Gospel Conversation App

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We are releasing a project today that we’ve been working on for quite awhile. The Gospel Conversation app is a resource for all church members who would like to be intentional in their personal evangelism efforts.

When you download this app to your phone, you will have access to different evangelism tools such as 3 Circles, Gospel Lighthouse, Prayer Walking, etc. You will also find a link to the Caskey Center blog where we will continue to post helpful articles.

Two areas of the app are forms. One form, “Gospel Conversations,” is for you to enter information regarding a gospel conversation you may have had. There are two purposes for this: 1) to help New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary celebrate it’s centennial anniversary by engaging in 100,000 gospel conversations, and 2) to foster a certain amount of accountability.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is celebrating it’s centennial anniversary this year. The seminary was started by act of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1917 in order to train pastors in a mission field. New Orleans, LA was not like any other city or state in the early twentieth century. It’s quite unique even today! So, for the 2017-2018 school year, we would like your help with gospel conversations in your mission field.

Two key components of effective evangelism is intentionality and accountability. With this app, we are asking you to intentionally engage in gospel conversations with the people God puts in your life. We want to help you by keeping you accountable. This is not a legalistic type of accountability. Rather you will receive regular encouraging emails (not too regular. We don’t want to be a nuisance!) regarding personal evangelism. I imagine you might want to know how well your fellow Christ-followers are doing in sharing the gospel.

So there it is. The Gospel Conversation App is here for you. Let me challenge you to make an effort each day, each week, to prayerfully look for the divine appointments God has prepared for you. Share the gospel in love. Provide those who are ready with the opportunity to make Jesus their Savior and Lord. Then let us know about your conversations in the app.

You can download the app here.

Church Health Dashboard

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Pastors should be purposeful in leading their churches. A pastor who resigns himself to simply show up at the regular meeting times, and teach a nice Bible study or preach a sermon is not honoring his calling. We are called to lead the churches to make disciples who make disciples. Healthy churches do that through evangelism, discipleship, worship, etc. In order to keep the church on mission, it is important to evaluate your church’s health regularly.

John Finkelde recently posted an article here about five metrics he suggests churches should measure regularly to stay on course. Read the article for his explanation, but the five items are:

  1. Baptisms as a ratio of worship attendance
  2. Average age of the congregation compared to the average age of the community
  3. Percentage of adults serving
  4. Visitor flow
  5. Secondary giving

I agree with most of what he says regarding the metrics. If the church is baptizing roughly 10% of it’s average worship attendance, it is more likely to be a healthy church. Baptisms reflect the presence of evangelism and discipleship. I agree the average age of the congregation should be mirror the community. I would also add that the racial/ethnic and economic composition of the church and community should be similar as well. This indicates the church is making an impact in the community.

The percentage of adults serving indicates discipleship and equipping effectiveness in the church. I would probably tweak this metric to measure the percentage of baptized believers who are serving. If we believe that the Holy Spirit empowers all believers to engage in ministry, then we must believe that baptized children and youth must be engaged in ministry.

Visitor flow refers to keeping track of the number of visitors in the church. It is extremely important to show hospitality to those guests who visit the church. Smaller churches tend to have a more intimate setting, and they must make guests feel like they are part of the family.

Secondary giving deals with giving beyond the regular offering. This could be missions giving (Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, etc.), capital campaigns, or any number of designated offerings. I would adjust this to examine the percentage given to mission and ministry through the budget as well as through designated gifts. It will reflect the institutional attitude of missional giving as well as the personal attitudes.

I would also recommend the pastor and each staff minister keep a personal assessment dashboard. Here are some metrics I would recommend for your personal ministry dashboard:

  1. Relationships:
    1. Keep up with the quality and frequency of your personal spiritual disciplines.
    2. Spend quality time with your spouse.
    3. Invest in time with your family.
    4. Regularly meet with a small group.
  2. Rest:
    1. Assess your personal health and fitness.
    2. Assess your emotional health.
    3. Rate the quality of your sabbath.
  3. Work:
    1. How productive are you being?
    2. How effectively are you managing your time?

Regular assessment keeps us focused on the mission. How do you measure your church’s health? Would you add or change anything for the personal ministry dashboard?

 

Musicians Wanted

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I read an interesting article about the lack of musicians available in the church. Scott Barkley, production editor at the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Christian Index, wrote about the effects of the cultural change throughout America. What was once considered a rite of passage for children has diminished. Fewer kids are taking piano and other music lessons. More kids are involved in sports. While this may be healthy for kids who sit around looking at tablets, it has an unexpected negative consequence for the church. Also, those who are skilled musicians are often drawn to secular opportunities. We are seriously lacking talented musicians to lead in worship.

Rather than bemoan the state our culture is in, we need to be proactive. This issue affects small churches and large churches. Many churches have adopted the use of recorded music (CDs, digital music, etc.), and others are contacting local college ministries.

Beyond the immediate measures, I believe it is important to make systemic changes so that the church has musicians in the future. Here are three suggestions to help with the future worship of your church:

  1.  Disciple young believers with musical abilities to see how they can use their skills/gifts for the kingdom.
  2. Encourage current musicians in the church to mentor/teach potential musicians. Give them space to practice. Give them opportunities to play during worship.
  3. Disciple the congregation to be open to different types of worship expression. Many younger musicians are capable at contemporary worship, but are intimidated by hymns. Allow them to worship God in their own cultural expression.

What have you found that would help in these types of situations?

Don’t Criticize CEOs

CEO–  /ˌsēˌēˈō/ – noun– an individual who attends church on Christmas and Easter Only

A story has been of a husband who told his wife that he would do anything to save their failing marriage. It was Passion Week, and the believing wife knew that the Gospel was the only thing that could change her husband’s life. So, in a false move, she told her husband that if he would go to church with her on Easter Sunday that she would never ask again. Reluctantly, the husband agreed. He arrived with a cautious but opened mind. Unfortunately, the service began by the pastor belittling everyone who was only there because it was Easter. The husband left the church that day never to return to any church ever again.

This story is harsh, but this sort of story will take place in many churches this Easter. CEOs will be a part of your church this weekend and instead of condemning them let us embrace the opportunity:

  1. By Preaching the Gospel. This Sunday may be the largest concentration of lost people in your church all year. So Pastor, please preach the Gospel and what the resurrection truly means.
  2. By Praying for their Salvation. Begin now praying for the family and friends of your church members who will be coming to church possibly for the first time all year or in many years.
  3. By Training the Greeters. The first perception of the church for new guests will be the greeters. Make sure they have a smile and the information needed to make the guests feel welcome.
  4. By Connecting them to Your Church. People want to feel like they can be a part of something bigger than themselves so make sure that you have an intentional plan to connect guests to your church. Provide information about small groups, upcoming events, and for families, information about youth and children’s ministry.
  5. By Creating an Intentional Plan for Follow-Up. Every guest that provides information to your church should have a follow-up contact within 24-48 hours. Allow those who visited your church know that they were welcome that day and any future date they return.

Each week the church should be reminded that every person that walks through the doors of the sanctuary is a person created in the image of God and a person in need of the salvation found only in Jesus. As a church, we should anticipate and welcome the guests that come to our church. We should treat them with respect and avoid anything that will hinder them from knowing Jesus, especially on Easter Sunday. So please do not criticize CEOs.

What did we miss? What would you add?

No Restraints Conference-Deadline Soon

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The Caskey Center for Church Excellence would like to invite you to our annual No Restraints Conference April 21-22, 2017. The No Restraints Conference is a free two day event that seeks to encourage the minister, the minister’s wife, and the overall ministry taking place in smaller membership churches. This weekend is not limited to church staff members only and is open to anyone who has a love for the ministry of smaller membership churches.

This weekend will include two keynote plenary speakers: Dr. Ed Stetzer and Phil Waldrep.

Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer

Dr. Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer has written extensively in the areas of church planting, revitalization, evangelism, and pastoring.

Phil Waldrep
Phil Waldrep

Phil Waldrep is the President and Founder of Phil Waldrep Ministries, a ministry that seeks to provide Biblical truth with practical application. Waldrep speaks at conferences and retreats in churches across America. He has a heart for pastors and seeks to encourage them through Scripture. Waldrep is also the author of Reaching Your Prodical

Breakout sessions for the event will include topics such as Logos Bible Software training, Money Matters, Accountability, and a special Excellence in Marriage session lead by Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of NOBTS and his wife, Dr. Rhonda Kelley.

A special program just for ministers’ wives will be led by Courtney Veasey, Director of Women’s Academic Programs at NOBTS.

For registration, schedule, and housing information please visit http://www.nobts.edu/caskeycenter/conference.html

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Child Evangelism

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Many of us have seen it or heard of it. A preacher shares the gospel message with a group of children. At the end of the presentation he asks something like, “How many of you want to have Jesus as your Savior today?” A few hands go up, then a few more. Before you know it little hands all over the room are raised. The preacher does the only thing that he has been taught to do. He asks all the children in the room whose hands are raised to close their eyes as he guides them through the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

Unfortunately, this is not the best way to talk to children about Jesus. It is not the “Sinner’s Prayer” or the public presentation of the gospel that makes this situation uncomfortable, but the fear that the children may not understand the decision they have made. Child evangelism is probably more difficult than any other age group. Children have limited knowledge and understanding of our church language and vocabulary. Children may even struggle with why they need Jesus in the first place. So, with all of these variables that take place in child evangelism here are just a few do’s and don’ts:

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t be manipulative. Children need Jesus, but they still need to make that decision for themselves. They don’t need to make a decision to impress their friends, and they don’t need you to make them scared of hell simply to accept Jesus.
  2. Don’t pressure. Much research has been published verifying that the likelihood of someone becoming a Christian diminishes after the age of eighteen. While this should call the church to urgently reach children, we should never pressure a child into making a decision that they do not want to make or do not clearly understand.
  3. Don’t use adult terminology that they do not understand. Words such as sin, repent, righteousness, sanctification, and justification are all concepts that a child should come to understand, but use definitions and concepts that they will understand now. This can also mean you cannot give them a bunch of bible verses and expect them to understand those either. Even some of the modern translations are too difficult for children to understand.
  4. Don’t turn away question. Children learn by asking questions. When a child asks an inconvenient question answer it anyway. This is a teachable moment that shapes the child.
  5. Don’t be afraid to fail. Often times we can feel like failures when a person does not accept Christ, but that is not our fault. Children especially learn through repetition so tell them about Jesus over and over.

Do’s:

  1. Do show them that you care. Children will always listen to people who they know care about them. So have fun, be silly, and show them the faith you have. If they decide to follow Jesus, continue to care for them by showing them how to follow Jesus daily.
  2. Do tell them it is important. While not pressuring, explain to the child why salvation is important. They may have never considered that they even need Jesus.
  3. Do be clear. When sharing the gospel with children make sure that you use words and examples that they understand. Evangelistic tools that include visuals and pictures such as bracelets and EvangeCubes may be beneficial.
  4. Do share the gospel with their lost parents. One of the best ways to reach a lost child with the gospel is to reach their lost parents. Children value what their parents value and they talk about what their parents talk about. They are at times mini versions of their parents. If you can reach their parents, you have a far better chance of reaching the child.

Child evangelism is difficult, but it works. When I was seven years old, I attended a Vacation Bible where a church and a pastor used these principles to share Jesus with me. The gospel presented to me that day was loving but not pressured. It was urgent but not manipulative. I am forever grateful for that day when God used them to share Jesus with a child, like me.

 

The Folly of Evil People

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Proverbs 2:9-19
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 11 discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, 12 delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, 13 who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, 14 who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, 15 men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.
16 So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, 17 who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; 18 for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; 19 none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.

In a recent post, I mentioned the reciprocal nature of wisdom. I stated that wise obedience to the precepts of God leads to blessings, which leads to wiser living, leading to greater blessings. As we examine the next section of scripture, it is important to note what those blessings are. So many people think that blessings from God refers to prosperity. While it is true that God can and does bless people with material blessings (the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it), the greatest blessings from God are beyond material.

The Lord gives wisdom and understanding, and as verse nine says, “then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.” How wonderful it is to understand every good path! That kind of understanding can save someone from a lifetime of foolish decisions and actions. Living a foolish life entails striving for personal pleasure from the wrong sources. The fool seeks pleasure from money, sex, drunkeness, etc. The person who lives wisely understands that Godly wisdom is the source of pleasure, as well as results in pleasure. Wisdom hidden in the heart leads to a fulfilling pleasure of godly knowledge.

Godly wisdom results in discretion. Discretion is knowing and behaving in such a way so as to avoid causing offense or revealing too much personal information. As we gain wisdom, we realize that we need to avoid evil people and compromising situations. Discretion informs us of who evil men and evil women are.

Evil men pervert their words. Our first reaction is to think of profanity, but that is not what the author meant by perverted speech. What he meant was that evil men twist the truth. There are evil men who will tell you that all religions are pathways to God. They tell you that as long as you try to live a good life, God will let you into heaven. After all, God is loving and compassionate. The truth is, God IS loving and compassionate, but He is also just. The Bible says that “there is none righteous, not even one.” God has a standard for heaven. He demands and deserves perfection. But no one has lived a perfect life except for Jesus Christ. The Bible also says that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” The truth is that you can never earn you way into heaven, but God will save you from the penalty of your evil lifestyle by His grace. “For by grace you are saved through faith, not of works lest any man should boast.”

There is only one God, and there is only one way to enter His kingdom – faith in Jesus Christ.

The proverb continues by describing that godly wisdom will keep you from the forbidden, adulterous woman. While the evil man will corrupt you with his words and his ways, so to will the forbidden woman. This woman will entice you away from the one true path, and seek to devour you. While you and I are covenanted to walk with God, this woman will attempt to draw you from that covenant. She does not respect commitments, but goes to whatever or whoever feels good now. This leads to death and destruction. Avoid her at all cost.

Challenge for the week: See God’s wisdom and courageously avoid evil men and women. Avoid the lies and enticements which lead to death.

Engaging the Community: The 7 Day Church Building

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How often do you use your church building? For many, the answer to this question is 4 hours on Sunday morning, a couple of hours Sunday evening, and a couple of hours on Wednesday night. Other churches use their facilities more frequently with preschools, christian schools, and/or sports ministry on the weekend.

From a financial stewardship perspective, this is terrible. A church that utilizes it’s biggest investment for approximately 10 hours per week is ridiculous. From a missional perspective, a church that spends 20% of it’s budget on facilities and utilities, yet only uses the facilities 6% of the time (10 hours out of 168 hours each week) reflects poor stewardship of the resources of God.

While reading a recent report from The Centre for Theology and Community, I was reminded of the importance of exegeting your community and identifying ways of serving the community while sharing the gospel. One helpful approach is to utilize the facilities of your church for community activities. Be proactive. Don’t wait until a school or civic organization comes and asks to use your facilities. Go to them and make an offer. Think of needs within the community and make your buildings available to accommodate the need. This could be by providing counseling space, group therapy space, venues for concerts or plays, or any number of things.

How is your church doing at engaging the community? Invite them to use your space. Build relationships. Share the gospel.