No Restraints Conference

According to the 2017 Annual Church Profile released by Lifeway, 77.8% of reporting churches averaged 250 or less in Sunday morning worship attendance. Smaller-membership churches are indeed the largest section of churches in our denomination.
Here at the Caskey Center for Church Excellence, our purpose is to equip and encourage pastors and church leaders of smaller membership churches to continue doing the ministry that God has called them. That is why we would like to invite you to our annual No Restraints Conference.

NoRestraintsCropped

This free conference will allow an opportunity for you and your spouse to worship and pray with other ministers serving in churches similar to yours. Also, meals and resources will be provided for you.
For more information or to register, please click here.

No Restraints Door Prizes

NoRestraints2018farmer

The No Restraints conference is quickly approaching! Make plans to be there. Sign up here. Last week we announced a special door prize – a travel scholarship to attend the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, TX. This week, we have a few more exciting door prizes to announce.

Logos Bible Software

Pastors need tools for bible study, lesson planning, and sermon preparation. One of our conference attendees will receive a copy of the silver package of Logos Bible software.

Gift Cards

We will have numerous gift cards as door prizes. While we will have numerous gifts during the conference, we want to give gift cards so that you can choose something special for yourself (or maybe a spouse).

Changes in Schedule

We ask that you pray for Dr. Frank Page and his family. He will not be speaking at No Restraints this year. Dr. Kelley and Dr. Tolbert will be speaking in addition to Dr. Robert Smith.

Be sure to register this week so that we will have an accurate headcount. We want to provide plenty of goodies while you are here.

5 Common Mistakes Churches Make on Easter

Image result for easter sunday

This Sunday, April 1st (or April Fool’s Day) churches around the world will celebrate Easter Sunday—no joke! What is not a joke is the mistakes that many churches and church leaders make on Easter Sunday.

1. Don’t Trivialize Easter.

One mistake that you do not want to make this Sunday is failing to recognize the importance of Easter. Easter is a huge deal, therefore do not pretend it is just like every other Sunday—it’s not. Plan accordingly for the influx of guest and the opportunity to share the gospel.

2. Don’t Talk About the Resurrection without Preaching the Gospel.

Too many Easter sermons will explain crucial facts about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and never once mention why it is important. Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice and subsequent resurrection is part of a greater gospel story. Preach the gospel this Easter!

3. Don’t Criticize Guest.

This mistake probably tops the list. Often it comes in the form of subtle jabs from the stage like this, “It’s good to see the Smiths today, haven’t seen you guys since Christmas.” I know it is frustrating to see people uncommitted to the Lord or the work of the church, but rejoice in the fact that people have decided to celebrate and worship the risen Lord. Welcome them and love them like Jesus!

4. Don’t Fail to Follow-Up.

Easter Sunday is like visiting lost people in your church. Passive Christians, new Christians, and lost people will all be at your church on Easter Sunday. It is not too late to develop a strategy of engaging guest and planning for a follow-up opportunity. Provide resources that tell about your church and do not forget to invite guest back.

5. Don’t Forget to Leverage the Season.

Easter is on the calendar. Non-Christians have a general idea what Easter represents, therefore, use it to share the gospel. If there is a community Easter egg hunt this weekend—go. You may be the only voice to point to Christ. If your church is hosting an Easter egg hunt—great! The truth is the same share the gospel!

Special “No Restraints” Door Prize

NoRestraintsCropped

Our annual “No Restraints” conference is quickly approaching, and we are announcing a special door prize! This year the Caskey Center will be giving a travel scholarship to the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, TX.

We realize that many pastors of smaller membership churches and bivocational pastors have limited funds, and may not be able to afford the trip to the convention each year. We would like to make this trip available for a pastor to attend the SBC Pastors’ Conference and the convention.

Sign up for the conference now to be eligible for the door prize. You must be present to win.

Benefits of Preaching through Books of the Bible: An Excerpt from Small Church, Excellent Ministry

Book Cover

The following excerpt is taken from chapter 4 of our recently released book, Small Church, Excellent Ministry: A Guidebook for Pastors. This chapter was written by Dr. Bo Rice. 

When it comes to weekly preparation, some of the wisest counsel I received early in my ministry is to preach through books of the Bible. As Vines and Shaddix state, “Numerous benefits surface when the truth of God’s Word is exposed, especially through the systematic preaching of a Bible book.”[1] Biblical literacy continues to wane in the United States. This increase in biblical literacy has caused the task of making disciples more difficult in the local church. Pastors are faced with preaching to congregations who are less likely to have any understanding of some of the most basic biblical stories and concepts. Vines and Shaddix state that “this scenario leaves the preacher with two options: either resign to the the generation by minimizing the role of the Bible in his preaching or determine to change the generation by systematically teaching the Scriptures. Systematic exposition, especially, enhances knowledge of the Bible.”[2] A thorough exegetical study and preaching through books of the Bible help preachers to become better communicators of biblical truth and the congregation to become more knowledgeable students of the Word.

A second benefit to preaching through books of the Bible is that it holds the preacher accountable. The preacher is held accountable for preaching what the Bible says and not what he wants to say. Preachers who approach the sermon with serious study know that they speak from the authority of the Scripture. Staying true to expositional delivery ensures that the preacher is conveying the intended truth of every text and not from the preacher’s views or opinions. Also, biblical exposition holds the preacher accountable to work diligently. It is laborious work to prepare sermons each week that hold true to the intended meaning of each text in succession. Finally, the pastor is held accountable through expositional preaching by dealing with texts that would be easy to skip over. Systematic exposition forces the pastor to faithfully deal with the full counsel of God’s Word.

A third benefit to preaching through books of the Bible is relieving the pastor from worrying about what to preach. Many pastors who do not preach through books of the Bible report feelings of anxiety in finding the perfect text each week. These pastors often take the “Barber Shop” approach to preaching—listening to the latest talk, concerns, and often gossip in the community, and then finding a text that may or may not address the situation. If the preacher will commit to faithful, systematic exposition, then he knows exactly what text he will be preaching every Monday he begins his study and preparation.

A fourth benefit to systematic exposition is appetite development in the congregation. Vines and Shaddix state, “Systematic exposition gives people an appetite for the Word that prompts them to go home and search the Scriptures for themselves.”[3] Systematic exposition encourages the congregation to become better students and even teachers of the Word. This, in turn, leads to further spiritual maturity for the pastor and the congregation.

Finally, there are practical benefits to systematic exposition. This type of preaching helps the pastor plan his preaching schedule for greater periods of time. Also, understanding the background to each text is much easier when you are systematically preaching through the same book each week. There is very little need to do much background study each week when you already put that time in at the beginning of your study of a particular book. This approach will save you a great deal of time as you prepare week after week.

[1]Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 32.

[2]Ibid., 33.

[3]Ibid., 36.

Three Challenges of Old Churches

Old churches

Last week we took a look at centennial churches, churches that were 100 years old or older. These churches genuinely serve as significant contributors in the life of our denomination. Nearly a third of churches, worshipers, and baptisms all come from these old churches, but old churches do not come without their own set of challenges. Let’s look at three challenges of old churches.

The Challenges

1. The Building. Many old churches are still worshipping in the same worship center that they originally built. These buildings have slowly deteriorated, and since many of these old churches are small, they do not have the budget to keep up with maintenance demands.

2. Traditions. If you have ever heard a church member say, “Because we have always done it that way.” You are probably staring at a person that is emotionally invested in a tradition. Traditions can manifest themselves in a host of different ways: programs, worship style, and church practice probably top the list.

3. The Past. The past can be both challenging or encouraging. For some the past was great, and therefore the church has a difficult time focusing on the future. For others the past was terrible, and the church and community are scarred from past pain or hurt. The past can be a paralyzing factor for some old churches.

Overcoming Challenges

A churches building, traditions, and past are significant obstacles in old churches. Your church may be affected by some or all of these challenges, but there is hope.

1. Create a plan. Every ministry and action of your church should be planned and methodical. God has blessed many of us with physical places of worship, but taking care of these structures can be challenging if there is not a detailed action plan. Begin today to look at your facilities through the eyes of a guest and decide what steps need to be taken to correct any past negligence.

2. Preach the Word faithfully. Often it is only the Word of God that will help a congregation see that the focus should not be on a methodology or a program but Jesus. Anything that we do as a church should have a focus on Christ. The faithful preaching of the Word will help soften harden hearts.

3. Love the community. The past is hard to overcome, but a singular focus on exalting Christ in the community will allow the church to focus clearly on the future and the community to forget a negative past.

What a gift the Lord has given us in old established church. In spite of their challenges they a testimony to God’s faithfulness to the church throughout generations.

A Modern Parable for the Church

john deere

A Modern Day Parable

There was a man who invested in a small farm of about 300 acres. He bought a brand new John Deere tractor with all the necessary implements. He built a nice barn, and had enough seed to plant his crops in the spring. However, he didn’t plant anything. He would go out and ride his tractor through the field, occasionally dropping the plow into the dirt, but he didn’t sow any seeds. The bags of seeds sat in the barn, safe and secure. Some of the seeds were eaten by rats and birds so in a natural way, seeds made it to the field. At harvest time, the man went out into the fields and then bemoaned his lack of vegetables to harvest. He consulted with the experts at the agricultural colleges. They told him to sow more seeds, but he never planted the seeds.

The above story is ridiculous. What kind of farmer would invest so much of his life in a farm and not sow seeds? Yet this is what is happening in churches all over the United States. We have churches that have adopted an attractional model of evangelism, but they are not attracting anyone. We aren’t even trying to be engaged in the community with the gospel.

It is Campus Revival this week at NOBTS, and Dr. Tommy Green has already preached a wonderful message in chapel. Tuesday’s chapel message was based on the Matthew 13 parable of the Sower. As he preached, Dr. Green stated that the problem is not with the seed, it is with the sower. I agree. I don’t think we are doing our part. But we still can. Commit to be a sower who sows the gospel abundantly.

Five Suggestions to Be a Better Gospel Sower:

  1. Be intentional in meeting people. It’s too easy to stay in our rut of work, church, home, work, church, home. Find a consistent place to engage in your community. Meet people.
  2. Transition to the gospel quickly. Often we get nervous about someone’s response to our questions about Christ and let the moment pass. A great way to overcome this is to jump in before over-thinking the situation.
  3. Build relationships with people and share the gospel. It’s important for others to know that you care about them, but don’t fall into a paralysis of friendship. Love the person enough to share the most important message in your life.
  4. Be less discriminant about with whom you share the gospel. It doesn’t really matter whether or not you know someone. It’s more important that they hear the gospel.
  5. Commit to follow up with the people you talk to. An invitation to follow Christ is an invitation to relationships. Yes, they need a relationship with Jesus, but they are also going to need a relationship with a local church. Do your best to get contact information so that you can connect the people you meet to a local church. Better yet, invite them to be part of your church or to meet with you personally for discipleship.

What suggestions do you have? Answer in the comments below.

 

4 Facts about Centennial Churches

CentennialChurches-01.jpg

This year New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is celebrating 100 years of faithful ministry in the city of New Orleans and beyond. This centennial celebration got us thinking about churches in the SBC who have celebrated this century mark. How many exist? How many people attend these churches? What is their impact on kingdom work as well as convention work? To answer these questions I would like to offer you four facts about Centennial Churches.

1. Centennial Churches are significant.

According to the 2016 Annual Church Profile, 37% (14,584) of reporting churches had a start date of 1917 or older.  Over ten thousand of these churches were started in the nineteenth century, and over 350 were started in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Two of the oldest churches in the SBC are First Church in Charlestown, MA, a newcomer to the SBC, which was established in 1632, and First Baptist Church of Charleston, SC, which was established in 1682.

2. Centennial Churches are missional.

A third of all baptisms reported in 2016 came from Centennial Churches. Over 96,000 baptisms were reported in churches that were 100 years old or older. First Baptist Church Orlando and Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas led all Centennial Churches in baptisms.

3. Centennial Churches are giving churches.

In 2016, 52% of the Cooperative Program, 54% of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and 53% of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering was given by Centennial Churches. Missions giving is overwhelmingly funded by older, established churches.

4. Centennial Churches are smaller-membership churches.

Eighty-three percent of Centennial Churches are congregations that average 250 or less in their Sunday morning worship attendance. Thirty-one percent of  SBC churches are old and small.

Conclusion

Nearly a third- of all SBC churches are old and small. These Centennial Churches play a crucial role in who we are as Southern Baptists. They are giving, missional, and small churches who are playing a pivotal role in advancing the Great Commission in North America and beyond. As pastors, church leaders, and church members let us rejoice in the legacy of these great churches!

Join us next week when we look at some of the greatest challenges of Centennial Churches.

The Changing Picture of Faces in America

multiethnic

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Small Church, Excellent Ministry: A Guidebook for Pastors, written by Dr. Page Brooks. His chapter specifically looked at “Multiethnic Ministry in the Small Church.” The below is used with permission from Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Why should our churches be multi-ethnic? They are some practical reasons that multi-ethnic churches need to exist in America.

First, we are experiencing an increase in immigration in the United States. From the cities to the rural area, immigration is having a huge influence. Cities experience immigrants and refugees as they settle due to governmental relocation programs, settling with family, or for job opportunities. Immigrants also exist in large populations in rural area, often around farming communities. There is almost no place in the United States that a person cannot go with seeing the affects of immigrants.

Second, urbanization is also creating cities that are multi-ethnic. In the next decade or two, there will be more people living in cities than in rural areas for the first time in history. Urbanization has created cities that are no longer mono-ethnic, but are attracting people from all around the world. The affect is not only in larger cities, but now in smaller towns as well. The urbanization creates opportunities for churches that can literally reach the world within their own city.

Third, the denominations in the United States have a long history of systemic racism. By “systemic racism,” I mean that many of our denominations were formed because of the separation of the races in the earliest history of the United States. Often whites worshipped separately from black slaves. If they did worship together, the slaves were often seated separately. Several new denominations were formed due to these separations. For example, the African Methodist Episcopal church (and its forerunners) was founded because blacks worshipped separately from whites in the early Protestant Episcopal Church.

Today, whether intentionally or not, denominations continue the separation. Yes, worship styles and preferences have now developed over the decades and even centuries. But, an opportunity now exists in our society to correct the racism that developed at the founding of the United States. With the increase in immigration, travel to and from other countries, and technology that unites the world, churches have an opportunity like never before to truly be a local manifestation of the heavenly vision from Revelation for all the ethnicities of the world to worship together in a local church.

Hospitality in the Church

ChurchHospitality-01

“Hello Dr. Farmer. It’s great to see you back again.” Becca the restaurant manager greeted me on Saturday evening. I had eaten dinner in the hotel restaurant the night before and decided to eat there again. After all, they had elk jerky.

Julia, my waitress, also remembered me. “A cup of coffee and a glass of water? How would you like to try the meatloaf sliders?”

In the first three minutes of sitting down in the restaurant, I felt welcomed and cared for. Is there any wonder why I returned for dinner? Hospitality is important in the service industry. It’s more important for the church.

Hospitality in the Church

The Caskey Center, in partnership with Lifeway Research and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, conducted research on small churches and personal evangelism last year. One of the interesting insights discovered was that though all churches in the study used greeters and encouraged members to be friendly with guests and non-Christians, the most evangelistically effective churches (Top 20% of churches who retained new commitments to Christ) placed a high value on hospitality.

Hospitality inside the Church

Hospitality inside the church refers to welcoming and loving guests who attend your church’s services. This means more than just holding the doors open and greeting people. It is more than handing out bulletins. A proper greeter will be smiling, friendly, and will anticipate any needs the guest may have. A well trained greeter understands that visiting a church can be very intimidating and will strive to allay any fears.

Hospitable churches go beyond the greeter. The more effective churches also teach church members to be friendly to guests every week. An attender would expect the church staff to be friendly. The attender would appreciate a group of volunteer greeters. But when the attender sees that the whole church body loves him/her that makes a big difference. When the whole church body is friendly, caring, and concerned, it communicates the love of Christ. This is what the guest has been searching for in life.

Hospitality outside the Church

Hospitality is not just something we reserve for when people darken the doors of our churches. It is an extension of the gospel. It is about showing the love of Christ to those who are estranged from God. As Willis and Clements noted in their book, The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life, “At its core, the practice of biblical hospitality is obeying the command in Romans 15:7 to ‘welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.’ It’s receiving others into our lives—into relationship and, yes, even into our homes.”

Hospitality outside the church requires us to be friendly to non-Christians we meet. Missional hospitality teaches us to utilize the relationships we inevitably build from our friendliness as a way to share the gospel.

 

Implications

In light of the findings, the best way to prepare for guests to your church is to be hospitable outside the church and to treat guests in your church as you would guests in your home. Here are five practical tips for exercising hospitality in your church:

  1. Learn first names quickly and use them often.
  2. Have greeters in the parking lot to welcome and guide guests to where they need to go.
  3. Have large golf umbrellas on hand for rainy days. Walk guests to and from their vehicles.
  4. Ask ice breaker questions to find out something about the guests. If they don’t know anyone in the church family, introduce them to someone with something in common.
  5. Have church members prepared to invite guests to lunch (either at home or in a restaurant).

What practices of hospitality would you add to this list? Comment below.