Church & Ministry

Church Rescue: Who Should You Call?

emergencyRepublished with permission from Baptist Bulletin Mar/Apr 2012. All rights reserved.

Church planting seems to be in vogue today, attracting hundreds of young seminarians and Bible college students. This resurgence has resulted in an estimated 4,000 new churches being planted in North America every year. That is a trend for which all Bible-believers should be grateful.

Yet research also indicates that about 3,700 churches in America dissolve every year. Many others struggle with declining attendance and inadequate leadership. Some Christian leaders argue that revitalizing unhealthy churches is as vital for the advance of the gospel as starting new ones.

Having been a church planter for over 35 years, I admit I’m a little biased. For years I have advocated conventional church-growth wisdom: “It is easier to have babies than raise the dead.” Yet in recent years I’ve become convinced that we often quit too soon in our attempts to revive churches in decline. In some cases, it may be more strategic for healthy churches and church planters to invest their time, energy, and resources in revitalizing struggling congregations rather than starting new works.

Pastors, planters, and church leaders need wisdom. Some churches are so far gone they should be “put down.” These churches need to acknowledge that spiritually they are already dead—no one has been saved or baptized for years, sin may be rampant, and worship is lifeless. They should formally close their doors, sell the property, and quit dishonoring the name of Jesus in their communities. Yet I strongly believe that God’s heart is for the revival of many of His churches. Though turning dying congregations around may be difficult, many could be successfully salvaged.

Thus church revitalization—bringing life to dying churches by dealing with the causes of decline and building toward renewed fruitfulness and faithfulness—is a worthwhile pursuit. Read more about Church Rescue: Who Should You Call?

United Families Dividing Churches

Reprinted with permission from Faith Pulpit (Jan-Mar, 2012)

The Family Integrated Church Movement (FICM) is having a growing impact within fundamental Baptist churches. Since the mid-1990s an increasing number of families within fundamental churches have gravitated toward the family-integrated approach. In addition, families entrenched in the movement have been drawn to fundamental churches because of their emphasis on Biblical preaching and conservatism. At first glance the influence of the FICM might seem entirely beneficial for traditional churches, but unfortunately not all of the impact has been positive. The FICM mindset can divide churches. 

Understanding the FICM

The FICM is comprised of evangelical churches, pastors, and laymen who share a distinct philosophical approach toward the family and church. Advocates of family-integrated churches (FIC) believe that families should always worship and fellowship together in age-integrated (i.e., multigenerational) services and activities. Conversely they insist that virtually all age-segregated ministries and activities at church, such as Sunday School or youth ministries, are unequivocally unbiblical. Also, they often speak of the father as the conduit of spirtual growth in the family. Read more about United Families Dividing Churches

How to Handle Conflict Without Exploding Your Relationships


Conflicts can be the roadside bombs of relationships in families, teams, churches and friendships. They can explode and cause great damage to the ability to work together, communicate clearly, and protect community.

We all have experienced this and have stories of how destructive conflict has been in our lives and the lives of others we know. When processed with a right heart and biblical wisdom, conflict can have the opposite effect of actually growing deeper relationships with trust, understanding, and forgiveness.

Avoiding conflict in every situation is not the best option. We don’t live in the Garden of Eden with a perfect relationship with one another, God, and our world. Sin brought conflict into the human experience in Adam and Eve’s relationship with each other and God (Gen. 3:1-13). The curse demonstrated this would be an ongoing challenge for us (Gen. 3:14-19), and the first family even had conflict with sibling rivalry that ended in a homicide (Gen. 4:1-13)!

The good news of the promise of a Redeemer gives with it the hope and help that affects every relationship in our lives (Gen. 3:15). Scripture gives us examples of conflict in multiple historical passages, and wisdom for managing conflict in a constructive way.

Because conflict is essentially a matter of the heart, it exposes our motives, character, attitudes, values, and behavior. Like other aspects of our lives, conflict comes from the heart (Prov. 4:23; Mt. 12:34-35). My heart has been exposed before God and it’s sinful and has a selfish bent made clear to me in conflict many times. Conflict has also allowed me to grow deeper in the grace of God, to depend more on the Holy Spirit, deal with sin through Christ’s provision, and be changed in progressive conformity to Christ. Read more about How to Handle Conflict Without Exploding Your Relationships

Bored with Church

From the archives. Appeared at SI originally on July 27,’09. Reprinted with permission from Dan’s book Spiritual Reflections.

In the past two decades, a broad swath of Christendom has undergone a radical transformation in the way church services are conducted. Somewhere in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, it would seem, word leaked out that a most sinister disease was eating away at the foundations of the church. Self-appointed ecclesiastical physicians arose to sound the warning sirens. With impassioned concern they assured us that nothing less than radical measures had to be taken immediately and that nothing less than the survival of the church was at stake.

The malignant scourge that threatened the church, we were told, was boredom. North Americans in particular were becoming scandalously bored with church, and any local assembly that ignored the warning signs of this advancing disease, or refused to resist it, was destined to wither and die.

So with straight faced earnestness the experts prescribed the healing balm. “Make church fun and relevant to all” was the new mantra. One expert counseled me in his book that my sermons should be limited to twenty minutes, peppered with warm, affirming stories and free of “heavy theology.” Church music needed to be “updated” so that it immediately appealed to the visitor and skits and movie clips, you must understand, would communicate truth much more effectively than preaching. (And be sure to go light on that “truth” bit!).

We live in an age of information in which the sound bite is the trade language. We live in an entertainment saturated world of which fun and recreation are the warp and woof. There was only one hope for the church’s survival, we must eliminate boredom at any cost. Like an immoral affair, the partnership between church and boredom simply had to end immediately.

This counsel from the “boredom-killers” had a thread of truth woven into it. Many churches can be justifiably criticized for rendering boredom an art form. Bereft of spiritual vitality, sedated by dead ritual, and shackled by meaningless traditions, many churches have proven utterly bankrupt of all interest to even the most forgiving visitor. In this sense the warning sirens should be heeded. Read more about Bored with Church

Christian Education's Greatest Challenges, Part 1

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Jan./Feb. 2012.

The Bible places great emphasis upon the need of the local church to educate its adults nd children in the Scriptures. Christ Himself was a teacher (“teaching in their synagogues,” Matt. 4:23; “taught them as one having authority,” Matt. 7:29) and the title “Teacher” was used for Him at least forty three times in the Gospels. The apostles taught (Acts 5:21, 42; 11:26). Paul commanded the Ephesian elders to teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). He testified to the Colossians that he admonished and taught every man (Col. 1:28). The Romans who were gifted to teach were urged to concentrate on teaching (Rom. 12:7). Elders of the church must be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2). Timothy was to give particular attention to reading, exhortation and teaching (1 Tim. 4:13). The heart of Timothy’s ministry was to be teaching training, with the goal that the teachers he trained should train others as well (2 Tim. 2:2).

The ministry of Christian education within the local church is a crucial ministry! And I believe the greatest need we have in local church Christian education are teachers who are devoted, knowledgeable, competent, Spirit filled leaders seeking to sincerely serve the Lord through their teaching ministry.

But any pastor can attest that finding teachers like this is not easy, keeping them seems even more difficult, and training them is especially difficult (if it is even attempted in the church). But recruiting, motivating and training workers are the three greatest challenges in local church Christian education. Read more about Christian Education's Greatest Challenges, Part 1