Fastest Growing Churches Have Modern Worship & Teach Literal Bible Interpretation

That’s the headline from the Christian Post that popped up in my Facebook feed recently.  This article was quoting a study of North American, denominational, Protestant churches.  The study compared growing and declining churches and concluded that “Theology Matters.”

One pastor interviewed about the study* stated that

“I think the wisdom of that study is the two parts. There does need to be a modern sense of an expression of the faith while at the same time a conservative, Orthodox view of Christianity,”.

What is an Orthodox view of Christianity?

  • Over 93% of those leading growing churches believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus. Compared to only 56% of those in the study leading declining churches.
  • 100% of those leading growing churches believe God does miracles in response to prayer where only 44% of those in the study leading declining churches.

Here’s a crazy side note: 80% of the congregants surveyed from declining churches believe God answers prayers with miracles so maybe they just need better leaders. It seems to me that as a person who believes in the literal resurrection and that God still does miracles when we pray, if my pastor didn’t, I would leave that church.  Maybe that’s why they are declining…hmmm.

This study teaches us three things if we want our church to grow.

1.    Modern Matters. People prefer modern style worship services.

2.    Theology Matters. People want churches to believe in literal interpretation of the Bible.

3.    Evangelism Matters. Growing churches evangelize.

Every church leader surveyed from growing churches believed that it was ‘very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians.’ Only half of those in declining churches felt the same way.  If you don’t believe the Great Commission to go and make disciples is ‘very important’ then you’ll probably be leading a declining church.

For more on personal evangelism see Your Story Matters.

If you lead a church where your theology is sound but you still find yourself stagnant of declining. I can help.  A great first step would be to Come to the Maximizing Easter seminar.

The Maximizing Easter seminar will give you the tools to unlock your church’s growth potential. Potential that is there each Easter, but is untapped by stagnant or declining churches.

I am hosting this seminar, near Albany, NY with church growth expert Nelson Searcy, who has helped hundreds of churches grow.

What have you got to lose by checking it out? Go to:  to learn about unlocking your church’s growth potential this Easter.


PS: You’re not a church leader?  Send this blog to your pastor!  I want to help your church and your pastor.



*Read the whole study at

House of Praise webTV

Well it’s finally here.  The House of Praise will begin broadcasting our service LIVE tomorrow at 10:00am.  (Feb. 14, 2010) Why are we doing this?  So we can feel important?  No.

We use any means we can to get the teachings of Jesus Christ to people.  We use creative means to portray illustrated sermons, everything from cars on stage to the pastor dressing up like Mr. Rogers and singing the theme song.  We hand out notes each service to allow people to review the teaching later at home or share it with a friend.  We record the sermons and make them available on CD or in a podcast.  Now we’re actually broadcasting the service free on the web. (  Web broadcast is just a natural step in sharing God’s word anyway we can.

While there is something special about the dynamic that happens when we gather together (Hebrews 10:24-25), it is our hope that when someone is home sick, or snowed in they will still be able to participate in worship and hear the teaching on the webcast.  One of the great things about this is we can all tell our friends that might be a little apprehensive about coming to church, “Check the service out on-line before you come in person.  Then you’ll know what to expect.” Wow ain’t technology grand? lol

Oh, by the way, if you miss the live broadcast or 10am is just too early.  The last 10 services will be archived, watch them when you have time.

It is our prayer that many people who aren’t ready to attend a church or who simply miss a service for whatever reason will be blessed by this new resource.

Knowing What to Expect

On Easter this year we did something different.  We didn‘t do anyting different.  No Easter play, no choir robes, no lillies, just our normal service.  I told our over 20 1st time guest and dozens of occasionaly attenders why.  “I want you to see what this church is all about each week in the hope that you’ll come back.”  I continued, “We’re not just going to do a great show on Easter and let you be disappointed next time you’re here!  The same music, teaching style and welcoming atmosphere will be here every time you come.”

I hope this approach also made out members and regular attenders feel encouraged.  They know that any week they invite their friends to church that they can expect a few things to happen.

  • Their friends will be made to feel welcomed
  • The music will be off the chain!
  • The teaching will apply to their lives.
  • It will NOT be boring. (We use creative methods and humor.)
  • God will meet with them.

Do you clearly communicate to your friends and family what they can expect when they come to church?  Can they look at your life and know what to expect from Christianity.  Talk to people.  You’ll be very surprised at what they think is going to happen if they follow God.

Check out:

Things Learned from Made to Stick

Why do we remember the details of a funny or gross story yet have trouble remembering information that is vital to us?  The reason is the “stickiness” of the idea.  I recently read a book called Made to Stick.  It’s a marketing book by Chip and Dan Heath.  I thought I’d share some insights on making the gospel stick.

Simplicity is Sticky – We must answer the question, “How do I communicate my idea in a one-sentence proverb?”  The more complicated something is the more easily it’s forgotten, so “What can be stripped off the idea?  Sticky Ideas are Compact AND contain the Core of the idea. – Shorter sentences, less words are important to be remembered but not if the core of the idea isn’t communicated.  The most sticky ideas do both by communicating the core of the idea in a compact form, such as in a proverb.

To be Sticky, Use Unexpected Twists – Surprise is good but what is better is generating curiosity and increased interest.  This can be accomplished by generating gaps in people’s knowledge then filling those gaps.

Use Everyday Items to Create Clear Images in People’s Minds – Example: 37 grams of fat in a tub of popcorn means nothing to most consumers but saying, “This popcorn has the same fat as these three meals.” While showing a table filled with bacon & eggs, a McDonald’s Big Mac meal and a steak dinner is a clear message.   A Concept becomes Stickier When Tied to an Idea We Already Know.  Instead of giving a stream of data to be memorized using a well-known schema increases stickiness.  Example: a pomelo is a tangy, citrus fruit, with a yellow to pink flesh and a soft rind is much harder to remember or even comprehend than a pomelo is a super-sized grapefruit with a soft rind.

Avoid the Uncertainty Paralyses – In a study people were asked if they would go a on trip to Hawaii after a huge final exam that was important to their future.  They could buy the tickets and go, not go or pay $5 to hold tickets price for 2 days.  If the participants knew they passed the majority would go to Hawaii as a reward, if the participant of the study knew they failed, the majority still said they would go to cheer themselves up but if they wouldn’t know the outcome of the exam for 2 days, the majority would pay the $5 and wait for the exam outcome.  This doesn’t make sense since most would go whether they passed or failed.  The only explanation is caught up in uncertainty people postpone action.

Sticky Ideas Command Attention – The biggest problem of communication is getting and keeping people’s attention.  To create an idea that sticks, this issue must be overcome.

Invoking Self-Interest in How You Present Your Idea Makes It Stick. – You can do ____________ in five days with our program.  Sales people have learned this by emphasizing the benefits over the features.  “You’ll have the best looking lawn in your neighborhood.” sells more than, “Our seed is guaranteed to be 90% weed free and to grow quickly.”

Avoid The Curse of Knowledge – Knowing to much causes people to want to share it.  Instead of focusing on 1 or 2 key points they speaking gives massive amounts of information and the listeners remember none.  It’s like trying to get a drink out of a fire hose.  It’s more effective to use stories and engage people’s emotions.

Let’s all examine our presentation of the gospel and our church vision by seeing if we’ve presented in a way that sticks.


Attracting the Next Generation of Leaders

Every pastor I know and most people who lead ministries in churches complain that there just aren’t enough young leaders out there.  I don’t agree.  I think there are good, enthusiastic young people of character who are waiting for someone to mentor them.

Before we can decide who to mentor into ministry we must attract quality people.  I’m not talking about attracting people who are already leaders.  I mean developing untapped leadership potential in someone.  First because we shouldn’t take someone else’s leader. (We’re all working for the same king.) Second, it usually is too hard to unlearn the system they came out of to adapt them to yours.

If we’re going to attract the next generation to serve and eventually lead there are a few things we need to do:

  • Establish a fun environment – I said it as a children’s pastor and I say it as a senior pastor…Church should be fun!  I understand that salvation is serious business, that spiritual warfare is necessary and we have to meet the needs of hurting people BUT that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t laugh along the way also.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.
  • Establish a creative environment – God is the creative of everything.  He is the most creative being to ever exist.  Therefore, His church shouldn’t be outdated or using archaic methods to spread the gospel.  The next generation of leaders want to see intelligent, creative ways to stay culturally relevant.
  • Make Leadership Development Institutional – It amazes me how many churches have no obvious path for leadership development.  “Well you come and serve and if you’re called to lead God will show us.”  Wow, sounds spiritual  but doesn’t give a direction to focus one’s efforts on.  For that matter a clearly defined discipleship process is essential.  People in your church should now what the next step in their spiritual growth is.  Write it, make it plain. (Hab 2)  Budget time and money to develop potential leaders also.
  • Hire Well and Treat Better – Don’t just fill a need in the church.  leave the position empty until the right person comes along.  The wrong person (with great intentions, just wanting to help) in a position causes the perfect person to pass you by.  Once you get the right person pay them well, give them positive feedback and let them know they are appreciated so you can keep them!!
  • Don’t Reject, Redirect – If someone has good character, gets the vision and is loyal they are rare.  Find a place for them.  Even if you don’t see them as a leader or not a fit for the opening they are interested in, put them in a different ministry where they have responsibility.
  • Have Positions Run for One Year – Both paid and volunteer leaders should have a clear job description lasting exactly one year, for two reasons.  First, so you  both have the same expectations.  Second, if they don’t work out at the end of one year the conversation becomes “Thank you for serving in x this year.  Next year I’d like to put you in y.”  There’s no removing or firing simply another opportunity.  It really works well.
  • Look for Success in the World – David had the lion and the bear before Goliath.  Joseph learned how to lead as a slave and in the prison.  God usually takes someone from success to success because they have learned His principles and they work hard!  I’m always amazed at people who can’t hold a job and say, “It must be because I’m called to ministry.”  Beware!  It might be because they are rebellious or lazy.
  • Give the Responsibility before the Title – If you want to see if someone is a leader give them leadership responsibilities.  Plan this…Follow up on this person…Get this done for me…You get the picture.  After they have proven themselves faithful in an area make them the leader of the are they have excelled in.  Caution:  Many pastors blow it hear by waiting too long or thinking a person too young.  If they’ve been faithful for a year, take the chance. 
  • Pray – I know everyone says that but really.  Placing someone into a leadership position is a spiritual exercise.  Get God involved in the decision.

We can’t take the same approaches as we took 20 years ago to attract the next generation of leaders.  God wants us to accelerate our planning, mentoring and releasing of leaders.

The Empty Chair

Church leaders often discuss “revival”.  What is revival?  One thing we all agree upon across all denominational lines is there are greater numbers of salvations than normal.  People repenting of their sins and accepting Jesus as savior is the one thing that everyone lists as a part of true revival.  Oh, we disagree on miracles, worship style, church government, prophesy, end times and women in ministry just to name a few but we all want to see more people convert to Christianity.  So why are our services so tailored for Christians?

At the Creative Church Conference, Ed Young place a chair on the stage and announced, “We have forgotten about the empty chair.”  We create our weekend worship experiences for those that are already believers.  The songs we choose, the topics we preach on, even the language we use are usually meant to reach the believer.

If we really care about those that are on a fast highway to Hell, then we will focus the majority of our resources on filling the empty chairs in our sanctuaries.  This means changing some of the way we are used to doing things.  First, we need to modernize our church buildings.  People who spend their days in flashy malls, high tech schools and well decorated offices walk into a church building and either feel they have been time-warped back to the 1980s or see cheap, poorly maintained facilities. How we present God’s house says something about how relevant our faith is.

The next step is to change the way we present the gospel itself.  I’m not talking about ever compromising on the core values of scripture or tolerating sin.  I’m talking about vision drift.  The Great Commission tells us to “Go and make disciples” and this must be the center of every church’s vision.  This means limiting “Christianize”—words no one outside of church understands, playing contemporary style music and most of all preaching life-application messages.  An unchurched person doesn’t care what the 4 Beasts in Revelation are but does care about how to have a good marriage.  These changes offend those with religious spirits and those with self-centered, “What about me?” attitudes.  The truth is, it is the job of church leaders to feed baby believers but as people grow up they should be able to feed themselves.

The bottom line is this…mature people reproduce, immature care only about getting themselves fed.  This Sunday when you walk into the church sanctuary look around.  Each empty chair represents another soul that will be tormented in Hell for all eternity.  Let it break your heart so next week you’ll work hard to fill that chair.

Creative Church Conference – Part 2

The church should be the most creative entity on the planet!  Not Hollywood, not Silicon Valley, not the Times Best Sellers but the church of Jesus Christ.  After all we serve the one who invented creativity!  He is the only one who can create something from nothing.  He is the only one who ever had a new idea. Today Ed Young Jr. told us that children score off the charts on the creativity aptitude tests when they are under 5 but as soon as they start school it quickly drops.  Creativity is replaced with rules for how to play, when to sit, techniques for math and writing.  It’s not that education is bad; it’s that learning best works through repetition.  Repetition stifles creativity.

Romans 12 teaches us not to be squeezed into the world’s mold.  There is no right or wrong way to “do church”.  Jesus communicated in creative, illustrated ways.  He held up a little child and taught us how to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  This upset the religious people of their day.  Why because they had forgotten about making the truths of God simple to understand and easy to apply to one’s life.  It is the same today.  If you use creative communication techniques people will accuse you of being a “performance church” instead of seeing that more people understand the word of God that is being taught than before.

One of the main themes of the Creative Church Conference (C3) was that mature people reproduce.  Think of it, people are born, grow up, get married and then have babies.  The immature or babies don’t reproduce.  If you’re church isn’t birthing new babies in the kingdom then maybe it isn’t as mature as you think.

Spiritual babies say, “I’m just not being fed.”  A person can be a Christian for 20 years but if all they care about is hearing a new twist on a scripture they haven’t heard before, they are self-centered babies when they should be healthy, reproducing adult believers.  Ed talked further about church’s that were meant to hospitals where babies are born of hurting people are helped have been turned into discriminating restaurants where food critics sample morsels and critique the good food being served.

As communicators of God’s all powerful word we must never bend to the pressure to cater to those who are hearers only and not doers of the word.  We will continue to use every creative method we can to help people grasp and apply the word of God to their life.

Creative Church Conference

I am excited to be going to the Creative Church Conference (C3) regional at Northway Church in Clifton Park.  I’ve been to the C3 in Dallas for the last three years and always feel it’s so impacting for our ministry.  I’ve heard Ed Young, T.D. Jakes, Erwin McManus, and Perry Noble to name a few.  I can honestly say that these conferences have changed the way I “do” church. 

I’ve always believed that church should be fun.  That was our theme as the Children’s Pastors at Mt. Zion Ministries and now as the Lead Pastors at House of Praise we think adults should enjoy church also.  It’s much deeper than that though.  By using creative ways to illustrate sermons, we give people greater retention of the word of God that is being preached.

We use art, dance, music, video, costumes, decorations, give-aways, drama, costumes and games to help people visualize and remember what is taught.  For example:  When I taught on Small Groups a couple years ago, we called it “Honey I Shrunk the Church” and decorated the sanctuary with giant pencils, crayons, and a laundry line that had enormous t-shirts and socks on it.  Years later when I ask people about it they still remember “we grow larger by getting smaller” and that it was about small groups.  If remembering the word of God is your goal, Creative Sermons work!

Back to the C3 regional…Ed Young is taking his show on the road to Capital District, specifically the Northway Church.  Think about it 500 leaders from churches around the Northeast meeting to learn how the church can be more creative in presenting the message of Jesus Christ.  I can’t wait!