January 2018

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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Church & Culture
Smile When You Talk On The Phone
People are more open to hear hard truths when they’re delivered from a positive mindset.

Why should I smile when I’m talking on the phone? Unless it’s a video chat, the listener can’t see me smile.

Because they can hear me smile.

Yes, you can hear a smile.

The same goes for talking on the radio, a podcast, or while preaching a sermon. Smiling when ...

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Innovative Ministry
6 Issues To Consider Before Pastoring A Church That Needs A Turnaround
Turnarounds always take longer than our projected timelines. And they almost never happen the way we expect.

Leading a church that needs a turnaround is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding callings a pastor can receive.

I’ve pastored three churches, all of which needed a turnaround, with varying degrees of success (more on that, below). From both my failures and successes, ...

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Church & Culture
4 Assumptions Pastors Can No Longer Make About Church Giving Patterns
While it’s still  true that people stop or slow their giving when they’re unhappy, that is no longer the only reason for a drop in giving.

The way people give is changing.

If your church hasn’t felt the results of those changes yet, you will soon.

If you are feeling them, you may be scrambling to figure out what’s happening, why, and what to do about it.

The good news: everyone is experiencing this, or ...

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Church & Culture
Recalibrate: 10 Steps Every Church Must Take This Year, Or Be Dead In A Decade
Everything but Jesus and the Bible must be on the table.

The church is not dying. It’s in fine shape.

Jesus said he’d build it, and he is. Relentlessly and beautifully.

But individual congregations, denominations and ideologies? Now that’s another story.

While the church of Jesus around the world continues to move forward, ...

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