Exponential: Stories of Sifted

As a part of the Exponential Conference in April, I was recently asked to share a time I’ve been “sifted” in ministry. You can read that story HERE. It was part of a larger body of work, getting to hear from other pastors also.

Here is an explanation of this project:

Join us for 20 days as we hear from 20 Bible Leaders we’ve come to know and love. They’ll tell a sifted story from their ‘own’ perspective, like you’ve never heard it before! You can receive daily posts via RSS Exponential feed, at http://feeds.feedburner.com/exponential OR via the Sifted feed, http://feeds.feedburner.com/sifting.

20 Leaders in 20 Days includes a daily devotional featuring the story of sifting from a Bible leader. Devotionals challenge you as a church leader to a single question each day helping you pursue and embrace the stories of sifting that God is writing in your life.

Click here to learn more about these unique daily devotions.

3 Ways To Remove The Pain From Preparing A Weekly Sermon

This is a guest post by my friend Casey Graham. Casey is one of the most innovative church leaders I know. He is passionate about Kingdom building and helping those who desire to Kingdom build. I haven’t seen any project of Casey’s yet I can’t support.

Here’s a word from Casey about a new project to help pastors:

After talking to hundreds of preachers, we’ve found most preachers love preaching, but the grind of preparation can often become a pain. Here are three things we’ve seen.

Here are 3 Ways To Remove The Pain From Preparing A Weekly Sermon:

1. Great preaching comes from a great preparation system. Perry Noble doesn’t prepare in a vacuum. He has a team at NewSpring Church that helps him prepare. Perry will talk about how this works at the PreachBetterSermons.com FREE online event on March 15th.

2. A Preparation day is better than feeling like you have to prepare all the time. Andy Stanley sets aside every Wednesday to prepare messages, and his team helps him keep this time guarded. While Andy is gifted, his commitment to preparation helps make his messages memorable. Andy will talk about the structure of his preparation day on the Preach Better Sermons online event.

3. Developing a sermon planning system takes the pain out of preparation. There are things you can do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis that will dramatically improve your preparation time and help you deliver better messages. Helping you put something like this into place will be a part of the free online event.

Make a commitment to be a better preacher. Sign up for the free online conference. Here are the details.

Date: March 15, 2012
Time: 1pm – 4pm EST
Speakers: Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Louie Giglio, Dr. Charles Stanley, Vanable Moody, Jeff Foxworthy. The event is being hosted by Jeff Henderson.
Registration: Free sign up at preachbettersermons.com

Are you there? I am. Thanks Casey!

7 Ways Satan Tries to Destroy a Church

church crowd

Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 1 Peter 5:8

I’m not a pastor who is constantly looking for Satan behind everything that goes wrong. I concentrate my attention on Jesus and encouraging others to follow Jesus and not to focus on the defeated one. Yet, I’m fully aware that Satan loves to destroy…or attempt to destroy…a church. Obviously Satan is a limited being and God’s church is secure. The gates of hell shall never overcome what God started, but Satan certainly loves to disrupt what God’s church is doing.

Here are 7 way Satan tries to destroy a church:

Church conflict – Satan loves business meetings that get out of hand or when two church members have disagreements outside of church. He loves when church members argue about trivial things, such as colors of the carpet or big things, such as whether to add another service. Doesn’t matter to him. Show him a good argument potential and he’s willing to stir the fire.

Burnout – Satan loves to burn out a church volunteer, staff member, or pastor. If he can make them feel they are no longer needed, their work is not appreciated, or that they no longer have anything to offer…he feels he’s winning part of the battle.

Rumors – Satan is the stirrer of dissension. He likes to plant little seeds of a juicy story, about someone in the church or community…sometimes even the pastor or staff…and watch them quickly spread through a church congregation or community. The version, of course, usually grows to a larger portion than reality. Satan likes that too.

Busyness – Satan loves to distract church goers with a plethora of activity that produces little results in Kingdom-building.

Lies – Satan attempts to interject what he calls a “half-truth”; just a hint of false doctrine and then watch it disrupt or divide a body. Of course, we all know that half-truth is really just a cleaned up version of a bold face lie, but Satan is clever enough to disguise a lie in a way where false teachers gain entry and do damage before being discovered.

Scandal – Satan loves a good, juicy, gossipy news headline in the local paper. If it will split, divide or destroy a church body…even better. If it will destroy someone’s Kingdom calling or work…he’ll take that too.

Marriage and family disruptions – Satan loves to destroy any relationship, but he also goes after key leader’s marriages; even the pastor’s marriage. He likes to encourage prodigal children. He wants to cause families to fight within the church and fight with the church. Satan knows if he can destroy a home, he has a better chance of destroying a church.

Thankfully, there is good news:

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

What other ways have you seen Satan try to destroy a church?

Dreams, Goals and Plans


Far reaching, seemingly impossible, worthwhile, dependent on faith and huge personal risk, with no guarantee of success.


Defined aspects of realizing the dream. Attainable, stretching and measurable.


Action steps written to systematically complete goals. Assigned, scheduled and accountable.

It won’t be easy, there may be moments of despair, disappointments and setbacks along the way…you’ll need to learn prayer and patience like never before…but sometimes breaking down the terms makes the path seem clearer. Perhaps that dream is possible after all.

What’s the dream God is birthing in your heart?

You may now want to read 7 Steps to Achieving Your Goals or 7 Reasons You May not be Achieving Your Goals.

One sign you’re doing effective work…

People oppose you!

“But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door of effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” 1 Corinthians 16:8-9

Few people worry about the people doing nothing.

Have you noticed the more you do for good the more opposition you receive? 

10 Random Thoughts about Following God

For the last 25 years or so, I’ve attempted to listen to, obey and follow the voice of God. It’s been a long road, and I’m still a pilgrim in the process, but I’ve learned a few things.

Based totally on my personal experience…

Here are 10 random thoughts on following God:

  • I’ve never been able to see very far down the road.
  • Sometimes I get a clear vision of a big goal God has for me, but I usually have no clue at the time how to get there.
  • The road to following God has never seemed to be easily paved. (This requires faith.)
  • There are often several options available of “how” to proceed towards what God is calling me.
  • I am often tempted to quit.
  • God doesn’t give up…people do.
  • The greatest obstacles, all of which God can overcome, are usually other people, resources and the battle within my own mind.
  • Satan is the great disrupter.
  • The more I know God and the closer our relationship, the clearer I hear His voice.
  • God calls people to impossible tasks.

Have you had similar experiences? I’d love to learn from and be encouraged by you.

What have you learned or experience about following God?

7 Things I Wouldn’t Do Again if Planting Another Church

I’m a church planter. I love the process of planting. I love the energy and the enthusiasm a new church brings to a community.

Having planted two church, I’ve learned a few things. Some of the things I’ve learned are things I wouldn’t do again if were were planting another church.

Here are 7 things I wouldn’t do again if planting a church:

Limit God’s vision – We started as a church to reach one section of town. Now we are in two locations, reaching two entirely different segments of our community. God has continued to refine and shape our path as a church.

Fail to challenge people to grow in their walk with Christ – I don’t know that I shied away from this; it certainly was my heart and our vision, but in the early days, I was very conscious of reaching the lost, so I may not have been as bold as I wish I had been in saying what needed to be said.  I wrote more about this HERE.

Shy away from money talk – So many people think all a church does is talk about money. We avoided this stigma from day one. In the process, we neglected to develop our core givers, we put ministries on hold we should be pursuing, and we robbed people of the opportunity to become generous givers and consequently to feel the reward of trusting God completely.

Resist leaders from other churches – We wanted to plant a church for non-believers, but we needed leadership to do that. When leaders from other churches came, however, we were hesitant to plug them in for fear we’d be seen negatively by other churches. In the process, we missed out on quality leadership and we denied people the right to follow their heart.

Expect everyone to be as excited a few years in – The fact is, life changes. Some are starters and some are finishers. Some of the original people grew bored with things as they were. They had a great impact in our beginning, but sought opportunities elsewhere in later years…and that’s okay.

Assume everyone is “happy” – I love what God is doing. I love watching lives change. God is doing something amazing among us. Some people just don’t get that excited. It’s not that they don’t care or love our church, they just haven’t received the same call on their lives I have.

Wait long to reproduce – We were 5 years old when we launched our second campus. I see churches do this in their second full year. There are so many in our city who need hope. Taking a risk on my own comes easy. Sometimes I’m too careful when representing God…as if He can’t handle something so large. When God leads, I want to move.

And the bonus…very practical one…

Wait too long to hire a business administrator – With a background in business I was a natural to do this, but I hated it and didn’t do it as well as it could be done. If a church is 400 or 500 hundred in attendance this becomes a full-time job. We were running well over 1,000 before we hired someone to do this and it crippled me in leadership. (Thanks Dennis for making my life better!)

WANT MORE? I wrote similar thoughts about what I’ve learned as a church planter in THIS POST. I also wrote a shorter post on what I would and wouldn’t do in a church plant HERE. Finally, HERE is a post on planting in a new community.

Have you ever been part of a church plant? Anything you could share with us?

Helping Church Leaders Fund Their Vision

You may have seen the news recently that Joe Sangl has acquired the stewardship company Injoy Stewardship Solutions (ISS) – the company founded by Dr. John C. Maxwell. For the past five years, Joe has focused on helping equip people to become personally financially free through his I Was Broke. Now I’m Not. ministry. Joe is a great friend and I’m excited to support him in his new venture. I believe in his heart and ability to help the church. He is a Kingdom-builder.

Joe and his team is passionate about helping church leaders fund their vision and equipping church attenders to win with their money God’s way. Recently, the Injoy team released a free e-report titled “5 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Church Fund Raising.”

Here is an excerpt from that free report:

#1 – Making It All About The Money


One big mistake that many churches make when raising money is to make it all about the money. Something has gone terribly wrong if the entire conversation becomes all about how much money is going to be raised and the topic consumes the vast majority of the conversation amongst church leadership and members. When this happens, people are more likely to feel manipulated and guilted into giving. This violates II Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) – “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”


Focus on the major initiative as a spiritual journey. Whenever God has called people to take huge steps of faith, it always resulted in spiritual growth when people actually took those steps. Imagine the spiritual growth that Joshua and the Israelites experienced as they crossed the Jordan River in the middle of flood season, and they walked across on dry land!

Instead of focusing just on the amount of money that needs to be raised for this next step, focus people on what this next step will allow your church to accomplish and the life change that will result from their faithful, generous, and sacrificial giving.

Obtain the entire e-report by filling out the form below. It literally takes five minutes to read it, and it could substantially impact the next major phase of ministry that your church embarks on.

Javascript Snippet (recommended):



My “Favorite” Questions as a Church Plant

I don’t know if we are still considered a church plant at 6 years into this, but we still get some of the same questions today as when we started.

Here are my “favorite” questions as a church plant:

“When are you going to build a church?” – Well, that’s what we are doing now. (Oh, you mean a building…but, of course, you’d also agree the church is not the building…right? :) )

“Are you going to keep doing this?” – For whatever reason, it seems that some believe a church plant is temporary. (Until a “real church” comes along I guess :) )

“What’s your other job?” – I realize all pastors get this one, but many plants start with bi-vocational pastors. Not all do though and sometimes this IS our job. Trust me, there’s plenty to do.

“When you get a building will you quit having small groups?” – This usually comes from someone who is accustomed to Sunday school, but it’s funny their tradition leads them to believe that a lack of space would be our only reason to do church this way. (Meeting in homes during the week…that’s so first century :) )

“How did this thing get started?” – Many times this is an innocent question. I’ve learned, however, mostly because of follow up questions, that sometimes this is a question looking for some inside scoop, a scandal of sorts, a church split…that kind of thing. There’s almost an expectation that a “story” exists with any church plant. In my experience, and in our personal experience, a church plant is far more about what God is calling someone to, not about what someone is running from.

Have you been part of a church plant? What type questions do you receive the most?

Notes: Catalyst Atlanta… #Cat11 – Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll spoke on fear in the opening session of Catalyst Atlanta.

He began by stating: Every leader is afraid of something.

Fear in the mind causes stress on the body.

Your body will start to manifest that stress. Some suffer with depression, can’t sleep, eat or drink too much, they get stomach problems or headaches. Or some just start reading lots of books on the rapture thinking “God, aren’t we done yet?”

Jesus said, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to your life?”

Fear is not always a sin, but it always is an opportunity. We can fear or trust in the Lord.

Questions to consider addressing fear:

What are you afraid of? – Some of you are afraid of conflict or failure.

Who are you afraid of? – Often someone other than God takes that place in your life. We start giving glory to them by attempting to satisfy them. We place people in positions of fear and we make them functional gods. Proverbs says the fear of man is a trap.

To examine that question more consider: Who’s opinion matters way too much to you? Is your appetite for praise unhealthy? Are you committed to people or things that God didn’t call you to?

Mark then shared 5 statements about fear:

Fear is vision without hope – (Fear is how we see things in the worst case scenario. This is the future and it’s going to be painful, so I’m stressed about it and living in dread toward it.)

Fear is not always rational, but it is always powerful – (It has a huge impact on us.)

Fear is about getting what we want or don’t want. (It’s self-absorbing.)

Fear preaches a false gospel – (We look for a solution we must find to save us rather than relying on God.)

Fear turns all of us into false prophets – (We predict a future that will never happen causing ourselves stress.)

Then Mark asked us to consider: What’s the solution?

The Bible gives a simple answer: FEAR NOT

It’s the most frequently mentioned command in the Bible.

God didn’t simply give us the command. Throughout the Bible God reminds us, “Fear not, for I am with you.”

Everything may not be okay in your life, but if God is with you, you’re going to be okay.

Driscoll closed with a story about his son being afraid. He comforted him by reminding him, “Fear not, your daddy is with you.”

This was a great reminder not to live in fear as believers. It’s especially timely for many of the pastors I know…including me. God is calling us to huge tasks. I see fear as a major stumbling block to following God’s will. We must not allow fear to disrupt or derail us.

Since this issue is on fear, and I suspect some may struggle with this, I refer to a couple posts I’ve written on fear:

7 Questions When Facing Fear

5 Reminders for Ridding Your Life of Fear