Saturday, December 27, 2008

Branding Faith

I have to confess that I was inspired and enthralled with the "Missional Church" movement as I began to see it emerge about 10 years ago. I've pretty much been on the bandwagon ever since, although I have been hesitant in more recent years because of the "popularity" of the word "missional." It's now the marketing buzz word among evangelicals, meaning different things to different people. It's still a great word and I use it, but I try to define it now.

In my pursuit of authentic "missional" ministry I went through a phase of totally rejecting anything related to business or marketing, even though that was my background. More recently I have moved back into the business world and have been asking the question "How do we live and work Biblically in the business world?" For too long we've tended to compartmentalize our lives. I've been pursuing a more holistic mindset that's grounded in the Scriptures.

Recently I've come across Phil Cooke, initially through his excellent book Branding Faith, and then through his blog. I highly recommend him to you! He is not only a good theologian, but he understands communication - which is what we're focused on in ministry! If you want to truly impact culture, read his book. Check out his blog too at He has helped me gain a more Biblical perspective on the subject of "Branding." Thank you Phil!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sticky Church

I have to give a plug today for Larry Osborne's new book Sticky Church.

For those of you who know me, you know that I've been around churches, ministry, and small groups for a long time (I mean, a long time!) I think I have read most of the literature out on small groups, cell multiplication, etc. I want to tell you that I think Larry has written the best book on small group ministry in the U.S.! This is a must read for every pastor doing small group ministry in the U.S.

Larry is strategic and practical. He is honest about what works and what doesn't work in the U.S. culture. He's a "no nonsense" kind of guy!

Have you ever wondered why most small group ministries don't assimilate people very well? Have you ever wondered why most attempts to copy Cho's model in the U.S. fails? Have you ever wondered why it's difficult to get leaders to faithfully attend leadership training or why they burn out so easily? Larry does a marvelous job of explaining why. But best yet, he shows us from years of experience how to be effective and how to use groups to "velcroe" people to your church.

Way to go Larry! Thank you, once again, for another invaluable contribution to pastors and to the church in America.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Making Them Stick!

As you think about "Assimilation" be sure you understand the difference between assimilation and spiritual formation. I define assimilation as the process of getting people who are far from God and far from the church "connected" to a local Body of believers. If done well, this will happen before they even come to a personal faith in Jesus.

Once someone is "connected" to us, then we have the opportunity (and responsibility) to engage them in an intentional process of spiritual formation. However, the first goal is to assimilate them, or get them into a relationship with us. Of course they have to choose to be in this relationship, but we should do everything within our power to reach out, invest in them, shower them with the love of Christ, and establish a definite bond.

Too many times we focus on worship attendance as our measure of success. Truthfully, many people who attend worship services are not really assimilated. I encourage you to create a practical, realistic, measurable system for assimilating new people into your fellowship. If you need help give us a call. This is one of the three critical systems that every church needs to have to be healthy.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Start Assimilating New People

There are several books written on the subject of "assimilation" and I've found that all of them have some helpful information. However, they all come from the assumption that the assimilation process begins in the parking lot or at the front door of your church. Most pastors/church planters I talk to have the same assumption.

I want to challenge that assumption!

We must realize that to "make disciples" as Jesus talked about in Mt 28:19, we must begin with people who are far from God and far from the church. THAT is the starting point, not when they drive into the parking lot. This is a profound difference in the way we need to think about assimilation!

If our people are not connecting and building loving, credible relationships with people who are far from God and far from the church we are giving them the wrong mental model about disciple-making! Disciple-making begins with each believer building relationships in their workplace, their neighborhood, and in their normal course of life. Mt 28:19 literally says "As you go, make disciples."

The first half of your assimilation process should be getting them to the parking lot. The second half should be "being sticky" when they get there. What does your assimilation process look like? Have you documented it? Are you measuring it? Is your process improving? We coach pastors/church planters on how to have exceptional assimilation systems!