Innovative Ministry
Innovation without Compromise: 5 Church Leadership Lessons from the Life of Billy Graham
Billy Graham's life and ministry is proof that taking a strong stand for the truth of the Gospel does not have to push people away.
Innovation without Compromise: 5 Church Leadership Lessons from the Life of Billy Graham

(Today, Billy Graham went to be with Jesus. I wrote this article three years ago. I repost it here now as my tribute to the man and his legacy.)

Most of us have never known a world without Billy Graham.

Graham came to international prominence in the historic Los Angeles Crusade ...

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Church Leadership
Pastoral Transition: A Very Personal Note
Changing chairs after 25 years as lead pastor at the same church is so unusual that we never could have planned it.

It’s Sunday evening as I write this blog post.

And I’m feeling a huge flood of emotions.

Strong emotions are normal for pastors on Sunday afternoons, no matter how Sunday services went. But today is different for me.

Plus, there's the added quirk that I’m ...

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Innovative Ministry
The Pastoral Transition Zone: Catching God’s Timing For Your Church And Ministry
When you give church members the gift of time and respect, they’ll go with you to some exciting places.

God’s timing is perfect.

When he does something in our lives unilaterally (as in, he doesn’t ask for our permission or cooperation) his timing is often quick, surprising and sometimes painful. It’s only when we see those events in the rear view mirror that we ...

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Church Leadership
9 No-Fault Reasons Some Local Churches Close Their Doors
Is it an admission of defeat or disobedience to acknowledge that congregations have a finite life-span?

Jesus’ church will never die.

But individual congregations are never given that promise. No matter how faithful they may be.

Last week, I wrote a blog post about honoring those who care for congregations as they face the last years or days of their ministry life.

Most of ...

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Christian Unity
Going, But Not Forgotten: A Tribute To Those Who Help Local Churches Die With Dignity
Whatever your past, present or future as a congregation may be, we are grateful for the kingdom work you have done.

Local churches have a life-cycle.

Some barely make it out of the starting blocks. Some last a generation or two. Some are still active after hundreds of years. But, even with constant renewal, the evidence from 2,000 years of Christianity shows that every congregation will, at ...

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Church Growth
The Modern Myth Of The Persistently Growing Congregation
The addition or multiplication of small congregations has always been the typical way the church has grown.

The persistently growing congregation is a relatively new phenomenon – and an even more recent expectation.

Aside from the grand cathedrals of Europe (which were often the result of politics and power more than faith), it wasn’t physically possible for local congregations ...

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Small Church Ministry
Why Most Mission Statements Fail In Smaller Churches
In a smaller church, instead of uniting people, a mission statement can feel controlling and manipulative.

Big churches need bold mission statements.

Small churches? Not so much.

If a small church has a mission statement, it’s probably because a church growth expert said you needed one. But it’s unlikely that having a mission statement has changed anything for the church, ...

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Christian Unity
Constructive Criticism: The Day A Staff Member Told Me I Was Preaching Too Long
A healthy church fosters an atmosphere where people feel free to express their ideas openly – especially at the leadership level.

It was a sunny, California Wednesday morning.

We were having our weekly staff meeting, innocently sorting out the details for an upcoming service, when I mentioned an illustration I wanted to close out my sermon with.

Then it happened.

One of the staff members spoke up. “We ...

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Innovative Ministry
Why Smooth Pastoral Transitions Matter More Now Than Ever
In previous generations, the denomination, the church building, and family expectations had such a strong hold that it virtually didn’t matter who the pastor was.

For many generations, people who went to church would attend every Sunday no matter what. Whether out of habit, culture, tradition, denominational identity, fear of reprisal, or a sincere commitment to Christ and his church, when the doors were open, they were going to walk ...

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Innovative Ministry
Quit Trying To Fix Sunday School – Until You’re Sure You Should Have It At All
We need to ask better questions, then do whatever ministry answers those questions in the best possible way.

As I talk with pastors and other church leaders, one question that pops up regularly is “it’s getting harder to get people to lead and/or attend our Sunday School classes (or Sunday night services, or prayer meetings, or VBS, or…). How do we fix this problem, ...

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Church & Culture
No, I Don’t Want to 'Shut Down an Atheist in 15 Seconds Flat!'
We need to stop celebrating the Christian shut-down expert. Jesus gave us a better way.

Ah, social media. You beautiful, hideous beast.

One of my least favorite current trends is the growing number of my Christian friends posting memes, blog posts and videos with headlines like these:

  • “Young Student Humiliates Atheist Professor Who Tried To Tell Him God Isn’t Real!”
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Innovative Ministry
Why I Won’t Be The Lead Pastor At Cornerstone Any More – But I'm Not Leaving
Pastoral transition is one of the most dangerous times in a congregation’s life. We need to get better at it.
Why I Won’t Be The Lead Pastor At Cornerstone Any More – But I'm Not Leaving
Image: Karl Vaters and Gary Garcia, by Mari Vega

Hi, I’m Karl, and I’m still a small church pastor. But I won’t be in the first chair much longer.

On Sunday, my long-time youth pastor, Gary Garcia and I presented a plan for him to become the lead pastor of Cornerstone. I will stay on staff at the church, assuming ...

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Christian Unity
When People Leave: The Private Pain Of The Small Church Pastor
Even if the church is large and growing, it can be hard when people leave. But when the church is small, each loss is much more painful.

It’s hard when people leave a church.

It’s hard to leave. It’s hard being left.

Most who leave don’t make that decision lightly. They deal with some serious pain when they finally make the decision to go. As a pastor I’m more familiar with seeing ...

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Small Church Ministry
Is Your Church Measuring Health Or Size? They’re Not The Same Thing
In the same way that a healthy elephant is bigger than a healthy rabbit, a church's size has nothing to do with its relative health – or relative value.

What weighs more, 100 pounds of bricks or 100 pounds of feathers?

It’s an old riddle. One that makes you facepalm yourself if you get it wrong.

The riddle works because it plays on our preconceptions and our tendencies to hear what we want to hear. Bricks weigh more than ...

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Church Leadership
9 Ways To Reverse A Downward Giving Trend In An Otherwise Healthy Church
Even people who love the church and are fully committed to its mission are not giving as much as they once did.

Do what you love and the money will take care of itself.

That’s been a popular phrase for as long as I can remember.

Wouldn’t it be great if it was true?

I’ve also heard this related phrase for as long as I can remember: just preach the gospel, love people, reach ...

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