Sunday, December 23, 2012


Posted on High Calling> featuring attorney Dwaine Massey on what he feels he should give back to the community in which he lives and which provides him a place to carry out his calling.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


One of the tougher realities is that established church tend to drift towards and inward focus. Even churches that have embraced an outward focus can after several years, and if there is any loss of momentum, begin drifting inward.  Thom Rainer has come excellent counsel on how to deal with this dynamic. - STEVE

On my blog earlier this week, I noted some of the signs of internal drift in established churches. I noted that an established church could be any congregation that has existed for three or more years. The church has developed certain patterns or traditions while simultaneously forgetting its original purpose and passion.
By almost any metric, the majority of North American congregations are established churches. They often include discouraged leaders and frustrated members. Conflict in these churches is often normative.
So how does a church move from an inward drift to an outward focus? Though I provide ten succinct steps, I do not want to leave the reader with a false impression. I am not suggesting that these steps are necessarily sequential, nor am I suggesting that they are a quick-fix for any and every congregation.
  1. Find a small group of trusted members who will commit to pray for the church every day. Ask them to pray specifically for the church to move from an inward focus to an outward focus. More praying members can be added to the number at any time. The key is simply to get some people praying daily for the church.
  2. Commit to love the church members unconditionally. They may not always be loveable. But love is a conscious choice. Leaders can make that decision regardless of how the members respond.
  3. The pastor must be willing to stay with the church through and beyond the changes that will take place. The pastor cannot make unequivocal promises about his tenure. Still, he should have a commitment not only to lead the church through the changes toward an outward focus, but to remain with the church to deal with the impact of the changes. Too many leaders make changes and then leave the congregation to deal with the unintended consequences of the changes.
  4. Begin leading members to do hands-on, outwardly focused ministries. It may be something as simple as delivering a welcome basket to new residents. It may only involve a few members initially. The idea is to get members focused on the needs of others rather than their own preferences.
  5. Begin casting an outwardly focused vision. After a number of members are involved in ministering to others, they will become receptive and even eager to embrace a vision to reach and minister beyond themselves. Begin to paint a word picture of what a true Great Commission church could look like.
  6. Avoid attacking “sacred cows” if possible. There are traditions and other areas of the church that many members hold dearly. It might not make sense to the leaders why they hold onto a seemingly silly item, but the reality is that it has deep emotional attachments for some. Attacking those sacred cows usually creates unnecessary conflict and takes the focus off the outward focus.
  7. Celebrate small victories. In the early stages of turnaround, celebrate almost any victory toward an outward focus, regardless of its overall impact on the congregation. That will send a message of what is really a priority in the church.
  8. Keep reasonable metrics. Many churches have moved away from focusing on metrics such as attendance, conversions, and people involved in ministry for fear that the statistics will become ends in themselves. But a reasonable focus on some of those metrics will be a regular reminder of the progress the church is making toward becoming a Great Commission church.
  9. Learn to deal with criticism in a healthy manner. Any leader moving an organization toward change will be the recipient of criticisms. Some criticism is worth heeding. Some can be discarded or ignored. But the leader must learn not to respond in anger or to seek retaliation. Most critics are hurt or nervous about the changes that are being made. Many of them just need a listening ear.
  10. Raise the membership bar. Require all new members to go through a new members’ class. Raise the bar of expectation in that class. Let them know that their membership is not in a social club, but a church that is committed to reach its community and the world. These new members must understand that their membership is a commitment to be a part of that mission.
Leading an established church toward an outward focus is like eating an elephant. You can eat only one bite at a time. Progress may seem painfully slow.
But the process is worth all the toil, pain, and prayers. In many cases, the old staid church transforms into a dynamic Great Commission force. We have tens of thousands of established churches in America, many of them with members who have little hope for the future of their congregations. We need leaders and members who will no longer accept the status quo. The challenge is indeed great; but the reward of seeing a church become transformational is incalculable.

Pastor to Pastor is the Saturday blog series at Pastors and staff, if we can help in any way, contact Steve Drake, our director of pastoral relations, at We also welcome contacts from laypersons in churches asking questions about pastors, churches, or the pastor search process.

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


From time to time I will be highlighting churches that I encounter, especially through the Bridgebuilders Seminars that I believe are generally outward-focused.  They are often traditional churches that have made an intentional decision to reach their unchurched neighbors.

There are two I want to introduce today and I will be adding them to the links on the home page.

The first is the Newville Church of God in Cumberland County PA which presents itself as "The Connection Place." It is led  by Pastor Wayne Good.

View their web site.

The second is the United Community Church of God in Ursina PA.  Dean Hay is the pastor.

View their web site.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Quite often marketing experts stress the first 7-10 minutes of a visitor's arrival as critical to their overall impression of a church.  Chris Walker, in a recent blog post, noted some important observations after the visitor has attended their first worship service and are still in the building. - Steve

My experiences making visits

 by Chris Walker evangelism coach

Marketing books on first impressions often stress the first 7 minutes of a visitor’s experience, but this surprise result indicates that the fellowship time afterwards is perhaps more important than even first impressions.

But when I reflect on my experiences as a first time church visitor, it makes perfect sense.
When I am a first time visitor I am focused on the mechanics of getting to the sanctuary, getting a seat, and getting oriented to my surroundings.  The services of greeters and location of signs are helpful in accomplishing that task.  A task oriented mentality narrows the focus to accomplishing the task, not to evaluating the friendliness of a congregation.  The more helpful the congregation is in getting that task done (greeters, ushers, signs) the easier I can get it checked off the list.

However, the 10 minutes after the service is where I am now relaxed, ready to engage people, having heard a message, prayed, sang some songs.  I grab a cup of coffee and am now ready to talk with people about what I just experienced.

This is where the level of friendliness comes to clear view:
Is any one approaching me as a the first time visitor?
Does any one want to talk with me?

Steps to improve your church hospitality after worship

In How to welcome Church Visitors, a whole chapter is devoted to these important ten minutes, including how to talk with visitors after the service.  It’s not the time to conduct church business with insiders.  It’s time to talk with visitors.
The research shows that those 10 minutes after the service are the perfect time to take initiative and talk with your guests.  You could:
  • Introduce yourself: “I’ve not met you yet, I’m Chris . . .  . “
  • Offer to pray with them right then if a need is shared.
  • Offer to answer questions they might have about their experience.
It’s about them — not about you or your church.  It’s not about the quality of your coffee or the freshness of the pastries (though that is important).  It’s about intentionally making connections after the service.

You can read more at the book How to welcome Church Visitors

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I want to introduce you today to a fresh new blog by Bill Shoemaker called THE HUB.  Bill is the Church Planting Director for the Great Lakes Regional Conference of the Churches of God, General Conference. His wit and insight are refreshing. - I encourage to visit his site. - STEVE

The Ouch Factor

10 Aug

Have you ever noticed how you can walk barefooted on pebbles intentionally and lower the ouch-factor to just the different sensations of pressure?  But if you are walking through grass barefooted and you step on a pebble, the ouch-factor takes over because it hurts like the dickens (whatever a dickens is -ha) and you hop around like a person on a pogo stick.  I read somewhere there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon.  It has to do with preparing the mind for what the body is about to encounter.  It prevents the mind from over-reacting to the stimulus.

Well I was reading through several blogs the other day, grazing along barefooted, enjoying the green grass as I read.  I picked up some tender morsels from several writers.  Then I skipped over to Seth Godin’s grassy blog to graze my way through his field.  Wow!  I was just walking through his musings when I encountered the “OUCH-FACTOR”.  It was buried just below the surface waiting for me to step on it in my bare-feet.  I should have known better.  Seth is known for well-placed pebbles (maybe land mines is a better description) in gassy areas.  Needless to say, I stepped squarely on a hard surface that had no ‘give’ in it.  Therefore the ‘give’ had to be on my part.  I will share a portion of what caused my ‘ouch factor’ below:

“Innovation is often the act of taking something that worked over there and using it over here.  Your problem, whatever it might be, probably has a solution somewhere in the world. And your organization is probably stuck because they don’t know what to do, and more important, don’t have the guts to do it…  If you’re waiting for a proven case study, directly on point, you’re going to wait too long.  The skill, it seems, is having the desire and the guts to seek out examples by analogy instead of insisting on being a follower of someone with guts.”

Seth is big on innovation with guts.  Going to conferences and taking notes from successful people and copying them is not what he recommends.  But learn courage from them that you can step out and accomplish the very things God has called you to do.  You certainly can learn different principles and new ways to look at both old and new problems to bring about different results from what you are presently reaping.  And you certainly don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

Where and what have been your Ouch Factors lately?  Find someone to discuss them and have the guts to do something about it.


Friday, July 20, 2012


Bridgebuilders Seminar is a six-hour training event created by Dr. Steve Dunn to help traditional churches reach their unchurched neighbors.  Part of the challenge of this effort is that it is often a cross-cultural experience for which traditional churches are ill-equipped by temperament, knowledge, and skills.  Even if they believe that they are called to reach the mission field that is outside their front door, they often see it as a matter of getting people in the door so that the church might survive. And too often they believe that simply re-packaging a bit what they do will make them attractive to people for whom church is simply irrelevant to their daily lives.

The Seminar breaks down into six sessions:
+"The Mission Field Outside Your Front Door"
+"What Every Missionary Needs to Know"
+ "Christ's Respectful Ambassador"
+ "Listening to the Holy Spirit and the Culture"
+ "Tools to Building Bridges"
+ "Getting Started as a Church (And as Individuals"

 The next scheduled Bridgebuilders Seminars is in the Middle Atlantic Region.  It will be held at:

September 22,2012
Newville Church of God
475 Shippensburg Rd
Newville PA
9:00 am-3:30 EST
Host pastor: Rev. Wayne Good

Under a special agreement with the Commission on Evangelism of the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God (which is sponsoring this event) the cost is $15 per person or $50 flat fee for churches registering four or more.

To register go to the Commission's web site EVANGELISM PLUS and follow the Bridgebuilders link.

If you would like information about bringing these seminars to your church, region or adjudicatory, please contact Steve Dunn at (717-892-7494)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


From Michael K. Reynolds comes a post for churches of sizes and missions ....

Why would ANYONE want to go to church?

I completely understand.

It’s Sunday morning. You’re awakened by beams of light spilling through your blinds. Rising up, you tie on your bathrobe, walk out the front door to fetch your newspaper when you see the most remarkable sight across the street.
It’s those Andersons again. Dad, Mom hurrying the three little ones into their minivan, en route to their weekly shindig with their Holy Rolling friends. So again you ask yourself something perfectly reasonable: Why would ANYONE want to go to church?

And that, my friend, is a good question.

After all, you’ve been there and done it. You’ve got some compelling reasons to give the whole church thing a pass:
  • You’d rather sleep in.
  • You’ve got better things to do with your Sundays.
  • You’ve had bad experiences with church in the past.
  • It’s boring.
  • The place is full of weird people.
  • They just want your money.
  • They speak in a churchy language you don’t get.
  • You don’t want to be judged by THOSE people.
  • Who would want YOU at their church.
  • The Andersons aren’t so perfect.
These are valid points. If you end up in the wrong church the experience can be negative enough to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, there are many instances of churches behaving badly. Even if you go to the right church, it will have its fill of embarrassing moments. This is because both the good ones and the not so good ones are filled with imperfect people. Sadly, many Christian churches are awkward and clumsy when it comes to welcoming new people.

But before you give up on the concept altogether, you really ought to consider some of the reasons WHY people do go to church. Because if you’re not part of a good congregation, you and your family are missing out on many of the sweeter things of life.
Here are just a few:
Great place to raise a family.
If you’re trying to grow your children in today’s toxic environment, you probably already know the odds are stacked against you. Our kids are sent out as sheep among the wolves in a world of drugs, sex, hatred and violence. And that’s just what they experience on television. When you add the perversions of the Internet, the competitive drama of school life and peer pressure it’s no wonder they are facing such a high risk of suicides, chronic depression, substance abuse and teenage pregnancies. Raising your kids in a church environment helps give them a “code” which can carry them through the difficult times of life. Those times when you’re not around. Your children will also develop healthy friendships and get an entire church family willing to wrap their arms around them, keeping them safe. This is priceless assistance for you during your parenting excursion.

Place to strengthen your marriage.
Going to church won’t guarantee success in your marriage. All couples encounter challenges which can be overwhelming at times. But what is guaranteed at the right church is that you’ll be in a place which honors marriage. You’ll have people around you to share wisdom, encouragement and support to help you experience victory in your relationship.

Great place for healing.
We all hurt at some time. We’ll all fall short. We all struggle. Going to church won’t change, this, but it will mean you won’t have to face these life challenges alone. A strong fellowship will lift you up when you stumble and help dust the dirt off of your knees. If you have disappointments, guilt or shortcomings you’ve carried with you for years, healing is available to you here.

Your social life will improve.
Many people think going to church will crimp their lifestyle. It’s true that it might change, but it’s always for the better. You’ll meet some amazing people who will take genuine interest in who you are. They will be fired up about helping you become the best person you can be. You’ll get incredible opportunities to serve others and to do it with people who also enjoy being a positive influence in the world. Plus a vibrant church will offer a host of fun activities for you and your family.

You won’t have to do life alone.
Even the biggest celebrities struggle with loneliness. That’s because there is a hole in our hearts that can’t be filled with money, fame and career accomplishments. There is a yearning in each of us to be connected with others and to find deep significance in our lives. There is no better place to build meaningful, forever relationships than a healthy church and together you’ll experience the joy of reaching your greater purpose on this planet.

The Bible will start making sense.
There is no question the Bible can be a difficult read at first. It can be like thumbing through a telephone book. But, as you begin to learn more about the background, the history, the characters, the teaching and the wisdom within those pages, it all begins to make sense in a powerful, life-changing way. You’ll discover truths which will transform your understanding of the world around you and you learn how relevant Scripture is to every facet of your journey. Within the walls of an excellent, Bible-teaching church and supplemented with a small group study, you be blown away by your new-found understanding of the bestselling book of all time.

You’ll build a friendship with God.
I know. You might not even be sure there is a God. But isn’t it worth putting in a little time to determine this with certainty for yourself? And some might say, “Why do I need to go to church to be friends with God?” No. You don’t need to go to church to be friends with God. But if you have a genuine friendship with God, you’ll know He wants you to be part of His family and active in His church.

So how exactly does one go to church?
If you paid close attention to the caveats weaved into the text above, you noticed that quality counts when it comes to having a positive, life-changing church experience. Not all which hang a church shingle are the same and many of them aren’t properly teaching what’s in the Bible. Some of them ignore it altogether.

It’s worth doing a little homework. Visit a few and see which one is the best fit for you and your family. A genuine Christian church will teach about Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It’s it not, walk away. Here are some good questions you should ask when you visit:
  • Are they teaching from the Bible?
  • Is it an authentic Christian church that teaches that Jesus Christ provides the only way to get to Heaven?
  • Are they welcoming to visitors?
  • Do people seem friendly and happy here?
  • Do they have good programs for your whole family?
The easy way is to talk to someone you know and respect who goes to church and ask them if you can be their guest some Sunday.

Most likely, the Andersons would be thrilled if you asked to join them. I’m sure they’ll even give you a ride.

Monday, July 9, 2012


by Stephen L Dunn

"A vision is useless without a clear path to follow." - Chad Chute

The Holy Spirit is in the vision-casting business.  The Spirit helps us seek the mind of Christ to know what the will of God is for a specific church.  This vision is rarely vague or generalized; only our perception of it, and then, only at first.  It then becomes the job of the church's leadership under the guidance of the Spirit to clarify that vision.  And with clarity comes strategy.

A strategy involves goals-specific and measurable.  To be specific and measurable it is drawn from the resources that God has gathered together in a specific church.  Those resources are the gifts of its people, their skills, passions, experience and relationships.  But most of all those resources grow from the commitment of the people to be authentic disciples of Jesus Christ on mission for Jesus in a specific mission field.

A strategy is a statement of faith. It is a declaration of what we are committed to do, how we are to be known, and what we believe glorifies God. Without a strategy a vision can easily deteriorate into wishful thinking with no one taking responsibility to see that vision realized.

Most churches have a vision, but do you have a strategy that supports that vision?

Sunday, July 8, 2012


From James Nored comes this excellent teaching video that outward-focused churches would well consider.  To join his network, click the link in the left hand column of the home page.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I have designed a new resource BRIDGEBUILDERS-HELPING TRADITIONAL CHURCHES REACH THEIR UNCHURCHED NEIGHBORS.  This is the first of a series of articles about the ministry.


4 05 2012
We live in a church culture that is enamored with programs and prescriptions. What’s the sure-fire program to bring people to Jesus Christ? What three simple things can we do to achieve our responsibility to share the faith (and maybe make a few new Christians). This seminar is built on the premise that people are more important than programs in the process of evangelism. People living a Christ-like life committed to helping others to be transformed by Christ are the most valuable resource in evangelism after the work of the Holy Spirit.

Three observations have prompted this seminar. Three reflections, which I believe are grounded in God’s Word, form the foundation of its message.

(1) Many times traditional churches engage in evangelism because of survival issues. They equate evangelism with church growth. True evangelism is committed to growing the Kingdom of God.

(2) Still others are drawn to evangelism to make a better community. We downplay that people are lost without Jesus Christ. True evangelism seeks to transform lives.

(3) And too many churches want to engage in evangelism without leaving their comfort zone. To quote BIll Hybels, “God does his best work in the zone of the unknown.” True evangelism requires us to enter someone else’s world, not to expect them to meet us in ours.

Bridgebuilders was conceived out of my personal encounter with the writings of four men: Bill Hybels, Walt Mueller, Dan Kimball, and Leslie Newbiggin. You will see their influence in this material and I am indebted to them.

Bill Hybels is perhaps the most familiar to many for his teaching at Willow Creek and particularly his evangelism training Becoming a Contagious Christian. Bill is the first person to ignite in me the profound realization that “Lost people matter to God. Lost people should matter to God’s people.”

Walt Mueller is the head of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding. His excellent work Inside the Mind of Youth Culture helped me grasp how truly different the world is today and the major issues involved in passing along the Faith to people who have been shaped by the postmodern mind.
Dan Kimball serves the interesting Southern Baptist congregation called Vintage Church. His work on They Like Jesus, But Not the Church helped me understand the challenge of mobilizing the traditional church to genuine evangelism and the terrible dilemma the world finds itself in because too many authentic Christians chose to live within “the Christian bubble.”

Early in my evangelism training I encountered Leslie Newbiggin, the great missiologist who wrote Foolishness to the Greeks. Newbiggin has written convincingly of the mission field that is the United States and the need to exegete the culture as would any good missionary who desires to be faithful and fruitful for the Kingdom.

It is my privilege to share this material with you. I passionately hope that it will help the traditional church live out its calling and privilege of being the body of Christ. For I believe in the church—in all its forms—because it is the bearer of Christ Jesus. Or as Paul would say, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – Ephesians 1.27

His and yours, living in His amazing grace,
Steve Dunn
Landisville, Pennsylvania
September 2010

Monday, June 4, 2012


8 Things the Unchurched Think About Your Church

8 Things the Unchurched Think About Your Church
What do the unchurched say about church buildings? Thom and Sam Rainer researched the answer.
The e-mail in our inbox began with a simple question:  “What do the unchurched say about church buildings?” Asking the question was a group of church builders, including Cogun, Aspen Group, and The Cornerstone Knowledge Network, who wanted to convey to pastors what features, if any, of a church building help or hinder unchurched people in coming to church.
A study of this nature had never been completed, but our team knew based on a previous study that 42% of those currently attending a Protestant church were unchurched prior to their decision to attend that church. With such a large portion of congregations consisting of people who are new to church, could the actual church building have anything to do with attracting or pushing them away?
Recognizing this tangible aspect of how the unchurched view the Church is crucial to reaching them for Christ. So our researchers began the task of interviewing more than 350 people of different age groups from 45 states. The interviewees were all formerly unchurched and had recently joined a local body of believers. These are the important points we discovered about church facilities.

1. The church facility plays an important role in attracting the unchurched.

Each church body’s unique situation calls for a different type of style, venue, and size, but in short, attractive, organized, and well-maintained church facilities help attract the unchurched.

2. The church building is not the primary motivating factor for the unchurched.

While the appearance of the church building is clearly important, it is not the primary reason the unchurched choose to attend. They go to church due to feeling a void in their lives or because someone invited them. Therefore, the main factors are still the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and the obedience of churchgoers to the Great Commission in inviting their unchurched friends and neighbors.

3. The worship area is the unchurched’s favorite part of the church.

The formerly unchurched group we interviewed declared the worship area to be the most important part of the church building. Our respondents ranked beauty, comfort, and worship setting as the three key components of a worship area. Therefore, an attractive, comfortable, and worshipful sanctuary is extremely important when drawing and keeping the unchurched.

4. The unchurched blame poor finances for unattractive buildings.

Churches that did not have adequate or attractive buildings were perceived by the unchurched as underfunded. But the credit for attractive facilities was given to the leadership of the church. Church leaders need to know that pouring more money into their buildings is not a solution in itself. However, if little financial care is allotted to the church facilities, the formerly unchurched see lack of money as a major hurdle to their attendance.

5. A “third place” area draws people to a church building.

A “third place” area is a social gathering point, such as a coffee shop, outside the usual community environments of work and home. As the importance of these gathering areas grows in our society, churches that provide places for the community to socialize throughout the week are much better positioned to reach the unchurched people in their neighborhoods.

6. Church gyms are not appealing to the unchurched.

Many pastors hear their members saying that building a gym will help attract the unchurched in their community. Our research, however, found the exact opposite to be true—one of the church areas considered least important to the unchurched was a gym. In general, gyms or fitness centers serve their current membership and have little effect on attracting the unchurched.

7. The church building is rarely a cause of conflict.

Our research dispelled the axiom that church facilities or building programs are major instigators of church conflict. We found little to no conflict directly attributed to the church building. Additionally, the formerly unchurched people we interviewed perceived little conflict surrounding the church facilities.

8. The church building aids evangelistic efforts.

A building is certainly not a necessity piece in obeying the evangelism imperative, but appealing church facilities can increase a newly churched person’s comfort level in inviting others to church. This invitation plays a huge role in the process of seeing people come to Christ. Our research demonstrates that the most evangelistically successful churches have facilities that people perceive as attractive.
Pastors and lay leaders can learn valuable lessons about their church building by viewing it through the eyes of the unchurched. Invite someone from the community who has never visited your church and ask them to write a step-by-step narrative of their experience in your church building and worship service. You may be surprised at what they say about your signage, seating, navigation, and other aesthetics. What’s more, they may give you some fresh ideas on how to better draw visitors to your church. 
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.
Sam S. Rainer III serves as a pastor at Sarasota Baptist Church. Sam is the co-author of the recently released book, Essential Church?:  Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts. He also serves as president of Rainer Research, a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He is a frequent conference speaker on church health issues. Sam enjoys hanging out with friends and family in the Florida sunshine.
Copyright © by Outreach magazine.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Just for fun, enjoy a little Tim Hawkins. A reminder of being mindful of how we must learn to translate ourselves to non-churched people with whom we connect.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


From Thom Rainer come these thoughts via Todd Rhoades ...

Thom Rainer had a great post today about ten signs of an inwardly obsessed church.  Here are some thoughts:

1.  Worship Wars.  Man, I remember trying to transition a traditional church to a contemporary one (at least worship style).  It really WAS a war.  And it’s still that way in many churches.  When you make changes in worship, you can expect casualties.  But if your church is STILL in the midst of a war over worship, it’s time to stop.  Chances are at this point, you’re fighting a war with your own people.  End that battle soon, or you’ll never reach out to who you’re really trying to reach.

2.  Prolonged minutia meetings.  Meetings are vision killers.  If you’re in a church that has endless meetings about everything, I can almost guarantee you’re in a church that gets nothing accomplished.

3.  Facility Focus.  I was a part of a church (that was like many, I’m sure) that focused on the property committee and the finance committee.  They ran the church.  Everything was based on facility and finance.  And little on outreach.  (Although we said we were using our finances to better our facility so we could reach people.  The truth is… that never happened).

4.  Program driven.  If your church is program driven, it’s a bloated mess.  Programs are great, but they also breed inward-focus in most cases.  Do yourself a favor and kill a program this week.

5.  Inwardly focused budget.  Look at your budget and divide it into two areas:  inreach and outreach. How much is allotted to keeping your people happy and content?

6.  Inordinate demands for pastoral care.  The key word there is demand.  Demanding things from your pastor or staff almost always connotes an inward focus.  And when all you do is meet demands, there is no time to reach out.

7.  Attitudes of Entitlement.  When people start feeling entitled to things your church offers, you can kiss outreach goodbye.  You’ll never be able to keep everyone happy.

8.  Great concern about change than the gospel.  If people are always griping about change, it takes your eye off the ball.  When you’re putting out ‘change’ fires, it will distract you from outreach.

9.  Anger and hostility.  When 1-8 are happening in your church, people are harsh, judgmental, angry and hostile.  That’s real inviting to the lost.  (Actually, it’s not).

10.  Evangelistic Apathy.  When we’re consumed so much with ourselves, our needs, our comfort, and our need to control, evangelism is the last thing we’re thinking about.

So… how many of these ten things are problems in your church?  And if you’ve solved any one of these… how did you do it?

Thursday, May 3, 2012


About a year ago we made a fundamental shift in the language of the congregation that I serve as Lead Pastor. We began speaking of disciples instead of members.  The latter tends to be an exclusive and organizational word.  And thanks to Mastercard and other marketers, membership has come to connote privileges rather than responsibilities.

Disciple on the other hand is a more organic term and it infers lifestyle and learning.  A disciple has not arrived, they continue to become as they learn to think, act and be like the One of whom they are a disciple.  It was in a Finance Commission meeting where we were discussing how to get members to give their fair share, to measure up to the expectations and needs of the Church.  Tithing, of course, was part of this conversation.  It was then when one of our older members said, "This is not a membership issue, it's a discipleship issue." He went on to note that members think in terms of what is necessary to be in good standing. Disciples give. It is who they are.
Profound, isn't it?
It's more than semantics.  It is a religious world view.
Now at the church we teach discipleship and form groups of people on mission with Jesus.  We have Membership Orientations to describe the formal needs of the organization.
We also use this definition of disciple.
This linguistic change is helping us make a cultural shift from membership to discipleship.  It is moving us beyond maintaining the organization to mobilizing for mission.
(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn
This was originally published on my blog IMMEASURABLY MORE  (Discipleship Version)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


One of the difficulties of becoming an outward-focused church is that you must both cast a new vision and create a new culture capable of living out that vision.  Many a church has been defeated in this process because the catalyzing leader leaves before his or her work is done.  Rick Howerton has an excellent article on this dynamic.-steve



Many of us tend to get itchy for new ministry challenges.

If you’re like me you’re a catalytic leader. That is, you were made by God to start something, pass it on to someone else, then move on to start something else. While this is an important responsibility, sometimes, those of us, no matter what our leadership style, may have a tendency to jump ship before God’s done with us in a particular setting.

I think there are at least five reasons to consider staying at the church you’re serving.

1. It takes time to accomplish a God-size vision.

Too many church leaders are called to a location with a vision in mind and leave before that vision has become a reality.
The vision is what drove them to their new position and they believed with all that was in them that they were to accomplish that vision for that church.

The problem… they jump ship before the vision has docked and the church they serve finds herself starting over with a new leader long before God’s expectations were completed.

2. You haven't mentored someone to pick up where you left off.

Great leaders are mentoring someone to take their place when they exit.
This assures the church that the ministry can continue on becoming all God meant her to be.

3. The grass really isn't greener when you shepherd different sheep.

Many church leaders leave a church because of a few difficult people.
There are some churches that have problem people and they are always going to make a staff member’s job hard, even painful. But for the most part, people are people and there will always be some in every setting that are going to be problematic.

Rather than leaving, it may be much wiser to learn to work with, around, or in spite of the few difficult people at the church you’re serving. You may just move to a new location to find there are a few problem people who are more problematic than the ones you just left.

4. A move will affect your family.

Too many pastors forget that their families are deeply affected with each move.

If God isn’t vividly calling you to a new location, just for the betterment of your spouse and children, stay put. They deserve it.

5. It takes time to realize the obstacles that stand in your way.

There are obstacles in any ministry situation. Those obstacles can’t be overcome until a ministry leader becomes aware of them. Some of those obstacles won’t even be on a minister’s radar screen for two to three years.

Taking off to another church starts the process of realizing these and removing them all over again.

Rick has one passion... To see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet.” He is presently the Global Small Group Environmentalist at NavPress Publishing. Rick has authored or co-authored multiple books, studies, and leader training resources including Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual, The Gospel and the Truth: Living the Message of Jesus, Small Group Life Ministry Manual: A New Approach to Small Groups, Redeeming the Tears: a Journey Through Grief and Loss, Small Group Life: Kingdom, Small Group Kickoff Retreat: Experiential Training for Small Group Leaders, and Great Beginnings: Your First Small Group Study. Rick’s varied ministry experiences as a collegiate pastor, small group pastor, teaching pastor, full-time trainer and church consultant, as well as having been a successful church planter gives him a perspective of church life that is all-encompassing and multi-dimensional. Rick is a highly sought after communicator and trainer speaking at or leading training in forty settings annually. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012


From Perry Noble comes these 15 measures for self-evaluation as a church that particularly apply to the call to be an outward-focused church. - STEVE

15 Signs Your Church Is in Trouble


1. When excuses are made about the way things are instead of embracing a willingness to roll up the sleeves and fix the problem.
2. When the church becomes content with merely receiving people that come rather than actually going out and finding them…in other words, they lose their passion for evangelism!
3. The focus of the church is to build a great church (complete with the pastor's picture…and his wife’s…on everything) and not the Kingdom of God.
4. The leadership begins to settle for the natural rather than rely on the supernatural.
5. The church begins to view success/failure in regards to how they are viewed in the church world rather than whether or not they are actually fulfilling the Great Commission!
6. The leaders within the church cease to be coachable.
7. There is a loss of a sense of urgency!  (Hell is no longer hot, sin is no longer wrong, and the cross is no longer important!)
8. Scripture isn’t central in every decision that is made!
9. The church is reactive rather than proactive.
10. The people in the church lose sight of the next generation and refuse to fund ministry simply because they don’t understand “those young people.”
11. The goal of the church is to simply maintain the way things are…to NOT rock the boat and/or upset anyone…especially the big givers!
12. The church is no longer willing to take steps of faith because “there is just too much to lose.”
13. The church simply does not care about the obvious and immediate needs that exist in the community.
14. The people learn how to depend on one man to minister to everyone rather than everyone embracing their role in the body, thus allowing the body to care for itself.
15. When the leaders/staff refuse to go the extra mile in leading and serving because of how “inconvenient” doing so would be.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I am part of the Missional Outreach Network which coordinated by the highly creative James Nored.  This week we received a new post from mission church plant John Richardson about an extraordinary experience in true outreach giving. - STEVE

Giving Away the Collection Plate

I don’t know that I could be called a naturally generous person.  Maybe kind, but not always generous.  However, over the years, there have been many people who have been extremely generous toward me.  One family heard that my wife and I had moved to a new city to plant a church and sent a $2500 check in the mail.  They hardly knew us.  They had no idea that we desperately needed help paying some major bills that at that time.

I think God has placed generous people in my path to wake me up to His generosity.  Over time, I’ve realized that God is the first, and most generous, giver.  Luke 6:35 even goes so far as to say that when we are generous toward even the “ungrateful and evil,” we will be known as children of the Most High.  In other words, radical generosity is the way of God.  He’s even generous toward His enemies (thankfully)!

A couple of years ago, our small church plant was desperately praying that God would show us how to best live sent among our neighbors.  We asked, “What can we do so that people will see You when they interact with us?”  Much to our surprise, we sensed that the answer from God was, “Become generous as I am generous.”  And as we prayed further, we realized that He wasn’t kidding.  He was prompting us to give away all of our tithes and offerings for an entire year.

From April, 2010 through April 2011, all of the tithes and offerings that were given to Traceway went to help the abused, neglected, sick, poor and unstable of our city.  These gifts from God went to keep a few families out of foreclosure after job losses.  Other gifts went to provide housing for abused mothers who escaped literally with their children and the clothes on their backs.  Some gifts went to pay medical bills and build handicap access ramps.  Others went toward providing a vehicle for a family and aiding in disaster relief after a devastating local tornado.

Regardless of where the funds went, each gift was an investment in our neighbors.  Each donation provided an open door for missional discipling and a built-in community that would love them.
To be completely honest, not all of the giving turned out the way we hoped.  Some of the recipients wanted a handout and nothing more.  One lady even got mad at us after the 1997 Toyota Camry that we donated to her was not everything she expected.  So, we learned first-hand that missional giving can be a mess.

But we also learned that God values our willingness to walk into the mess with Him.  After all, that’s what He does… day after day after day.  He joins each of us in our mess.  He loves us and generously gives us gifts that nudge us closer to Him.

So, maybe we – as the Body of Christ (His physical representatives today) – should learn to be better imitators of His generosity.  I can promise you that it won’t be easy; but, the Church (and our neighbors) desperately need this.

To read more of the stories of Traceway’s ReGifting Project and to dig in to the lessons they learned, check out Giving Away the Collection Plate from Tate Publishing.  To connect further with John, join him at!/RichardsonJohnD.

Monday, March 26, 2012


This post was written by Robert Schnase and is an excellent checklist of DNA of fruitful congregations. -steve

The purpose of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But how do we do that? The most visible way God knits people into the community of Christ and draws people into the relationship with God is through congregations that fulfill the ministry of Christ in the world. Fruitful congregations repeat and improve on these five basic practices: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service and Extravagant  Generosity.

The practices are basic and fundamental. But it’s the adjectives that make these words come alive, because they stretch us and cause us to ask ourselves, “How are we doing in practicing these qualities of ministry in our congregation? How might we do better?”

These are practices—they're not qualities that some churches have and some don’t. They’re not phases that, once we get them done, we can move on to something else. These are practices that we have to learn and improve upon constantly. These are the activities that are so critical to the mission of the church that failure to perform them in an exemplary way leads to congregational decline and deterioration.
Here’s a look at the five practices used in fruitful congregations.

Radical Hospitality
(Romans 12:9-21)

Congregations offer the invitation and embrace of Jesus Christ, the gracious welcome that creates genuine belonging that brings people together in the Christian community. Churches characterized by Radical Hospitality are not just friendly and courteous. Instead, they exhibit restlessness because they realize so many people do not have a relationship to a faith community. They sense a calling and responsibility to pray and work to invite others and to help them feel welcome and supported in their faith journeys. Congregations surprise newcomers with a glimpse of the unmerited gracious love of God that they see in Christ. Our Radical Hospitality goes to the extremes, and we do it joyfully, not superficially, because we know our invitation is the invitation of Christ.

Passionate Worship
(John 4:21-24)

In Passionate Worship, people are honest before God and one another, and they are open to God’s presence and will for their lives. People so eagerly desire such worship that they will reorder their lives to attend. Passionate worship motivates pastors not only to improve their preaching but also to learn continually how to enhance content and technique for effective worship. Worship is something alive that requires continuing care, cultivation, and effort to keep it fresh. Pastors should willingly review and evaluate their own work and invite feedback. The motivation for enhancing the quality of worship is not only about deepening our own faith but also about allowing God to use us and our congregations to offer hope, life, and love to others. Worship is God’s gift and task, a sacred trust that requires our utmost and highest.

Intentional Faith Development
(1 Corinthians 9:19-24)

Transformation comes through learning in community. Congregational leaders that practice Intentional Faith Development carefully consider the full life cycle of members and look for ways the church forms faith at every age. They look for gaps, opportunities, and unmet needs to round out their ministries and ask how they can do better. They train laypeople to lead small groups, teach Bible studies, and coordinate support groups. They realize the power of special topics and interests to attract unchurched people, and they advertise and invite beyond the walls of the church. They form affiliation groups such as grief or divorce recovery, substance abuse, parenting, and more. They explore new ways of forming learning communities–blogs, chat rooms, e-mail Bible studies, and downloadable materials. These pastors also participate in forms of community with other pastors or laypersons to help deepen their own relationship with God.

Risk-Taking Mission and Service
(Matthew 25:14-30)

This involves work that stretches people, causing them to do something for the good of others that they would never have considered doing if it were not for their relationship with Christ and their desire to serve Him. These churches not only solicit and encourage ordinary service to support the work of the congregation, but they also consciously seek to motivate people to more extraordinary service. They lift examples in preaching and teaching. Risk-Taking Missions and Service is also part of the formation of children and youth. All youth and children ministries include teaching and experiential components that stretch compassion outward beyond the walls of the church. Faith mapped in childhood provides pathways that shape lifelong commitments. These churches collaborate with other churches, other denominations, civic organizations, social agencies, and non-profit groups. They actively invite and welcome newcomers, visitors, and the unchurched to help them in making a difference in the lives of others. As congregations move beyond their comfort zones and follow Christ into more adventurous encounters with people, God’s Spirit changes them, changes others, and changes churches.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


image ©
Brad Powell: “If our spiritual walk isn’t fresh and exciting, our ministry won’t be either.”
Question: I think I understand why our church isn’t reaching new people or creating any kind of noticeable impact: It’s boring. To be honest, I’m the pastor and even I’m bored. Obviously, the solution is to fix it, but I’m not sure how. Suggestions?


 Know this: You’re not alone. This is a huge problem for all pastors and churches over time. Boredom is the natural byproduct of redundancy. And let’s be honest, church ministry is redundant by nature. Without intentional interference, churches will have no new people come on Sunday, and everyone will park in the same place, enter the same way, greet the same people, sit in the same seat, sing the same kind of songs, listen to the same person teach, and then do it all again next Sunday—and again and again. Makes me yawn just writing about it.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, there are some unavoidable areas of redundancy. Generally, people should come to the same place each week, gather in the same auditorium and listen to the same pastor/teacher. But church doesn’t have to be boring.

Think about it. Life is filled with unavoidable redundancies. Breathe in and breathe out. Go to sleep and wake up. Eat three or more times every day. Go to work and come home. Celebrate the weekend, then say goodbye to it. And on and on it goes. But life doesn’t have to be boring.

What makes the difference? Changing it up. Though you have to eat three times a day, you don’t have to eat the same thing. In fact, you don’t even have to eat the same way. Where is it written that certain kinds of food are for certain times of the day? In our family, my wife, Roxann, messed with this concept all the time. She initiated reverse night, which always began with dessert. Of course, it usually resulted in no one eating the salad. But who cares? It was a lot of fun. Our kids still talk about it to this day. By changing it up, she created lifelong memories.

We can apply the same lesson to our churches and ministries. Sadly, many leaders seek to overcome boredom by switching churches instead of making the investment to change up their present church. But changing locations usually leads to the same result. Over time, the new church will become boring as well. We need to learn to create new and fresh experiences in the midst of the unavoidable redundancies of our present circumstances. We need to learn to “change it up” where we are.


Thursday, March 15, 2012


by Stephen L Dunn 

Often overlooked in the move to become an outward focused church serving the community as the Spirit leads is the matter of the church's spiritual health. Sometimes our intensive ministries neglect the cultivation of a spiritually healthy congregation. Like our physical health, it is important to intentionally and consistently do the work needed to promote and maintain that health. When a church is not spiritually healthy it creates an environment where the people under its care and influence develop patterns, values, actions, and attitudes that undermine the intention of Jesus in John 10:10, “to have life to the full.” The church’s witness and attractiveness are undermined because people outside who know they are unhealthy are reluctant to connect to a church that is not healthy. Or worse, they connect to a church believing that our weaknesses and problems are the norm, and therefore, do not become maturing disciples in Jesus Christ. Unhealthy churches ultimately die. Spiritually healthy churches multiply because they are helping the individual members of the church mature in Christ (who then in turn help others to do so). Spiritually healthy churches reproduce in creating new members of the Kingdom of God.
An important resource for this is The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazarro with Warren Bird.  In their book, they note these characteristics of such churches.

Ten Characteristics of a Healthy Church
1. God's Empowering Presence                
2. God-Exalting Worship              
3. Spiritual Disciplines    
4. Learning and Growing in Community
5. A Commitment to Loving and Caring Relationships
6. Servant-Leadership Development      
7. An Outward Focus     
8. Wise Administration and Accountability           
9. Networking with the Body of Christ   
10. Stewardship and Generosity   

We attend to a lot of matters in the church, but do we have strategies for being sure that these things are true about the congregations that we serve?

More to come ....

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn