Preaching is tougher than ever these days. For one thing, we can’t assume that people come to our churches with a basic understanding of the Bible like they may have in the past.
But it’s also tougher because of all the media we interact with on a daily basis—from television to email to social media. It seems like someone is always trying to sell us something or convince us about a new idea.
Just open your email, and you’ll likely see a full selection of pitches asking you to buy anything from lunch to a new fishing pole to a vacation. Turn on the television, and the pitching from commercials continues.
Because of this, when unchurched people hear you preach, they assume you’re trying to sell them something. They believe you’re trying to sell them on religion.
That’s not your purpose, but your listeners often don’t know that.
Every week you’re preaching to people who are more skeptical than ever before.
You used to be able to turn up the volume when you had a weak point and keep people’s interest that way. But you can’t do that anymore. It won’t work.
People don’t want you to preach at them. They want you to talk to them. That’s how you keep their attention.
Here are three ways to keep people listening to your sermon:
1. Be open about your struggles and weaknesses.
Don’t try to hide the pain you’ve experienced—or are experiencing right now. Be transparent.
It’s called confessional preaching, and it can increase your credibility. Your confessions will encourage others when they’re going through tough times.
I remember one time, as I preached on anger, I told the church, “You know, it bothers me that sometimes I say the most hurtful things to the people I love the most, such as my wife and kids. Does that bother anyone else?”
Now, I could have just told people that they should be nicer to the people closest to them. I could have made it a command, but that would have immediately put my listeners on the defensive.
When you start with a confession, people will follow along because they see you as someone like them. Your confession will help your message resonate with authenticity and authority.
One key to effective communication is the ability to drop your mask and share real emotions. People will catch your heart. You don’t get this when you yell at them. You get it when your preaching allows others to see what’s going on in your life.
2. Share how you’re making progress.
People grow best through models. Several times in the New Testament, Paul tells readers, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” I used to read that and think I could never do it. It sounded egotistical.
Paul wasn’t saying he was perfect. If you have to be perfect to be a model, we wouldn’t have any models in the world. Frankly, I’d rather have people following me than following someone who isn’t honestly trying to follow Jesus. And so now, I don’t apologize for trying to be a model for others.
We need to follow Jesus’ example in incarnational preaching—where the Word becomes flesh. The way we communicate has changed. Our message isn’t validated by the text alone. It’s validated by the messenger.
Most of the people you’re preaching to aren’t asking, “Is the Bible believable?” They’re asking, “Are you believable?” They want to know whether you have any credibility because if you don’t, they won’t listen to you even if you’re holding up a Bible as you preach.
Our message, on a weekly basis, should be something like this: “Here’s how God got me through another week.”
If you’re not ready to model your message, you’re not ready to preach it.
3. Say it in an interesting way.
I actually work hard on preaching in an interesting manner. The Bible says, “When wise people speak, they make knowledge attractive” (Proverbs 15:2 GNT). It’s foolish to bore people with the Bible.
Too many preachers get stressed out about the idea of entertaining people as they preach. Do you know what the definition of entertainment is? Capturing and holding the attention for a period of time. Do you want your preaching to do that? Of course you do—and you shouldn’t apologize for it! Making your sermons interesting doesn’t mean you have to do a song and dance; rather, it means you help people understand that the Bible is relevant to every little detail of their lives.
To the unchurched, dull preaching is unforgivable, and there is no reason for it. Our message is too important to deliver with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.
The problem with a boring message is that your hearers won’t just think you’re boring. They’ll think God is boring.
How do you preach in a more interesting way? It’s not about your charisma. You can learn to do it. Start with these three practices.
– Vary your delivery. Nothing is more boring than a monotone preacher who gets stuck on one speed and volume and never comes up for air. Vary the speed and volume of your preaching to make your sermons more interesting.
– Don’t make a point without a picture. People love stories. Pull them from your life. Pull them from the people in your congregation. Pull them from the news.
– Make people laugh. Humor is good for people. It makes a painful truth more palatable. It creates positive emotions like joy and happiness. By the way, you don’t have to tell jokes to be funny. The best humor is usually found in real-life stories.
Every week you get the opportunity to preach God’s Word to people. It’s an extraordinary opportunity. Keeping people engaged in your sermon is how you can get God’s Word into the lives of your listeners, and God’s Word will transform their lives.
You’ll never find the ideal time to take the next step toward your goals.
So do it now. Those three words could change your ministry. The Bible says, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done” (Ecclesiastes 11:4 TLB).
You can’t wait until your life settles down to reach for that elusive goal. You can’t wait until everyone else is on board to do what you know the Lord has called you to do.
The time is now.
Your ministry must thrive under imperfect conditions or it will never thrive. So get started today with these four steps.
1. Clarify your goals.
God gave you an amazing ability to choose what’s important in your life. Many ministry leaders never stop to think through and identify what’s really important to them. You can’t do what’s important in your life until you clarify what it is.
Take a half day, if possible, and pray about two specific things: What do I value? What do I want to change?
Yes, you should think about your ministry goals, but don’t stop there either. I also usually think through:
Intellectual goals: What do I want to learn?
Physical goals: How can I improve my health?
Spiritual goals: How do I deepen my relationship with God?
Social goals: How can I serve other people more effectively?
2. Write your goals down.
You won’t complete any goals you don’t write down. As you write them down, word them so they are SMART goals. That means they are:
Specific: Give a number when possible. How many books will you read? How many pounds will you lose?
Measurable: You need to be able to measure your progress and know if you are getting closer to your goal.
Achievable: You’ll get discouraged if the goal is impossible for you to complete.
Relevant: Choose a goal that is based upon what matters to you. Don’t set a goal you think other people want you to complete. Your goals should be your goals.
Time-sensitive: A goal is a dream with a deadline. A goal says that by the end of this amount of time or by this date, I’m going to reach this goal. It’s specific, it’s measurable, and it should be achieved within a specific time frame.
3. Get support from other believers.
Too many pastors try to achieve goals by themselves. You probably preach this truth to your congregation all of the time: “You weren’t made to go through life on your own.” Guess what? It applies to you and me, too.
If you’re going to reach the goals you set for yourself in January, you need other people to cheer you on. Maybe this means you create a local pastors’ group so you can share your goals with your peers. But it doesn’t have to be this. You just need to gather with people who care about you and what you’re doing.
4. Ask God for help.
Pastor, if you’re going to complete your ministry and personal goals this year, you need to expect that God will help. Pray expectantly.
The Bible says, “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph!” (Isaiah 50:7 NLT).
You can only accomplish the impossible if you see the invisible. Living in the light of eternity is the only thing that’ll keep you on track in 2019.
You and I only get a limited time to make an impact through our lives. So let’s make the most of this year.
All living things grow. It’s evidence of life. If a child doesn’t grow to physical maturity, that’s a tragedy.
And if people in our congregations don’t grow spiritually, that’s a tragedy, too.
Many churches focus on getting people in the doors and maybe making a salvation decision. But that’s only a small part of our responsibility.
Jesus gives us another example. During his ministry, he started by urging people to “come and see.” And they did! People began to follow him. But then Jesus slowly turned up the heat. He began adding qualifiers, statements that start with “You’re my disciple if”:
You love one another (John 13:35)
You abide in his Word (John 8:31)
You deny yourself (Matthew 16:24)
You make Jesus your prime allegiance (Luke 14:26)
Eventually, Jesus took it a step further and said that a person had to “come and die” (Luke 14:27) to be a disciple.
But Jesus didn’t start with “come and die.” He moved people slowly from “come and see” to “come and die.”
That’s what discipleship is all about. And I learned early in my ministry at Saddleback that I couldn’t grow the church. God told me clearly when I was nearing exhaustion in the first year of the church that growing Saddleback wasn’t my job.
The message from God was that if I focused on growing people, he would grow the church. In fact, The Purpose Driven Church was never about growing the church. It was all about growing people.
Over the years, we’ve developed several tools at Saddleback to help us grow people by one small step at a time. Here are five of those tools.
1. Sermon Notes
People typically forget most of what they’ve heard in 72 hours. We need to do better than that if we’re going to help people apply biblical truth to their lives. Retention goes up if people aren’t just hearing what you’re saying but are also writing it down. The shortest pencil is longer than the longest memory.
That’s why we provide sermon outlines every week. The outlines include the relevant Scripture passages for the week and fill-in-the-blank outlines where attendees can fill in the missing words and also circle and underline other important words.
People hold on to these outlines for years. Sometimes they stick them away in their Bibles. Other times they file them away at home. They tend to give people multiple opportunities to engage with the teaching.
2. Spiritual Growth Covenants
We use four covenants at Saddleback as part of our CLASS 101-401 system. People sign the first one, the Membership Covenant, when they join the church. They sign the second one, the Maturity Covenant, when they commit to the spiritual habits necessary for growth (joining a small group, having a quiet time, giving, etc.). The third covenant allows people to express their commitment to using their SHAPE (Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences) in ministry at Saddleback. When people commit to the fourth covenant, they agree to participate in some kind of PEACE mission trip.
Covenants are biblical. You’ll find them throughout Scripture. You’ll find them throughout church history. Frankly, if you have a membership class but no membership covenant, it’s like a wedding ceremony without vows. The time when a couple makes a commitment to one another is the most important part of a wedding. The same is true for a membership class. It doesn’t make much sense to tell people what you expect from members if you don’t ask them to commit to doing what you expect.
3. Commitment Cards
For people to grow, we must challenge them to make commitments. That’s why we built Saddleback on our weekly commitment card. It’s not just about the commitment to come to Christ or to join the church. We have about 30 different commitments people can make at our church. I never preach without preaching for commitment. Why? Commitment is how people grow.
Everything starts with a decision. I know many pastors who preach great sermons but walk away before drawing the net for salvation. You should draw the net for salvation every time.
But don’t stop there. Give people specific applications for every sermon you preach. Don’t just tell people to be better parents. Ask them to make a commitment to a specific practice that makes them better parents. Every single sermon you preach comes down to two words: “Will you?” Will you apply God’s Word to your life?
The commitment card gives every person in your congregation an opportunity to say, “Yes!” when you ask that question each week.
4. Small Groups
We grow best when we grow together. Babies don’t just grow up on their own. They need a family of some kind. And the people in our churches need a family to grow. One of the great myths of modern Christianity is that you can grow to spiritual maturity without the help of others. In America today, we have Christian movies, Christian radio, Christian bookstores, Christian podcasts, and Christian rallies. For many people in our churches, it’s tempting for them to think they can build their own spiritual growth, on their own terms.
But that’s not the picture of growth we get in the Bible. You can’t grow without the church—and the church is more than just people sitting and soaking in sermons each week. The church is about relationships. There are 58 “one another” statements (such as “love one another,” “serve one another,” “pray for one another”) in the New Testament. Your congregation can’t obey any of those commands without other people in their lives.
5. Spiritual Growth Campaigns
Every year at Saddleback we host at least one spiritual growth campaign. And we often have two: one campaign in the spring and the other in the fall. You’ve probably heard of some of them (such as 40 Days of Prayer, 40 Days in the Word, What On Earth Am I Here For, Transformed, and Daring Faith). By far, the best way to engage people in spiritual growth is through multiple reinforcements, where you teach the same biblical truth by hearing it, reading it, discussing it, doing it, and memorizing it together as a church family.
That’s what we do during our campaigns. People in our congregation don’t just listen to a sermon series on a particular truth; they’re also reading a book about it, discussing it in their small groups, and memorizing Scripture on the topic. These campaigns have been responsible for thousands of baptisms and tens of thousands of spiritual decisions at Saddleback.
These tools help people take gradual steps of faith, moving from “come and see” to “come and die.”
A few weeks back we talked about some of the reasons churches plateau. I know it’s a popular topic because so many pastors tell me their churches are stuck at a certain number of members or attenders.
Here’s the good news: Christmas is a great time to get unstuck.
People who wouldn’t come some other time of the year show up at Christmas. And we have a great opportunity to tell them about Jesus and to encourage them to come back to church. You can use Christmas services to help your members sense that they are a part of something big and exciting. It can be tough to keep people motivated consistently over the long haul, but we can get them fired up for a specific day.
A “Big Day” can help people feel like they’re on a winning team.
And a “Big Day” like Christmas can help break through growth barriers (whether it’s 200, 300, 400, or 1,000).
At Saddleback, we refer to it as pyramiding growth. You push past a barrier on a “Big Day,” then the numbers might drop a little bit the next week, but you don’t drop as far back as you were. Then you plan for your next “Big Day” (like Easter). Again, just like with Christmas, your numbers may drop after Easter, but you don’t drop all the way back to where you had started.
Here are some ways to intentionally plan for a “Big Day” at Christmas:
1. Give people tools to invite their friends and neighbors.
A lot of the guests at Christmas services will be there because someone invited them, so it’s a great time to encourage our people to make the extra effort to invite friends and family.
The tools we can provide include both digital and printed invitations with information about the Christmas services: name of the sermon/series, date(s), time(s), address of the church, and the names of any special guests. Even in our digital age, people still like to have details in a printed form. It helps them keep everything in one place and have something to stick on the refrigerator as a reminder.
2. Get the word out using advertising.
If you’re going to use advertising, Christmas and Easter are the days to do it. Even if people don’t come because of a specific ad, it will still help reinforce the personal invitations from your members. For instance, potential guests may see your ad and then get invited by one of your members, and that will let them know great things are happening at your church. Plus, you’ll always get a few people who want to go to church that day but don’t have any idea where to go. Your ad may be just what they need.
3. Be ready for people.
You want to make a good impression on guests every week, but it’s particularly important at Christmas. You can’t control how many guests you’ll get for special days, but you can control how well you prepare for them.
Get greeters ready to say hello and provide a warm welcome as people arrive. Set up information tables with campus maps and basic information about the church. Make it easy to find parking, restrooms, and childcare.
Part of being a good host means thinking through the questions and concerns guests may have. Ask someone who doesn’t currently attend your church to take a walkthrough of your campus and offer questions or feedback.
4. Offer something for children.
Think through what kind of experience you can offer children. It doesn’t matter what parents think about the service if the kids have a lousy time.
Be prepared for additional children during Christmas. You don’t want to overtax your current children’s ministry volunteers, so add extra workers and think about any changes that may make it easier to handle more kids at one time.
5. Follow up with your guests.
Have emails ready to send out Monday morning welcoming guests who gave you their contact info. Invite people to your next sermon series and tell them how to find a small group. The email is also a great place to include any follow-up information from your Christmas service (maybe specific contact information for ministries you mentioned).
If you have a large crowd on Christmas, that’s great. But it’s not the end of the story. It’s really the beginning. How we follow up with guests makes a big difference in whether they’ll come back and eventually get more involved in our congregations.
The first job I ever had in a church was as a youth pastor. When I took the position, I knew nothing about youth ministry. Honestly, I was as green as they come.
I’ll never forget the church’s pastor, W.C. Bryant, pulling me into his office after he hired me. We couldn’t have looked more different. He was in a three-piece suit. I was in jeans and a t-shirt. But W.C. looked me right in the eyes and said, “Rick, if I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t hire you. If I didn’t trust you, you wouldn’t be on this staff. The very fact that you’re here means that I do trust you. So go for it. Do whatever it takes to reach kids for Christ.”
And that’s what I did. After he showed that kind of trust for me, I went all out engaging our community’s youth with the Gospel. We reached hundreds of teenagers for Christ. That experience profoundly changed the course of my future ministry. I learned lessons that would eventually help me found and lead Saddleback Church. I’ve taught those principles all around the world now, but many of them got their start when I was a youth minister.
Youth pastor, I know what you do matters. It matters more than you likely know right now. You’re shaping young people who aren’t just the church of tomorrow—they are the church of today!
It’s a big responsibility and a big opportunity. How do you bring out the best in these youth so they can impact their communities for Christ?
Start by building these four habits into your relationships with teenagers.
1. Accept your students’ uniqueness.
Take a look at the students in your ministry. They’re all so different—different sizes, different skills, different backgrounds. God will use them in very different ways in the future, too. He could have just made a machine to produce carbon copies of every person on the planet, but that’s not how God works. God values diversity, and our ministries should, too.
Many of your youth are just beginning to test the bounds of their unique contributions in the world around them. How you engage their uniqueness will resonate with them for years to come. God made every teenager differently because there are many different roles for them to fulfill. If they were all the same, think of all the work that would go undone. The Bible tells us, “There are different types of work to do, but the same God produces every gift in every person” (1 Corinthians 12:6 GW).
That’s why your job goes beyond just affirming their uniqueness. Your job (no matter what role in ministry you’re in) is to help people discover their uniqueness and grow within it. And it’s particularly important as you work with youth. From every other direction, teenagers are being pressured to compare themselves to others and to conform to whatever their peers are doing. Your voice must be different from that. You must help them discover and develop their unique SHAPE—the blend of their spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences.
2. Affirm them constantly.
Teenagers constantly hear negative messages about themselves. They’re hearing those messages from teachers at school, coaches, other students—and maybe even from their families at times. Be the different voice in their lives. Affirmation can work in incredible ways in the lives of young people (and old people, for that matter).
Recently, I went to an eighth-grade graduation program for kids with special needs, and one particular kid’s story illustrates this. He had known he was different from an early age. And this made him angry with everyone else, all of the time. But God transformed him. When his junior high school graduation approached, his school asked him to give the graduation speech. He told those assembled, “My life was like a campfire, out of control, and the fire sent sparks everywhere. My anger was burning everyone in my life.”
But then he talked about the affirmation and acceptance he received from his parents, who are a part of our church, and his small group through our junior high ministry. It changed his life. He ended his speech by saying, “I’m still a campfire, but now I warm everybody and they’re attracted to the fire. They’re making s’mores over me!” God used the affirmation of others to change the life of that boy. Your affirmation has that power, too.
3. Trust them with responsibility.
Nothing will bring out the best in your youth more than your trust. It’s like the story I shared earlier: W.C. Bryant’s faith in me set me loose in my first experience as a youth pastor. His confidence in me set me free to take risks, make mistakes, and grow.
Your students will never learn to impact the world for Jesus by just reading books about it. They’ll learn to impact their world by doing it. Start small. Look for little ways they can serve when they first come to your ministry. Let them clean up after a meeting. Turn them into a greeter.
But don’t stop there. Make it your goal to turn over ministries to them as they move ahead. Let them organize the work, solicit the help of others, and then do the ministry. Most likely, your teenagers can accept more responsibility than you think they can.
4. Love them fiercely and unconditionally.
This may be the most important part of bringing out the best in your youth, but it will be the toughest. Your students will test your love for them all of the time. You’ll be hurt as a youth leader. You’ll be disappointed. You’ll pour into them one day, and they’ll make a really bad decision the next.
But the mark of a youth leader who effectively builds next-generation leaders is that they never give up on teenagers. We all need people in our lives who will give us a second chance. I know I’ve needed those people many times in my life. I’m sure you have as well. So do your students.
Many of the kids you’re ministering to each week don’t have that kind of relationship with anyone else in their lives. They desperately lack the security that comes with the unconditional love and acceptance of others. When they see you and others in your ministry care for them even when they’ve blown it, you’ll give them a glimpse into who God is.
The truth is, you’ll never be able to meet this need completely for the youth in your ministry. Not even parents can. But you can point them to the One who can give them the kind of security they desperately (and often secretly) long for. Introduce them to the unconditional love of God, and he’ll meet this need in the deepest way possible over and over for the rest of their lives.
You might not see it now, but I believe you’re making a difference in the lives of youth that will reverberate for generations to come. I’m convinced the best days for the church are ahead of us. Part of that is because of the work you’re doing in the lives of youth. Keep it up!
For the past 2,000 years, Christians have been praying for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
And we’re still not there yet. But it’s within sight. We’re closer than ever before.
More than 2 billion people have never even heard the message of Jesus, so it’s time to take a radical stand and say, “This has to be completed in our generation.”
Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to people who haven’t heard it.
It’s why you’re still on this planet. It’s why every person in your church is still around. There are only two things you can’t do in heaven: You can’t witness to other people, and you can’t sin.
Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to everyone—and finishing our task. History depends upon it. The spiritual destinies of people depend upon it.
The church’s birth in Acts 2 gives us a great model for how we’ll reach the remaining unreached people groups on the earth. Within the story of these early Christians, we get the biblical foundation for mobilization.
1. We must depend upon the Holy Spirit.
If we don’t begin, continue, and end with the Holy Spirit, we’ll never finish the task before us. We can’t finish the task without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s presence is what makes us different from every other organization. No business or government has the Holy Spirit, but we do.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells us, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (NLT). The Holy Spirit gives us his power for evangelism, to share the message of the Gospel.
We’ll never finish the task of reaching the unreached without supernatural power. If we don’t have supernatural power, let’s justclose up shop. Nothing we do on behalf of the unreached will get done.
2. We must use every available communication channel.
If we’re going to reach people without any other access to the Gospel, we must employ saturation evangelism. We can’t leave any options that work off the table.
In Acts 2, these early Christians spoke in different tongues. The people in Jerusalem on Pentecost came from countless nations. The apostles couldn’t have communicated with them using just one language, so the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in the heart languages of the people to whom they were preaching. We won’t finish the task unless we speak in the heart languages of those we’re engaging.
We need each other to do this because it’s not just about reaching people who speak different languages. It’s about using multiple channels to reach people with different backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Your church might need to partner with another church with experience speaking into a rural community or an urban one. Or maybe you need help speaking the language of art, music, or accounting.
No channel should be off-limits. Our task is too important and our mission too urgent to quibble over methods.
3. We must use everyone’s spiritual gift.
We can’t just depend on those with the gifts of evangelism or prophecy. To finish the task before us, we need 100 percent participation. There are no spectators in the mission of God. We must mobilize every member in our churches. Everyone can have a role and use their gifts. The church isn’t an audience; it’s an army.
To do this, we’ll need a discipleship process that turns attendees into members, members into mature members, and mature members into ministers and missionaries. That’s why we developed the CLASS system at Saddleback.
Peter certainly understood this. In his Pentecost sermon, he quotes this passage in Joel: “‘In the Last Days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit on those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy’” (Acts 2:17-18 The Message).
The passage mentions sons, daughters, young men, old men, and women. No one should be left behind as we engage the unreached! The church’s mission has always taken the whole church to complete. It still does today.
4. We need to give people the Bible.
Our opinions won’t help the unreached. Psychology won’t help them. Western culture won’t save them either.
The Bible is what transforms the hearts of people. It’s the truth that sets us free. No other message on planet Earth transforms people into saints.
Peter’s sermon on the first Pentecost was full of God’s Word. He pointed to what God was doing in those days and showed how God had prophesied about that unique moment in his Word. As God formed the church out of the 3,000 saved at Pentecost, the church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching. Why was God’s Word so important in the early church? Because you can’t reach the unreached without it.
5. We must demonstrate God’s love by cooperating together.
Our greatest witness to the world isn’t our apologetics. It’s how we love one another. The world needs us to show them a different way as we work together to fulfill the task God has given us. Political and denominational barriers shouldn’t divide us in this. That’s why our upcoming Finishing the Task conference is so critical. It’s an opportunity for you to connect with others committed to fulfilling the Great Commission.
We’re not in competition to reach the unreached. We’re on the same team. The early church understood this. Acts 2:42 tells us the early Christians “were like family to each other” (CEV). We need to learn from their example.
6. We must go with the spirit of joyful praise.
Acts 2:46-47 says, “The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day. They were joyful and humble as they ate at each other’s homes and shared their food. At the same time, they praised God and had the goodwill of all the people. Every day the Lord saved people, and they were added to the group” (GW).
The early church knew that the Great Commission isn’t a task we complete out of duty. It’s a mission we embark on in delight. We don’t tell the world about Jesus in drudgery but out of gratitude because he changed our lives. Worship energizes missions, missions creates more worshipers, and worship creates joy.
7. We must make generous sacrifices.
We’ll never finish the task in our spare time. It’ll never be convenient. It’ll take sacrifices.
It’s why the early church grew so rapidly. Acts 2:44-45 says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” (NIV). Think about this a bit. They sold their land and everything they owned to give money to those who needed it. How many people in our churches would do that today?
Pastor, your church will become generous when you’re generous. If you want to know the temperature of your church, put the thermometer in your mouth. You don’t grow a generous church by accident. Your church becomes generous when you intentionally build it to be generous. We must teach people in our congregations that the greatest thing they can do is sacrifice for something greater than themselves.
8. We must expect exponential growth.
I call this the “faith factor.” When I was still in seminary, I wrote to the 100 largest churches in America and asked them a series of questions. I read every book in print on church growth. At that time, there were about 72 books. I also did more than 120 crusades before I was 20 years old. During this period, I kept notes about what was working in those communities—and what wasn’t. I kept looking for common characteristics. I discovered God uses all kinds of churches and all kinds of methods. Anyone who tells you there is only one way to reach new people is simply wrong.
The only common denominator I could find in churches and other organizations God uses in an unusual way is that the leadership isn’t afraid to trust God. Jesus said in Matthew 9:29, “According to your faith let it be done to you” (NIV). God tells us we get to choose how much God blesses us.
When will we finish the task? We’ll do it when enough people believe we’ll finish the task.
My dad died a few years back. During the last week of his life, he began dreaming aloud. For that last week, I sat by his bedside just listening to him dream. You learn a lot about somebody listening to their dreams. I never once heard him talk about being a war hero in World War II. I never heard him talk about the books he’d read or the movies he watched. I never heard him talk about fishing, which he loved.
More than anything else, he talked about the mission projects he had been on. I’d hear him all the time reliving building projects he had participated in.
The night before he died, he was in this dream like state. He became very agitated and kept trying to get out of bed. Every time he’d try, Kay would tell him, “Jimmy, you can’t get out of bed. Whatever you need, just tell us. We’ll get it for you.” He still did it over and over again. He could barely stand up though.
Then my dad started saying, “Got to save one more for Jesus. Got to save one more for Jesus.” He said it over and over in front of my wife, my niece, and myself.
As I sat by my father’s bed, tears ran down my cheeks. I thanked God for a heritage of a father like that.
Then my dad frailly reached up his hands and put them on my head like a blessing as he said, “Reach one more for Jesus. One more for Jesus, one more for Jesus.”
I intend for that to be the theme for the rest of my life. It’s why I am committed to the very core to finishing the task of reaching all of the unreached people groups around the world. There is nothing more important than bringing God’s lost children back to him, building them up to maturity, training them for ministry, and sending them out on mission. I decided a long time ago I didn’t want to waste my life.
I’m addicted to seeing God change lives. I hope you are, too. That’s why we’re going to finish the task before us. And I hope you’ll attend the upcoming Finishing the Task conference at Saddleback.