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Category: Church

The Danger of Reductionism in Preaching

November 09, 2016

As a recovering addict of overstatement, I want to be careful in the words I choose to warn fellow ministers about the danger of reductionism in our preaching and teaching. Dictionary.com defines reductionism as: “The practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting …

A Compelling State of Affairs

December 03, 2015

Leaders don’t spend a lot of time on things that are going well. Leaders look for underutilized resources, for new talent. They are constantly on the search for what could improve—and into that, they are speaking a compelling state of affairs. The subject of leadership is so massive in importance, we dedicated two days this …

God Will Not Forget—Don’t Forget It! 

July 24, 2015

Hebrews 6:10: For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. It’s summer, and vacation that is much needed and well deserved is happening for many people in ministry. This is a good …

Summer for the City

July 02, 2014

“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” Isaiah 66:2b If you take God’s Word seriously, you don’t have to wonder why God blesses certain things. The Lord is very consistent. There are things that matter to Him.

On the Road to Focused Sermon Prep . . .

June 13, 2014

Getting down to serious sermon prep takes focus, concentration, and at times, clearing your head of the other stuff you are thinking about. So here comes the mind dump. Hope it’s edifying for you—it sure has been for me.

Say the Name!

April 30, 2014

Amen? That’s it? You’re going to close your prayer with an abrupt “AMEN”? What about the Savior?

A Time to Dance

April 21, 2014

So proud of and thankful for the worship leadership from Luke MacDonald, Andi Rozier, Josh Buendorf and the entire Vertical Church Band worship and production teams. Praying for them as they rest up from an incredible victorious weekend!

Vertical Passion Week

April 17, 2014

What distinguishes Passion Week in a vertical church? 1: Passion Week is a week, not a day or a weekend. We give our people special materials and devotionals to work through personally. We give them music to listen to on their way to church. We are a church family and we love to remember and, …

Don’t Miss This . . .

March 28, 2014

There is no more reliable indicator of the success of a child than the involvement of their father. There is no bigger drag on societies than men who refuse to work.

Vertical Evangelism—Believe It!

March 21, 2014

Hey Pastor: Maybe in recent years you’ve fallen prey to the false dichotomy of worship vs. evangelism—the idea that if you really want to reach lost people in your weekend worship, you have to get all topical and catchy and felt-need about everything. Not true.

Preacher Thoughts on Tone, Criticism, Scripture, Confession and Valentine’s Day

February 26, 2014

Random thoughts (no doubt related to conscious thoughts) are constantly in a pastor’s mind. What do I think about that? How should I handle this? Which approach is most Christ-honoring, most helpful, most impactful?

Why I Don’t Preach Sometimes

January 30, 2014

Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders: Thank you for checking in regularly. I hope this blog is a source of strengthening for your resolve to serve Jesus with abandon, no matter the cost. And I pray this blog resources your fruitfulness in our common mission to plant and pastor disciple-making churches.

Get Your Focus Back

January 16, 2014

Hey Pastor: What are you working on today? What are you striving after? Grieving over? Burdened about? Let’s keep our focus: We are not important. We are unprofitable servants on our best days. We have a King—and it is His glory we seek. John 2:11 says, “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at …

Elevating Worship Through Scripture

December 31, 2013

Dear Pastors and ministry leaders—a new year of God’s faithfulness is upon us. I am praying for a year of growth for me, my family and for our church. I hope this blog has been and continues to be a source of encouragement to you in your service to Christ and His kingdom.

Catching Up

October 08, 2013

So many great things are going on these days, and I pray you are blessed in your service to Christ and His church as well. Just to give you a sense of where my heart is at today…

Stop and Celebrate!

October 04, 2013

Dear Pastor Friends: God is faithful, His promises are true, His ways are just, and our trust is rightly placed in Him. For this reason milestones in the life of a ministry matter

Money Matters

September 27, 2013

Hey Pastor: I always thought the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) was for parachurch ministries. As your church grows, the percentage of people diminishes whose confidence can be based in personal relationship.

Why We Don’t Air Dirty Laundry!

August 10, 2013

I wrote this many weeks ago, but didn’t post it. My jet lag woke me up early, and I felt compelled to review this important obedience Christ commands, which in His strength we must obey.

The One Thing

May 08, 2013

This is a blog for pastors and ministry leaders. It’s meant to be an open-hearted conversation about things pastors think and feel—

Vertical Purpose Leads to Horizontal Effectiveness

April 19, 2013

My Wednesday post on how the glory of God is the only fire that can sustain evangelistic zeal in local church ministry, may seem a very indirect evangelistic approach to you. If you believe intentional evangelism is what reaches people, you may find it hard to accept what I am writing.

The Most Destructive Error in the Church

April 17, 2013

Soteriology is a word that comes from the Greek word soterios, which means “to save.” Doxology comes from the Greek word for glory and names the single stanza hymn. While many have heard the Westminster Confession that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” fewer have understood that doxology …

Why Am I Struggling Spiritually?

April 05, 2013

In John 9, the disciples wanted to debate with Jesus about the source of a man’s blindness—when Jesus saw him much differently. Not as an issue to discuss, but as a person to help. Why do some Christians see everything so differently? Possibly they have become consumers of spiritual content vs. disciples who are not …

Things to Think about During Holy Week

March 25, 2013

This is Holy Week. And with the outpouring of ministry that will accompany it among our churches, I want to take a few minutes to encourage my fellow pastors as we prepare for its significance. Visit TheDayJesusDied.com

Vertical Church Tour Recap

October 18, 2012

With all my heart I believe the battle that rages in the heavenlies is for the glory of God and His great Son, Jesus Christ. The enemy is very happy with horizontal church. As long as church is boring, entertaining, or self-help, it does not threaten the kingdom of darkness.

What is Distinctive About Your Church?

October 03, 2012

Church consultants are everywhere these days, flying in, costing a fortune, and teaching church leadership teams to “establish their vision,” “figure out their unique value proposition,” “settle on a purpose statement and what they will offer to the community.” Demographic analysis, carefully targeted music,

Unceasing Prayer

August 16, 2012

When was the last time you participated in a faith-driven, expectation-filled prayer meeting that invited God to reveal His glory and show up in power at your church? Not where one or two people pray the will of God, but where everyone in the room

Worship: The Most Powerful Thing We Do

August 09, 2012

When Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21), He was punctuating the absolute centrality of worship as the determinant for every human future. Worship or adoration is the most powerful expression

Is Worship More Than Singing?

August 02, 2012

I often read or hear a servant of Christ insist that worship is “more than singing.” We are frequently told that making a meal for your family or cleaning your car or helping your neighbor are all acts of worship. When these acts are the outgrowth of our love for God

What Only God Can Do

July 31, 2012

You can’t fake glory. You can’t manufacture it, or manipulate it, or manifest it at will. Only God Himself can bring glory into a church, and when He does, communities get shaken and lives get changed, and the fame of Jesus Christ curls continuously upon the shore of human hearts

The Glory of Staying Put

July 26, 2012

When Kathy and I were in seminary in the late eighties, we began to pray, “God, we will go anywhere you want us to go, but if You would allow it, we would like to pastor one church for our ministry.” I had already been a youth pastor at a church of two hundred

An Epic Failure: Ichabod

July 24, 2012

It was Jack Nicholson who famously bellowed to Tom Cruise while playing Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in the courtroom scene of A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth.” I wonder if the screenwriter knew how succinctly he had summarized our culture.


July 12, 2012

Transcendence is the best single word I have found to describe the attributes of God that are only found in Him and what is missing too often from our churches. We are facilitators of transcendence.

The One Thing That Changes Everything

July 10, 2012

A real encounter with the living God changes everything. First it magnifies the Lord, and then it puts me and my ego and my sin and my burdens, that moments ago seemed so big, all in their rightful place.

What Every Heart Longs For. What Every Church Can Be.

July 06, 2012

Church was never meant to be safe. Or comfortable. Or predictable. God isn’t any of those things.

4 Myths Attacking the Church Today

June 22, 2012

Let’s grow in our capacity to discern. Make a note of these four myths attacking the church today. Some you might be aware of, others maybe not at all. They are messages crafted for itching ears that damn the souls of men.

2 Problems with Consumer Christians

May 08, 2012

This weekend I preached from John 2:13-22, on Christ’s response to the consumer mindset that had taken over the temple. And nothing is more of an axe to the tree of vertical church—of God church, of glory church—than “consumer church.”

Multi-site and Fruitfulness

April 19, 2012

Harvest Bible Chapel is now on 7 campuses—and each is a story of reluctant expansion, given our greater passion to plant autonomous churches. When dying congregations have come for help or facilities have been given to us, we have infrequently multiplied locations

Serving God Is Hard Work

March 09, 2012

God commands you to serve. This is your 24/7/365 card-carrying-follower-of-Jesus-Christ-member-of-the-family-of-God duty. Don’t say, “We should serve. Let’s pray about it.” Don’t pray about it—just do it. Find a job. Roll up your sleeves. Do it forever!

Welcome to Harvest

February 16, 2012

When people are looking for a church home, they want insider information—to learn what’s behind the service they’ve just attended and the core values the church is built upon. At Harvest Bible Chapel, those values are known as

Things I Would Change If I Could

January 03, 2012

One more video from the Q and A sessions at the Preach the Word Conference. I trust that you’ll find this content as helpful and hilarious as I did. And I hope you make it a priority to be in a church where

Sermon Prep Methods from Some of the Best

December 28, 2011

I think about the next sermon that’s ahead of me a lot—and I’m often asked about how I prepare a message. That’s why I want you to see this Q & A clip from a Preach the Word Conference held at Greg Laurie’s church.   In it, I am with Greg (one of my best …

Make It Right With Others—Now!

November 15, 2011

Hey: Just a quick post for Pastors, and others that teach the Word, to advance our discussion of how to do it well. I wrote this “fix it before you preach” post some time ago, but I have been seeking to live it this week.

God Is Doing Something Awesome

November 07, 2011

  Something awesome, maybe unparalleled (for us), is happening in our church. There is a fervency and unity and moving of God’s Spirit in our services that is provoking such expectancy every week. It’s the worship and the Word and the hunger of the people…it’s…I can’t totally explain it, but it is truly AWESOME!

2 Things a Multi-Site Pastor Can’t Do

October 25, 2011

Sometimes I get weary of people arguing for one side as though the other does not exist, when in reality it often does. Some arguments involve absolute truth and have only one side. But most division (outside what the Scriptures prescribe specifically) involves matters of

Preaching the Authority of God’s Word

October 20, 2011

Pastors, here is a foundational principle of preaching: Preach the authority of God’s Word without apology.

Celebrity Pastors and Multi-site Limitations

October 18, 2011

Some current thinking on issues that have been getting a lot of air time recently.   RE: Celebrity Pastors Every pastor manages a certain amount of increased profile and a tendency on the part of people to elevate them beyond

Wanted: 5G Disciples

October 03, 2011

The job of the church, the Great Commission, is what? To make disciples. Not just more disciples, but better disciples—authentic followers of Christ who are

Thoughts on Preaching

September 07, 2011

  I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season

Big Problems with Our Church Leadership??

July 21, 2011

Amazing how quickly a problem in the church can draw conversation and criticism from church members. I thought that headline would attract some readers, but isn’t that kinda sad? How about taking time to read about a pastor who is thrilled with and blessed by the Elders

Recalibrate: AAA Ministry

June 20, 2011

I have the tremendous blessing of being surrounded by a highly-motivated and highly-competitive staff, numbering some 400+. What I have observed is that if we are not intentional about selfless relationships that bless and encourage, we can find ourselves ‘writing checks’ we can’t cover and overdraft with the very people we care about most.

What Sets You Apart?

May 17, 2011

In wanting to be effective, make a difference, leave a legacy, we can often lose sight of what really makes that possible. Serving Christ and His kingdom is a very big job and it’s essential that we focus on the things, no, the thing, that truly sets a servant of Christ apart, that in the …

Vertical Church

May 11, 2011

When you talk about the purpose of the church, what is the one word that should be at the forefront of your mind? Vertical. What do I mean by that?

Reflections on The Gospel Coalition Conference

April 18, 2011

Last week our Harvest pastoral staff had a great opportunity and attended together The Gospel Coalition (TGC) Conference in downtown Chicago. When could we ever travel such a short distance to experience so many gifted preachers and workshop leaders in a context of more than 5000 other pastors and church leaders? Wow! A lot of …

What Happened at Your Church Yesterday?

March 07, 2011

Ephesians 3:21 “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” The mission of the church of Jesus Christ is to pursue and display the glory of God in all things. Did you see and experience that pursuit at church yesterday? Even churches that embrace that …

3 Things Every Pastor Must Do

February 17, 2011

Well another former colleague, a pastor I have known for 20 years, was fired recently. I wish I could tell a tale of harsh Elders, or demanding congregants, but based upon first-hand accounts, he hung himself. Not literally, but literally figuratively. 🙂 As I often say, the crises of life are a way of revealing …

Acts 29 Midwest Quarterly

February 09, 2011

Well, Kathy and I had a great day yesterday at the Acts 29 Midwest Quarterly. Breakfast with Darrin Patrick and his precious and devoted wife Aimee was filled w love and laughter and then over to the cool former -catholic (yeah) building they bought to meet with about 300+ fired up pastors and wives for …

5 Church Substitutes

February 04, 2011

Are you going to church this weekend?  A quick Google of “how many Americans attend church each week” indicates an interesting phenomenon; people lie. Follow that link if you have time. But to summarize, roughly 40% of Americans claim to have been in church at least once in the past week while the real number …

January 28, 2011

I’m getting ready to write a book on the church. It’s gone through countless edits in my head and has now escalated into an almost non-stop conversation between me and…well, I’m not sure who I’m talking to…hopefully you and not just myself. I’m thinking of calling the book, When God Goes to Church! I don’t …

An Interview with James MacDonald

January 26, 2011

Vertical Church: Why did you call your blog “Vertical Church”? James: I have searched for some time for a word to aptly summarize our convictions about what the church should be. Vertical is a term that reminds us that the church is a place where what happens is mainly for God. Everything that happens at …

What is a Vertical Church?

January 22, 2011

I’mmmm Baaaacccckkkk How well I remember the excitement that filled our home as my boys and I heard Michael Jordan announce that he was leaving baseball and coming back to our Chicago Bulls. Three more championships and his best athleticism would follow this decision. Yes, he needed the break.  But now he was back. I …

What Does the Book of Revelation Say to the Church Today?

March 11, 2010

I’m almost half way through the book of Revelation. And in my 21 years at Harvest Bible Chapel, I have never taught through this book before. I have to tell you, I am deeply impacted by this study. What does this book written by John almost 2,000 years ago have to say to the church …

Is Your Church Compelling? Part 1

March 01, 2010

There is a deafening, non-stop discussion in evangelicalism about what the church needs to be (many of the most vocal are those who pastor no one and win very few to our Lord). On and on they pontificate about how church needs to be personally relevant and interesting and meet felt needs. About how it …

Starving Saints

February 09, 2010

It’s all true. Everywhere I go I hear it. Like a tragedy as visual as the starving peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, the saints in North America are starving. Most followers of Jesus Christ attend churches where the content of the message is geared toward wooing worldlings with watered down content that won’t offend. “Keep them …

Large Churches vs. Small Churches

January 11, 2010

Hey, I know that sometimes the size of your church can be a source of encouragement or discouragement to you. I want to encourage you with what I think about the size of a church. Here is a recent teaching about Jesus comments to the faithful church in Philadelphia from Revelation 3:8. Do you agree …

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