Celebrate Subtractions!

It’s interesting to note how often we use numbers to determine the success or effectiveness of our churches.  We talk about how many attend on Sunday, the number of small groups, how many were baptized or the annual budget.  If attendance is less this year than last, things must not be going well.  However, that’s not necessarily true if the number attending is less because they’re sending out missionaries, ministry leaders and church planters.  But how often do we describe a church by the number they’ve sent out?

Abacus & Calculator

Throughout the Word of God, it’s very clear that God’s people are to go because we are sent by Him (Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 6:8, Matthew 28:18-20, John 20:21, Acts 1:8).  So why not describe the success of our church by how many went on mission trips, the number of members engaged in local ministry, or how many we have sent as missionaries or church planters?   I think it would be exciting to greet pastors and church leaders with – “how many less did you have in worship this week?”

We typically celebrate additions and grieve or become bitter about subtractions.  But the sending of a church planter or mission team is reason to celebrate.  Let’s see if we can begin a shift in our thinking and conversation that would include celebrating subtractions related to the church’s sending.  Our sending will mean a smaller number is gathering, but what a subtraction celebration it could be!  Let’s celebrate subtraction from our small groups if it’s because more Christ followers are going with the message of Christ.

The focus of the church must change from how many gathered to how many were sent.  It will be hard to talk over lunch or in meetings without asking how many attended small groups or gathered for worship this week.  But by changing the conversation and celebrating subtractions, we’re taking a step toward changing the score card that determines success.

So I Sought for a Man

zim - 5Within North America, one of the greatest pockets of lostness is men.  Sixty-one percent of men across our culture do not profess a personal faith in Christ and another thirty-three percent are characterized as cultural Christians.  Recent studies identify less than six percent of American men as Biblical believers.  However, if dad is the first one to be reached for Christ, then, there is a ninety-three percent probability that his whole family will come to a saving faith.

Spiritual reformation in society hinges on the spiritual renewal of men.  The local church remains as a vital key in reaching men for Christ, but the church must be strategic in how it connects with men.

Men’s Ministry will:

  • Require a missional approach.  Determine who you are seeking to reach and what strategies would be most effective on your mission field.
  • Need a planned direction.  The plan should fit your unique ministry setting.
  • Demand strong leadership.  Good leaders are the foundation for an effective ministry that reaches and develops men into disciples.
  • Include a “doing” aspect.  Men like hands-on ministries.
  • Offer multiple connecting points and not be limited in scope.
  • Utilize Affinity Evangelism strategies.  Find areas where men have an interest and use them as tools for the Gospel.
  • Always include a next step in every men’s event.  The intent should always be to help men make a further commitment.  Do not waste the momentum of a successful event.
  • Seek to always have the Pastor on board.
  • Pursue God’s direction in prayer.

Effective men’s ministry should strive to capture the heart, head, and hands of men.  God desires every man to be a disciple.  As Ezekiel 22:30 reminds us, our future as a culture may rest on our ability to reach the next generation of men:

“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”  


VBS – A Great Opportunity to Serve in Your Home Church


This week I had the privilege of working in Vacation Bible School at my home church.  What a joy it was each evening to see the smiling faces as the children marched into the sanctuary, to hear them pledge allegiance to the flags and Bible, and to hear them sing to the top of their lungs “I hope you see that my hope is only in Jesus.” These little minds seemed to soak in the stories of Jesus as they learned that Jesus is really God’s Son, that He is more than just a good man, that He died for their sins, that He is alive, and then learned how to respond to the message.

Practically the whole church body was involved.  Each person knew his/her role and used the gifts, skills, and talents God had given him/her to serve the children.  Whether it was the van drivers, kitchen crew, the craft and recreation leaders, mission leaders, Bible study teachers, directors, or the pastor, all were ready to greet and serve the children.  Especially exciting was to see two adults, both young Christians, attending and working in Bible School for the very first time.

Missionaries representing the county, state, nation, and the world shared with the children about their ministries and/or mission trips.  Each night a mission offering was taken and the children learned about the Cooperative Program and how we partner with other churches to take the Gospel to those at home and around the world.  The children were introduced to the Gideons’ ministry and 4th and 5th graders received a Gideons’ New Testament.

Missions right in your own church.  There is no better way than to serve through Vacation Bible School.  What an opportunity.  What a privilege.  What a learning experience.  It is not an easy task but it is so rewarding.  You ought to get involved.  You will certainly be blessed!!

Missions Strategy: Where to Begin?

There are 7 billion people on plant earth.  Approxiately 3.9 billion have never been reached with the gospel!  It’s easy to become numb by numbers.  But each number, whether it be 1 or 1 billion, represents people in need of the gospel of Jesus.  If people are really lost without Christ and face an eternity in hell separated from Him, then statistically these numbers should alarm us.  Billions upon billions face the prospect of an eternity separated from God.

Sun (glory)Yet, the urgency of world lostness is not utimately about lostness.  It’s about the glory of God and His fame among the nations.  God’s greatest desire is for His greatest glory.  Whether the call comes from the Psalmist or the prophets, for example, the Word of God is clear.  God is worthy of the praise of every tongue from every tribe and people on the earth (Ps 67:3-4, Isa 48:9-11).  After all, who is like the Lord our God (Isa 40:25-26)?  In fact, one day every knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil 2:9-11).  Some will bow in great adoration  and love, while others will bow in great fear and dread.  Either way, all will bow!

Therefore, the Great Commission is first about the glory of God and second about the lostness of the world.  The two are not in opposition; rather, they work together.  God gets the glory as His fame is spread among the nations and mankind receives the good from a gracious Savior and Lord.

You see, God is so glorious and great that He deserves the praise of countless billions.  Further, mankind is so lost that only a glorious and sovereign God could redeem a fallen  and rebellious people from this perilous state.  What’s incredible about these twin truths of God’s glory and man’s lostness is the plan by which He chose to spread His fame and save sinners.  Jesus, God’s own Son, willingly became man in order to pay the penalty for sinners through His death and resurrection (Col 2:9-15).  But how would this good news of great joy spread, so that men and women and boys and girls from every tribe and tongue and people and nation might hear, repent, and believe?

This is where the church comes in.  The church is the means by which both God’s greatness and mankind’s salvation is spread.  The last words of Jesus are given to the apostles in Acts 1, words that call them, upon receiving power from the Holy Spirit, to be worldwide witnesses (v 8).  Since the apostles are gone, the church is bequeathed with this responsiblilty of global impact for both God’s glory and man’s good.  So, what is involved in being faithful to this Great Commission from our Lord?  Over the coming months, I will discuss five components of Great Commission faithfulness.  In short, I believe it invovles: empowering through prayer, evangelizing the lost, establishing churches, encouraging churches, and equipping leaders.  All of these components are for the twin aim of God’s great glory and mankind’s everlasting good.