. Lewis)

* We will not get to each one until we gain a heart for everyone. (Ron Hutchcraft)

* Jesus was not a commuter when it came to evangelism. He did not show up for a ministry event and then head back to heaven. He also did not play home games as his evangelistic encounters were always on the road.

* Much of our evangelism today is perceived and received like junk mail or spam on the internet.

* Most of us have signed invisible social contracts which prohibit us from doing evangelism.

* It’s very difficult to be right about something without hurting someone with it. (Dallas Williard)

* I don’t talk people into the Kingdom, I listen them into it! (Gary Poole)

* We need to spend more time raising questions than supplying answers to questions people are not interested in.

* Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. (Albert Einstein)

* Sharing the gospel is more than an informational transaction. It is a relational interaction which leads to transformation.

* The church connects with Jesus most through mission not more meetings.

* Relational evangelism can neglect the theological content of the gospel by shifting the focus to the personality and experience of the evangelist. (Mark McCloskey)

* The only thing more difficult than getting the church to go to the world is to get the world to come to us.

* When we ask people to come to us what we are asking them to do is to give up what they value doing most on Sunday morning so they can experience what we value most.

* Inviting someone to church today could seem as scary as inviting a Christian to go to a hard core biker bar.

* Poverty, injustice, & poor health are not life’s biggest issue; where one will spend eternity is!

* People would find it difficult that you would want them to join you in heaven when they don’t feel welcome in your living room.

* Good questions invite others to search for answers, look into the mirror, and wrestle with irrational belief systems. The Holy Spirit uses this quest to bring about a holy dissatisfaction which paves the way for them to find God at the end of their quest.

* The church that doesn’t want to grow is saying to the world, “go to hell.” (Rick Warren)

* Much like E-harmony, evangelism is like “holy matchmaking”. Our role is to help others take one step closer to saying “I do” to the eternal lover of their souls.

* If we are going to reach the lost, let’s reach them with people they know, with language they understand, in a place where they are comfortable, with a topic relevant to them.

* “Irresistible Evangelism” happens when we take the initiative in the power of the Holy Spirit to expose people to God’s kingdom by serving them, listening and learning from them, wondering with them, and sharing with them, all the while trusting that God will draw them one step closer to Himself.

* It could be that one of the greatest hindrances to evangelism is the poverty of our own experience. (Billy Graham)

* The test of a man’s conversion is whether he has enough Christianity to get it to other people. If he hasn’t, there is something wrong. (Samuel Shoemaker)

* The safest road to hell is the gradual one, the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. (C.S. Lewis)

* The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed. (Hudson Taylor)

* If your Gospel isn’t touching others, it hasn’t touched you! (Curry R. Blake)

* The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become. (Henry Martyn)

* The Gospel must be repeatedly forwarded to a new address because the recipient is repeatedly changing places of residence. (Helmut Thielicke)

* In a post-modern culture we need an apologetic that is felt and seen because if post-moderns are not feeling it, they are not believing it. (Ravi Zacharias)

* If we lose the spirit of ‘go,’ we have lost the very Christian spirit itself. A disobedient church will become a dead church. It will die of heart failure. (S.D. Gordon)

* If the future is to be different, the present must be disturbed!

* The church that does not evangelize will fossilize. (Oswald J. Smith)

* We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light?’” (John R. W. Stott)

* 90% of Christians have become comfortable with the sin of silence.

* The average Christian leaves planet earth never having led anyone to Christ. (George Barna)

* New Testament Christians did not witness because they had to but because they could not help it. (Richard Halverson)

* However noble their purpose, we must beware of institutionalized methods that indoctrinate and regiment and fashion every Christian into a common evangelistic mold. (Richard Halverson)

* We can accuse a man in the name of the law and produce a feeling of terror in him, but this is not true repentance. Only the comforter, without hardening a man’s heart can make him aware of his faults, and of the sin he has committed against the love of the Savior whom he has rejected and grieved. We work from without, while He works from within. (Rene Pache)

* Many ills of the Christian life are due to handicapped beginnings. Too many people are preaching a warped or truncated gospel, and spiritual birth defects are the inevitable result. (J. Edwin Orr)

* Those who attempt to evangelize the culture by imitating its forms must beware lest the culture evangelize them. (Gene Veith)

* Impression minus expression leads to spiritual depression. (Joe Aldrich)

* Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. (D. T. Niles)

* Evangelism is not a professional job for a few trained men, but is instead the unrelenting responsibility of every person who belongs to the company of Jesus. (Elton Trueblood)

* Perhaps if there were more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire. Sometimes it may be that while we are complaining of the hardness of the hearts of those we are seeking to benefit, the hardness of our own hearts and our feeble apprehension of the solemn reality of ­eternal things may be the true cause of our want of success. (Hudson Taylor)

* Lord, make me a crisis man. Let me not be a mile-post on a single road, but make me a fork that men must turn one way or another in facing Christ in me. (Jim Elliot)

* Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in hell, when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle. (C. T. Studd)

* Oh my friends, we are loaded with countless church activities, while the real work of the church, that of evangelizing and winning the lost is almost entirely neglected. (Oswald J. Smith)

* More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world. (William Barclay)

* Christians and non-Christians have something in common. Were both uptight about evangelism. (Rebecca Manley Pippert)

* Always preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words. (St. Francis)

* A person’s coming to Christ is like a chain with many links. There is the first link, middle links, and a last link. There are many influences and conversations that precede a person’s decision to convert to Christ. I know the joy of being the first link at times, a middle link usually, and occasionally the last link. God has not called me to only be the last link. He has called me to be faithful and to love all people. (Cliff Knechtle)

* It is almost as presumptuous to think you can do nothing as to think you can do everything.

* Soul winners are not soul winners because of what they know, but because of Who they know, and how well they know Him, and how much they long for others to know Him. (Dawson Trotman)

* Jesus Christ didn't commit the gospel to an advertising agency; He commissioned disciples. And He didn't command them to put up signs and pass out tracts; He said that they would be His witnesses. (Joe Bayly)

* As a general rule, the farther a Christian is away from effective personal evangelism the more he is involved in criticism. Many in the church are like caged hunting dogs. With no birds to hunt they spend their time nipping, scrapping, and fighting with each other. Turned loose to fulfill their destiny, to pursue their quarry, to fulfill their “great commission”, they automatically stop biting and fighting each other. (Joe Aldrich)

* “Out: evangelism as sales pitch, as conquest, as warfare, as ultimatum, as threat, as proof, as argument, as entertainment, as show, as monologue, as something you have to do.” In: Disciple-making as conversation, as friendship, as influence, as invitation, as companionship, as challenge, as opportunity, as conversation, as dance, as something you get to do.” (Brian McLaren)

* If there be any one point in which the Christian church ought to keep its fervor at a white heat, it is concerning missions. If there be anything about which we cannot tolerate lukewarmness, it is the matter of sending the gospel to a dying world. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

Guiding God's People into Outward Focused Living

Sunday, March 13, 2011


 From the archives of comes this counsel for Rick Rusaw and Erc Swanson.

We don't know of any churches that claim to be internally focused, but they exist all the same. Internally focused churches concentrate on getting people into the church and generating activity there. These churches may create powerful worship experiences, excel in teaching, offer thriving youth programs, and have vibrant small groups, but at the end of the day, what is measured is the number of people and activities within the church. These are good churches filled with good people. And what they do is vital but not sufficient for a healthy church. Worship, teaching, and personal devotions are absolutely necessary for building the internal capacity necessary to sustain an external focus, but if all the human and financial resources are extended inside the four walls of the church, then no matter how "spiritual" things may appear to be, something is missing.
In many churches today, people are rediscovering the majesty of God and expressing their praise through worship. Music is no longer just the warm-up for the message. There is expectancy that God inhabits the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3, King James Version). But worship that is not manifested in how we live in relationship with others may be hollow. We aren't the first ones to experience this. In the years preceding the Babylonian captivity, Isaiah had a message from God concerning Israel's "internal" focus -- along with an exhortation to move beyond formal worship to true righteousness:

"Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me...I cannot bear your evil assemblies...They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen...Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice; encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow (from Isaiah 1:13-17, emphasis added).

Throughout his prophetic book, Isaiah exposes the inadequacy of the faith of people who focus on loving God but forget about loving others. Addressing the futility of prayers and fasting in the absence of concern for others, God says, "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter -- when you see the naked, to clothe him?" (Isaiah 58:6-7a).

Externally focused churches are internally strong, but they are oriented externally. Their external focus is reflected in those things for which they staff and budget. Because they engage their communities with the good works and good news of Jesus Christ, their communities are better places in which to live. These churches look for ways to be useful to their communities, to be a part of their hopes and dreams. They build bridges to their communities instead of walls around themselves. They don't shout at the dirty stream; they get in the water and begin cleaning it up. They determine their effectiveness not only by internal measures -- such as attendance, worship, teaching, and small groups -- but also by external measures: the spiritual and societal effects they are having on the communities around them. Externally focused churches measure not only what can be counted by also what matters most -- the impact they are having outside the four walls of the church. They ask, "Whose lives are different because of this church?" Nearly everything that is done inside the church should prepare and equip people not only for personal growth but also for personal impact. Like every church, externally focused churches have their problems and challenges, but they are determined to make a difference in society. Internally focused churches help individuals, but externally focused churches change the world.

Could your church change the world?

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Steve speaking to our Navajo sister congregation in Tsaile AZ
I often introduce myself as "one of the pastors of the Church of God of Landisville." Currently my title (and role) is Lead Pastor.  I have a partner, Barry Sellers, the Associate Pastor.  There are six elders who serve as "lay pastors" of the congregation.  We have five part-time staff members including a Youth Director and a Director of Children's Ministry. And we have many, many "members" (who we prefer to call "disciples") who use their gifts and provide leadership in various ministries of the church.  Now you know why I introduce myself in this manner.

Barry Sellers, our Associate Pastor and our "traditional church" pastor
Since early in 2002, the Church of God of  Landisville has been on a journey from a traditional and inward focused church to a missional church with an outward focus.  These days we have borrowed a term from Rick Russaw and Eric Swanson as we seek to be "the best church for our community."  During that quest, outreach has become our "brand."

Now in 2011, with the addition of Stephen Ministry and two ministries called Real Disciples and T.I.E. (Three is Enough) accountability groups, we believe God is calling us to multiply a second brand - "a healing place."  In posts on subsequent Thursdays, I hope to share with you some things about the Church of God of Landisville and who God is shaping us to be.

Lisa Kilgore, our Children's Director
Stacie Reber, our new Youth Director
Lynn Byers, one of our members on a short term medical mission assignment in Port-au-Prince Haiti
The Church of God of Landisville is a 178 year old congregation with a heritage in world missions (early 1900s) and education leadership (1980s and 1990s).  But in many ways, we have developed an entirely different identity by stepping beyond the traditional and institutional model during this past decade.  The priesthood of all believers has become a core value of the church. We work through missional strategies, leadership development, coaching, and a new volunteer position called Spiritual Gifts/Ministries Counselor to equip and empower persons to carry out their purpose from God by serving Him within the church and within the community that is our primary mission field.

Pierre Payen Hospital in Haiti, a 2002 mission work team helped complete this hospital early in our journey
An intergenerational work team that helped older families and a community in western Pennsylvania get a "new look" last summer
This summer we will send our fourth VBS team to help our Navajo sister congregation

There are lots of stories we can share.  God has given our church (at all levels) a tremendous sense of mission as together we discover "what is the Jesus in us going to do."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


"It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following
requirements ..."- Acts 15:28

Most are well aware of the Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15 and its critical role in unifying the fledgling church and confirming to the mission to the Gentiles.  We often focus on and learn from those agreed upon outcomes as outlined by James.  But I wonder how often we pay attention to the opening of that announcement, the words that Luke was careful to record.  "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us ..."  I wonder how often we take note of the word order - Holy Spirit, then us.

Quite often we make plans as the church.  We even are careful to arrive at a constructive consensus.  But how is that consensus arrived at?  And what is the role of the Holy Spirit in all of this?  Do we prayerfully together seek the mind of the Spirit and then try to discern what we agree He has told us?  Or do we decide together what we are going to do and then ask the Holy Spirit to bless what has actually been our decision?

It is no small question.

In my journey of the congregation I lead from a traditional and inward focus to a missional and outward focus, nothing has been more critical to our faithfulness and fruitfulness. We have agreed that the Holy Spirit is and must be the leader of the church. Not the pastor, or elders, or council, and certainly the majority of the people; but the Holy Spirit of God.  And we have agreed that this cannot be a statement to which we pay lip service, but a basic operating principle that we constantly work to make and stay a reality.

In practice, what does this mean?  When I first published my D. Min. Project on becoming a church led by the Spirit, I was asked by a fellow graduate in the commencement line, "In brief, what does it mean to be a church led by the Holy Spirit?" (The brief was referring to the monumental length of that publication.)  My response, "First, you have to believe in the Holy Spirit."

1. A church that is led by the Holy Spirit must give up its organizational thinking. It is not a human association of mutually agreed upon goals.  The church is a supernatural organism. It is the literal and continuing Body of Christ.  That means that as a body it will reflect the character of Christ. In action, we will live by the values of Christ. In vision, we will live by the mission of Christ.  And we will be open to let the Holy Spirit lead us into all truth about these matters. (More about this later.)

2. A church that is led by the Holy Spirit must possess a leadership  lifestyle that is wedded to the Word and embedded with prayer.  The human leadership of the church understands that its actions must at all times be consistent with what the Word teaches.  Its values must be the values of scripture. Its policies and decisions must have a clear scriptural foundation that is consistently communicated to the Body.  And those decisions, from beginning to end, must be bathed in prayer.

This post is to be continued ....

(C) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn