No Restraints Door Prizes

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

4 Facts about Centennial Churches

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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.

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.

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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.

Small Church Excellent Ministry Book Release

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It’s official! While the paperback of the book was released a few weeks ago, the new resource, Small Church, Excellent Ministry: A Guidebook for Pastors, is now on Kindle. This book is a compilation of practical wisdom written by scholars who have served in smaller membership church ministries.

The introduction and conclusion were written by me (Jeff Farmer); setting the context of small church ministry in the United States. I served as a pastor/church planter of a network of simple churches (also known as house churches).

Chapter one focuses on small churches and the mission of the church. Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and a well-respected missiologist, provides guidance on leading a church to be on mission.

Chapter two addresses the necessity of multiethnic ministry in small churches. This chapter is written by Page Brooks, Assistant Professor of Theology at NOBTS and lead pastor/planter of Canal Street Church, a multiethnic congregation in New Orleans, LA.

Chapter three gets to the heart of pastoral ministry – evangelism. This topic is discussed by Jake Roudkovski, Associate Professor of Evangelism and Director of the Doctor of Ministry program at NOBTS.

Bo Rice provides excellent instruction on sermon preparation in chapter four, and Ed Steele covers the topic of worship leadership in chapter five. Rice is Associate Dean of Mentoring at NOBTS. Steele is Professor of Music at NOBTS.

For the administrative functions of the church, Adam Hughes writes about leadership in the small church in chapter six, Jody Dean details church administration in chapter seven, and Hal Stewart covers discipleship in chapter eight. Hughes is Dean of Chapel. Dean is Assistant Professor of Christian Education and Director of Mentoring in Christian Education. Stewart is Associate Professor of Discipleship.

The final two chapters are written by Patrick Weaver, Research Fellow at the Caskey Center for Church Excellence, and Mark Tolbert, Director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence. Weaver discusses the vitality of the pastor’s personal discipleship, and Tolbert emphasizes the pastor’s family life in small church ministry.

As you may have noticed, nearly every author is on faculty at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The primary reason for this is that Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of NOBTS, and Dr. Steve Lemke, the Provost Emeritus, assembled an all-star faculty who are both practitioners and scholars. These men are passionate about equipping pastors to equip the church. They are also men who “talk the talk” and “walk the walk.”

You can find this book for sale on Amazon or you can request it at your local bookstore.

An Often Overlooked Method

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“Evangelism principles never change, but methods always should.” I’ve made this comment so many times when teaching students about the importance of evaluating their evangelism methodologies. While so many are unquestioningly committed to their traditional methods, Others are so infatuated with new and improved ideas, that they often overlook tried and true methods.

A recent article at the Mission Network News website reminds us that orality has always been an effective method of communicating the good news and discipling believers. Many believe that orality, sharing the Gospel and discipling people utilizing oral methods, is a missions practice best suited for global missions. However, it is quite effective in the United States as well. According to a study conducted in late April by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population.  Beyond that, most of the adults in the U.S. prefer learning using oral methods.

This year when you are developing your church’s evangelism/discipleship strategy, consider learning to use Oral approaches. You can find some great tools at the following websites:

International Orality Network

e3 Partners