Thom S. Rainer's Blog, page 27

December 5, 2016

It is likely the single day of the year more unchurched decide to visit a church.

It is an incredible opportunity for most congregations.

While Easter is the day most churchgoers decide to show up at the same time, Christmas Eve is indeed prime time for the unchurched. Why is that? Here are five key reasons:

The Christmas seasons brings family members together from disparate locations. In many homes, there is likely to be a mix of churched and unchurched family members on Christmas Eve. The unchurched are often encouraged to go to a Christmas Eve service with their Christian family members.
Most unchurched have some sentimental attachment to Christmas. They may not be overtly religious, but they have some warm memories of Christmas Eve and the entire Christmas season.
Most unchurched know and like the songs of Christmas. They are confident they can go to a church service on Christmas Eve and hear those songs.
The unchurched are looking for hope in the Christmas season. Many of them come on Christmas Eve expecting to hear a message of hope or to sing the songs of the hope-filled message of Christ’s birth.
Christmas is one of the few times tradition is embraced by most people, especially the unchurched. Thus the unchurched fully expect to walk into a Christmas Eve service and to sense, hear, and embrace those traditions.

Our research points toward this singular day as an opportunity to reach people churches may never reach otherwise. Here are some concluding points to consider.

Don’t count on Christmas day to be a good day to reach the unchurched. They are busy with family opening gifts and enjoying meals.
Keep Christmas Eve services brief. Most are around 30 minutes, rarely more than 45 minutes.
Most churches do not have childcare for the service. They promote it as a family service. That’s another reason to keep it brief.
Any message or preaching should be brief as well, around 10 minutes.
Sing the well-known songs of Christ’s birth; keep it traditional and simple.
Many churches end the Christmas Eve service with a candlelight song, typically “Silent Night.”
Make certain you have a way to capture the guest information.
Make certain you have a plan in place to follow up, even if it’s just a brief email.

Christmas Eve is a critically important day to reach the unchurched. Share with me your thoughts and what your church does.

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Published on December 05, 2016 02:00 • 7 views

December 4, 2016

Location: Valencia, Pennsylvania

Pastor: Gregory Wiest

Weekly Worship: 8:45 & 11:00 AM, Eastern

Fast Facts: Glade Run is a church in transition. However, through the changes, they are growing and are reaching young families in the Valencia, PA, area. Last week, they hosted their annual women’s lunch to benefit the local Meals on Wheels program. Please pray for this ministry as well as their continued community outreach this Christmas season.


“Pray for . . .” is the Sunday blog series at We encourage you to pray for these churches noted every Sunday. Please feel free to comment that you are praying as well.

If you would like to have your church featured in the “Pray for…” series, fill out this information form..

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Published on December 04, 2016 02:00 • 9 views

December 3, 2016

Earlier this week at

Five Personal Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way
The Intersection of Theology and Worship featuring Louie Giglio
Five Dangers of the Church Cartel
Five Reasons You Should Start (or Continue) Blogging in 2017
The Relationship Between a Pastor and Worship Leader featuring Jim Shaddix


Why Pastors Are Committing SuicideSarah Eekhoff Zylstra

Pastors aren’t immune to the rising suicide rates. More than half of pastors have counseled people who were later diagnosed with a mental illness (59 percent), and about a quarter say they’ve experienced some type of mental illness themselves (23 percent). According to LifeWay, 12 percent have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.


Why Big Church Solutions Can’t Fix Small Church ProblemsKarl Vaters

You’re looking for help to make your church better, healthier, stronger and more kingdom-minded, but almost everything you find comes from a big church perspective. That’s not bad. But it often means there’s very little, if anything in it to help you in a small church context.


How Your Control Freak Tendencies Stunt Your Church’s GrowthCarey Nieuwhof

There’s a lid that comes with your control freak tendencies. You will eventually hit a wall in which the size of your church shrinks back to the size of your personal span of care. Until you let go. In other words, if you want to limit your church’s growth, attempt to control everything.


One Big Way to Reduce Ministry StressSam Rainer

The way you counter rising stress levels is to correspondingly raise your level of compassion for others. Obviously, this mentality is not natural. When I’m stressed, I have about as much compassion as a boxing champ stepping into the ring to defend his title. Or worse, I want to go full Bob Newhart on people in my counseling sessions. Since the point of ministry is not to beat people up, something has to give. Here are some practical steps in order to raise your level of compassion during a season of rising stress.


7 Tips to Make Your Sermons ShorterJeremy Roberts

In a previous post, I established the WHY behind preaching shorter sermons, and in this post I want to explain the HOW behind decreasing your sermon length.


3 Common Ways Churches Overcomplicate Their CalendarsEric Geiger

A busy church calendar can keep people at church and away from the broader culture. Not only is mission thwarted but people also have a difficult time navigating what their next step at the church is. When there is a plethora of programs/events on the calendar, it is hard to know which ones are really important. How do churches get to an overcomplicated church schedule? How does busyness creep in? Here are three common ways:


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Published on December 03, 2016 04:00 • 16 views

December 2, 2016

Podcast Episode #282

SUBSCRIBE: iTunes • RSS • Stitcher • TuneIn RadioGoogle Play

Jim Shaddix joins us to discuss what a healthy relationship between the pastor and worship leader looks like in the local church.

Some highlights from today’s episode include:

“One of the hardest things to do as a worship leader is to worship personally.”
“The tough part of a pastor working with a worship pastor is when they don’t see eye to eye on worship practice.”
“Worship leading should be a disciple-making event.”
“If you are going to teach theology through music, the worship pastor needs a good theological lens.”
“The personal discipleship of a worship leader will show up in the public worship leading.”
“Humility and genuineness are needed in a worship pastor.”
It is difficult for a worship leader to plan a service effectively when no input is provided by the pastor.
“Mentoring should be a part of all church ministry staff relationships.”

About Dr. Jim Shaddix:

Dr. Jim Shaddix serves as Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina  He has pastored churches in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Colorado, and also served as Dean of the Chapel and professor of preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans. Jim earned a B.S. in Education from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama, a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Preaching from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Episode Sponsors

Vanderbloemen Search GroupVanderbloemen Search Group is the premier pastor search firm dedicated to helping churches and ministries build great teams. They’ve helped hundreds of churches just like yours find their church staff and are uniquely geared to help you discern who God is calling to lead your church.

Find out more about Vanderbloemen Search Group by visiting

mbts_banner1_rainerMidwestern Seminary, one of the fastest growing seminaries in North America, exists to train leaders For The Church. The local church is God’s “Plan A” for the proclamation of the gospel, and there is no Plan B. And this is Midwestern’s vision and heartbeat—equipping pastors and other ministry leaders who are called to expand God’s mission in the world through the local church. At Midwestern Seminary: they train leaders ‘For The Church.’

Visit them online at and start your ministry training today.


If you have a question you would like answered on the show, fill out the form on the podcast page here at If we use your question, you’ll receive a free copy of Who Moved My Pulpit?

Resources Mentioned in Today’s Podcast

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Published on December 02, 2016 02:00 • 17 views

December 1, 2016

By Jonathan Howe

I’ve been a sporadic blogger for the past few years. However, my weekly post here at has created a routine for blogging for which I am grateful. As we look ahead to 2017, I want to encourage you, the readers of, to consider starting (or continuing) a blog next year.

There are several reasons many people begin blogging—many of which can be quite selfish. Fame, prestige, money, or job freedom is not necessarily a bad reason to begin blogging. But if one of those reasons is your driving motivation for blogging, your journey into blogging will be likely short-lived and frustrating. Most bloggers never become famous, most never make money from their site, and most can’t stick with the schedule blogging demands.

All that being said, I do have five positive reasons you really should consider blogging in 2017. If done correctly—and with the proper motivation—maybe a modest amount of prestige and a little side income might come your way as a bonus.

Discipline carries over into other aspects of life. Most new bloggers don’t realize the demands a blog can place on time and creativity. However, once the discipline of blogging is developed, it can benefit you in other aspects of life. Maintaining a blog practically forces you to develop routines and content plans. These routines can be mimicked in your dietary planning, workout regimens, personal discipleship, and relationships. A successful blog may not always mean more page views. Personal growth through the discipline of blogging can be success in and of itself.
Blogging forces you to think more about a subject. We live in a hot take society. There are far too many commentators online and on television who speak before they think. Blogging can help you avoid a hot take mindset if you let it. Yes, some bloggers write before they really think about the words. But many of the most well-known bloggers online put a great amount of thought into their words. To them, every word matters. And the more you think about what you write, the more you grow and develop as a blogger and as a person.
A personal website adds credibility in your professional life. Regardless of your profession, having a professional-looking website helps add credibility. When it comes to dining, we eat with our eyes first. A meal that looks appetizing will psychologically taste better than one that doesn’t—even if it’s the same dish. The same goes with a personal website or blog. If you have an eye-catching site, you will be taken more seriously than if you don’t. This is one of the many reasons I’m a fan of the websites Mere Agency builds. If you’re intimidated about the technical or design work it takes to get a blog running or upgraded, they can help you out.
You network with people you might never have met otherwise. Along with your credibility, your network of friends and acquaintances is likely to grow as you blog. In any given month at, we have readers from every country in the world and commenters from many of them as well. There is no way we will ever meet all of our readers or visit every country our readers live in. But the number of people we have met through this site is incalculably greater than it would be if did not exist. The same will be the case when you start consistently blogging.
Blogging can accentuate discipleship of the readers. This might be the most important aspect of blogging if you are a pastor. Pastors, you have the opportunity to speak into the lives of your congregation on a more regular basis when you blog. I encourage you to capitalize on the opportunity you have through blogging and use it to further the discipleship of your congregation.

Have any of you who blog realized these benefits? What other benefits might you add? If you don’t blog, what are some benefits you would hope to realize if you did?

Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.
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Published on December 01, 2016 03:00 • 14 views

November 30, 2016

The pastor did not see it coming.

Sure, there were some hints and signs, but nothing to prepare him for the meeting on Saturday with the personnel committee.

He was told he needed to resign. There was no explanation given. He had only been given positive reviews to this point. Some of the people on the personnel committee had been his supporters and friends.

He was shocked.

The pastor was leading change in the church. The church was growing and vibrant. But a couple of weak staff members didn’t like the direction and expected accountability. They teamed with the known church bully and went before the personnel committee. They presented their perspectives.

The pastor never was asked his perspective. He could have fought the weak personnel committee and likely won. But he didn’t want to tear apart a church he loved.

He resigned.

For the sake of the church he loved, he resigned.

He was yet another victim of the church cartel.

A church cartel is an alliance of bullies, bully-followers, carnal Christians, and even non-Christians in the church. Its ultimate goal is to get its way. It feeds off of selfish power.

We don’t like to talk about church cartels. After all, it’s not the Christian thing to do. But they exist in too many churches. And if they are not exposed, they will continue to wreak havoc.

Here are five of the very dangerous realities of the church cartel:

When a cartel is allowed power, the church is already unhealthy. The cartel is, by its definition, self-centered and power-driven. A church is already very sick if members remain silent and do not confront this evil directly.
A church cartel leaves carnages of wounded and dying people. If you have any doubts about this danger, please see my post on “Autopsy of a Deceased Pastor.” See the comments. See the pain and questions and defeat the cartel leaves behind.
Church cartels drive away healthy leaders. Some of these leaders are driven away by the cartel. Others leave on their own accord because they want to be in a joyous and healthy church. Their departure exacerbates the problems in these churches.
Church cartels cause church leaders to work from a posture of fear. Instead of moving forward in faith, church leaders often spend more time worrying about how their decisions will impact the cartel. These leaders know the cartel will come after them if they go contrary to the carnal group’s wishes.
We are told in Scripture to manifest the fruit of the Spirit; the church cartel causes the church to do just the opposite. Galatians 5:22-23 is clear about the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Church cartels bring hate, discord, anxiety, impatience, evil, fear, brutality, and chaos.

Churches that have cartels usually know they are present. They know who the bully is. They know who the bully followers are. They see them. They hear them. And they often fear them.

Courageous leaders must confront and stop church cartels. If no one is willing, the church is already on a path toward decline and death.

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Published on November 30, 2016 02:00 • 20 views

November 29, 2016

Podcast Episode #281

SUBSCRIBE: iTunes • RSS • Stitcher • TuneIn RadioGoogle Play

Louie Giglio joins us to discuss the wedding of worship and theology and how the Passion movement has made that a cornerstone of its existence for the past two decades.

Passion is an annual gathering of 18-25 year olds. The next event will take place January 2-4, 2017, in Atlanta, GA, at the Georgia Dome, with more than 60,000 college students expected to fill up the dome and raise the banner of Jesus. Also, this week is a big price break registration deadline—prices go up December 1 so college students and their leaders need to register by Wednesday, November 30 this week to get the best prices. As a bonus to our listeners, if you want to save $20 off of the current price, use the rate code SAVE$20 at checkout.

Some highlights from today’s episode include:

“Worship is our response to who God is and what He has done for us.”
“A life lived best is a life lived for what matters most.”
“The gospel is the engine of worship. Without the gospel, there is no worship.”
“The biggest competitor to worship is a shortsightedness to the gospel.”
“There’s a new generation coming and someone has to be there to point them to Jesus.”
“We didn’t set out to make Passion worship albums. We set out as a theological movement with a theological core.”
“The greatest thing in time, space, and eternity is the fame, the name, and the glory of Jesus Christ.”

Episode Sponsors

mbts_banner1_rainerAre you getting prepared for the changing ministry landscape? Get your Master of Divinity degree at Midwestern Seminary. The M.Div—Midwestern’s flagship degree program—is their primary track for ministry preparation. At just 81 hours, the Midwestern M.Div offers a complete foundation for full-time ministry leaders, offering everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Join other students in vibrant Kansas City as you train in a unique collaborative environment focused on the local church or study online in your current ministry context. Midwestern Seminary is developing a new culture of discipleship devoted to the local church and committed to taking God’s unchanging Word into a rapidly changing world. Join the movement today.

Find out more at

Vanderbloemen Search GroupVanderbloemen Search Group is the premier pastor search firm dedicated to helping churches and ministries build great teams. They’ve helped hundreds of churches just like yours find their church staff and are uniquely geared to help you discern who God is calling to lead your church.

Find out more about Vanderbloemen Search Group by visiting


If you have a question you would like answered on the show, fill out the form on the podcast page here at If we use your question, you’ll receive a free copy of Who Moved My Pulpit?

Resources Mentioned in Today’s Podcast

Passion Conferences
Passion City Church
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Published on November 29, 2016 03:41 • 3 views

November 28, 2016

I am not a great leader.

In fact, there are times I’ve wondered if I am even a good leader.

I have positional leadership, but that does not mean I am truly a leader.

There are several reasons for this rather negative self-assessment, but the essence of my own evaluation comes from my failure to learn quickly and adjust. It’s one thing to make a mistake as a leader; we all do. But it’s another to make a mistake and not learn from it immediately. That reality describes me way too often.

My transparency is not one of false humility. I am sharing these five lessons with the hopes and prayers it will help others. These are lessons I’ve learned the hard way because I have too often failed to adjust even when I’ve known I need to do so.

I sometimes am unprepared to lead on a given day because I have not been in the Word. Think for a moment of the absurdity of my disobedience. I have the opportunity to be in God’s Word, to hear directly from Him, and I fail to do so. I cannot imagine a more blatant act of poor leadership than this one.
I have almost given up right before my greatest victories as a leader. I know. At least I didn’t give up. At least I got to realize God’s victories for me. But it begs the question: How many times have I really given up and, thus, failed to see His way to victory? How many times have I been a quitter instead of a leader?
I have made more mistakes by moving too slowly than moving too quickly. I knew I needed to make that personnel move. I knew it was best for the organization and, ultimately, the person involved. Wise counselors around me told me so as well. But I hesitated. I knew that delay would not solve anything. To the contrary, it would only exacerbate the problem. So I led from a posture of fear instead of faith. The problem ultimately was so much worse than it needed to be.
I have followed others dreams instead of my own. I’ve had a number of well-intended friends who “knew” what was best for my life. And though I really knew differently, I went their way instead of God’s way for my life. Every time, though I knew better, my decision ended up being a bad decision. There’s nothing wrong with seeking counsel. But it’s totally wrong to go down a path that is not your own.
I have failed at humility. I really thought I was this great guy who had the answers. Sometimes I thought I was the smartest person in the room. Too often I have shown my rear end (figuratively please) rather than show my heart. I am not God’s gift of leadership to the world. Unfortunately, I have sometimes acted like I am.

Again, my purpose in this post is neither self-deprecation nor false humility. The purpose is to provide a clear and urgent warning for others lest they go down the forsaken path I should have never traveled.

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Published on November 28, 2016 02:00 • 15 views

November 27, 2016

Location: Chandler, Texas

Pastor: Carl George

Weekly Worship: 11:00 AM, Central

Fast Facts: Macedonia Baptist Church is 116 years old, and while there are fewer than 100 members, they have seen about a 20% increase in the past eight months. Much of the growth has been students and kids and has led the church to start a children’s worship service. Please pray for their women’s missions group as they provide snacks for Meals on Wheels each week as well as their brotherhood ministry which provides food for less fortunate families in the community. Also, please be in prayer for their holiday canned food drive, their holiday meal program , and their upcoming Conference for Young Men. Finally, please pray that Macedonia Baptist will continue to be a positive active force in their community and a beacon of light that brings lost souls to Christ.


“Pray for . . .” is the Sunday blog series at We encourage you to pray for these churches noted every Sunday. Please feel free to comment that you are praying as well.

If you would like to have your church featured in the “Pray for…” series, fill out this information form..

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Published on November 27, 2016 04:17 • 19 views

November 26, 2016

Earlier this week at

“I Want My Old Church Back!”—Five Responses
8 Causes of Concern for Bible Belt Churches
Seven Things to Consider When Your Sermon Stinks
Thankful…for You
Four Qualities of an Effective Worship Leader


6 Leadership Lessons Sports Taught Us in 2016Art Rainer

History was made, and some of the greatest athletes of our time hung up their spikes, cleats, and goggles. It was also a year when sports gave us a few great leadership lessons. What leadership lessons did sports teach us in 2016? Here are a few:


12 Ways to Know If You’re Pastoring Like a Boss – Or Like a LeaderKarl Vaters

Sadly, too few people in positions of authority know the difference between being a boss or being a leader. Mostly, because we haven’t grasped servanthood. There are some simple ways to tell the difference between a boss and a servant leader. And they come, not surprisingly, from the life and example of Jesus.


7 Counter-Cultural Opportunities Most Church Leaders Simply MissCarey Nieuwhof

Why are these skills slipping away? Because, for example, when you lose the reason to love each other (a commitment to a Saviour who loves you), you very often lose the motivation for loving others. Self becomes king. In fact—and here’s the surprise—some of the things Christians have always valued are the things the culture most needs and wants.


Your Best Sermons are Your Least FavoriteNicholas McDonald

For me, I value: Excellence. Fluidity. Choice Words and Phrases. Consistency: nothing deviates from my plan or point. No stuttering, no wandering, nothing unpredictable or unexpected. But the congregation often values something else: Electricity. Authenticity. Spontaneity. Genuine Connection. A moment being shared, for the first time, together. In other words: congregants value the sense that their presence is what makes a sermon work.


The Common Sin of Middle Age BelieversBarry York

Being a middle-aged believer myself, my real concern is speaking to my own heart and my own age group. For I wonder aloud if complacency is not our most common sin? We have met many challenges that youth presented. We have taken risks and secured through work many goods. The Lord has blessed our efforts for his kingdom, and we begin to rest on our laurels.


40 Reasons to Be Thankful for PastorsBrandon Hilgemann

Some pastors have given the title a bad name. But for the most part, from my experience, the majority of pastors I have met are sincerely doing their best to follow Jesus and remain faithful to their call. For that, we owe them our gratitude.


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Published on November 26, 2016 04:00 • 15 views

Thom S. Rainer's Blog

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