Friday, June 29, 2007

H.B. London's weekly briefing for pastors highlights multiplication

"Growing by Multiplication"

While megachurches and multi-site churches continue to grab the spotlight, another type of church is being evaluated and recognized — the multiplying church. Multiplying churches, or churches that plant other churches on an ongoing basis, believe that the mandate of Acts 1:8 requires them to focus their resources and energies not just on themselves, but on birthing new churches.

An article appearing in Outreach magazine analyzes America's top 25 multiplying churches. Based in part on a church planting study conducted by Leadership Network, the article attempts to explain the characteristics of churches that see church planting as a priority, and have also had success in actually birthing new churches. For example, the top three churches on the list Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, Mars Hill Church in Seattle and NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas have each planted 100 churches since their founding.

While many of the churches on the list are megachurches, there are also those that have an average weekly attendance of under 500. First Southwest Baptist Church in Alief, Texas (No. 23 on the list) has a weekly attendance of 120, but has planted 68 churches since 1978. Columbia Crossroads Church in Columbia S.C. (No. 19) — attendance 450 — has planted 17 churches in the last seven years.

Ed Stetzer, who wrote the article for Outreach, and is the director of LifeWay Research, points out that successful multiplying churches have a number of values in common:

  • The belief that God has called them to reach the unchurched in their communities, their states and the world.
  • The importance of establishing long-term strategies and goals that will involve both staff and church members in the planting process.
  • A focus, not on becoming a larger church, but on the growth of the Kingdom around the world.
  • The importance of maintaining fellowship with daughter churches as they become more independent.
  • The understanding that staff, salaries and other valuable resources will need to be freely given in order for new churches to more effectively impact their communities. (The churches on the list designated between two percent and 30 percent of their overall budget for church planting.)
  • The belief that lack of size or staff, or poor timing are not acceptable excuses for delay.

The list of the 25 churches can be found at Outreach magazine has also published lists of the fastest growing and the most innovative churches in America.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

That priest was faking it!

Fake priest arrested baptising baby (Reuters - Fri Jun 22, 2007)

A man pretending to be a priest was arrested by police as he prepared to baptise a baby in a small town in the north of Portugal.

"When the man said 'in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit' police came in and grabbed him," a member of the church was quoted by local daily Jornal de Noticias as saying.

A spokeswoman for the Portuguese police said the 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of impersonating a priest and had several similar arrest warrants to his name.

"We had to interrupt the religious ceremony to identify the suspect," said spokeswoman Amelia Moutinho, adding that the public prosecutor would now investigate the case.

The baby was later baptised by a real priest, the local daily said. The man was arrested on June 16.


I'm guessing, or at least hoping, that none of you will ever have an experience like that. On the other hand, I've been around the church for almost 50 years now and have had a few honest conversations with pastors who felt like they were just going through the motions. Call it a dry spell or a spiritual desert or a long, dark night of the soul. Even pulpit greats like Charles Spurgeon stuggled with a sense of heaviness and even depression in ministry.

But Sunday comes whether you're feeling like it or not.

In times like that, I think of the Psalmist David talking to himself (not the only pastor to ever do that) and directing his inner being to "bless the Lord at all times" (Psalm 34:1). That has to include times when I don't feel like it and my circumstances don't encourage it.

In times like that, we do have to walk a line between saying "I just feel like something good is about to happen" and saying "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it..." even if I don't feel like it. I praise the Lord because He's worthy of praise.

The dynamics of public ministry can work against just laying it all out there when I'm having a bad Sunday. One of the advantages of liturgical worship is that it's less about my "cheerleading" and more about pointing people to God's gifts in word and sacrament.

Either way... keep it real...especially if you're in Portugal..don't fake it!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Update from the Church of the Nazarene

Holiness Today is the official denominational publication for the Church of the Nazarene. Their six General Superintendents published the Annual Report which, in addition to news of incredible growth on their mission fields, included the following glimpses into their current "state of the church" in North America:
  • 640,027 total members (US membership increased 0.6 percent last year)
  • "A.M. worship" in the U.S.A. and Canada decreased 0.6 percent last year to 525,100.
  • Offsetting newly-organized churches is the continued closing and merging of churches…The U.S.A., while organizing 39 congregations, closed 59.
  • Canada closed 4 churches and did not report any newly organized congregations.
Another highlight was this word on their new HQ facility. They announced that it "is not just another building. It will be a new way of working together."

They also have a new mission statement: "…After 10 years of review by three different Boards, a decision was made in our December 2006 meeting to try to capture what is now taking place in the church...the Board unanimously adopted the following: Statement of Mission, Church of the Nazarene, "To make Christlike disciples in the nations."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Have any habits?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle

Most people use the word "habits" in a negative sense. The word itself does not hold either a positive or negative connotation, but refers to any consistent pattern of behavior that has become so ingrained as to seem reflexive.

Do a time study of your average day/week and you may find you've developed some habits that are not serving you well. On the other hand, how many of the behaviors or actions that add value to your leadership are, in fact, good habits that you've developed over time?

What habits are serving you well in your leadership assignment?

Some of these ( like daily Scripture reading, study, memorization, and prayer) should be automatic but I know more than one pastor who admits that this is still an area of struggle.

Have you considered the power of placing brief phone calls (2 or 3 minutes each) to 5 people in your congregation each day just to let them know that you would be praying for them that day and to see if there was anything specific they would like you to pray for?

One of our district pastors selects 4 or 5 guys each year that he disciples and then they conclude their year together with a mission trip.

Another pastor maintains a consistent schedule at his fitness club that allows him to connect with 3 or 4 guys who are unchurched.

Another pastor I spoke with last week has formed the habit of rising every morning at 4:30 and finds that one change in his routine set in motion a host of other positive changes (i.e. time for exercise, devotions, and clearing his in-box before the rest of the staff arrives).

Another pastor I work with writes a handful of "thank-you" notes each week to let his team members know that they're appreciated.

"We first make our habits, and then our habits make us." - John Dryden


More quotes on habits:

"The unfortunate thing about this world is that good habits are so much easier to give up than bad ones." - Somerset Maugham

"The second half of a man's life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half." - Feodor Dostoevski

"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives."
- Henry David Thoreau

"I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time." - Charles Dickens

"Sow an act...reap a habit; Sow a habit...reap a character; Sow a character...reap a destiny." George D. Boardman

Friday, June 15, 2007

Keep on trying!

Most leaders have to confess that at they've been tempted to throw in the towel from time to time. Many have taken encouragement from the story of Abraham Lincoln who failed more often than he succeeded in his bids for election to public office. The frequently cited list includes the following:

* 1832 - Defeated in run for Illinois State Legislature
* 1833 - Failed in business
* 1834 - Elected to Illinois State Legislature (success)
* 1838 - Defeated in run for Illinois House Speaker
* 1843 - Defeated in run for nomination for U.S. Congress
* 1846 - Elected to Congress (success)
* 1848 - Lost re-nomination
* 1849 - Rejected for land officer position
* 1854 - Defeated in run for U.S. Senate
* 1856 - Defeated in run for nomination for Vice President
* 1858 - Again defeated in run for U.S. Senate
* 1860 - Elected President (success)

The point is, Lincoln kept on trying and the fact that we live in the "United" States of America is a credit to his perseverance.

You've heard lots of variations on this theme: "If at first you don't succeed, try again." Or "try, try again." Or "keep on trying." Or "try again, harder." Or "try again, smarter." My dad used the poetry version, "If at first you don't succeed, another try is all you need."

Those are all good seeds for a pep talk. But, don't you sometimes wonder about the wisdom of continually trying something that's not working?


AP ran this story about Shivcharan Jatav, a 73-year-old farmer from the desert state of Rajasthan in western India, who just failed his 10th grade high school exams for the 39th time.

With no formal education in his childhood, Jatav has been trying to pass the exams since 1969, when an army recruiter told him it would improve his chances of being accepted into the military.

"Since then I have been trying to pass this examination, but without any success," Jatav said, days after receiving the bitter news that he had failed again.

Jatav passed only one subject -- the ancient language of Sanskrit -- and he said he scored just 103 out of a total of 600 in the examinations.

Even though he is too old to join the army he has kept at it, hoping to become a more eligible bachelor.

"I could not get married as the girls told my family members that I was not properly educated. It's my fate that deprived me of education and a married life," he said.

Jatav says he will try again next year in the hopes that an education will improve his job and marriage prospects.

Still, he has no regrets. "I am a happy and contented person," said Jatav.


I'm not sure what his high school guidance counselor or the local match-maker are telling him, but I'm not sure passing his 10th grade exams will qualify him for a better job or a place on the"most eligible bachelors" listing. On the other hand, he may be failing the course, but he definitely gets the "A" for effort.

How about you? Is there a goal that seems just out of reach? Have you given up or are you still trying?

Take time to evaluate if the goal is still relevant to your life mission. Count the cost of trying again and calculate the potential return on the investment. If it still matters and the reward outweighs the risk, go for it!

Leaders on the edge keep on trying!

" know the that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be complete, not lacking anything..." James 1:3-4 (NIV)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now?

NY Times online edition (June 12, 2007) had a great story entitled "A Ring Tone Meant to Fall on Deaf Ears" written by Paul Vitello.

It describes the latest rage among teenagers: "a ring tone that many adults cannot hear.

In settings where cellphone use is forbidden — in class, for example — it is perfect for signaling the arrival of a text message without being detected by an elder of the species.

"When I heard about it I didn't believe it at first," said Donna Lewis, a technology teacher at the Trinity School in Manhattan. "But one of the kids gave me a copy, and I sent it to a colleague. She played it for her first graders. All of them could hear it, and neither she nor I could."

The technology, which relies on the fact that most adults gradually lose the ability to hear high-pitched sounds, was developed in Britain but has only recently spread to America — by Internet, of course....

The cellphone ring tone was the offshoot of an invention called the Mosquito, developed last year by a Welsh security company to annoy teenagers and gratify adults, not the other way around. It was marketed as an ultrasonic teenager repellent, an ear-splitting 17-kilohertz buzzer designed to help shopkeepers disperse young people loitering in front of their stores while leaving adults unaffected.

The principle behind it is a biological reality that hearing experts refer to as presbycusis, or aging ear. Most adults over 40 or 50 seem to have some symptoms, scientists say.

While most human communication takes place in a frequency range between 200 and 8,000 hertz (a hertz being the scientific unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second), most adults' ability to hear frequencies higher than that begins to deteriorate in early middle age.

"It's the most common sensory abnormality in the world," said Dr. Rick A. Friedman, an ear surgeon and research scientist at the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles.

But in a bit of techno-jujitsu, someone — a person unknown at this time, but probably not someone with presbycusis — realized that the Mosquito, which uses this common adult abnormality to adults' advantage, could be turned against them.

The Mosquito noise was reinvented as a ring tone...."

Matt DePrez, youth pastor at Sturgis Wesleyan Church, used this in his illustrated sermon last weekend for graduation Sunday. The entire congregation was asked to stand and then sit down if they couldn't hear the tone. Sure enough, all that remained standing were under 40 except for two senior citizens who admitted later they couldn't hear the instructions.

Matt talked about Samuel hearing God's voice even when Eli could not. He challenged the teens to keep expecting and listening for God's voice. He also challenged adults to help the next generation learn how to respond when God does call!

May God heal our "spiritual presbycusis" so we listen clearly and lead effectively...on the edge!

*Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'" (1st Samuel 3:8-9 NIV)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Diamonds along the path

Perhaps you’ve read the timeless stories recounted by Russell H. Conwell, founder of Temple University, in his talk that became a best-selling book: Acres of Diamonds.

Conwell talks about the danger of just taking your present circumstances for granted and always longing for the pot of gold at the end of someone else’s rainbow. He argues convincingly that great opportunities are all around you…if you’ll just open your eyes to see them.

I was reminded of Conwell’s counsel when I read this AP story: “Teen finds 2.93-carat diamond along path” (Wed Jun 6, 6:41 PM ET- Murfreesboro, Arkansas)

Walking along a path taken by thousands of others at the Crater of Diamonds State Park, Nicole Ruhter noticed something everyone else had missed — a tea-colored, 2.93-carat diamond.

Ruhter, 13, of Butler, Mo., said she would name her find the "Pathfinder Diamond" after pulling what she described as a broken pyramid from the ground. Her parents, grandparents, brother and two sisters had already spent the day digging in two other fields before heading down the path just after 7 p.m. Tuesday.

"We were walking through the path and I just walked and saw this little shine," said Ruhter, who has just finished the seventh-grade. "We wrapped it up in a little dollar bill and took it back and showed them."

While the park does not do appraisals, Bill Henderson (assistant park superintendent) said experts appraised a 4-carat diamond found previously in the park between $15,000 to $60,000.

Before you jump in your car and head for Arkansas, remember Conwell’s advice and look for the diamond mine on your doorstep…the people that God has placed around you and the community to which you’ve been called. While they may not always be significant or impressive at first glance, our call/gift as leaders it the ability to imagine what God can do in and through these diamonds in the rough!

Here’s to finding diamonds…on the edge!

Monday, June 4, 2007

No Excuses ...

I anticipated watching the Detroit Pistons play the San Antonio Spurs for the 2007 NBA Championship. I was wrong.

One of the best take-aways in watching this otherwise disappointing series was the response of the Cavs to what might have been easy excuses for losing the first 2 games of the series in Detroit. They refused to play the "blame game." GM Danny Ferry and Coach Brown insisted that their players adopt a "no-excuses" attitude. They did. It worked. They're headed to the NBA Championship series.

LeBron James said"You just have to learn from what happened and maybe try to execute a little bit better next time."

That's true in ministry. This is the time of year we complete our annual pastoral service reports and denominational statistical report forms. The process can be discouraging if the church hasn't made quantifiable progress in the last 12 months. Rather than blaming the weather (although we did get hammered by snow storms in February) or the Sunday School superintendent or the music director or the new church down the street, take a moment to learn from what happened last year and let's try to execute a little better next time. I think that falls under the category of leading with diligence (Romans 12:8).

For church leaders on the edge... no excuses!

***** Below are two articles; the first written when Cleveland was down 0-2 in the series and the second written after they won the series (only the 3rd team in NBA history to overcome those odds).


Mike Popovich - Canton Repository online edition (May 27, 2007)

Cavaliers Head Coach Mike Brown was clearly upset when LeBron James did not get a call after drawing contact from Richard Hamilton during the final seconds of Thursday's Game 2 loss to the Pistons.

By the time his postgame press conference began, Brown had cooled down. He stuck up for James on the court but said afterward the Cavs are a no-excuse team.

"I feel like if I play this or blame that, I'm letting us off the hook and giving us an excuse," Brown said. "I don't want to be about that."

It would have been easy for Brown to come in and criticize the officials for not calling a foul on
Hamilton. A league fine would have followed.

The message the coach wanted to convey is the Cavs need to take matters in their own hands.
"I want us to control our own destiny, so we've just got to play better," Brown said.

James took a cue from his coach.

"It was definitely a situation where maybe things could have got out of hand on that podium with me up there and with Coach also," James said. "You guys could see it in our guys that we maybe wanted to say something, but it's not about that.

"You just have to learn from what happened and maybe try to execute a little bit better next time."


Down 2-0,
Cleveland likely will have to win Game 3 tonight and Game 4 on Tuesday at home to have a realistic shot at advancing to the finals. "It's a challenge, but it's nothing we haven't been part of before," James said. The Cavs find themselves in the same position they were last year in the conference semifinals. They were able to stretch the series to a decisive Game 7 before losing at Detroit.


The Cavs hope to become just the 12th team in NBA history to rally from a 2-0 deficit and win a best-of-seven series. The 1971 Baltimore Bullets and the 1993 Chicago Bulls are the only teams to have done it in a conference final.

Reach Repository sports writer Mike Popovich at (330) 580-8341 or e-mail


The call that changed it all

Sunday, Jun 3, 2007 3:46 am EDT

CLEVELAND -- One team gained strength as the series went on, one got weaker. One club became more confident, the other got rattled. One stayed resilient, the other imploded.

The irony is that it was the young Cleveland Cavaliers who showed maturity, while the veteran Detroit Pistons fell apart at the seams. That's why Cleveland is headed to its first NBA finals.

This series was decided at the end of Game 2, when LeBron James attacked the rim, drew contact from Richard Hamilton but wasn't awarded a foul. The Cavs were furious with the no-call, fled the court in anger and prepared to meet the media after going down 2-0. The coaches and players were irate, ready to rip the officials for failing to call a foul on the play and costing Cleveland the game.

Instead, general manager Danny Ferry and his assistant Lance Blanks took control of the situation, demanding from everyone that no excuses would be made. Hence, the quote from both Mike Brown and LeBron James: "We're a no-excuses team."

The Cavaliers gained strength from that moment. The message delivered to the press was as much meant for Cleveland's players as anyone. Refusing to blame the officials meant showing no signs of weakness. It meant building strength rather than allowing an internal excuse...