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           

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


10 Lessons, from John

Creating something out of nothing is challenging, but this is the only way we can really see the culture become the church. I want to see people grow and be unified as a church, but I always want to start with those who are not the church, with the culture around us, relationally connecting life-by-life.

These 10 lessons I’ve learned have been how God has change lives, that in turn impacted a neighborhood, and now influence a city and the world:

1. People Matter Enough to be Reminded
Realize that it’s not about you – it’s about a world that’s on a slide going south away from God. If you forget that, you’ll take things personally. Remember that good things don’t just naturally happen. People left alone don’t tend to seek God. People left alone don’t tend to stretch themselves to grow in faith or stretch to give money and time to those less-fortunate. It takes energy. As a leader, part of that energy is to remind people.

2. Never Waste a Gathering
No matter what the gathering is for – serve kids, have a party, small group, bike ride, or building houses – pay attention to not wasting it. Have fun first. Create life and people will want to come back. Cast vision and orient people to what they can expect. Always give next-steps. Every gathering is about connecting to community, but people need steps along the way.

3. Tell Stories to Shape Values
A story tells everybody “this is who we are and this is what matters.”

4. Connect Others Constantly
Give people enough time, and they’ll want to hang with their group and forget new people. Watch for people who might be feeling left out at every gathering. People feel valued and loved as people take interest in them.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Have a Big “Ask”
Challenge people to grow spiritually. Many times God’s spirit prompts us but we “do the person a favor” by saying “no” for them. We’re potentially closing someone off from a life with God. That’s not a favor. You have to overcome that fear and make big asks.

6. Serve Well Together
Getting people serving creates ownership. When you serve together serve well.

7. Be Generous with Praise and Encouragement
You can’t hire enough people to do all the work. You need volunteers. Generous praise and encouragement is how you pay them.

8. Ask “Who’s Next, What’s Next?”
You’re only as strong as your next new leader, so always be looking for the “relative” leaders – the ones giving a little bit more. Sometimes their lives are messy. Think about how to help them take next steps of growth.

9. If Your Unchurched Friends and Neighbors are not Becoming the Church, You’re Ineffective
This is one of my most significant lessons. If people are not becoming the church — and LEADING the church – within 3 to 5 years, you’re not being effective. When you start to see this happen, when you the church being raised up out of culture, just as it happened in Corinth, Athens, Rome. That’s exciting!

10. Don’t Do This Without God (It’s His mission, your adventure)
This is really the first one. This is His mission and your adventure. You can’t do this without God.