Processing the Pain of Senseless Evil


“Sometimes something useless happens on earth. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people…”
(Ecclesiastes 8:14, NCV)


How To Respond to Tragedy



 “They are blessed who grieve, for God will comfort them.” (Matthew 5:4, NCV)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18, NLT)

“unload all your burden on to him, since he is concerned about you.” (1 Peter 5:7, NJB)


“We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.” (Hebrews 10:25, GW)


“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NIV)


“[Some people] have no happiness at all; they live and die with bitter hearts.” (Job 21:25, GNB)

“Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble, hurting many in their spiritual lives.” (Hebrews 12:15b, The Living Bible)


“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26, NIV)

Faith in God’s provision:

“I think you ought to know…we were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it. We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us…And he did help us and saved us.” (2 Corinthians 1:8–10, The Living Bible)

Focus on God’s promise:

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3, NLT)

3 Menaces of a Mob Mentality

What’s Everyone So Mad About?

It seems the newest craze is to be crazy!

Everywhere you look it seems someone is mad about something and they’re taking their anger to the streets.

With signs waving and shouts screaming it feels like someone shook up the mob like a coke can and the violence is spewing out in all directions.

This is not the America of my childhood. Don’t get me wrong, there were just as many socio-political problems when I was growing up. Racism, hatred and injustice have been around since the dawn of time. The difference is when the mob takes to the street there’s less light and more heat.

So, are free speech and marches a bad thing. Of course not! They are the bedrock of freedom. There is a time and place for coordinated rallies and marches. HOWEVER, there are several inherent dangers when crowds form for protests. We would be wise to take these into consideration.

3 Menaces of a Mob Mentality


When I was in middle school, we were forced to be part of a ritual known as a pep rally. The whole school would fill the gym. We would then be led to shout out cheers in unison screaming the praises of our football team–letting them know how special they were and how excited we were to cheer them on to victory. I found myself caught up in the aura of the mass hysteria, jumping up and down and literally intoxicated with the energy of the room.

The only problem was I didn’t even like our football team! Heck, half of the players were the very ones who regularly bullied many of my friends. So how in the world did I find myself suddenly sitting in a bleacher shouting out cheers of encouragement? MOB MENTALITY.

You’d be surprised what you might find yourself doing when you’re caught in the crowd. It’s easy to get pulled into the energy of a mob, but a wise person recognizes the dangers of unbridled emotion.

The Bible says,

“…riled emotions turn into fist fights.” (Proverbs 30:33, The Message)


A fool expresses all his emotions, but a wise person controls them.” (Proverbs 29:11, GW)


When I was a teenager there were times I would become so angry that I punched a wall…a brick wall. Ouch! Man, I look back at that and one word really comes to mind – IDIOT!

It is incredibly irrational to punch a wall or anything else for that matter; unless of course you are being paid to…in a ring…with gloves.

The second problem with a mob mentality is that fevered emotions block rational discussions. As the emotions rise the logic lowers. In fact, it is not uncommon to find protesters at a march who aren’t even clear on the issue being protested.

Amid an angry mob brandishing signs nearly anything sounds right…at first.  The Bible says, “The first to speak in court sounds right— until the cross-examination begins.” (Proverbs 18:17, NLT) Many of the “issues” people become so worked up over actually turn out to be red herrings. It seems we like being offended more than informed.

Many protesters aren’t even a part of the problem or the solution. They just love a good protest! The truth is a lot of them find meaning in being a part of a movement. It gives them identity and community that they aren’t finding elsewhere.

Before you jump into a mob, do some fact checking and make sure you’re clear on the truth. The Bible says, “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” (Proverbs 18:13, NLT)


Perhaps the saddest illustration of how wrong an angry mob can be is found in Pilate’s court. He asked the protesters:

“Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!”(Matthew 27:22, NLT)

How could a person look into the eyes of love and scream, “Death!”

I think some of them might have told us, “Man, I just got caught up in the moment.”

Thankfully, we know how the story ended.

We know that although hate won on Friday, love won on Sunday!

The crowd shows us the power of the mob.

The cross shows us the power of the Messiah – one life standing in firm love bringing real peace.

The Bible says:

Christ brought us together through his death on the cross.
The Cross got us to embrace,
and that was the end of the hostility.
(Ephesians 2:16, The Message)

God help us to respond reasonably and love irrationally, not the other way around.


What are your thoughts?

4 Ways to Embrace Every Race



Recent events have reminded us that racial tension is alive and well in America.

Tempers flared and sides are quickly drawn.

The advances we’ve made in racial reconciliation over the last 50 years are fragile and easily shattered.

Even in a generation raised in the era of civil rights, integration, equal opportunity, and a black president, there continues to exist a deep rift between the races. Laws and policies are important, but they lack the power to transform us.

Why is racism is so pervasive?

What causes us to play the “race card”?

What is it about racism that so quickly blurs objectivity and stirs reactivity?

For the believer this is no mystery.

The Root of Racism

Racism is not a black versus white issue. Racism is global. Every country in the world deals with it.

  • Chinese hate Japanese
  • Turks hate Kurds
  • The Hutus hated the Tutsi
  • Germans hated the Jews
  • Jews hated Samaritans
  • And a thousands other us vs. them scenarios

Racism traces it roots all the way back to the beginning in the book of Genesis. Racism is a sin and sIn is an “I” problem.

Racism is about sin not skin. Sin is about bad beliefs that result in bad behaviors. Not the other way around.

For example, sin came into the world when Adam & Eve believed they knew better than God. That bad belief resulted in an incredibly bad decision, which in turn resulted in spiritual death and relational distance.

We became separated from God and we pushed away from each other.

Sin’s been doing that ever since.

When I believe a lie,
love begins to die.

Racism is a lie that pushes us away from each other.

What is the lie of racism?

Racism is believing there’s something better about me and bad about you based on nothing other than your ethnicity. It is the idiotic assumption that our differences ought to divide us.

Racism often lies dormant waiting for the deadly combination of the fuel of a catalytic event fanned by the media machine to spark the fires of anger, hatred, and violence. We’ve seen this scenario played out dozens of times over the years and the collateral damage is always devastating.

So how can we, as believers, work to overcome the stench of racism?

How to Overcome Racism

1. Acknowledge that everyone has a little racism in them.

It’s part of your cultural reality. You and I were raised in a cultural context. That context created your sense of cultural norm and comfort. Whenever we encounter people outside of our ethno-cultural bubble, we get uncomfortable and can easily slip into the false assumption that “they’re weird and I’m not.” We then begin to operate with false assumptions that equivocate their behavior with their “differentness.”

2. Watch your mouth!

Do not ever use racial slurs. The moment you use a racial term, you categorize a person into a typecast. People are far more than their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background. There are good white people and bad white people. There are good black people and bad black people. Color has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s character. A great man said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Boxing a person into a racial package is sinful and destructive.

3. Get out of your bubble.

Purposefully place yourself into cross-cultural situations. You will soon be amazed to discover that you have more in common than you may have imagined! It’s easy to be suspicious of a stranger, but it’s hard to hate a friend. Make friends across cultural lines and the lies of racism will be crushed under the truth of love.

4. Celebrate diversity and appreciate differences.

Can you imagine if there were only one kind of food in the world? Even the best dish of your favorite food would become sickening if it were the only meal day in and day out, year after year. Thank God for Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Cajun, and the endless list of other delicacies!  THANK GOD for diversity! Food is only one small cultural distinctive. Every culture has dozens of cultural treasures to be learned and valued. View cultural differences as the seasoning that God has added to the banquet of life.

Please take a moment to pray for our nation as we continue to fight the battle of racism and senseless violence.

Pastor Brian

Ooohhh, you’re one of THOSE people!

My daughter recently shared this with me and it was too good not to pass on.

So today, I’m sharing her story as a guest post.

Hope you’re as blessed as I was when I read it.


A couple days ago I ran into someone on a Friday night, they asked me what I had done earlier that evening and I shared that I attended Celebrate Recovery. In shock and almost confusion this person asked me “Why are YOU in recovery?”

I held back for a moment, but I shared “Well, one reason is I struggle with depression …”

People, you don’t just need recovery for drugs or alcohol addiction. There are all sorts of recovery programs for all sorts of people. If you ask me EVERYONE has at least one reason they should be in recovery. We all have our “issues.” We all have our struggles that we deal with. Most of us, if we are honest, have our “secret struggles” that we don’t like people to know about because it may ruin our perfect image we’ve created for ourselves on social media.

If we were more vulnerable about our struggles, more people would realize that they are NOT alone and that help is real and HOPE IS REAL.

Here is my recovery story:

I first attended Celebrate Recovery in August of 2015. I was quietly struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts and codependency. I told myself I was just going to Celebrate Recovery “help out with the band.”

Over time I began realizing that I was powerless to change my own issues without fully surrendering them to God. I made a decision to give these things up to God. Since then, I have had some very dark days, some days where I have wanted to give up, but because of the commitment I’ve made and the support system of loving, God-fearing people surrounding me, I have pulled through to see the brightest of days. God has shown up. When you get vulnerable with God, he will ALWAYS show up. Not for a moment has he forsaken me. Never once have I walked alone.

These past 2 years have been filled with making a LOT of amends, forgiving those who have harmed me and letting go of past mistakes.

My faith is stronger, my fears are weaker. I am closer to God than I have ever been and I am truly walking in freedom.

My story isn’t over; and neither is yours.

If someone you know is struggling, reach out and encourage them to take a step of faith and start their journey to FREEDOM.

Here are just a list of a few things that Celebrate Recovery (and other recovery programs) can bring you healing from…


  • Drug and Alcohol
  • Shopping
  • Food
  • Cutting / Self Harm
  • Gambling
  • Sexual
  • Internet
  • Video Game


  • Verbal
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Emotional

Life Issues

  • Codependency
  • Perfectionism
  • Control
  • Overworking
  • Anger
  • Depression / Anxiety
  • Grief / Loss
  • Unforgiveness
  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Broken relationships
  • Guilt
  • Lying
  • Bitterness
  • Worry

So, when someone says, “Ooohhh, you’re one of those people.”

I give resounding, “Why yes. Yes I am!”

How about you?

Out of Africa (West Africa, that is)


The West Africa PEACE team just returned from our second PEACE trip to Benin and Togo and I wanted to share with you a little about our trip.


Togo and Benin are two small French-speaking, neighboring countries of similar culture.

  • Togo has 7.6 million people.
  • Benin has nearly 11 million people.

This trip was a part of our church’s 2-year partnership for building healthy churches in Africa. This initiative was sparked by the miraculous changes in the country of Rwanda due to their partnership with Saddleback church. The movement is now spreading to other African nations. These powerful changes and initiatives are known as the PEACE plan.

PEACE is a grassroots movement of local churches committed to becoming a healthy change agent for their communities. As a part of the initiative, PEACE churches partner together with other churches desiring to become healthy change agents in their community. These partnerships span from local to international.

Oak Ridge currently coaches 9 regional churches and partners with 6 international countries.

This was our second of the four trips we will be taking through July, 2018.

During the first trip in January, we taught the DREAM conference to 460 church leaders in Benin and Togo.

After the conference in each country the denominational leaders chose a select group of senior pastors that fully committed to become DREAM / Purpose Driven churches. We call them the Pioneer Team:

Since January, these pastors have made AMAZING progress in their churches:

  • Training their leaders
  • Enhancing their guest services
  • Expanding their outreach
  • And implementing the Base CLASSes

The pastors requested more training on how to turn their members into ministers – helping every person discover their unique SHAPE and using it to make a difference by serving as a volunteer. So, for this trip we focused on 3 primary objectives – Training , Coaching and building relationships:


The first objective of this trip was to teach the 1-day S.H.A.P.E. seminar to the church leaders in Benin and Togo. What’s most amazing is that the Pioneers are fully responsible for all of the logistics for these conferences. Our church provides the teachers, but they fund everything else!

We trained about 100 leaders in Benin:

And 120 leaders in Togo:


In addition to the conference, we met with the Pioneer Teams in both countries for continued coaching and encouragement.

The 1-day coaching sessions provided a powerful time of investment in these pastors who will be leading the future movement in their countries. The goals for the Pioneer Pastors are:

  • Fully implement the DREAM/PD paradigm in their church becoming a model church for the movement
  • Train more pastors in their respective denominations
  • Raise up the next generation of Pioneer Pastors
  • Multiply the movement!

Please pray for these men as they seek to implement what they’ve learned and become the seed for a healthy church movement in their country!


The third focus of our trips is to build relationships. We preached, shared testimonies and loved on people in multiple churches on 2 Sundays:

At one service, I even got to dedicate a baby!


We are doing this because the Great Commission says,

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20, NLT)

We are doing this because Jesus said,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NLT)

Jesus commanded every church to be on mission not just in their local community, but also in their region, nation and across the world.


At the end of each conference, I challenged the senior pastors who were willing to do whatever it takes to fully equip their people to transform their communities to stand up.  Dozens of them stood and then I prayed a prayer of consecration over these pastors. It was a powerful moment.


God has blessed Oak Ridge in so many incredible ways and He expects us to PAY IT FORWARD by being a blessing to the nations.

THANK YOU for being a church that truly cares outside the four walls.

THANK YOU for your incredible generosity that makes this all possible.

THANK YOU for letting me pastor the greatest church I have ever been a part of!

Thank you ORBC for being a WORLD CHANGING CHURCH!


3 Essential Elements of Mentorship

It’s seems the church world has gone leadership crazy.

Everywhere you turn, there’s an article on leadership:

  • How to Spot a Leader
  • How to Be a Leader
  • How to Build Leaders
  • How to Lead Leaders
  • the list goes on and on

One would think that the Great Commission was, “Go into all the world and make leaders!”

Now don’t get me wrong. Leadership is absolutely essential. Every pastor knows that everything rises and falls on leadership.

However, with a never-ending tsunami of articles telling us we need to develop leaders, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and underachieving.

Every pastor knows they need to be mentoring new leaders, but the problem is HOW??!!

I don’t know about you, but I need mentorship boiled down to a few simple basics.

So, where can a pastor turn for a simplified approach to mentorship?

We turn to the Master mentor – Jesus.

When I read the gospels, I see Jesus focusing on 3 essential mentoring elements that raised up a powerful procession of leaders: CARING / SHARING / PAIRING



“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, NIV)

When Jesus wanted to build leaders, He called them to a relationship before He assigned them a role.

So much that passes for leadership development today looks more like skills-based employee training rather than love-based mentorship. The very first step to build into a leader is to build into their life. People need to know that you love them before you can lead them. The only way I know of to develop love for someone is to spend time with them – to do life with them. If the only time you are spending with someone you’re developing is “on the battlefield,” then you are communicating that you value them for what they do and not for who they are. Doing life and showing love are essential ingredients for mentorship.

So what are some ways we can do life with burgeoning leader?

  • Leader retreats
  • Meet one on one
  • Do lunch together
  • Form a leadership small group
  • Have them over to dinner

Caring is where you are showing them the why before the what.


The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” (Matthew 13:10–11, NIV)

Jesus ministered the crowds, but He mentored the core. He shared the lessons of the kingdom to the masses, but showed the life of the kingdom to His mentees.

When someone comes to you for mentorship or development, it’s because they want to see behind the curtain ( They want an insiders view of what it’s like to be you!

In the early years of my marriage, we had some real struggles we needed to work through. We had seen a few Christian counselors over the years, but I never felt helped. One day while meeting with one of my mentors who I looked up to as the model Christian leader, the subject of marriage came up. Feeling ashamed and discouraged, I shared some of the struggles I was having and how I felt that I was a terrible husband. He chuckled and then proceeded to share with me his own struggles and failures. In fact, he had just had a major blowout with his wife that past week and he told me how he had messed up big time! I remember leaving there that day with more hope than I had felt from all the other counselors combined!

Church leader, share your struggles not just your strengths. Tell them how you got through what you’ve been through and let them know God’s not through with you.

Jesus gave the 12 an inside view of His life and they learned more from His lifestyle than they did from His lectures.


I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” (John 13:15, NLT)

I left the practical part for last. What I love the most about Jesus’ approach is how incredibly hands-on He was. This was no seminary class or academic experience. It was real-time OJT.

At my seminary we were required to intern somewhere before we graduated. I interned under a Young Adults Pastor in a large church. Knowing that I was called to be a lead pastor someday and wanting to build healthy teams, I asked if I could sit in on a staff meeting. My mentor said he would need to ask the powers to be. Several weeks went by and when I brought it up again he told me, “Sorry, the senior leadership wasn’t comfortable with having you at one of their meetings.” I was crushed. I remember thinking, “How am I supposed to learn what I can’t even see?” As it turned out, my internship became a glorified grunt job.

Jesus didn’t dump tasks; He built teams. He didn’t just give ministry assignments TO them. He did ministry WITH them.

Never do ministry alone.  For every task ask, “Who should be doing this with me?”

Dave Ferguson shares a formula for mentorship in his book, Exponential:

I do. You watch. We talk.

I do. You help. We talk.

You do. I help. We talk.

You do. I watch. We talk.

You do. Someone else watches.

Sounds simple, yet it is incredibly powerful.

The fastest way to develop people is to double up and then deploy. Train ’em then trust ’em.

Mentorship is really just focused discipleship. It’s all about building relationships where you:

  • Care for them.
  • Share with them.
  • Pair with them.

What would you add?

3 Ways We Make It Difficult for People to Be Saved

I came across an interesting story in my daily Bible reading. In Acts 15 we find possibly the most critical church business meeting in history. God was working mightily and the church was growing steadily. New believers were being added daily to the body and in the midst of this powerful wave, satan sowed a subtle seed (say that seven times).

A proposal was made by the frozen chosen to actually make it harder for people to become a part of the church. They wanted the new believers to clean up before they join up.

After hearing testimony from two front line missionaries (Paul and Barnabas) and The Rock (Peter, not the actor), James, the senior pastor of the church in Jerusalem, stood up and declared:

“My judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” (Acts 15:19, NLT)

That phrase really hit me. How many times do we make it difficult for people to come to Jesus in our churches? Sometimes it’s intentional, but more often it’s unintentional. So, what are some ways we might “make it difficult” for people?


1.  We make it difficult to feel at home.

Perhaps one of the scariest things a non-Christian can do is to visit a church for the very first time. There are so many questions echoing in the mind of a first time guest. (10 Questions First Time Guests are Asking) Long before a guest makes it to their seat, the question is who will they meet. Will it be a warm, welcoming greeting? Will they feel wanted and accepted? Will they be ignored? Or even worse, will someone treat them rudely. The fact is hospitality is palpable. The question is, what taste are we leaving in our guests’ mouth? Sweet or sour?

Most churches consider themselves friendly. The problem is that they’re usually only friendly to each other. If you really want to know whether your church is truly friendly, hire a secret shopper and ask them to review everything you do. The results just might surprise you.

An unfriendly church makes it difficult for people to come to Christ.

2.  We make it difficult to enjoy the worship.

Music is the world’s most powerful medium. How many people will endure a boring Superbowl (yes, there are boring ones) just to catch the half-time show? Like it or not, music can penetrate where words may fail to communicate.

The musical style of the church can either increase the discomfort of your guests or it can build a bridge into their heart.

How many all-hymn radio stations do you think lost people listen to? If the musical style we use for worship is completely foreign to our guests, it further amplifies their cultural discomfort. I know, I know, some will say, “Yeah, but unbelieving sinners shouldn’t feel comfortable in our service!” Please tell me we know the difference between making a guest feel comfortable in our service versus comfortable in their sin. I’m sincerely hoping that a church, whose mission it is to reach people doesn’t want to repel them.

Non-believers cannot worship, but they certainly can be drawn into the worship. Music does that. When we use music styles that the culture can relate to, the guests find themselves tapping their feet to the beat thinking, “This is pretty neat!”

However, when we choose music that feels like a funeral, we make it difficult for people to celebrate new life in Christ.

3. We make it difficult to understand the truth.

There are three ways we make the truth difficult for people. We use difficult translations (KJV, really?), dated versions (paper versus apps), and dull preaching.

Bryan Chappell cites a survey on preaching in America in his classic book, Christ-Centered Preaching, finding that “1) Preachers tend to use complex, archaic language which the average person does not understand; 2) most sermons today are dull, boring, and uninteresting; 3) most preaching today is irrelevant; 4) preaching today is not courageous preaching; 5) preaching does not communicate; 6) preaching does not lead to change in persons; 7) preaching has been overemphasized.”

I know we want to get our money’s worth out of all that seminary tuition, but we need to get back to the approach of the Master. Jesus used simple language to communicate a difficult truth. Jesus’ sermons had 4 characteristics:

  • They were short (the longest one is estimated to be less than 15 minutes)
  • They were clear
  • They were relevant – He often used everyday stories to communicate eternal truths
  • They were actionable – people knew what to do when He was through

The Bible is the world’s most practical book. The promises, principles and precepts contained in scripture are truly life-changing, and yet somehow, we seem to make it difficult for people to understand and apply. The point of preaching is to make the Bible clear.  People can’t obey what they don’t understand.  The Apostle Paul said, “In a church meeting I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language.” (1 Co 14:19)

Our preaching should reinforce our people’s confidence that they can read and understand the Bible themselves. So we need to discombobulate their misconceptions by recombobulating our methods (see what I did with that?). In other words, put the jam on the bottom shelf so the people can get to it. Choose clear over clever. (For more on the topic of preaching, check out my blog: 8 Principles of Great Preaching)


Those are some of my thoughts.

What are your thoughts?

What are some other ways we make it difficult?

3 Proven Practices for Reaching the Unchurched

Recently a pastor asked me, “What are the top 3 to 5 things your church does to reach the unchurched?”

I immediately thought about our DREAM strategy. It has guided our church for 17 years and has allowed us to reach thousands of people for Christ. The good news is that any church can become more effective at reaching the lost in their community and it doesn’t even involve new buildings or expensive technology.

In fact, the secret to reaching the unchurched is not even a secret. The principles are as old as the New Testament and are transferable into any church in any community or culture.

So, what are they?


1. Consideration.

You cannot connect who you are not considering. Reaching the lost begins with passion. Passion drives practices. If the church leaders are passionate about reaching lost people then it will bleed out onto every part of the church. Remember, Jesus’ passion literally bled out. Before you can reach the lost your heart must break for what breaks the heart of God and God’s heart breaks for people. Do not even attempt to change the programs of the church until you’ve changed the passion in the church.

Want to light a fire for evangelism in the heart of your leaders? Bring them to the 2017 DREAM Church Conference!

2. Accommodation.

Once you have a burden for the unchurched it will color how you see everything you do in church. You will be looking at your church through the lens of the lost. For example, if you were hosting important guests for dinner who have never been to your home before you would probably do some things differently. You would probably make sure the house is picked up. You would warmly greet them at the door. You would let them sit in “your” chair. You would turn the TV off in order to give them your full attention. You would probably even break out the nice dishes instead of the paper plates. In other words, you would pull out all the stops to show them that you are glad they came and do everything you can to make them feel welcome and wanted. This isn’t compromise; it’s courtesy!

Churches that want to reach the unchurched must have a guest-friendly makeover. They should examine every element of the weekend service through the eyes of their target and then make adjustments to ensure that they are treating their guests as VIPs.

Learn the 3 systems you must change in your church to make it unchurched friendly at the 2017 DREAM Church Conference.

3. Invitation.

Now that you’ve prepped the house for company, you’re ready to invite them over!

It is still true that nearly 70% of our first time guests came because someone invited them. Yes, it’s good to have a great web site, Facebook page, and social media presence, but all those things are supplementary tools. Nothing will ever replace the power of personal invitation.

Pastors often ask me, “How do I get my people to invite?” But that’s not the right question.

The right question is, “Why aren’t my people inviting?” And sadly the reason is usually because they don’t feel their church would be a great experience for their lost friends.

People naturally invite to something that they are excited about and has changed their life. You don’t have to twist someone’s arm to talk about what they’re excited about.

Want to learn the 3 secrets of turning your members into inviters? Check out my blog post entitled, How to Spark an Invitational Revolution.

When the leaders are filled with a passion to reach the lost, the worship services are tuned to be guest friendly, and your people are regularly inviting, you have a powerful recipe to reach the unchurched in your community!


To learn more about building a healthy, evangelistic church that is reaching the community, I want to challenge senior pastors to bring your entire leadership team to our annual DREAM church conference. We’ve partnered with thousands of church leaders, both in the U.S. and across the world passing on what we learned from successful churches and now we want to pass it on to you!

When you need more than inspiration, the DREAM church conference provides you with practical tools and proven strategies that can be applied to any church anywhere.

The Top 10 Posts of 2016

I had quite a bit of blog traffic this year coming from all over the world. I am thrilled that my posts have been a blessing to some fellow Christian sojourners. I am also deeply humbled that I was published several times this year by, the official community of purpose driven pastors worldwide.

Here’s the Top 10 of 2016:

  1. I D.R.E.A.M. of a Church
  2. The Church Isn’t Meeting My Needs – Part 1
  3. The Top 10 Characteristics of the Average Unchurched Family
  4. The Erosion of the Family in America
  5. Why You Should NOT Give Money to the Homeless Person
  6. Why We Stopped Doing VBS
  7. The Church Isn’t Meeting My Needs – Part 2
  8. The Church that Canceled Christmas
  9. How the North Pole Became a Cultural Bridge
  10. Why Your Church Should be Doing Bridge Events Instead of Outreach Events

Thank you for your continued encouragement and support.

My passion is to equip church leaders to pursue God-sized DREAMs for their church.

My prayer is that this blog helps them to do that.

May 2017 be our greatest year yet!

Why Your Church Should be Doing Bridge Events Instead of Outreach Events

Churches that have a desire to use an outreach event aimed at reaching their community for Christ struggle with strategies that are effective.

Over the years I’ve seen churches (including mine) use big events that require a lot of time, money and volunteers, only to find that they were relatively unsuccessful at connecting unchurched people into their congregation.

Of course, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to using events to reach people. However, there are some guiding principles of what not to do and what to do.

First, what not to do:

1. Don’t be pushy.

On my honeymoon a guy at the hotel offered us a “free cruise.”  All they wanted was for us to “listen to a brief presentation about their vacation timeshare.” We thought, “Why not? We have no money for a timeshare so this will be easy.” What we didn’t know was that the “cruise” was a boat ride to a private location with no way to get back except the boat. Finally, after several hours of very painful high-pressure sales pitches which felt very much like a Nazi interrogation, we were allowed to leave. I remember thinking, “I will NEVER do that again!”

I wonder how many “guests” feel that way after attending a church’s “free” event?  Trapped and pressured.

Outreach events should leave them thinking, “I’d like to know more,” rather than, “Man, where’s the door!?”

2 Don’t get creepy.

One time a friend invited me to check out his church’s Halloween outreach program. He told me it was one of their best evangelistic outreaches with hundreds of decisions. We decided to go check it out. It didn’t take long before I realized it was going to get weird. The “program” consisted of being taken into different rooms where volunteers acted out the story of a young rebellious girl. The first room showed her getting into an argument with her parents. The next room showed a mangled car with a shattered windshield. Next, they crowded us into a room with low lights and a casket. There they talked about how this girl had thrown her life away and would never get another chance to be saved. From there they moved us down an intensely hot, dark hall where all of a sudden a red light flashed on and the girl was standing behind bars of a side room decorated to be hell. There were several people tied in chains to the walls behind her. Blood dripping down her face, she screamed over and over, “I’m in hell!  Help me!”  Reaching her arms through the bars towards us she cried, “If only I had listened when I had the chance. Now it’s too late.” Finally, they ushered us into the sanctuary where they “presented the gospel and begged us not to get back into our cars until we had made certain we were saved. In fact they asked every person in the room, “Are you a Christian? Do you know for sure? Do you?”

I thought to myself, “Thank God I was a Christian before I came here because I’m not sure I would have ever considered Christ afterwards.”

I asked him afterwards how many people had been added into his church as a result of the outreach and he responded, “A few.”

Remember, our goal is to make disciples, not decisions.

3. Don’t be tricky.

Whether it’s bait and switch tactics, high-pressure “seal the deal” evangelism or scare them into Christianity; none of these approaches are highly effective at reaching the unchurched. That’s why your church should consider a bridge event instead of just an outreach event.

What’s the difference between an evangelistic event and a bridge event?

Bridge events are pre-evangelism outreaches that are designed to build a relational bridge into the lives of the lost.

What are the elements of a great bridge event?


A great bridge event must demonstrate that the church exists to be a blessing to their community.  Most lost people think of the church as a private service organization that exists purely for the benefit of its members.

A great bridge event needs to show that we exist for the purpose of our non-members.

Going all out with no cost to the community says, “We’re here for YOU!”


Get in the mind of the UNchurched and think about an event that they would enjoy.

We’ve done this in a variety of ways including a free concert that played rock and roll hits from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

However, by far, our most successful bridge event has been our Santa’s Wonderland. You can read more about this event here.

A great bridge event should be a “no strings attached” environment where the people in your church can form relationships with the people in the community. Nothing does this better than good old fashioned fun.


Resist the bait and switch.

As hard as this is as a dyed-in-the-wool, Bible belt evangelical, I’ve come to realize that you have to earn their trust before you can share the truth. There are no shortcuts to building a relational bridge. Lost people today are more skeptical than ever. Their guard is up and their hearts are closed.

A great bridge event that sincerely communicates care does wonders to lower their guard and open their heart.


So, what great bridge event could your church do?