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.
“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:
The Caskey Center for Church Excellence, in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism and Lifeway Research, recently completed a study examining the personal evangelism habits of smaller membership church pastors. These pastors are serving in 1,500 Evangelical Protestant churches in the United States.
While we asked, “the past 12 months, how many people have indicated a new commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior through your church?” a significant follow-up question asked was, “Among these commitments in the past 12 months, how many have ALSO become active in the life of your church?” The importance of this question reveals whether the churches are effectively fulfilling the Great Commission. While it is important to GO and make disciples of all the nations, a church isn’t making disciples if those new believers aren’t being taught to observe all that Christ has commanded.
The infographic above reflects the Top 10 factors predicting the most committed new members in a smaller membership church.
1. Higher Percentage of Unchurched Attendees
This is also the number one factor for predicting churches with the greatest number of new believers. Pastors and churches that are successful at reaching the lost and keeping new believers engaged in the life of the church are those churches (pastors) who have created an environment where unchurched people feel welcome and wanted.
2. Lower Church Attendance
This variable is number three for predicting new believers, it is the second highest factor in predicting the most number of committed new members. Rick Warren has often been noted to say, “churches must grow smaller in order to grow larger.” In this quote, Warren is referring to the importance of small groups in churches. In larger churches, small groups are the setting where people make meaning relationship connections with other believers. This becomes their spiritual “family” for support and encouragement. In smaller churches, that sense of family is church wide. New believers tend to have significant relationships across the entire church body.
3. More Classes Offered for New Attendees
The importance of teaching fundamental doctrines and disciplines to new believers cannot be overemphasized. Those who are given a solid foundation early in their commitment to Christ tend to maintain their involvement in the church.
4. More Training Events Attended by Pastor
As the pastor is better equipped to engage in personal evangelism, he becomes more effective at both personally sharing the gospel and coaching church members to share the gospel. Members tend to follow the example set by the pastor.
5. Pastors Ask for Personal Commitment More Often
It is certainly true that people cannot know Christ unless someone tells them the gospel. It follows that those who hear the gospel will not make a commitment unless they are invited to do so. We must invite people to make a commitment to Christ.
6. Higher Percentage of Church Budget Spent on Evangelism/Missions
Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, we budget for what we value. If you are passionate about reaching the lost in this world with the gospel message, then you will devote financial resources to reaching the lost in this world.
7. More Reports of Members Evangelizing
Evangelism and ministry is not the exclusive responsibility of the pastor. The most effective evangelistic pastors are the ones who create an culture of evangelism within the church.
8. Higher Percentage of Hispanic Attendees
This is certainly a descriptive factor rather than a prescriptive factor. Of the pastors who responded to the survey, Hispanic churches are effectively engaging with the lost world. Can your church begin an outreach or mission to Hispanics in your community?
9. More Affirmation that Pastor Communicates Well with Unchurched
What is particularly interesting is that the ninth predictor for predicting the most new converts and the ninth predictor for the most committed new members are the only factors in each top ten list that are different. The ninth factor for the most new converts is “More Time Dedicated by Pastors to Evangelism.” While they are different factors, there is definitely a similarity. For one outcome (new convert), the pastor must dedicate more time to evangelism. For the other outcome (committed new believers), the pastor must be adept at communicating well with the unchurched. A key to that communication is to be able to share the gospel without using “churchy” words. Just because you know theological terms, doesn’t mean you have to use those terms all the time. Find ways of communicating the concepts clearly.
10. More Frequent Ministry Activities Outside of Church
Evangelistic churches are ones that are in the world, not withdrawn from the world. We must love people where they are in order for them to know the love of Christ. We cannot wait for them to come find us.
One of our Caskey Scholarship recipients was the subject of an article in Alabama. Read the article here. We are proud of Anthony Potts and pray God continues to bless his ministry!
Baptist Press published an article today about the research the Caskey Center for Church Excellence conducted in partnership with Lifeway Research and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. Take a look!
In the spring of 2017, the Caskey Center for Church Excellence conducted research on the personal evangelism habits of smaller membership church pastors. This was a national study of 1,500 evangelical pastors, and we conducted this study in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.
The video in this link is of Dr. Mark Tolbert’s presentation of some key findings of the study at the Amplify National Evangelism Conference.
For many today the ministry of Billy Graham has come from memories to history. Billy Graham became popular for his evangelistic ministry. His crusades were widely attended and marked by his practice of the public invitation. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, public invitations were common among evangelists such as John Wesley, John Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, Charles Spurgeon, Dwight Moody, and Billy Sunday. These men were not bashful about calling sinners to repent and accept Christ publicly.
Today the climate towards public evangelistic invitations has turned bitter and even hostile in some Christian circles. As I reflect on this change in attitude towards the public invitation I can only think of one reason why every church should practice a public invitation—it is biblical.
Old Testament Examples
- Moses. After Moses discovered the Israelites worshiping the golden calf, he stood at the gate of the camp and asked, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me” (Ex. 32:26). This appeal demonstrated the Moses was calling the Israelites to denounce publicly their sin and follow God.
- Joshua. When Joshua addressed the people of Israel right before his death he said, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).
- Elijah. At Mount Carmel, Elijah asked the people of Israel who they would serve, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). While no one responded, the invitation was clear.
Examples by Jesus
- Jesus publicly called his disciples. Jesus called Philip, Matthew, and the brothers Simon and Andrew with the simple phrase “Follow me.” It can be safely assumed that Jesus used a similar method when calling the other disciples.
- Jesus publicly called individuals. Most notably Jesus called Zacchaeus publically. When Jesus arrived at the tree He said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Upon Jesus’ command and in an act of repentance, Zacchaeus declared that he would give back to all whom he had wronged. Clearly, this was a call of salvation and public repentance because Jesus explained, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
- Jesus publicly called the crowds. In Matthew 11:28-29 and in John 7:37-38, Jesus invites the crowd to come to him. Each of these instances were invitations for them to come humbly and trust Jesus.
New Testament Examples
- Peter. In Acts 2:14-41, Peter delivered one of the greatest salvation messages ever recorded. “And Peter said to them, ‘repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). Peter preached for a response, and he expected one. By the end of the invitation, about three thousand people had been saved.
- Paul. The ministry of Paul displayed a pattern of evangelistic preaching with the desire to call for response. As recorded in the book of Acts, Paul preached in synagogues located in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, and Ephesus. In each of these situations, Paul proclaimed the truth of the gospel with boldness, presented the truth clearly and sympathetically, preached with respect to his hearers, and identified the difficulties that the listeners would encounter.
- Philip. Philip experienced the work of preaching the gospel when he led the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord. After explaining the Scriptures to the eunuch, he demanded that he stop and be baptized in the passing water immediately. The invitation was public and immediate.
The call to ask someone publicly to repent of their sin and follow Jesus is a call that is biblical. The Old Testament prophets, Jesus, and the early church leaders all practiced calling individuals and crowds to follow Jesus. Pastors, call your people to repent publicly and believe the Gospel. Don’t allow the methodology of an altar call to stop you from giving a public invitation.
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.