We filmed this like 10 years ago for a Dare 2 Share conference. We must have been trying to make some spiritual point or something but it’s still pretty funny. Sadly, I make a good perpetrator and I may just have to grow back the mullet. HT Danny Oertli, Karl Wheeler and Megan Isaacson.
Someone once said, “Prayer changes nothing!” Of course this was a shock-value declaration that drove to a deeper point. What was it? The only thing that prayer changes is us!
While I agree that prayer changes us I’m fully convinced Biblically and experientially that prayer changes actual situations. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Moses prayed like it would actually change God’s mind (and it did!)
“Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, ‘O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.” Exodus 32:11-14
2. Joshua prayed like it would stop the sun from going down (and it did!)
“On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.” Joshua 10:12,13
3. Hannah prayed like it would result in her having a child (and it did!)
The High Priest, Eli, thought she was drunk but, instead, she was filled with a passionate prayer that so intoxicated the heavens it resulted in Samuel being born, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him” 1 Samuel 1:27.
4. Elijah prayed like it would actually change the situation (and it did!)
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” James 5:16-18
If he had not have prayed the rain would not have stopped and started again. Prayer changed the situation!
5. David prayed like it would stop the plague (and it did!)
“David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.” 2 Samuel 24:25
6. Jesus prayed like it would raise Lazarus from the dead (and it did!)
“So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.” John 11:41-44
Jesus was so confident that God would answer the prayer in his heart that the only reason he prayed it out loud was so that others would be encouraged by it.
7. Jesus said that we can pray like it will change situations (and it will!)
Jesus promised us, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” John 14:13. If our motive is to glorify God then he will give us what we ask for. This means that situations will change and God will be glorified as a result!
Actually this blog could be titled, “100 reasons why I believe prayer changes things” and it would still be too short! From cover to cover prayer is constantly a divinely appointed wrestling match between God and his people to forge and form human events.
To say that the only thing that prayer changes is us is kind of an arrogant statement. It makes prayer a self-help therapy instead of a kingdom advancing force. It implies that God is not sovereign enough to decide that prayer can be used as a vehicle to influence his decisions. Our Father is not an insecure King who must micromanage every detail of every situation. Yes, there are certain things he has decreed but, within the boundaries of his sovereignty, he allows for situations to be influenced significantly by the prayers of his people.
Oh how much we miss when we underestimate the power of God unleashed through our prayers!
By the way, I’d love to have you on our prayer team. Together we can energize a generation to evangelize the world. Click here to join our prayer crew! And believe me when I say, your prayers WILL make a difference!
God did so many amazing things this last week at Lead THE Cause in Chicago that, by the end of the week, the miraculous seemed normal! It truly felt like the book of Acts!
The Word of God spread and multiplied.
The believers spent time constantly in prayer.
There was no needy person among them.
Midway through the week I posted a blog of highlights (you can read it here) and, after that post, great things continued to happen! Here are just a few of them…
The teenagers came back from sharing their faith on fire for THE Cause! After spending two full afternoons on the city streets of Chicago engaging complete strangers in Gospel conversations the teenagers were pumped up. When the pumped up teenagers were coming back into the auditorium from the outreach experience it sounded like a dance party. I remember telling Livia, our stage manager (on loan from Switzerland by the way), “Do you hear that sound? That’s the sound of evangelism!”
We equipped teenagers to “Ask, Admire and Admit” by learning to ask questions, admiring what they can about what someone else believes and admitting the reason they are a Christian is because they desperately needed Jesus to save them. This little strategy for evangelism made a big impact in helping teenagers trigger Gospel conversations and not just making evangelistic presentations.
In addition teenagers had the opportunity to engage three friends with the gospel (one via text, one via phone call, and one via letter) over the course of the week. Many put their faith in Jesus as a result! I can’t wait to hear more stories as they roll in from all of these conversations!
Midway through the week I challenged teenagers to prayerfully consider becoming a full-time overseas missionary. I reminded them that everyone was a missionary but that there was a need for those who are exclusively focused on reaching those who’ve never heard the message of Jesus in a foreign country. If they were called that week to be a missionary they could mark an X on my arm with a sharpie. By the end of the week I had 14 marks on my arm (my prayer was for 10!)
Another very exciting part of the week for me was the “internationals”! We had Donovan from South Africa, Jeffery from Canada, Callum from Australia, Gustavo from Puerto Rico and, of course, Livia from Switzerland. All of them have plans to go back to their respective countries and multiply what they’ve learned in their own contexts. We spent the day with Donovan yesterday brainstorming how these same Gospel Advancing values could transform the young people of South Africa from jobless and hopeless to a Godly gang of on-fire, Jesus-loving, Gospel-sharing continent changers!
Please pray for all of these brothers (and sister) as they take what they’ve learned back to implement in a way that fits their context and fuels THE Cause!
And, of course, one of my highlights was the commissioning service on Friday night. Almost 600 teenagers signed “The X” to show that they were committed to going back to make and multiply disciples through the power of Christ! Pray with me that God uses them as they do! And pray for their youth leaders as they coach them along the way!
There were so many highlights for me this last week from outreach to hanging out with our Sonlife partners-in-crime (against the forces of darkness!) to worshipping with Stephen Miller and his band to eating Chicago-style pizza to chatting it up with Zane Black and Wilson McSwain in late night discussions.
If you were at Lead THE Cause in Chicago last week what was your highlight?
2. Conversations with teenagers in the hallways. So many teenagers from so many places ready to share their faith!
3. The Prayer Meeting at Moody Memorial Church. It was so powerful to hear teenagers read their “letters to God” that they wrote after a prayer walk through downtown Chicago. The power of these prayers brought tears to many eyes (including mine) as these teenagers called out to God on behalf of their lost friends.
4. The “Internationals”…this week we have India, Canada, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Australia and New Zealand represented! These men of God are ready to take what they learn at Lead THE Cause back to their own countries! Pray for them as they do!
5. Doug’s Dance. Although he’s a full on white boy, he owns it. “The Bus” is hard to beat as a large group dance-along-song.
6. Worship. Stephen Miller and his band have done a GREAT job leading us in worship.
7. The Youth Leader Sessions. It’s so fun to watch youth leaders “get” what we’re going for and then take it to the next level. Their ideas, insights and excitement becomes the tackling fuel we need to keep on keeping on!
Today teenagers will be unleashed to actually share the Gospel. Pray for them as they do. I expect even more highlights as a result of all the evangelism that will happen for the rest of this week!
If you are at Lead THE Cause in Chicago what’s been your highlight so far?
One day I woke up and realized, “Hey, we are Dare 2 Share and we have never filmed our own evangelism training curriculum!”
Sure, we filmed Gospel Journey and Gospel Journey Maui, both reality series that show Zane Black and yours truly sharing our faith. God has (and still is) using both of these evergreen video series to show teenagers what faith sharing looks like when done in a conversational, non-confrontational style.
But we have never filmed our own video series that actually trains teenagers how to share the good news, as we say, “From take off to touch down.”
And, today, that’s all about to change.
I won’t give you all the details yet but the new series is called “Shine” and is based on Philippians 2:15-16 where Paul tells us we are to “shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
We have recruited six Christian teenagers from across the nation, who are at various “levels” of sharing their faith. They are all flying into Colorado today and the filming begins tonight. For the next four days or so we will be using the beautiful Rocky Mountains as our canvas to paint a picture of what faith sharing should look like.
I guess it not technically a “reality series” but it is going to full of real, raw conversations about sharing the good news in a bad new culture. And it’s all going to be combined with mountain activities that should help spur the conversations on.
It’s our prayer that, when teenagers are finished watching it and going through the accompanying curriculum, they will be fully equipped to share the good news in a clear, complete and compelling way.
Stay tuned for more info on this exciting new series coming out next January.
In the meantime would you pray for the six cast members, our film and production crews and yours truly to be safe during all of our mountain experiences? Pray that the weather is great, the activities are greater and the conversations are the greatest. Pray that God gives these teenagers the freedom to be gut-level honest and that real breakthroughs happen both in their lives during this film shoot and in the lives of the hundreds of thousands of teenagers (millions?) across the nation who will watch it in the years to come.
Pray that God uses this new film series in a powerful way to “energize a generation to evangelize their world.”
Stay tuned to my Twitter and Instagram for more info between today and Sunday. Or just search for the hashtag #ShineD2S
I love Baptists. I was saved in a Baptist church and went to a Baptist college (for a year anyway.) I currently attend a Baptist church and have preached in tons of Baptist churches across the nation. And if there’s one group that predominately attends our Dare 2 Share events it’s Baptists, and many of them are Southern Baptists.
Baptists tend to have an appreciation for evangelism, sound theology and food (all of which I love too.) Potluck is from the Greek word which means…(just kidding!)
So I was very interested in the recent Christianity Today article entitled, “As Church Plants Grow, Southern Baptists Disappear.” The articles begins with some sobering statistics, “There are now more Southern Baptist churches than ever before: 46,449 as of last year. And more than 200,000 extra spaces in the pews. As the nation’s largest Protestant group prepares to meet in Columbus next week, it reported its largest annual decline in more than 130 years—a loss of 236,467 members.”
Leaders of the Southern Baptist denomination are planning a simulcast prayer gathering this Tuesday to reverse the trends. This is a great step and these type of prayer meetings need to continue. But I believe it is going to take an entire systemic change on a local church level for the Southern Baptists to begin to thrive again.
Unlike the Christianity Today article and Ed Stetzer‘s excellent research and eye-opening statistics my perspective comes purely as a dude who loves Southern Baptists and have been associated with them since my Freshman year at Liberty Baptist College, now Liberty University. (Sorry Virginia but I’m a Colorado kid at heart and made the switch to Colorado Christian University after my Freshman year.)
From my perspective here are the action steps that must be taken if the Southern Baptists are going to stop shrinking and start thriving again:
1. Intercessory prayer must fuel them.
Sadly most churches (not just Southern Baptists) I’ve attended spend more time in announcements on Sunday morning than intercessory prayer. Houston we have a problem. If intercessory prayer (praying for the salvation of the lost and spiritual growth and re-energization of the believers) can become the engine and not the caboose on the Southern Baptist train, especially on a local church level, this once powerful steam engine will gain momentum again and become unstoppable in the power of Christ!
2. Relational evangelism must drive them.
Everyday Baptists reaching neighbors, family, friends, co-workers, classmates and teammates with the Good News is necessary. I’m not talking about stapling the latest gospel tracts to people’s foreheads. But I’m talking about making sure our people are equipped to share the good news of Jesus (aka “Gospel fluency“) in a clear, complete and compelling way. When the proclamation of the Gospel moves primarily from “the professionals” (pastors, evangelists, youth leaders, etc) to “the people” (construction workers, nurses, soccer moms, etc) growth trends tend to move in the right direction.
On the other side of the equation those younger, hipper Southern Baptists who have downplayed evangelism altogether and exchanged it purely for social justice, community action and getting to know their neighbors (with no plan to reach out to them with the message of Jesus) have forfeited a huge opportunity for spiritual and numeric growth. Building those bridges to the community is powerful IF they are willing to cross them with the message of the Gospel.
3. Ministry leaders must model it for them.
Dear Southern Baptist pastor, if you want your people to pray then you must be the biggest prayer warrior. If you want your people to share their faith then you must share yours consistently! Because what beats in you will bleed from them. The same is true of your ministry leaders, youth leaders and small group/Sunday school leaders.
4. A disciple multiplication strategy must guide them.
It’s not just about making converts but making disciples who make disciples. This is the way the church of Ephesus grew when Paul stopped using the Synagogue as his primary outreach to equipping the believers in Ephesus to make disciples who made disciples at The School of Tyrannus (Acts 19:8-10.) If you can make the same switch then Sunday morning becomes a training ground for weekday Gospel conversations.
5. A bold vision must focus them.
Like the early believers in Acts 1:8, Southern Baptists need a vision across the street (“Jerusalem and Judea“), across the tracks (“Samaria“) and across the world (“ends of the earth“). Many Southern Baptist churches have pictures in the foyer of missionaries they support across the world but they must also have a bold vision for the lost people in their own cities and communities. We are all missionaries. Until this mentality changes and a city map is right next to their world map then the Southern Baptists will continue to decline (in my opinion.) This must also be accompanied by a huge focus on building multi-cultural churches that truly reflect the various races reflected in their communities. My buddy, Pastor Derwin Gray, has tons of solid, Biblical material on this subject that must be studied and applied in this crucial area.
6. Biblical outcomes must measure their progress.
It’s not just attendance that Baptists should be measuring. It’s NCG (New Conversion Growth.) In other words what percentage of those attending were reached for Christ by the efforts of that particular congregation? Another great measure is the number of baptisms (after all they’re baptists!) a church has year over year. Two telling statistics from the Annual Church Profile (ACP) report from LifeWay Christian Resources is that Southern Baptists are at their lowest number of Baptisms since 1947 and more than half of them baptized NO millennials last year! In other words, not are they only failing to reach the lost, but they’re stumbling when it comes to reaching young people for Christ. This is where the outcomes point to a denominations failure in both reach and relevance.
7. On-going programs must reflect their new priorities.
I would ask my Southern Baptist pastor friends a few questions, “Do you give the Gospel every week?” “Have you created space for relational evangelism stories on Sunday morning?” (This could be a three minute time slot where people share stories of those they’re engaging on any level of a Gospel conversation!) “Have you actually trained your people how to share the good news?”
Our real priorities are programmed into our Sunday morning rundowns, weekly schedules and annual calendars. Have we created space in our regular programs for evangelism training, intercessory prayer and disciple multiplication? Or have we just exchanged all of this for just another Bible study?
I would encourage my Southern Baptists friends to go to Gospeladvancing.com, take the diagnostic and see how you measure up in these seven areas. These seven values came out of a massive research study Dare 2 Share commissioned a few years ago and reflect the values in the highest performing youth ministries we surveyed. Truly gospel advancing youth ministries embodied these seven values in powerful and practical ways. Although this website is youth ministry focused it will give any pastor a sense of how they are doing in these seven areas church-wide and offer some ideas of how you can begin to improve in these seven areas.
Pray with my for my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ. This decline can be reversed if they drop to their knees in prayer and then roll up their sleeves to get to work. I believe they can once again become the powerhouse force in the United States in advancing the Gospel forward across the street, across the tracks and across the world!
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” Matthew 4:19
If you are truly following Jesus the inevitable result will be a lifestyle of evangelism. Jesus guaranteed it in Matthew 4:19. When you follow him he will direct you to go and reach people with his message of hope. Why? Because evangelism and discipleship are inextricably linked like Siamese twins. To separate them causes the other one to die.
When Jesus sent out the disciples they were risking being ostracized by others. And it was this very risk that caused them to trust in the Holy Spirit more and grow deeper in their relationship with God (Matthew 10:19,20.)
What’s true of the early disciples is true of us.
It’s not optional. It’s not just for the specially gifted evangelists. It’s for every follower of Christ.
Anything less than a lifestyle of evangelism is a warped and wanting form of discipleship. It’s a discipleship that is not willing to pay the price of being potentially mocked or marginalized for following Jesus. It’s a Christianity without skin in the game.
This lesser version of “following” Jesus is what we see in John 12:42-43 with the newly converted religious leaders. They had put their faith in Jesus but were not willing to follow him by dying to themselves and proclaiming him to others.
Here’s what the Apostle John had to say about these believing-but-not-proclaiming leaders, “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.”
Before you cluck your tongue at them take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re guilty of the same sin. Are you openly proclaiming your faith in Jesus at work, school and/or in your neighborhood or are you worried about being “put out” of your circle of influence because of your faith in Jesus?
To follow Jesus is to follow him to death, to a potential social death. If we’re not willing to open our mouths and make known the mystery of the Gospel to those we know then we, like the spiritually stunted believers in John 12, love the praise of men more than praise from God.
And this sinful, silent, secret believer is not the real you anyway. In Christ you are an unashamed saint, an unflinching follower of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Unleash the new you with that old message of hope and let the new you be the real you who will no longer be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
I’ve had the privilege of preaching at churches from coast to coast over the last 25 years of ministry. In the process I’ve talked to countless pastors, church leaders and youth pastors about how their churches are doing when it comes to growth and the reasons for it. On one side I’ve seen churches that thrive. They grow every year both deeper and wider.
These are not always the “mega-churches” but, in my book, they are the “mighty churches” because whether they number at 200 or 2,000 they are truly Gospel Advancing on every level. These churches have that “new believer smell” in that there’s always a little edginess in the foyer because it’s usually peppered with people who don’t necessarily look like they should be there.
After having co-planted and co-pastored a church for ten years in the Denver area and having preached in churches across the nation, quietly evaluating what makes them work (or not), here is my list of non-scientific reasons why some churches don’t grow.
1. They’re not friendly enough.
There have been far too many times I’ve walked through the foyer of a church and NOT been greeted or said hello to or helped to find my way around. I’ve felt like an outsider floating in the midst of a group of insiders. Even if somebody just said “hello” and pointed where the auditorium, the nearest bathroom and the closest escape routes are (in case the service really goes bad) I’d feel more at home. On the other hand when I walk into a church building, am warmly greeted and engaged, my defenses go down and I immediately feel more at home (and that’s important because usually I’m there to do the preaching that day!)
There’ve been many times as the visiting preacher I’ve seen a person or a family with that same deer-in-the-church-lights look meandering in a large church foyer, trying to find their way around. There have been many times I’ve greeted them, welcomed them to the church and said, “Let’s find the auditorium together” or “Let’s talk to somebody who looks like they know what is going on and we’ll get your kids in Sunday school…if they have one…I don’t know…but welcome!”
By the way, the guest preacher shouldn’t be doing that job!
Churches that are friendly have a much higher chance of growing than churches that are not. First impressions matter.
2. They’re not intentional enough.
I’ve talked to many pastors who have assured me that they want to grow with new believers but they have no plan to make it happen. They tell me of their vision and their new sermon series and their exciting Easter outreach. But these three things are like making a plan on “How to have an effective huddle” in a football game. No, you need the actual plays you and your congregation are going to run day in and ay out (not just on Sunday morning) if you are going to intentionally grow with new disciples being made and multiplied.
Here are three quick ideas: Give the gospel every week sometime during your church service so your people know that anytime they bring someone who doesn’t know Christ they will hear the Good News of Jesus and have an opportunity to trust in Christ. Secondly, train your whole congregation how to share their faith. That’s right, if you make it a sermon series (instead of an optional small group) then the entire church (not just those already engaged in evangelism) will be on the same page. Finally, have stories in every service of how your church members are engaging their friends, co-workers, classmates and family with the good news message. This 3 minute segment of your service will elevate the value of relational evangelism in ways you could never imagine.
3. They’re not organized enough.
Some churches lead people to Christ but don’t have an assimilation plan that is robust enough to get these precious new believers clicked into the life blood of the congregation. As a result there are precious babies out there without the shelter of the church and the milk of God’s Word. In a past post I called this “Punting the Baby.” We would never clap at the birth of a beautiful new baby and then punt it! But we do the same thing when we celebrate a new conversion and aren’t organized enough to follow up. We also need to be followed up with the visitors who are already believers (Hint: The best person to follow up is the person who invited them to your church to begin with!)
And, of course, we need to be organized in our church services, small groups, parking, etc so that things are done, as Scripture reminds us, “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40)…just like the Holy Spirit likes it.
4. They’re not relevant enough.
Another reason some churches don’t grow is that they are not relevant enough. If I have no church context and walk into a building where pipe organs rule the day or the Scripture reading sounds like Shakespeare or the service feels like I’m a part of a museum exhibition then there’s a good chance I won’t come back.
But even these fade into the background compared to sermons that don’t hit the mark. Not only must the Word of God be exegeted but the needs of the people must be too. I’ll put up with choir robes and stained glass if the sermon is hitting the mark in my soul. But if the Word of God remains a distant, confusing, religious relic instead of a sword that opens up areas of my life (Hebrews 4:12-13) for the Spirit of God to change me in powerful and practical ways, then there’s a good chance I won’t be back.
5. They’re not meaty enough.
Some churches grow initially because they’re services and sermons are relevant but their sermons tend to be light and fluffy. As new believers grow in their faith they get a hunger for God’s Word on a level beyond the surface. Now when I talk about “meaty” I’m not talking about hour long doctrinal diatribes unpacking the theological implications of angelology for a postmodern culture. I’m talking about being willing to “rightly divide the Word of God” beyond just topical series that tend to skim the surface.
I’ll never forget visiting Flatirons Church once on a Sunday morning just about 20 minutes from where I live. This church is one of the fastest growing churches in the nation and has a weekly of attendance that numbers 10,000+. To be honest I was expecting a “light and fluffy” service but, instead, the sermons were both meaty and practical. Soon I was scrambling for a pen and taking notes. And so were the believers and seekers all packed in around me. Nobody could ever accuse this “lights, camera, action” highly produced church service, full of pounding music and tattoos, of being irrelevant. But nobody could ever accuse this church of failing to be meaty enough. Maybe this church was growing because it found the sweet spot between being both practically relevant and theologically riveting.
6. They’re not loving enough.
Churches’ can seem friendly but, when you dig under the surface, a lack of love can rule the religious roost. They may attract people at first and even seem friendly but, once in, the newcomers become grossly aware of the politics and relational dysfunction that is systemic in the congregation. Seekers and new believers often opt out for a more loving church, just stop going to church altogether or, worse yet, stay and become just like the other members of the church.
7. They’re not praying enough.
Although I listed this last it really should be first. Why? Paul told Timothy with his instructions for setting up and organizing the many churches that they planted together to make prayer a first priority. He tells his younger protege, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Churches that pray together grow together. They grow spiritually and numerically (with new believers!) Why? Because they are fueled by divine wisdom and power, instead of the latest church growth techniques and tactics. This gives them holy momentum that starts in the hearts of the people as they begin to pray for the unreached people in their lives and communities. These prayers create room in their hearts for more compassion and room in their lives for more Gospel conversations and soon they have no more room in their churches because of all the new believers who are growing deep and going wide in the power of God.
Sadly, many churches spend more time on Sunday morning doing church announcements than intercessory prayer.
These are seven of my observations. Again, they are not scientific but purely observational. What are some other reasons, from your perspective, that some churches don’t grow.
By the way, for help in building a Gospel Advancing ministry go to gospeladvancing.com and take the diagnostic. Although this is a youth ministry tool that Dare 2 Share developed most of the questions apply church-wide. Here you’ll discover the 7 values of a Gospel Advancing ministry that is growing in all the right ways. If this blog unpacked the seven reasons some churches aren’t growing, this website will unpack the seven values that are alive and thriving in every ministry (whether church or youth group) that are truly and effectively advancing the Gospel.
May both youth ministries and churches across the nation start growing in all the right ways!
Since my first book Outbreak I’ve written (and co-written) 18 books with four more in the pipeline to be released in the next six months. The day before yesterday I finished a writing retreat where I finished what may prove to be my biggest book (70,000 words!) Oh if they just made sense! Hopefully youth leaders will want to read these words I and Jane Dratz, my amazing editor and phenomenal writer of many things at Dare 2 Share, labored over so intensely.
Over the years I’ve developed some habits that have helped me write more and more effectively. I wanted to share seven of them with you:
1. Gestation Time
People often have asked me, “How do you just sit down and write a book?” The answer is I don’t! The process begins well before I type the first words on a page. Before the actual writing begins I need enough time for the seed to be planted and the whole concept begins to gestate. Hopefully by the time it’s time to write a book the ideas are developed enough to put pen to page. During this gestation process I pray, think and jot down notes, sometimes for weeks or even months beforehand. I have found that it’s way easier to write a book when I’ve had enough time to pray and think through it well in advance.
I try to blog 2-3x’s a week. The habit of blogging sharpens my ability to write when it comes to books. There’s even been a few times my 1,000+ previous posts become pre-made illustrations that I can cut and paste right into my book (cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater!) Blogging is an essential habit for writers and aspiring writers to develop. Why? Because the best way to get better at writing is to actually write. Blogging forces your hand (literally and figuratively!)
3. Having a primary Scripture for each chapter.
I know. I know. This is probably the preacher in me but it really helps my non-fiction writing when I have a key passage to build each chapter on. With my latest book I had previous writing retreat several months ago. On it I completed four or five chapters. After realizing that these chapters were less than my best I shook the Etch A Sketch and decided to start all over again. I became convinced that this new book should be based on key passages in the book of Acts. What a world of difference in my latest writing retreat! I blazed through writing the chapters this time because each one was built on a solid foundation of Scripture (as opposed to the flimsy foundation of Greg Stier’s creativity!) Properly exegeted Biblical truth used appropriately and applied practically, provides divine gravitas for our writing endeavors.
4. Going on writing retreats for 3-4 days.
There are those who can pick and peck away at their books, 60 minutes a day or so. That would drive me crazy! I like to write for 12-14 hours straight (with a few breaks along the way) for three to four days at a pop. If the ideas are properly gestated (see point #1) then the book comes out pretty fast. Now, maybe you have a different rhythm and that’s fine. Discover it and do it!
5. Prayer walks in the middle of my writing days.
Whether I’m in the mountains or my home town (Arvada, a Northwest suburb of Denver, Colorado) I like to take a break from writing to go, walk, hike and pray. This clears the cobwebs, re-energizes my tire-from-sitting body and gives me access to the most creative, wise and powerful being in the universe! Having divine access is something that only Christian writers have. What a privilege to be able to brainstorm with the ultimate Writer (after all he wrote the best selling book of all time…the Bible!)
6. Having a handful of honest people I can run ideas by.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:6
I thanks God for the honest people he has placed in my life. Because of their inputs, criticisms, flashes of brilliance, concerns and encouragements I’ve been able to write many books that have, hopefully, helped teenagers and youth leaders advance the Gospel. Don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who genuinely love you enough to be honest.
7. An editor who is strong and skilled.
Praise God for Jane Dratz! She has been an amazing editor and co-writer! She is both strong and skilled. She has no problem pushing back when she feels like I’ve over-stated, understated or failed to state what needs to be stated! She graciously takes me on and we work it out. I fully trust her and it’s been a privilege to work with her to produce tons of books and tools to unleash Gospel Advancing teenagers and youth leaders across the United States (and beyond!)
These are my seven habits for writing books? What are your writing habits?