Staying Connected, Staying Strong

Staying Connected, Staying StrongStaying Connected, Staying Strong

Those four words say a lot to me not only as Pastor, but also as Executive Director.

As a pastor, I am reminded of the parable Jesus told:  “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?” [Matthew 18:12 NKJV]

Jesus used a simple illustration to communicate a directive to every pastor-shepherd. In order to truly disciple Christians into fully devoted, mature followers of Christ, helping them stay connected to the body of Christ is essential. Jesus made it clear that shepherds keep their sheep connected to the fold. For the local church this means we are to seek for straying sheep and help them reconnect to the fold of the church.

As Pastor, I’ve always viewed this shepherding task as a very important and serious responsibility. The spiritual lives of my sheep are dependent upon their connection to the church. A shepherding pastor must also strive to help members stay in the fold of the church. If they stay connected they are better protected from tragic pitfalls and hidden obstacles that await outside the church. A church is always stronger with 100% of its sheep in the fold than it is when even a few are missing.

As Executive Director, the words, Staying Connected, Staying Strong, also have a sobering effect on me. I am reminded that as General Baptists strive to advance the Kingdom, every mission field is crucially important to us. For we “are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). We can never forget the sacrifices of missionary families who travel to different states or countries to spread the gospel. We can never forget the sacrificial giving of individuals and churches that help develop new ministries in the U.S. and around the globe.

I always feel a burden when I visit our mission fields. I want to make sure that our missionaries and national workers know that they have a larger General Baptist family in the United States who love them and want to stay connected with them. As a network of churches called General Baptist, we must stay connected to the ministries God has provided to us. 

We try to maintain this connection by having our missionaries, and now some national workers as well, travel to the United States to attend the Summit. I want this to continue each year so the ability to meet with, pray with, worship with, and laugh with their greater General Baptist family will breathe encouragement into the lives of our missionaries, national workers and the mission fields they represent.

I believe Jesus is pleased with our General Baptist family when we seek to stay connected at the local, national, and international levels.

Local pastor, I know how tough ministry life can be. One weapon in Satan’s arsenal is isolation and separation. Pastors, we don’t want you to be disconnected, struggling to do ministry alone. We have designed conferences to equip you to do the work more creatively, efficiently, and meaningfully than ever before. Our Barnabas Project attempts to make personal connection to you. We offer services to help personal networking and maintain current communications.

Local church, regardless of your size, location, or budget, we value your connection to General Baptist Ministries. In light of the troubled state of our culture and the recent ruling by our U.S. Supreme Court regarding marriage and family, the time to stand strong together upon the Word of God is now.

Missionaries and national workers, we believe in your sacrifice and mission. We are dedicated to giving you our prayers as well as our financial support.

Staying Connected, Staying Strong. May these words stir every General Baptist. No Pastor can be left behind. No mission field can be forgotten. No local church can be cast aside. No General Baptist can be overlooked. You belong to a larger body of believers committed to helping you do more together than you could ever do alone.

Clint Cook – Executive Director
General Baptist Ministries

3 Reasons Why Churches Should Incorporate

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

Churches in the United States originally mirrored the state-church structures of England. In fact, the state of Massachusetts maintained a state sponsored church until 1833. In those original structures the church was an extension of the state. This remains essentially the case in many European countries where a government operated church exists.

Part of the incentive for early pioneers to migrate to America was the incentive for religious freedom. They did not at first, however, set out to establish a free-church tradition. Instead, they simply established their preferred version of a state sponsored church.

With the Great Awakenings on the western frontiers of the United States, churches were brought into existence rapidly. There was little attention given to organizational life in those days since many of the churches were congregational in polity. Thus the group organized to meet their needs for religious affiliation. Today if investigations are done into the background or origin of many churches that carry some form of “Union” in their name, one will discover that once upon a time one church location served several different denominations. The congregation might be the same but on some Sundays they gathered as a Baptist church and on others they gathered as a Methodist or Presbyterian church depending on which pastor could travel the particular circuit on a given meeting day.

As denominations developed and as churches began to hold property, they also began to engage in collective business activity. For example, a church budget I saw from some of those early days indicated a set amount to be spent for “kindling” so the newly installed coal fired furnace could operate.

The developing business life of churches meant that in the 20th century a need existed to identify the church as a formal entity in the community. To recognize that existence and to extend preferential treatment toward its operations, churches were encouraged to incorporate under the laws in their state.

Three overarching reasons exist for churches to incorporate.

Legal Identity. Incorporation establishes legal identity. The world of banking, insurance and utility deposits requires that entities that do business must have some formal identity by which that business is done. Incorporation provides that formal, legal identity for a church. Thus when officers sign official documents such as deeds, loans, etc. they are signing as officers of the corporation not as individuals.

Limited Liability. Forming a nonprofit corporation normally protects the directors, officers, and members of the nonprofit from personal liability for the corporation’s debts and other obligations. Called limited liability, this shield ensures that anyone who obtains a judgment against the nonprofit can reach only the assets of the corporation, not the bank accounts, houses, or other property owned by the people who manage, work for, or participate in the business. Limited liability also means that business loans and mortgages are guaranteed by the corporation’s assets not those officers who co-sign.

Tax-Exempt Status. Many nonprofit groups seek nonprofit corporate status to gain exemptions from federal and state income taxes. The most common federal tax exemption for nonprofits comes from Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, which is why nonprofits are sometimes called “501(c)(3)s.” This status is granted to General Baptist churches under a blanket ruling by the IRS. A letter of recognition is issued to any General Baptist church that meets the criteria. For more information contact General Baptist Ministries.

When a church obtains tax-exempt status, not only is it free from paying taxes on all income from activities related to its nonprofit purpose but people and organizations that donate to the nonprofit can take a tax deduction for their contributions.

Incorporating a church as a nonprofit corporation usually involves these steps:

  • Choose a business name that is legally available in your state.
  • Prepare articles of incorporation that define your purpose and meet the legal requirements of the state. Sample copies are generally available from the Secretary of State’s office. While it is not necessary to use an attorney, it may be helpful to have an attorney review or even prepare the articles of incorporation.
  • Create bylaws that will guide the corporation’s operation.
  • Select an initial board of directors and officers for the corporation.
  • File your “articles of incorporation” with your state’s corporate filing office, and pay a filing fee.

Your state’s corporate filing division is usually part of the secretary of state’s office. You can request a packet of nonprofit materials from that office which will include sample articles of incorporation, the state’s laws on nonprofit corporations, and instructions on how to find an available business name.

Life in Those Old Denominations: 5 Ways to Participate

Having just completed our annual Mission & Ministry Summit I have been reminded not only of the history of our own denomination but also the value of belonging and participating in a denominational network. Nevertheless, while hundreds of General Baptist leaders gathered in Collinsville, Illinois for Powerful Worship, Practical Training and Personal Missionary Connections, (you can read about the event here) hundreds of others chose not to participate. As I reflected on participation in denominational enterprises it struck me that there are at least five ways I can participate.

  1. Participating through shared theology. The heart of our General Baptist movement, network, denomination is a commitment to our core theology of a General Atonement. This seems old-hat to those of us who have always held such a simple belief. As stated in the Scripture, Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man so that whosoever will may be saved. It seems strange to think that this concept was considered heresy in most Baptist circles in the 1820’s when our movement was born. It also seems strange to think that many evangelicals today avoid that simple truth without realizing that they then portray a view of God as capricious, arbitrary and unreasoning.

When I served as pastor, I regularly met new people in our community who came from a church background that was non-General Baptist. They were delighted to learn that we believed as they did that God offers equal opportunity to all who would by faith accept Jesus as a personal savior.

Whenever I espouse belief in a General Atonement rather than a Limited Atonement, then I am participating in our General Baptist denomination by sharing a mutual theology.

  1. Participating through shared mission. The natural outgrowth of belief in a General Atonement is taking the Great Commission seriously. Thus when I pray for, support or participate in the denominational mission, then I am participating in the General Baptist cause. Shared mission involves missionary activity throughout the world, church planting within the United States, and various initiatives to teach and train as we make disciples in obedience to the Great Commission.
  2. Participating by personal networking. Shared theology and shared mission puts me in connection with others and while I cannot be connected personally with every adherent of the General Baptist cause, I can and do make connections with some others. Many times these connections are framed within my local church or regional association. On other occasions they cross regional boundaries as I find personal connection with like-missioned people across the nation or around the world.
  3. Participating by officially belonging. While shared theology, mission and network are excellent starting points, officially belonging is an important and meaningful way to participate in the life of our denomination. This official connection generally occurs through participation in a regional association that in turn is connected to the General Association of General Baptists. Churches that are not part of a denomination may become direct affiliates of the General Association to establish an official connection. Help is always available from denominational officers and denominational offices to assist any church who shares our core theology, mission and network to make official connections.
  4. Participating by showing up. Attending the first time is always a bit awkward whether it is a pastor’s conference, The Summit, or a Council of Associations meeting. Repeated attendance, however, means that soon we learn the expectations and nature of the gatherings. Repeated attendance also means that soon we learn not only how to navigate the denominational circuit but also that we anticipate seeing, greeting and catching up with folks who have become partners in the gospel. After 40 years of attending the General Association and after directly working with The Summit for 10 seasons now, I still look forward to showing up and checking up on folks I may only see once in a while.




Life in Those Old Denominations: 3 Reasons for Belonging AND Participating

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

Having just completed our annual Mission & Ministry Summit I have been reminded not only of the history of our own denomination but also the value of belonging and participating in a denominational network. Hundreds of General Baptist leaders gathered in Collinsville, Illinois for Powerful Worship, Practical Training and Personal Missionary Connections.

Powerful Worship was made possible by a Collective Worship Team of musicians and vocalists from several churches. The main sessions were completed by powerful preaching from both General Baptist and guest preachers who obviously had a message to share. Each preacher (Mark Powell, Darren Patrick, Alex Himaya, and Clint Cook) shared passionately and effectively. (Note: DVD copies of the main sessions are available for purchase from Congregational Ministries.)

Practical Training came from workshop sessions offered throughout the week. Workshop tracks allowed participants options to build a series of connected workshops or to enjoy highlights from several workshop tracks. Along with missionary connections, special training came from our own Church Planting Team and guests assisted with rural church, discipleship, personal enrichment, church systems and other topics. To conserve the learning, audio recordings were made of most workshops and access to those downloadable recordings is available through a drop card system that may be purchased from Congregational Ministries.

Missionary Connections were not only available in the workshops but were also part of the main stage event, a featured element of the exhibit hall, and an important part of two very powerful group prayers. On Tuesday evening Executive Director Clint Cook presided over a very moving commissioning service as the assembled leaders laid hands on newly appointed International Missions Director Mark Powell and newly appointed church planter Steve Gill to commission them to their new tasks. On Wednesday evening all the current missionaries, church planters and ethnic ministries were grouped together for a special joint prayer of blessing on their lives and service.

Looking back over the week I was reminded of three very important reasons for being part of a denominational network.

First, we do together what we cannot do alone. No one church can accomplish individually what we accomplish collectively. What one church can supervise the gathering of 42 churches in India? What one church can undertake the management of an orphanage in Honduras? What one church can plant a series of fast-growing, high-impact churches to reach thousands with the gospel? What one church can set the stage for revitalization of hundreds of existing churches? While no one church can undertake these ministries, when we work together they are rather easily accomplished!

Second, as part of a network of churches we are exposed to the help and encouragement needed to be more effective in our local ministries. One of the amazing things about The Summit is that since the meetings were re-engineered in 2007 a broader connection among and between General Baptists from different parts of the nation and different parts of the world have developed. With these new connections there is a synergy of effort as well as a keen reassurance that we are not alone in the struggle.

Third, as part of a denominational connection I can take advantage of services and programs that are offered to assist and expand my own ministry. Conferences and events offered by the denomination are provided at very modest costs and in convenient locations. If I accessed similar services as a private payee I would spend hundreds of dollars more for the same or similar conferences and events. Consultation services, missionary presence and church planter connections are all designed to assist and expand each local ministry to more effectively reach the world.

Executive Director Clint Cook puts it like this, “General Baptist Ministries exists to maximize Kingdom impact by starting, equipping and inspiring local churches to accomplish the Great Commission.”

Brand name loyalty is not what it once was. Markets for automobiles and dishwashing detergent can no longer depend on a buying public that is motivated by brand name loyalty. Church connections, too, are often driven by factors other than brand name loyalty. For me, however, there are compelling reasons for connecting to those old denominational structures, so I want to do my part to establish and improve my connections.


To purchase recordings of the workshops or General Sessions, contact Congregational Ministries at cmofc@generalbaptist or by calling 573-785-7746.

4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education Pt 4

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

The following is the fourth and final part of a series dealing with “4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education.” These four areas are:

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Personal Evangelism
  3. Making Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture
  4. Maintaining an appropriate work/life balance

An ongoing struggle for many church leaders is the struggle to maintain an appropriate balance between ministry tasks and obligations, and personal or family life. Three particular groups of church leaders often face this as THE paramount struggle in their ministry settings.

  1. Bi-vocational pastors must balance the demands and tasks of ministry with the demands and tasks of livelihood and working a ‘real’ job.
  2. Pastors with younger children must balance the demands and tasks of ministry with the demands and tasks of child rearing, especially in two-income households.
  3. High capacity volunteers who serve ably as teachers, task force leaders, ministry organizers, board members and in dozens of other necessary roles in the church also struggle to maintain balance in their endeavors.

While every ministry leader must wrestle with and solve this problem of balance, a few leading questions may point toward meaningful solutions.

1.  How much time is actually being used? A simple time log can assist the church leader to analyze how much time is being spent on what particular task. A time log should be maintained for 2-3 weeks to provide a broad enough overview for analysis. The time log should identify time usage by using easily understood labels and descriptions.

Analysis of time used should also lead to an evaluation of “How much time should be used for…?”

2.  Are time wasters built into your day? The ready availability of internet connections allows many well intended workers to drift into meaningless searches or time-consuming online chatter. E-mail alerts, text messages and social media posts have replaced the persistent ringing of the phone as one of the most intrusive time wasters.

Simple organization can easily reduce the time wasters that so easily interrupt the day. For example, by setting a time for returning phone calls or responding to e-mail I no longer have to be interrupted if I am in the middle of an important, tedious or get-this-done-the-deadline-is-approaching task. Returning calls and e-mails just before lunch and just before going home in the afternoon can give you a couple of significant time blocks for productive work.

3.  Do you have a plan for how your day will unfold? Writing down a to do list or a schedule of activity for the day/week/month can go a long way toward getting done what needs to get done and then moving on the next task or even going home on time. An intentional plan to say “Yes” to certain tasks means that I must say “No” to other tasks. Appropriate “Yes” and “No” is the key to work/life balance.

Everything cannot be done in a day but many pastors would do well to add a few more tasks to their days rather than to always be on call and thus to only have a schedule of time use that is controlled by others and by circumstances rather than by advance planning.

Maintaining regular and adequate office hours is an important feature for the vocational pastor. This means showing up on time but it also means going home on time. Advice given to a young pastor who lived next door to the church in a parsonage is still sound:

“Leave your house on time to drop the kids off at school. Circle back to the church and park outside the building so everyone will know you are in the office today. At the close of the day drive back home and park inside the garage. Close the garage door. You’re home now; act like it.”

When it comes to maintaining balance here are some strategic questions to explore.

  1. Do I have a regular day off? Do I use it as it should be used? Regular office hours are important because they not only define the time I spend at work they also define the time I do not spend at work.
  2. How do the hours I spend in ministry compare with the hours other professionals spend in their vocations? Many pastors would do well to compare schedules with a successful real estate agent or the managing partner in an accounting firm or a building principal in the local school system.
  3. Is my current busyness due to a season of ministry or is it chronic workaholism that is destructive? A friend who was setting up his medical practice intentionally scheduled his clinic to be open one evening each week and every Saturday morning. This schedule, however, lasted only for a year or so until he had gathered enough patients to fill his regular appointment schedule. Now, several years later, his office is closed two afternoons a week and he shares his on-call weekend responsibilities with others. There are seasons of ministry in the local church that are much busier than other seasons. The special programs of summer, the holiday frenzy of November-December and the period around Easter are sure to be busier-than-usual times that come but then go.
  1. Is my current schedule working for me, my family and my church? When it comes right down to it this answer really defines work/life balance.

4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education Pt 3

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

The following is part three in a four part series dealing with “4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education.” These four areas are:

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Personal Evangelism
  3. Making Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture
  4. Maintaining an appropriate work/life balance

5 Suggestions for Making Christian Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture

A recently baptized believer visited the local bookstore. This large retail outlet boasted two floors of floor-to-ceiling shelves of books. Because it was part of a national chain the sales premise was “IF we don’t have it, we’ll get it!” The eager shopper flagged down a clerk for assistance, but the experienced clerk could not locate the requested title. In frustration the new believer explained later to a new friend at church, “I know the pastor asked us to read the book he referenced but the bookstore doesn’t have a copy of a book called Daniel.”

A guest at a rapidly growing church plant reported the experience was pleasant, the music was great and the sermon provided life application. He noted one puzzling feature. “They can’t tell time correctly. The pastor kept referencing different men but each of them seemed to have a different time that I had.”

“What do you mean?” his friend gently probed. “Well, the second time it happened I looked at my phone. It was 11:10 but the pastor said according to John that it was 3:16!”

The stories are real and they illustrate a telling point. The Christian Church is on the periphery of the larger culture and as a result the larger culture no longer teaches the basics of the Christian faith or of worship behavior.

This places the American Church back into a similar culture as that of the 1st century when the church was in its infancy. This is the Book of Acts but not the culture and environment of Acts 2. On that occasion of Pentecost a simple presentation of the gospel resulted in thousands of conversions and baptisms. In Acts 17 a similar presentation of the gospel to an environment and culture informed by a different world view resulted in only a few conversions.

A similar contrast of world views and culture can be illustrated in the book of Acts.

Acts 2                                                                    Acts 17

One God                                                             Many gods some as yet Undiscovered

Messiah is coming                                           Messiah?

A personal God who creates                          the mythic gods portrayed

and is in charge                                                in statuary

thousands believe and are baptized            a few men believed

How can we make Christian disciples in a non-Christian culture?

  1. Communicate clearly with language that can be understood by people in the culture. We all have to work on this-even the Apostle Paul made the mistake of speaking of Resurrection in terms that caused some of the Athenians to suppose he was talking about a newly discovered goddess.
  2. Let the Bible speak for itself. I believe we need to avoid many of the non-biblical systematic labels that are often used in our theological discussions. The same could be said for the artificial chapter and topic headings found in our English Bibles. Many times these headings disguise the context rather than present the context of a passage.
  3. Use elective studies that teach the essentials of a Christian world view and biblical backgrounds as well as Christian attitudes and responses to current events. Populate these classes with seekers, new believers and senior saints.
  4. Incorporate important how-to instructions as part of new member classes. For example Class 201 in the suggested discipleship classes for new members addresses such topics as:

The Habit of a Daily Time with God

The Habit of Reading God’s Word

The Habit of Prayer: Talking with God

The Habit of Tithing: Giving Back to God

The Habit of Fellowship: Enjoying God’s Family

How to Start and Maintain Good Habits

  1. Model Christian discipleship in both small group and one-on-one relationships. Discipleship is often caught rather than taught. When people around us see that we have been with Jesus some of them will want to join us on the journey.

5 Wrongs and 1 Right

By Franklin Dumond

Suppose a convoy of large, over-sized, over-weight transports arrived at a bridge with specifically posted and well known weight limits that made it dangerous to cross. Suppose the drivers of the transport vehicles conferred on the implications of the weight limits by investigating the history of the load limits, the placement of the weight limit sign, along with the stated intention of the drivers to deliver their over-sized, over-weight cargo.

bridge for blogSuppose the nine drivers take a formal poll to determine the course of action with the result that five of them announce their belief that the designers of the bridge never intended to restrict access, the use of the bridge should not be restricted based on the precedent of history and everyone should be able to move whatever cargo they choose to deliver across the bridge. Despite the fact that four of the drivers object, five of them determine to press ahead to deliver their over-sized, over-weight cargo despite the clearly posted, scientifically sound weight limits on the bridge.

The analogy is remarkably like the recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding marriage laws in the United States. Their decision that marriage is not to be understood only in traditional terms of union between one man and one woman now applies throughout the land despite the logic of history and the message of a Judeo-Christian worldview.

Several concerns have been raised by leaders and lay members in evangelical churches as they consider the implications of such a decision. In the current legal framework here are some facts that need to be considered.

  1. Can Baptist pastors be compelled to officiate same-sex marriages? NO! Baptist pastors are not agents of the state and thus they cannot be compelled to act for the state. Government officials may be compelled to act for the state as part of their statutory responsibility. Pastors have always been able to determine the conditions under which they will officiate a ceremony. Many pastors require a particular series of pre-marital counseling sessions, others refuse to officiate at second marriages if divorce has been involved while still others choose only to serve the members of their congregations. None of this is changed by the Supreme Court ruling.
  2. Can churches be compelled to allow the use of their facilities for same-sex marriage ceremonies? NO! A building use policy that is crafted to tie a General Baptist Church to the Social Principles adopted as policy statements by the General Association of General Baptists will prevent any claim of discrimination or any misunderstanding of the church’s biblical view of marriage. (For more information see the General Baptist Messenger, Winter 2013, pages 34-35 at

A church that engages in the rental business, however, may be subject to the restrictions imposed by public accommodation laws. That is if a church’s building use policy offers rental of the facility for stated fees and other terms that make it appear that the church provides a public access service to the community then the church may find itself without important protections.

Similarly a harsh, restrictive facility use policy that defines what the church is against rather than what it is for muddies the water. For example, a building use policy that states “These facilities shall never be used for same sex ceremonies” is very different from a building use policy that states “These facilities shall never be used in a manner inconsistent with the biblical view of marriage stated in the Social Principles of General Baptists.” The General Baptist Social Principles Booklet is downloadable from by going to the Council of Associations page and scrolling down to the We Believe documents.

I noticed with sadness the release of the Supreme Court opinion. The day it was released the sun went down, but the day after the sun came up again.

The world has not come to an end because five people made a collective mistake. The court has made mistakes in the past, most notably the Dred Scott decision in 1857. The court will most likely make mistakes in the future-all humans do.

The larger implications of the recent ruling are that the church must be more effective in evangelism and more efficient in discipleship. Real change in a culture does not come from laws and court opinions but it comes when hearts of stone are replaced with new hearts of flesh that are in tune with and guided by the Lord himself.

Despite recent Supreme Court rulings General Baptist Ministries continues to affirm a view of marriage and sexuality as defined by the Scripture and as summarized in the Social Principles of General Baptists:

“We believe in the divine sanctity of the marriage covenant, which is the union between one man and one woman only. This is God’s plan for a continued moral civilization. We reject ‘marriage’ between two parties of the same sex and count such an act in violation of God’s ordained plan for human beings…Marriage is a partnership between husband and wife and accomplishes its full purpose through unity, loyalty, and love.” (page 10)

“We recognize that sexuality is a good gift of God which, in all instances, is to be disciplined in such a manner as to bring two persons to its true fulfillment. We are to be good stewards of this divine gift. We believe that society as a whole has fallen far below God’s standards of sexual morality. We believe the Bible teaches that sexual relations should be practiced only within the marriage bond.” (page 15)

Executive Director Clint Cook has stated, “Neither courts nor legislatures or a secular culture can alter eternal standards revealed by God himself. The recent Supreme Court rulings illustrate the mandate given to the Church to make disciples one at a time so that society at large may be changed. General Baptist Ministries will continue to pursue an aggressive plan for church planting to win more and more people to the faith. We will continue to coach and encourage local General Baptist churches to aggressively pursue evangelism and missions with the goal of life transformation that will in turn lead to social transformation. May God send us another Great Awakening to rescue our lost and dying culture.”

4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education Pt 2

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

The world of the church and the world at large continues to change at an ever increasing rate. The 21st century provides greater challenges than ever to the church leader who would remain relevant and current. Four areas where church leaders need continuing education to meet these challenges.

  1. Communication Skills. Click here to read about why continuing to better communication skills is necessary for church leaders.
  2. Personal Evangelism. Too many churches report zero conversions in a year because too few church leaders engage in personal evangelism.

a) The Public Arena of Personal Evangelism.

Our changed and changing culture has made many of the traditional approaches to evangelism obsolete or less effective than they once were. Unfortunately many aspects of evangelism were public, general appeals. Their success was proportional to the advance work that had been done to prepare people to hear, understand and respond to the gospel.

The advance preparation, for the most part, came from a culture with a Judeo-Christian morality and a worldview that included acknowledgment of a benevolent creator. The advance preparation also included a cultural respect for the church and a general awareness that local churches were open to all who would choose to attend.

The practical reality also existed that the church provided the ‘best show in town’ with music and message that simply was not available except by attending in person.

This public appeal for a decision was an innovation of the 19th century that was widely accepted by the 1850s. In the aftermath of the great Camp Meetings the practice of local evangelistic meetings also spread with the geographic and religious frontier of the day.

Throughout much of the 20th century this public practice of evangelism continued with predictable success. The cultural reinforcements for the Christian gospel were in place but in the later years of the 20th century this began to change.

In my experience by 1990 spontaneous response to a general public appeal to become a Christian all but disappeared. The Sawdust Trail of the Camp Meeting and the great crusades was no longer a built-in part of the cultural or social expectations communicated to people.

The public efforts to win people to Christ, then, became less effective not because the gospel was ineffective but because of the lack of preparation provided by an increasingly secular culture.

The simple fact that evangelism requires background information to prepare people to make a decision for Christ has been known since the 1st century. It shows in the declaration by the Apostle Paul to describe the Corinthian process of evangelism: I planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase.

The simple fact that public evangelistic efforts are more successful when people share a world view that is sympathetic to the gospel is illustrated in the contrast between Acts 2 and the thousands who were baptized on Pentecost and Acts 17 and the few who believed when the same message was presented. In Acts 2 the people were prepared. In Acts 17 the background information simply did not exist and without prior knowledge they could not come to a decision.

Does a shifting culture exclude a public appeal to become a Christian? Not at all!

The cultural deficiencies of a secular, hostile culture requires some added features to this public proclamation that were not necessary a generation ago. Four elements come to mind.

  1. I believe simple explanations of the gospel should be part of every pastor’s preaching calendar. Thus a few times each year (perhaps 3-4) the morning message is a simple recounting of the gospel.
  2. Public invitations must avoid the #1 fear of being pointed out in public. There is nothing about walking to the front of an auditorium that will in and of itself save anyone. Effective use of a communication card or spiritual survey can gain the attention of hearers who otherwise would never respond publically.

iii. A sample prayer is needed. Again because of the cultural deficiencies of our secular mindset we need to assist people in making those connections to God. On the gospel presentation days it is possible to lead the entire group to repeat this prayer!

iv. Focus evangelism on 2-3 Big Days as a means of making initial public connections that will result in on-going private conversations.

b) The Private Arena of Personal Evangelism

i. Relationship is the key and must be cultivated. Jesus used his relation building skills to connect with people. We can do the same. This takes time and often requires a compassionate heart and a patient spirit.

ii. Un-churched is different from De-churched. De-churched people have experience with the gospel and its impact on a local assembly. Often they suffer their own personal disappointments that require bridges of trust must be redeveloped. Often the de-churched have their own disappointments with life that impact and complicate their disappointment with the church.

Un-churched have no clue about church music, church etiquette or church finance. Patience is required to gently teach and train. We used to call it being user friendly. Non-threatening is another expression that could be used here.

iii. Important tools in the toolbox of personal evangelism include:

–personal integrity since they will not trust the message until they trust the messenger,

–personal understanding of the issues and context involved so that a customized response rather than a one-size-fits-all answer may be provided,


  1. A three-fold witnessing plan is essential.

Many folks are well equipped to provide an Instructional Witness where they will offer answers to questions about the faith–apologetics. Still others will be able to provide an Informational Witness as they tell their story of personal faith. Many leaders find the first steps of personal witness come from encouraging an Invitational Witness whereby believers invite their unbelieving friends and family members to attend a Big Day.

  1. Making Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture requires that we cannot rely on the culture at large to teach basic Christian beliefs. For example, many folks in my generation learned the Lord’s Prayer at school along with the Pledge of Allegiance. This doesn’t happen these days so church leaders must be more intentional and more comprehensive in their disciple making enterprises.
  2. Maintaining an appropriate work/life balance now that the 24/7 on-call world of ministry has expanded to the 24/7 digitally-connected world of ministry. Many church leaders manage to appear very busy without being very productive. Pilots are reminded as they prepare for solo flight “Don’t forget to fly the plane!” In their case it is tempting to focus so much on the dials and indicators that the essential task of flying becomes secondary.

Frantic, last minute preparations are sometimes necessary because of unexpected interruptions and emergency ministry needs. More often, however, they are the result of poor time usage early in the week that requires frantic effort at the end of the week because Sunday is about to arrive!

Even in the 24/7 world of connections pastors still need some regularity of schedule to accomplish the routine ministries of worship and witness and service.



Christian Population Shrinking?

By Franklin Dumond

WASHINGTON — The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.

That’s the top finding — one that will ricochet through American faith, culture and politics — in the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released Tuesday [May 12, 2015].

This trend “is big, it’s broad and it’s everywhere,” said Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.—USA Today, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Reported on both the local and national news media the research reports that about 70% of Americans label themselves Christian while in 2007 about 78% chose the Christian label. At the same time 23% of Americans now classify themselves as have no religious affiliation up from 16% in 2007.

Several other features of the research report that evangelicals remain more stable in their percentage of the population while Catholics have lost both market share and real numbers. The study was based on 35,000 respondents.

Noted church researcher Ed Stetzer often remarks that facts are our friends. It appears to me that this is true of the current study despite the alarmist reaction in both local and national media. There is cause for alarm but there is also a basis for optimism.

Cause for Alarm: An 8% loss is serious. This accounts for about a 1% loss of market share every year since the last survey taken in 2007. Among evangelicals, however, the loss was much smaller with a decline from 21% of the adult population to 19% of the adult population.

Basis for Optimism: One important fact not included in the news coverage of the research study is that the overall number of believers in the United States has remained relatively stable for a generation or more. What has changed is the rate of growth of the Christian movement in the United States. Growing at a slower rate than the overall population means a loss of market share but no necessarily a loss of total numbers. Thus the imminent demise of the Christian church is not likely.

Cause for Alarm: The rise of the “Nones” is significant. Nearly one-fourth of the population surveyed indicated no religious preference. Cultural trends influence this response. In the middle of the 20th century going to church was an accepted, even expected, cultural trait. The Christian church in America enjoyed preferential treatment and competing activities were simply not allowed. For example sports leagues and extra-curricular activities were never scheduled on Sunday mornings and in many communities were not allowed on Wednesday evenings.

Basis for Optimism. The loss of cultural Christians leaves a ‘lean, mean, fighting machine’ of believers who have intentionally chosen their faith. It’s been a long time since I heard the stories of church leaders who served faithfully for 20-30-40 years finally coming to a personal faith after all those years of service.

Cause for Alarm. The downward trend in market share has resulted in a loss of preferential treatment for the Christian Church and has even tended toward a hostile environment of skepticism and distrust. In some cultures the current treatment of some Christians in America would be considered persecution. Can the church in America survive in a hostile environment?

Basis for Optimism. The loss of preferential treatment for the institutional church removes many of the automatic tools designed to propagate the faith that were available to earlier generations. Relationships, however, remain the key to winning people. Thus with a larger proportion of non-believers the fields remain white for harvest if believers take seriously their relationship to non-believers.

Cause for Alarm. It is harder to reach people these days by just having a physical presence on a busy street. A church planter who became a mentor to me in my younger days always advocated three key ingredients for church growth in the 1950s: “location, location, location”. He knew that in his day folks would come to church, if they knew where the church was located. Thus visibility was the key ingredient to church growth.

Basis for Optimism. The gospel still works! Ministry remains hard work but for those pastors and church leaders who will intentionally hold forth the Good News life change will still happen. The key ingredient these days is not location of facility. Nor is it style of worship. The key ingredient these days is gaining a hearing for the gospel so that the message of who Jesus is and what He does can begin to change people’s lives.

As I look at the research I find the cause for alarm moving me to a new sense of urgency. As I reflect on the implications of the research I find a new basis for optimism not in a blind, uninformed faith but in the rock solid conviction that the Lord is still at work in our world. Part of my optimism is based on the conviction expressed in the old gospel song:

“We’ll work! ‘Til Jesus comes we’ll work.

We’ll work ‘til Jesus comes and we’ll be gathered home.”


4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education Pt 1

By Franklin Dumond

The world of the church and the world at large continue to change at an ever increasing rate.  The 21st century provides greater challenges than ever to the church leader who desires to remain relevant and current.  There are four areas where church leaders need continuing education to meet these challenges.

1.  Communication Skills These come in a variety of packages including

a. grammar and usage. Doug Lawrence put it well in a recent blog:

“Check your grammar with people in whom you have great trust, and do it often! The first time you say, ‘She and me went to the meeting,’ you will lose a significant part of your audience. There are people who still care about proper use of language. Your sloppy English skills can undo whatever positive impact you are trying to have. It’s as though you are wearing a cloak of indifference when you don’t care about how you’re coming across in language use.”

Three especially destructive grammar errors are:stack of books

  • Improper use of I and me
  • Incorrect tense usage
  • Confusion when two similar sounding words are used incorrectly (further/farther and effect/affect) or when one word is used with two meanings in the same sentence or paragraph

b. social media savvy. Learn to keep private what should be private. Let social media connect broadly but never forget the power of one-on-one communication and face-to-face meetings.

c. people skills demonstrating genuine care rather than artificial friendliness need constant refinement.

2.  Personal Evangelism Too many churches report zero conversions in a year because too few church leaders engage in personal evangelism.

3.  Making Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture In order to accomplish this, we must realize that we cannot rely on the culture at large to teach basic Christian beliefs. For example, many folks in my generation learned the Lord’s Prayer at school along with the Pledge of Allegiance. This doesn’t happen these days, so church leaders must be more intentional and comprehensive in their disciple-making enterprises.

4.  Maintaining an appropriate work/life balance This is especially difficult now that the 24/7 on-call world of ministry has expanded to the 24/7 digitally-connected world of ministry. Many church leaders manage to appear very busy without being very productive. Pilots are reminded as they prepare for solo flight “Don’t forget to fly the plane!” In their case it is tempting to focus so much on the dials and indicators that the essential task of flying becomes secondary.  Frantic, last minute preparations are sometimes necessary because of unexpected interruptions and emergency ministry needs. More often, however, they are the result of poor time usage early in the week that produces frantic effort at the end of the week because Sunday is about to arrive!  Even in the 24/7 world of connections pastors still need some regularity of schedule to accomplish the routine ministries of worship, witness, and service.