Ten Year Trends

March 10, 2018 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

These Trends are posted by Ed Stetzer. I do not agree with everythin he has written (tcf)

3 Important Church Trends in the Next 10 Years

Christianity in the United States may look very different in 10 years. |Ed Stetzer


As someone who both cares about the mission of the church and leads a research organization, I watch the trends in the church and the culture. Occasionally, someone asks me to share some thoughts on the big picture, in the case of the North American context, questions related to “streams” of Protestantism.

Based on research, statistics, extrapolation, and (I hope) some insight, I notice 3 important trends continuing in the next 10 years.

Trend #1: The Hemorrhaging of Mainline Protestantism

This trend is hardly news—mainliners will tell you of this hemorrhaging and of their efforts to reverse it.

Mainline Protestantism is perhaps the best known portion of Protestantism, often represented by what are called the “seven sisters” of the mainline churches. Mainline churches are more than these, but these seven are the best known, perhaps:

  • United Methodist Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
  • Episcopal Church
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • American Baptist Churches
  • United Church of Christ (UCC)
  • The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

They tend to fall on the progressive side of the theological continuum, but there is diversity of theology as well (Methodists, as a whole, are probably most conservative, for example).

Mainline Protestantism is in trouble and in substantive decline. Some are trying to reverse this, through evangelism and church planting initiatives.

However, this is an uphill battle and, as a whole, mainline Protestantism will continue its slide.

According to the General Social Survey (GSS), about 30 percent of Americans would self-identify (through their denominational selection) as mainline Protestants in 1972. Now they are down to 15 percent. In other words, based on the GSS, they lost half their people over 40 years.

Now, the GSS is not the same as membership rolls and attendance numbers, but it does reflect people’s connection. And, if that trend continues, the math does not look good.

Trend #2: Continued Growth of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement

The second thing I think you’re going to continue to see is the continued growth of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement. The Charismatics and Pentecostals have already won the worship war—most churches are now comfortable with what would be “Calvary Chapel” worship in 1980. They are in the process of winning the spiritual gifts debate concerning cessationism, a view which seems in decline in the next generation.

Yes, that growth has slowed in North America and the charismatic practices (both inside and outside of the movement) have also been tamed.

In other words, Pentecostals and charismatics are growing and influencing, but they also look a lot less like the Pentecostals and charismatics of a few decades ago.

Many in the movement are shying away from the oddities and excesses of Pentecostalism, while evangelicals are moving towards the theology of Spirit-filled and Spirit-led ministries.

I see both of those trends continuing.

Trend #3: Networks will Explode in Number and Influence

Denominations still matter—and they actually, for example, do most of the church planting in North America. However, networks are growing in influence and impact.

Ironically, some networks are going to become denominations (or denomination-like). For example, both the Vineyard and Calvary Chapel, some of the early forerunners of networks, basically function like denominations today.

Networks are predominantly made up of nondenominational evangelical churches. The fastest growing category in North America is nondenominational evangelicalism—so growth here is inevitable.

The future is less mainline denominations or flat evangelical denominations, and more nondenominational evangelical networks.

All of these trends have implications—some good, and some not so good. But, facts are our friends. As we look to the years ahead, we need to do so with discernment and hope about what God is doing in the world through his churches.


Can Ministry Effectiveness Be Measured?

February 25, 2018 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

How do you measure effectiveness in ministry? Among church leaders, the gauge has shifted in the last 20 years.

In the early 1980s, when I began observing ministry closely and editing a journal for church leaders, the prevailing assumption was that effectiveness equaled attracting a crowd. Leaders would downplay the eternal significance of counting “nickels and noses,” but increased attendance and offerings were seen as evidence of success.

“A healthy church is a growing church,” we heard repeatedly.

In the last 20 years, however, we’ve witnessed plenty of ministries that touch lots of people but leave no discernible mark upon them. Some pastors have confessed, “We can attract a crowd but not know what to do with them, other than invite them to come back next week.”

More recently, church leaders have been seeking better ways to gauge whether their ministry is faithful and effective.


The most obvious indicator is lives that are transformed.

In a recent Christianity Today column (“A Healthy Cult”), Charles Colson provides a snapshot of effectiveness, in this case, in a prison ministry. Most prisons, he writes, are dirty, depressing places. “Men and women shuffle around listlessly with vacant expressions and their heads down. Anger, bitterness, and corruption are prevalent; one seldom hears laughter or sees signs of mirth.”

But in a prison in Newton, Iowa, the environment is different. There, after several years of Christian ministry, inmates “have a sense of purpose — people are busy with work or classes from early morning to lights out. There is little time for TV or lying around on bunks. They are building community, helping one another, and willingly obeying the rules.”

It’s a case of a culture being transformed. “The process begins when the believers band together in a loving fellowship, a “church,” really. Then they evangelize … Though in the minority at first, the Christian prisoners take biblical teaching to heart and boldly live it out. Others begin to follow their example and soon they reach a critical mass.”

In time the whole group, almost unconsciously, adopts different standards. Thus, Colson concludes, “we tend to evaluate churches by the classic marks: preaching, the sacraments, and discipline. But a fourth might be added: its impact on culture.”

Colson’s vision of ministry changing an entire culture is breathtaking in its scope. On a more modest scale, how can individual congregations monitor their progress toward that kind of impact, even if their entire city or county isn’t totally transformed within a few years?


Here are vital signs that pastors are monitoring (measured in percentages):

  1. Pre-Christians in worship services and outreach events (start with a goal of 15 percent and work up).
  2. Church members trained in sharing their faith (25 percent and up).
  3. Worship attenders who are part of a small group for prayer/Bible study (60 percent and up).
  4. Church members who have identified their spiritual gifts and are exercising them in some way for God’s kingdom (aim for 60 percent and up). Such “by the numbers” approaches to measuring effectiveness are helpful, but some harder-to-quantify intangibles also help describe a church’s fitness.


Recently Leith Anderson, in a Leadership article (“7 Ways to Rate Your Church”), listed several tests of a healthy church atmosphere:

  1. Do people sense the presence of God here? “Experiencing the supernatural dwarfs everything else in rating a church’s atmosphere,” says Anderson.
  2. Is the church others-centered? Are people interested in new people, in what they need, and how they can help?
  3. Will guests see someone “who looks like me”? The more diversity of race, income level, and age, the more accessible the congregation will be to a range of seekers.
  4. Does the church manage conflict? What makes a healthy church is not the absence of problems but how problems are handled.
  5. Is there a sense of expectancy? Listen to how people describe the church. Is the primary verb tense past, present, or future? Healthy churches don’t focus on what God “used to do” around here, but on what God is doing, and on dreams for the future.

Ultimately, of course, we won’t know until we hear God’s “well done, good and faithful servant.”

February 15 News Letter

February 16, 2018 by  
Filed under Newsletter

Under The Elmtree

In This Edition


* Actuarial Assessment For Church – Part 2

* Tithe.ly for Ministry Support $$  IGTAM

* Book Reviews – Crossway Publications

* IUS Purpose – Inform-Encourage-Equip

* Pod Cast – WKUL.com/IgniteUS

* Links to Beneficial Articles

* This Date in History –

* BLOG-5 Reasons Churches R Dying Fast


Actuarial Assessment For Church Part 2


“The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music, and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing to stanch the flow of blood that is spilling from its true wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common.”
–David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), p.30.


In the February 1 issue of this News Letter we began a consideration of Actuarial Assessment of the church. In this edition of the News Letter we provide a partial list of  issues causing the decline of the church. We provide a proven process and resources that develop an accurate and clear portrait of the “life expectancy” of the church in which you serve. Facts are Facts. To ignore them is to cast yourself a victim of the issues that are rendering the church impotent. Intentional refusal to confront these issues will lead to  a church closing the doors sooner rather than later. Guaranteed.


What do we call people that have a serious life threatening malignancy yet refuse to seek treatment? FOOLISH – - and dead very soon! The number of churches with fewer than 100 in Sunday AM Services went up 9% from 2010 – 2015. There has been a 61 year unbroken decline in participation/attendance in the American church since 1956.


Please listen to the wisdom provided by Jim Collins, author of How The Mighty Fall. (All Pastors and Church Leaders would benefit greatly by purchasing and studying this book!) This is a study he completed on “Why some organizations embrace the change necessary to thrive and others die”.


I’ve come to see institutional decline like a disease – harder to detect but easier to cure in the early stages; easier to detect but harder to cure in the later stages. An institution (Church – tcf) can look strong on the outside but already be sick on the inside, dangerously on the cusp of a precipitous fall..


The following is a partial list of causal issues producing rapid and persistent decline in the American Church. If the church you lead has the majority of these issues it is already impotent and headed for hard times soon.


A Faulty Metric - Nearly ALL churches determine ministry effectiveness by numbers and activity. How many attend, how much do they give, how many did we baptize? This is due to embracing the wrong PURPOSE. The purpose of every church is Make Disciples! Just reading the bulletin in some churches will produce absolute exhaustion. The proper measure of ministry effectiveness is Transformation. Are people becoming more like Christ in Character and Conduct? Is there an objective process that equips people to measure with accuracy their transformation?


Demographic Age – The average composite age of many congregations is 65+. The ideal age of a healthy assembly is 36-42. When a church has an average Demographic Age of 65+ – their days are numbered. They may well close the doors in 3-6 years. Some will hang on for many years, but, they are impotent and ineffective. Yet, the refusal to focus on Transformation increases as the average Demographic Age goes up.


Absence of Conversions – Reliable research reveals that fewer than 5% of professing Christians ever share the Gospel with even one person in any given year. I challenge every pastor to systematically discover the reality of this fact in the congregation in which you serve. Pastors must both train their people and monitor their participation in the ministry of evangelism. Life produces life. No reproduction means ? ? ?


Community Connection – It is quite common in assessing the ministry of local churches to discover that they have little or no connection with the people and communities in which they exist. No connection results in no Christ-centered relationships and few if any genuine conversions.


Impotent Pulpits – “The broader problem is that a great deal of popular preaching and teaching uses the Bible as a pegboard on which to hang a fair bit of Christianized pop psychology or moralizing encouragement, with very little effort to teach the faithful, from the Bible, the massive doctrines of historic confessional Christianity”. (D. A. Carson)


Biblical Literacy – It is impossible to obey the Word of God when you have no knowledge of what God’s word says. Recent research on this topic reveals a continuing decline among professing evangelicals regarding a functional proficiency in applying Truth to life and ministry. Catechism 101 is a good place to begin.


Leadership DevelopmentLeadership is both caught & taught. When there are no leaders being groomed and prepared, it is not surprising that the church flounders for lack of Leadership. Credible leadership must be Modeled. Pitchers & Catchers are reporting to Spring Training in the next week or so. Professional Baseball has a strategic approach to discovering the next Sandy Cofax, Bob Feller, or Corey Cluber. They have a Farm System in which they prepare men to perform at the highest level. The church must encourage and equip men with competence for Leadership roles. Failure in this realm insures that the future of such a church is bleak.


Funding – Inadequate Funding is the cumulative impact of all of the above. When churches reach this plateau, several key factors come into play. They postpone or totally ignore facility maintenance issues. Major systems become inoperative. The aesthetic condition of the facility declines. They invest nothing in outreach and evangelism. They often reduce support for ministries outside of their own local church. They ‘survive’ by reducing the compensation of Staff. They become a poor imitation of what a church is designed to be and do. In this condition they disgrace the church and Christ Jesus as they flounder along in this pathetic state. Yet, their favorite theme is ‘We Shall Not Be Moved!’


Resource – Collins wrote an article titled The Silent Creep of Doom. This reveals the five stages of the death spiral that leads relentlessly to closure. I will send this to those who make such a request.


Tithe.ly For Ministry Support $$ – IGTAM 

A major challenge for every no-profit ministry (501-c3) is funding. Ministry is not money, but, it does require funding. We must generate additional revenue to fund travel as an important part of ministry expansion. When we are face to face with pastors and church leaders the prospect of them engaging the Leadership Development and Intentional Disciple Making Process we provide goes up exponentially.

This reality requires that we raise funds. We do this by appealing to people that believe in the value, importance, and Kingdom contribution of our ministry. They want to participate in the transformation of people and churches from cultural lethargy and spiritual impotence into maturing disciples and thriving assemblies. These churches grow numerically. Most importantly, people in these churches are transformed into the fullness of the image of Christ in Character and Conduct. That is the purpose of the church. That glorifies Christ.

Permit me to share a funding process employed by Clemson University. This simple process has raised millions of $$ for scholarships at this University. This has benefited many thousands of students. Read the following paragraph.


Originally, the letters IPTAY stood for “I Pay Ten a Year.” Begun in 1934 to give the Clemson athletic program the support it needed, IPTAY is now one of the most successful athletic fund raising organizations. IPTAY donors provide millions of dollars in scholarships for student-athletes and non-athletes alike. It also has provided substantial support for programs and facilities that help Clemson Athletics stay competitive in collegiate sports.


We are launching an important funding initiative for IgniteUS Ministries. This initiative is titled IGTAM = I GIVE TEN A MONTH. Most people reading this message can do this with ease. I once received this advice on Fund Raising – - “Never ask people to consider giving – - Ask them to give!” So, I am asking you to give – $10 a month. When each person receiving this message does so, our ministry, the pastors and church leaders we equip with leadership and disciple making skills, will be the benefactors. Churches will thrive and Christ will get the Glory! 


Here are several convenient ways to do this. Two of these are on our Web Site – www.igniteus.net.


1. On the Home Page click on the banner at the top labeled DONATE. Follow the Pay Pal Prompts.


2. On the Home Page click on the banner on the right labeled Online Giving. Follow the prompts. There is a process at this site that enables you to set up Automatic Monthly Contributions – very useful, simple, and user-friendly.


3. You may also mail contributions to IgniteUS PO Box 865 Cullman AL 35056. Thanks you for becoming a donor-partner in IgniteUS Ministries through IGTAM. Your greater reward will come from the Lord himself when you stand before him face to face. We believe the resources and encouragement you receive with each issue of our News Letter make this a very reasonable exchange. Thank You for being a faithful reader and a faithful leader in the Lord’s church. KUDOS!
Book Reviews 

Crossway Publications sends me pre-publication titles. I will write a review in the IUS News Letter of each title. I will publish a review in the March 1st News Letter of John Piper’s most recent title – Expository Exultation – Christian Preaching As Worship. This will be available in April. All those who love exposition and preaching will celebrate this resource. Piper makes a compelling case for the priority of expository and exegetically based preaching. This title will enhance your pulpit ministry and bless your efforts in this vital ministry. It will also cause you to rejoice in the privilege of preaching!


* IUS Purpose – Inform-Encourage- Equip


The ministry of IgniteUS was founded for the purpose of equipping pastors and other church leaders to lead with competence and excellence in every aspect of local church ministry. The purpose of every church is to Make Disciples fully formed in the Image of Christ in character and conduct. The persistent decline of the church in America is an undeniable fact. The vast majority of churches fail to measure ministry effectiveness with the proper Metric – Transformation. The evidence of regeneration is continuous transformation. No transformation should alert pastors to the probability that there has been no regeneration. Cf. the link below that addresses this issue. Are the pews filled with sheep or goats? Where you serve the Metric is?????



Pod Cast – WKUL.com/IgniteUS


IgniteUS began Pod Casting in January. These are posted on our web site every Tuesday. The content is a mix of resources for revitalization and interviews with Evangelical Leaders and pastors that have found the courage and stamina to embark on this risk-filled journey to ministry effectiveness. The radio station (WKUL FM 92.1) that broadcast my M-F and Sunday Radio programs is our host this for this endeavor. You will benefit by this resource.


The title of the Pod Cast is THRIVE. That is our desire for every pastor and every local church. We want you to thrive in making disciples, developing leaders, all of which is to Glorify Jesus Christ. There is a banner on our web site – - www.ignitues.net – - just click on that banner. This Pod Cast has the potential to reach 35,000 listeners. If you listen and find benefit in the content, encourage folks in your sphere of influence to listen as well, then contact us. THANKS. The address for the Pod Cast is www.wkul.com/igniteus. These messages are shaped by four factors. 1) Focus – each post will feature one single issue. 2) Theological Substance – our desire is that we provide information, encouragement, and equipping for ministry. 3) Just Plain Fun – it is wise and prudent to laugh and sometimes at ourselves. 4) Dialog – real communication is two-way. I want to hear from you; info@igniteus.net or 800 472 3764.


Here are some of the Christian Leaders that have agreed to participate in this endeavor and provide information, encouragement, and equipping to those who listen.

Dr. Don Whitney, Southern Seminary, Author and Professor.

Dr. Tom Ascol, Founders Ministries.(interviewed on 1/23)

Dr. David Wells, Gordon Conwell Prof. & Author of six titles from 1993 – 2014.

Dr. Nathan Finn, Prof. of Church History at Union University.


Numerous courageous Pastors who will share the truth about Reformation & Renewal in the local church – both success and failure. This ain’t for sissies folks! God can and will cause your ministry to THRIVE – - if and when you embrace and apply the ministry initiatives that the text requires for genuine transformation.







Links to Beneficial Articles

This post by Thom Rainer fits hand in glove with the theme of this Newsletter.



This post by Tim Challies on music is excellent. My Philosophy of Music is “If it is not TRUE – DO NOT sing it! Tim agrees!



This post by Thom Rainer is intended to be optimistic. You decide if his points are valid.



A thought provoking article from Tim Challies regarding the distinctives of a Reformed Perspective. Read and respond.



Are your pews filled with SHEEP or GOATS? David Platt speaking.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_GDUZKuSOw

This Date in History

1798 The first serious fist fight occurs in Congress.

BLOG – 5 Reasons Churches R Dying Fast!

Read and respond. THANKS!!

Read my BLOG – www.thetextsays.blogspot.com.

Also on the Home Page www.igniteus.net - A Monday Morning BLOG. (Currently – “5 Reasons Churches R Dying Fast“) New post on the 1st & 15th of each month. Comments welcome!

Home Page - Click on this link to go to our Home Page: http://www.igniteUS.net/

US Update

This Update is sent to you on the 1st and 15th of each month. Please send comments or questions to us at info@igniteUS.net. Or, you may go to our BLOG on the home page of our Web Site – click on Newsletter. THANKS!


Five Reasons Why Churches Are Dying and Declining Faster Today

January 25, 2018 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

In the past, I’ve been able to lead churches to growth. I can’t do it anymore. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

A pastor shared those sentences with me just three days ago.

He was frustrated. He was confused. He was exhausted.

And he is not alone.

With some exceptions, it is indeed more difficult to lead churches to growth. Such is a reality that is about 15 years in the making. The obvious question is “Why?” Allow me to articulate five of those reasons.

  1. Cultural Christianity is declining rapidly. It is really a misnomer to call it “cultural Christianity,” since it’s not true faith in Christ. In the past, many people felt it was culturally, economically, or politically advantageous to be a part of a congregation, even if they weren’t true believers in Christ. These attending non-believers padded our numbers. Or to say it another way, the pool of willing attenders has diminished greatly.

  2. The exit of the Builder generation. The Builder generation has kept many churches alive, even if the congregations are on life support. This generation, born before 1946, is fiercely loyal to institutions, including local churches. They stuck with congregations in good and bad times. But, in 2015, there were only 28 million Builders left. Another 13,000 Builders die every week. The loyal generation is few in number and will soon be no more.

  3. Migration from rural areas and small towns to the cities. In 1790, only 5% of Americans lived in cities. By the 1960s, the percentage of Americans in cities skyrocketed to 65%. Today over 80% of Americans are city dwellers. Rural and small-town churches held on tenaciously to their members for over two centuries. But the population base for those tenacious churches has dwindled dramatically.

  4. Faster church transfers. Those who are transferring from one church to another are concentrating in fewer churches. Simply stated, a few churches are getting bigger at the expense of smaller churches. While that phenomenon has been in play for quite a while, it is now accelerating. The old barrier that held people in specific churches – family connections, denominational loyalty, and loyalty to a specific congregation – are no longer barriers today. People move with great freedom from church to church.

  5. Slow response to change as change accelerates all around us. Many churches are incredibly slow to change. For most of our American history, the pace of cultural and technological change was sufficiently paced for churches to lag only five to ten years. Now churches are lagging 20 and 30 years as the pace of change increases dramatically. To many attendees and members, the church thus seems increasingly irrelevant. To be clear, I am speaking about issues of style, methodology, and awareness, not changing doctrine or biblical truths. A church guest I recently interviewed said it clearly: “I stuck with my parents’ church as long as I could. But when we had a big blow up over projection screens in the worship center, I had enough. I wanted to go to a church where matters of minutia were not issues to fight over.”

If you think it is more difficult to lead a church to growth, you are right. If you have noticed the decline in your church is greater, you are probably right as well. And if you are to the point of realization that your church may die in the next few years, it may come sooner than that.

Change or DIE!!

January 13, 2018 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Another church closed. This church had unbelievable potential. Indeed, it had its own “glory days,” but only for a season. But, 10 years ago, few would have predicted this church’s closure. Today, it is but another statistic in the ecclesiastical graveyard.

I know. We don’t compromise doctrine. I know. We must never say we will change God’s Word.

But many of our congregations must change. They must change or they will die.

I call these churches “the urgent church.” Time is of the essence. If changes do not happen soon, very soon, these churches will die. The pace of congregational death is accelerating.

What, then, are some of the key changes churches must make? Allow me to give you a fair warning. None of them are easy. Indeed, they are only possible in God’s power. Here are nine of them:

  1. We must stop bemoaning the death of cultural Christianity. Such whining does us no good. Easy growth is simply not a reality for many churches. People no longer come to a church because they believe they must do so to be culturally accepted. The next time a church member says, “They know where we are; they can come here if they want to,” rebuke him. Great Commission Christianity is about going; it’s not “y’all come.”
  2. We must cease seeing the church as a place of comfort and stability in the midst of rapid change. Certainly, God’s truth is unchanging. So we do find comfort and stability in that reality. But don’t look to your church not to change methods, approaches, and human-made traditions. Indeed, we must learn to be uncomfortable in the world if we are to make a difference. “We’ve never done it that way before,” is a death declaration.
  3. We must abandon the entitlement mentality. Your church is not a country club where you pay dues to get your perks and privileges. It is a gospel outpost where you are to put yourself last. Don’t seek to get your way with the music, temperature, and length of sermons. Here is a simple guideline: Be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. That’s the opposite of the entitlement mentality.
  4. We must start doing.  Most of us like the idea of evangelism more than we like doing evangelism. Try a simple prayer and ask God to give you gospel opportunities. You may be surprised how He will use you.
  5. We must stop using biblical words in unbiblical ways. “Discipleship” does not mean caretaking. “Fellowship” does not mean entertainment.
  6. We must stop focusing on minors. Satan must delight when a church spends six months wrangling over a bylaw change. That’s six months of gospel negligence.
  7. We must stop shooting our own. This tragedy is related to the entitlement mentality. If we don’t get our way, we will go after the pastor, the staff member, or the church member who has a different perspective than our own. We will even go after their families. Don’t let bullies and perpetual critics control the church. Don’t shoot our own. It’s not friendly fire.
  8. We must stop wasting time in unproductive meetings, committees, and business sessions. Wouldn’t it be nice if every church member could only ask one question or make one comment in a meeting for every time he or she has shared his or her faith the past week?
  9. We must become houses of prayer. Stated simply, we are doing too much in our own power. We are really busy, but we are not doing the business of God.

Around 200 churches will close this week, maybe more. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. The need is urgent.

Hear me well, church leaders and church members. For many of your churches the choice is simple: change or die.

Busyness Is Killing US!

December 12, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Busyness has become a trendy epidemic. And I think it’s slowly killing us. I’m almost afraid of asking friends to get together nowadays; I know it could be weeks before we find a date on the calendar that mutually works.


What are we so busy with that’s pulling us away from human connection?


Busyness has taken a large hold of my life, so much so that I’m fearful of the consequences. A few weeks ago I went away for the weekend to Seattle with my husband. On arrival he dropped me off at the hotel and went to find a parking spot, and I headed up to our room and waited there for a good thirty minutes while he trawled the streets for an optimal space.


As I waited for him alone in the room I realized I had nothing to do — probably for the first time in weeks, or even months. Within minutes I felt bored and was reaching for my phone, feeling annoyed when I didn’t have the password for the hotel Wi-Fi. In that panicked moment of what do I do now?

And then suddenly it hit me: I’m addicted to being busy.


Which is ironic because there has been so much advancement in technology that is based on simplifying my life to reduce that hectic pace. My smart phone, with its apps, is like an appendage. I depend on it to give me what I need, and fast. With it I can multitask so much better than I could a decade ago.


I should have plenty of downtime for my family and friends, right?


Life on Overdrive

The accessibility of smart phones and all the accompanying apps; ultra high speed internet, and the many modern conveniences that claim to make life faster and easier, have only left us with higher expectations and busy lives.


We are now able to pack more into our lives, and put pressure on ourselves to do so. But at what cost? Real human connection? Our health?


Technology advancements have helped lead us down this path but are they entirely to blame? When I compare my life to my mother’s at my age it’s like I’ve hit the playback button on my video stream. I can’t blame that on technology alone, so why is my life so much busier than hers ever was?


The Need for More

In the 1970s my mother kept a home and raised three kids. She didn’t work until we were all much older. Her social life revolved around friendships, the wall-mounted telephone, and the dinner table. Her world was so much smaller.


If my mother wanted to connect with someone she had to call them or knock on a door. She had to make the time for real conversation. Yes, those connections were few — she didn’t have the 700 Facebook friends I have — but they were real, consistent and regular.


But I want so much more than that. I want the career, the kids, the house, the social life, the vacations, the clothes … I could go on.


The problem is that society and technology have made it easier for us to have more. And the more we have, the more we want; the more want, the more we have to do to get it. We aren’t busy because we love the stress; we’re busy because we’re all trying to keep up with one another.


And why do we want to keep up? Because our real human needs have never changed — we want to belong, and to be accepted, seen and loved.


Authentic Living

How do we live authentically? In our efforts to use “busyness” as a way to keep pace with the people around us and feel like we belong, are we in fact disconnecting ourselves from what we truly desire?

It begins with living out of our core values. Does the pressure to put our kids in five activities a week come from a value, say, of connection and joy, or from a desire for our child to be just as good at baseball as Johnny next door?


And what will that child remember more: being pushed to excel in baseball, or laughing around the family dinner table?


When our lives are overloaded we need to start asking some hard questions about why we do what we do. Is it because the things we fill our life with bring us contentment and joy, or because we can do more, so we just do?


Slowing Down

Society is racing ahead at 100 miles an hour, but our hearts and brains don’t know how to keep up. Our needs are no different now than they were a century or millennium ago.


There is so much opportunity around us — it’s like being offered a whole cake at once instead of just a slice. But we don’t know how to eat the whole cake and feel good; so we need to learn to accept just a slice at a time.


Perhaps that one slice looks like concentrating on pursuing a dream, or connecting with family, or both. But it’s not everything all at once.


The opportunity to do more is a wonderful thing, but if we’re too “busy” rushing from one thing to the next to be able to slow down and enjoy the moment, it loses its value entirely. I think I need to take my own advice.


What does your “busy” look like? If your life is on overdrive, are the things keeping you busy in line with your core values?


Design a simple life. Start here. Start now.

You can design a life of less—and more. More of what you love, less of what you don’t. It’s a process, and we’re all in it together. We have created a 30-day email course that will inspire + encourage you on your journey

10 Characteristics of An Effective Pastor/Church Leader

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

1. I am a can-do person.
Strong teams are full of people who take accountability for themselves, and who feel most alive when they are putting their best foot forward.
2. This is not my job. This is my life.
2 Timothy 1:9 says, “He has saved us and called us to a Holy life”. This isn’t just about a job in ministry. This is about a lifestyle that reflects the transforming work of Jesus Christ.
3. I will serve the Lord with gladness.
“On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence.” Psalm 100:2 Ministry is hard, but if it isn’t also fun and full of gladness, we’re doing something wrong.
 4. Empowerment starts with me.
Strong ministries operate under the assumption that everyone is empowered to work hard, grow, overcome sin and temptation, serve others, confront conflict, make amends, take accountability and empower others to do the same.
5. I am not on the gossip train.
It’s so easy to get caught in the gossip train, if not in church itself, then in the blogosphere. Healthy ministries resist gossip – - no exceptions!
6. I am one of them.
No matter what team you are leading, what title you hold, or what title you hope to hold someday — we are all on the same team. We play different roles but are pointed toward the same objective.
7. I will bring those around me on the journey.
As a church leader, there are hundreds of people you try to “bring with you” on the journey. But the most important group of people you can bring with you is your own family. Your ministry won’t matter without them.
8. My tone of voice is not whining.
It is possible to have a good heart, but still come across as whining or complaining to others. How does my leadership sound to those around me? Leadership attitudes (real or perceived) are contagious.
9. I delegate but I don’t dump.
Do you see others around you as a means to an end, or are you also invested in what they are learning and who they are becoming?
10. My spirituality is attractive.
Our love for God, for people, and for life should be always be compelling to others.

Finishing Well

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Newsletter

Under The Elmtree

In This Edition


* Finishing Well – Will You?

* IUS Purpose – Inform-Encourage-Equip

* Scripture-God’s Word Living & Powerful

* Christian Hymns – O Worship The King

*  Links to Beneficial Articles

* Leadership Lessons – Prov. 16:18

* This Day In History – Africa Colonized

* Read My Blog – Consequences of Pride


Finishing Well

Hebrews 10:36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.


Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,


Statistics say that 60% to 80% of those who enter the ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career. Many pastors – I believe over 90 percent-start off right with a true call and the enthusiasm and the endurance of faith to make it, but something happens to derail their train of passion and love for the call.(http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36562)


In the ministry God has granted me I encounter with unwelcome frequency the work of that ‘roaring lion’ who seeks to devour pastors. This is always a painful reality. As Linus teaches us – - ‘we have met the enemy and it is us!’ This News Letter is focused on alerting each of us concerning the importance of Finishing Well. The article that follows was produced by Chuck Lawless. My prayer is that my readers are challenged by this post and equipped to Finish Well to the Praise & Glory of Jesus who is LORD!!

- – - – -

Today, I’m thinking about pastors I knew who finished well—those who faithfully served God all the way to death. Here are some of their characteristics that challenge me to live differently today.


1. They oozed humility. Though they, like all leaders, at times wrestled with a desire to be somebody, they knew from the beginning that the work of the gospel was not about them—it’s about Jesus.


2. They always knew they could be steps away from a fall. They weren’t so foolish as to think they could not fall. Their honest recognition of the possibility made them ever alert and prayerful.


3.  At the same time, the thought of failing Jesus was almost a foreign thought. They just loved Jesus, and serving Him meant more to them than anything. Even the thought of letting Him down broke their hearts


4. They planned to finish well. That is, they didn’t end well by accident. They made a commitment to finish well each day, and the faithful days became years.


5. They were firmly committed to their families. They adored their spouses and children, and everybody knew it.  Serving God meant building their homes on His Word, praying daily with their family, and protecting their time with them.


6. They had some kind of mentor in their lives. These relationships weren’t always formal, but they were intentional. The pastors I’ve known who finished well always had somebody walking with them and encouraging them.


7. They lived in the Word and on their knees. They knew the Word so well that it naturally flowed from them. Prayer was not ritual to them; it was relationship.


8. They were committed to integrity. Their “yes” really did mean “yes,” and their “no” really did mean “no” (Matt. 5:37). Never once did I question the truthfulness of their lives or their words.


9. They evangelized regularly. This characteristic may be surprising, but I can’t deny what I saw in their lives. These pastors wanted others to know about Jesus. Their world was first and foremost about Him.


10. Their only ambition was to please Jesus. Some of these pastors were elected to significant denominational positions, but none of them sought those roles. Hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21) was more important to them than hearing the accolades and applause of man.


My prayer is that you and I finish well, too. What characteristics have you seen in pastors who ran the race well?






* IUS Purpose – Inform-Encourage- Equip


The ministry of IgniteUS was founded for the purpose of equipping pastors and other church leaders to lead with competence and excellence in every aspect of local church ministry. The purpose of every church is to Make Disciples fully formed in the Image of Christ in character and conduct. The persistent decline of the church in America is an undeniable fact. The vast majority of churches fail to measure ministry effectiveness with the proper Metric -Transformation. The evidence of regeneration is continuous transformation. No transformation should alert pastors to the probability that there has been no regeneration. Where you serve the Metric is?????



* Scripture – God’s Word is Living & Powerful



Luther, Calvin, and others greatly used of God in bringing Reformation to the church were unanimous in the conviction that it is the Word of God itself, the Special Revelation of our God to us, and not the messenger that produces Reformation. Each edition will present a portion of God’s Word for meditation and edification.



Jeremiah 20:7-9 O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
* Classic Christian Hymns –



One of the primary teaching resources of the church is Hymnology – what we sing. Choose wisely and with theological integrity what is sung in the worship of the LORD! O Worship The King.



O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.


Links to Beneficial Articles


According to Roman Catholics the greatest ‘heresy’ in the Protestant faith system is ??



Recently my wife and I reflected on how The Gospel and The Reformation has shaped our lives for 60+ years. How about you?



Expository preaching systematically through books of the Bible. I personally believe this is the most beneficial means of establishing Biblical Literacy in the lives of the people you serve.



Leadership Lessons – Pride will bring you DOWN!


Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (gawown – arrogance, majesty, pomp, swelling = PRIDE) Crucify this beast daily the first thing every morning. 1 Peter 5:5 . . . Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Pride is insidious. It is baggage from the Fall. Every pastor/teacher must engage in continuous awareness of the destructive potential of PRIDE!


This Date in History

1884 Colonization of Africa organized at international conference in Berlin


BLOG – The Consequences of PRIDE!

Read and respond. THANKS!!

Read my BLOG – www.thetextsays.blogspot.com.

Also on the Home Page www.igniteus.net - A Monday Morning BLOG. (Currently – “The Consequences of Pride”) New post on the 1st & 15th of each month. Comments welcome!

Home Page - Click on this link to go to our Home Page: http://www.igniteUS.net/

US Update

This Update is sent to you on the 1st and 15th of each month. Please send comments or questions to us at info@igniteUS.net. Or, you may go to our BLOG on the home page of our Web Site – click on Newsletter. THANKS!


Consequences of Pride

November 8, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

I would like to explore the topic of humility and pride. Specifically, the consequences of pride.


James writes:


Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.


The point is that there is blessing found in humility. When we hold on to pride, there are consequences that result. Here are several consequences of pride:




Think about the person who is the know-it-all. They tend to drive people away. A prideful person will fail to ask for help because they will not be able to admit they need help. Because they fail to ask for help, they will end up going it alone. If someone comes along to help, a prideful person will quickly push them  away by making them feel unwanted. Pride will isolate us from others.


Disillusionment and Despair


If you put confidence in yourself, you will eventually be let down. There will come a time when your body will fail you. Your mind will fail you. Your money will fail you. Wise King Solomon recognized that even though he was considered the wisest man in the world, that his fate was the same as a fool (see Ecclesiastes 2:14). In Proverbs King Solomon also wrote:


Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 (ESV)


Remember that pride is too much belief in you


Lack of Development as a Leader


Pride prevents growth. It leaves us stagnated. Pride gives us a sense of accomplishment. We believe we have arrived. We close ourselves off from learning, from listening, and from opening ourselves to new ways of thinking and doing.


How many companies with a successful product failed to innovate? They were content with their success. Because they failed to innovate a new upstart company comes along with a new and innovative product. Before you know it, the formerly successful company is shuttering its doors. Blockbuster Video was an example of this. They were stuck with their brick & mortar stores. Netflix comes along and by the time Blockbuster tried to make the transition to online streaming video it was too late. Then there was Polaroid & Kodak. They once had a revolutionary instant camera, but they did not realize digital cameras were the way of the future.


We think we have got it all figured out. Are you teachable? Are you open to learning even in an area where you may be knowledgeable and accomplished? Talent alone can get you into the big leagues, but it is nurturing and refining that talent that wins championships. There are some athletes that when they make the big time, their ego is so large; they will not listen to their coach. But the athletes that lift the trophies are the ones that get past their egos, dedicate themselves to becoming better, and open themselves to new strategies and ways of playing the game.


Humble yourself, let the Lord lift you up to new heights never imagined! Take the time to learn and listen. Consider new possibilities with new ways of seeing and doing.

November 1 News Letter

November 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Newsletter

Under The Elmtree

In This Edition


* A History of Luther’s 95 Theses

* IUS Purpose – Inform-Encourage-Equip

* Scripture-God’s Word Living & Powerful

* Classic Christian Hymns – Holy Holy Holy

* Book Reviews-Some Pastors & Teachers

* Leadership Lessons – ID Dysfunction

* This Day In History – The Reformation

* Read My Blog – Reformation & Revival


A History of Luther’s 95 Theses

The following material is provided by a pastor friend of many years, Jack Williamson. This is from his book “Luther’s Hammer–a concise history of the Reformation.”. I trust this is challenging, informative, and enjoyable as we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Praise God for his Sovereign Providence and his infinite Grace.


It is tradition that the Protestant Reformation began on October 31, 1517 when the obscure Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, nailed a list of 95 theses to the front door of the cathedral at Wittenberg, Germany.  Luther prepared his list that he wanted to discuss and debate with Catholic colleagues who were supportive of the status quo.  On that Wednesday afternoon, he walked down to the Cathedral and nailed his list to the church’s front door.  Such an act sounds very bold, defiant, and rash; but it actually wasn’t.  The front door of the Cathedral was the community bulletin board where common notices were routinely posted.  If a local farmer needed to buy a cow or wanted to sell a used plow, he would post a notice on the church’s door.  But history will demonstrate that Luther’s list was no routine posting.


Luther’s theses presented an invitation for a robust discussion or even a formal debate.  Such public debates and discussions were quite common.  These were the days long before newspapers, radio, television, or any electronic devices.  Watching a debate was one of the more popular forms of entertainment of the day.  Martin wanted to initiate a discussion on one, any, or all of these ninety-five points.  He believed that these were issues where the Catholic Church’s teachings departed from the teaching of the Bible.


The content of his theses was nothing short of startling, defiant, and revolutionary.  Among the points were several that denied a human priest, or his work, was necessary for salvation.  The Church believed and taught that salvation could be obtained through its sacraments, but only properly ordained priests could perform them, therefore, as they saw it, a regularly ordained Catholic priest was essential for salvation.  Luther insisted that repentance should always be accompanied by a visible change in lifestyle and a person’s salvation could be legitimately questioned if there was no visible or tangible evidence of repentance.  He severely criticized the pope for not following the laws, policies, and regulations of his own Church.  He specifically singled out the pope for threatening dying people with centuries of languishing in Purgatory.  He wrote that the forgiveness of sins came only from God, and while the pope may reassure people that God has forgiven them, no pontiff had the authority to forgive sins.  In his list of theses, Luther seemed to equate Purgatory with Hell and stated that Heaven could be assured to an individual, which were both sharp departures from Roman Catholic orthodoxy.  He wrote that the veneration of relics was an evil practice and most of the artifacts were probably phony anyway.  After all, there were thousands of antique, square, and rusty nails that were being venerated as one of the three authentic nails used on the Lord’s cross.  How could dispensations be granted for the veneration of all them when it was obvious that very few, if any, could be authentic?


The theses also presented a much different picture of human nature than did Catholic dogma.  Luther insisted that there was no biblical proof that a person is ever freed from sin while alive.  He took the view of Augustine that human sin had rendered man dead in trespasses and sins totally unable to contribute to his own salvation.


He saved his most caustic remarks for his prime irritation—the sale of indulgences—which he boldly stated deceived people.  He wrote that they cannot save anyone, and they had no effect upon the dead.  Luther even suggested that the price of indulgences purchased for the dead ought to be returned to the purchasers by the pope, and the notion that punishment in Purgatory could be removed or even lessened by giving money to the Church was utter nonsense.  A person who thinks he or she is saved by purchasing an indulgence is damned along with the cleric who sold it.  Martin pointed out that the whole concept of indulgences removed the need for contrition and humility.  It created the impression that salvation can be obtained by earthly riches, which he labeled as a thoroughly absurd and a conspicuously unscriptural teaching.  If one person could afford to purchase an indulgence and have his or her sins forgiven, and another person was too poor to afford such a certificate and could not afford to have his sins forgiven, the whole idea of grace was utterly destroyed.  It wasn’t grace that saved, but gold.  Such a concept, Luther wrote, contradicted real repentance.  Exercising Christian love may make one a better person, but buying an indulgence doesn’t improve a soul.  He flatly said that indulgences were a waste of money, and that money was being sucked out of the hands of people who couldn’t afford such needless expenditures.  Martin went so far as to label Indulgences as ecclesiastical intimidation.  Never one to mince words or hide his opinion, Luther also wrote that if the pope knew how much indulgences actually cost people, he would destroy St. Peter’s that was largely built on funds derived from indulgences.  He even suggested that the pope, instead of using tithes and gifts, should use his own vast wealth to build St. Peter’s and give it to the people as a gift of pontifical grace.  This fiery monk observed that in his day the Gospel of Christ was being preached less and indulgences were being preached more.


This posting became the single act that ultimately pried the Catholic fingers off of the neck of Europe and ushered in freedom of religion throughout the region.  There is no question that this act was responsible for the popularity of America, the New World, as a safe refuge from the religious and civil turmoil of Europe.  It also catapulted religious freedom into the foundational documents of the United States of America, making it an essential value in American society.



* IUS Purpose – Inform-Encourage- Equip



The ministry of IgniteUS was founded for the purpose of equipping pastors and other church leaders to lead with competence and excellence in every aspect of local church ministry. The purpose of every church is to Make Disciples fully formed in the Image of Christ in character and conduct. The persistent decline of the church in America is an undeniable fact. The vast majority of churches fail to measure ministry effectiveness with the proper Metric -Transformation. The evidence of regeneration is continuous transformation. No transformation should alert pastors to the probability that there has been no regeneration. Where you serve the Metric is?????



* Scripture – God’s Word is Living & Powerful



Luther, Calvin, and others greatly used of God in bringing Reformation to the church were unanimous in the conviction that it is the Word of God itself, the Special Revelation of our God to us, and not the messenger that produces Reformation. Each edition will present a portion of God’s Word for meditation and edification.



Daniel 4:34-35 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”


* Classic Christian Hymns – Holy Holy Holy


One of the primary teaching resources of the church is Hymnology – what we sing. The following hymn has been a favorite of mine. It was sung many Sundays as the opening hymn in the worship service of the church I attended. It presents a glorious and accurate portrait of the God we worship


Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!.




Book Reviews – Some Pastors & Teachers by Sinclair Ferguson 

Effective Leaders are readers. A recent survey of effective leaders revealed that they read 60 books each year. The only way you will accomplish this important element in your leadership is to establish a plan and faithfully do what you set out to do. You may begin with a modest goal, 12 books a year, and then incrementally increase that number. Note – the issue is NOT the number of books you read. The issue is do you glean valuable insights as you read and apply them in your ministry? We provide a Learning Covenant that facilitates this objective.


Some Pastors and Teachers is a volume for every minister’s study and indeed for the bookshelves and bedside tables of everyone who has a concern for the ministry of the gospel and the well-being of the church in the twenty-first century. In many ways, it reflects the biblical vision of what every minister is called to be: pastor, teacher, counsellor, and example—but also a man who is growing spiritually, both in understanding and in character, before the eyes of his congregation.


In five sections and thirty-nine chapters, Sinclair B Ferguson writes on pastor-teachers whose life and work have left an indelible mark on his own life, and then leads us in a series of chapters on the teaching of John Calvin, John Owen and the seventeenth century Puritans. This is followed by studies of Scripture, the ministry of the Spirit, the nature of Biblical Theology, the work of Christ, adoption, the nature of the Christian life and other important doctrines. The final section discusses various aspects of preaching, including preaching Christ from the Old Testament, the importance of theology, reaching the heart, and concludes with a decalogue for preachers. All this, as the epilogue makes clear, is set within the context and goal of doxology.


Here is a book to return to again and again, for instruction, for challenge, and also for enjoyment. While written particularly with ministers in view its style makes it accessible to all. Dr Ferguson describes Some Pastors and Teachers as a series of small gifts for fellow-ministers and others, written as an expression of the love of Christ. It is calculated to help both ministers of the gospel and entire congregations to realize Paul’s vision of churches growing up into Christ as they are nourished and taught by their pastors and teachers.




Leadership Lessons – Identify Dysfunctions


Every church has some level of dysfunction. It is crucial that the leadership team identifies and corrects these areas of dysfunction. Failure to do so renders that ministry less capable of maximum effectiveness. If you do not know how to do this, call 803 413 3509. We will be happy to provide resources that produce an objective and accurate profile of the dusfunctions and a means to correct these ministry killers.


This Date in History

1517 Martin Luther posts 95 theses on Wittenberg church – that action launched the Protestant Reformation


Read and respond. THANKS!!

Read my BLOG – www.thetextsays.blogspot.com.

Also on the Home Page www.igniteus.net - A Monday Morning BLOG. (Currently – “Characteristics of Genuine Revival”) New post on the 1st & 15th of each month. Comments welcome!

Home Page - Click on this link to go to our Home Page: http://www.igniteUS.net/

US Update

This Update is sent to you on the 1st and 15th of each month. Please send comments or questions to us at info@igniteUS.net. Or, you may go to our BLOG on the home page of our Web Site – click on Newsletter. THANKS!


Next Page »