Why Denominations Should not Focus on Unreached People Groups

written by JD

In C. Peter Wagner’s book, Church Planting for a Greater Harvest, he offers five “chief reasons” why we should plant churches. The second reason on the list is that church planting is a means to denominational survival.

Many denominations in North America agree with this point. And with many denominations in serious decline, church planting has been embraced as one option to change this direction. However, the mixing of missions and denominational survival is a dangerous thing.

While much could be said about this danger, I will note one concern (maybe you can think of the others).

Once missions becomes a means to institutional survival, at least two outcomes are likely: 1) missions becomes redefined and is no longer about making disciples and planting churches from the harvest; and/or 2) dollar investments in disciple making and church planting activities are evaluated based on a rate-of-financial-return.

An apostolic pattern of church planting is not financially profitable. This should come as no surprise. It was the Apostle Paul who at times refrained from financial compensation and attempted to avoid being labeled a peddler of the gospel (Acts 20:33-35; 1 Cor 9; 1 Thes 2:9; 2 Thes 3:6-12).  If a church planting team is planting churches with 100% conversion growth among an unreached people group, they are encountering unbelievers who have to be taught about biblical stewardship. This does not happen overnight. And even after they learn about the value of cooperating with other churches, they (as a self-governing church) may not want to give their financial resources to this or that cause.

A much more financially profitable approach to church planting is planting instant churches. This paradigm begins with a leader (usually identified as a pastor without a church) who then starts a church with long-term Kingdom citizens. These believers already know they should give financially. It is already part of their D.N.A.. And if the leader puts all of the by-laws and financial structures in place first–organizing the church before there is a church to organize–then either the people can join the church or not with the financial policies already determined.

While some evangelicals see little value in denominations, I am not one of them. In fact, I am thankful to be a fourth generation Baptist of the Southern Tribe. Though my primary ministry concern is the people who call me pastor, I regularly participate in activities with my denomination.

However, evangelicals do not send missionaries to plant churches in China in order to support our denominations in North America. If we do not do it over there, then why do we send missionaries to do it over here?

If you are looking for a way to save your denomination, then do not look toward church planting. If you do, then radically change the model from what we read about in the Scriptures.

If you are looking for a way to save your denomination, then do not focus on the 360 unreached people groups in our backyard (180 in Canada). They will not financially support our structures that have developed over the past century or two.


If this post has piqued your curiosity on this topic, then you may want to check out my recently released book, To the Edge: Reflections on Kingdom Leadership, Mission, and Innovation.


Patrick Johnstone on Challenges and Changes

written by JD

Strike the MatchPatrick Johnstone’s leadership has been very significant among evangelicals for many years. It is a delight to have Patrick as my guest on this episode of Strike the Match. We discuss the history of Operation Worldhis latest books (Pray for the World, The Future of the Global Church, and Serving God in Today’s Cities), three challenges facing gospel advancement, and changes evangelicals will face in the next decade.

Patrick also takes a moment to share his thoughts about his future writing projects.


My latest book on missions and leadership was released recently. Check out To the Edge: Reflections on Kingdom Leadership, Mission, and Innovation.


The Almost of Leadership

written by JD

It has been said that everything rises and falls on leadership.

Not true.

Almost everything rises and falls on leadership.


David Sills was my guest last week on Strike the Match. Check out our conversation about his latest book Changing World, Unchanging Mission. iTunes | Android | RSS


Faster! Faster!

written by JD

My elementary school was attached to a junior high and high school. Lynn Camp Elementary and Lynn Camp High School met in the same building and shared the same resources.

Early in the morning, before the first bell, all of the kids (1-12th grade) would gather on the playground. The younger kids would hit the playground equipment while the high schoolers would stand around and smoke cigarettes (Yeah, that is how schools rolled back then.).

One of the fun morning activities was related to the merry-go-round. We had what I would describe as a homemade merry-go-round. It was made of wood and metal bars. It was built for speed. And I have never seen another one like it since.

Kids would pile on this amazing device to the max and beyond. If the seating capacity (Yes, seating capacity. It was not built for standing. Only death would come to the kid who was dumb enough to stand on it.) was 20 kids, we’d fit 30 on it. After loading up, we would yell at the high schoolers to push us.  Usually one hulk of a kid would strut over and put the machine in motion. And the ride would begin ever so slowly.

“Faster! Faster!” We would yell.  Of course in the early moments of the ride, the mass from the number of kids–coupled with the fact the high schooler had to put his cigarette in his mouth so as to use both hands–would cause the merry-go-round to move very slowly.  “Faster! Faster!” After a while it would pick up speed and everything would become a blur to those taking the ride.

It was almost as if the merry-go-round was designed to use the mass of the kids to increase the speed exponentially over time based on the force from the high schooler. Put 1 kid on the ride and he could go fast in a short period of time; put 30 on it and they could break the sound barrier over several minutes of pushing.

Jim Collins popularized the flywheel concept for your team in Good to Great. For me, it is that wooden merry-go-round loaded with kids yelling, “Faster! Faster!” Regardless of whatever works for you, remember great transformations usually come about over time and through cumulative processes. Rarely does a big breakthrough happen overnight. It takes some time pushing and pushing. Yes, the Lord has been known to move in the instant, and He is likely to do so in the future. However, He often works through means in His universe.


The first review of To the Edge: Reflections on Kingdom Leadership, Mission, and Innovation has been posted at Amazon. Check it out!


The Where of Missions

written by JD

The conversation regarding local and global missions is an ongoing and important one. I was asked by the folks at The Upstream Collective to share my thoughts on this topic. I want to direct your attention to the full post that went live today.

Inquire about missionary activity and you are likely to get some response related to an “overseas” activity. I always found this somewhat interesting, for the same people consider missionary activity as something that could take place in Mexico, Central America, and South America–places that are not overseas from North American residents. :)

Drawing from biblical evidence and contemporary realities, I note that missions is not to be defined by geographic terms. And once the lines are blurred between home and abroad, everything changes as North Americans know it.

Check out the post and while you’re at the Upstream site, look around. These guys are doing some great work!


David Sills was my guest last week on Strike the Match. Check out our conversation about his latest book Changing World, Unchanging Mission. Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS


First Time Through

written by JD

If you are like me, then you always want your first attempt at anything to be a win. We know such does not always happen. But we want it. Even with Spirit-led innovation sometimes we have to attempt for Asia and Bithynia before reaching Philippi (Acts 16:1-12).

I taught a doctoral seminar last week for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. While going through airport security in North Carolina the security guard told me that I was cleared to go through the TSA Pre-check line.  I questioned his call, knowing I had not completed the requirements for such a privilege. He just said, “it’s a random thing sometimes.”

For those of you not familiar with the Pre-check option, I’ll let you Google it.

Now, here I was going through the fast-line for the first time. No taking off my clothes and the other things that slow down the lines. I was going to roll through there faster than the General Lee (without the flag on top) and K.I.T.T. put together.

Everything was flying past quickly until the x-ray machine picked up something in my suitcase. The mic I use for recording Strike the Match is not TSA friendly. (I use a Blue Yeti for you future travelers.)

For the next few minutes, a TSA representative went through my suitcase, removed my mic, and tested it for suspicious residue. I did not mind the delay. Such is a necessary precaution. However, I could not overlook the irony: the speedy line became one of my longest security delays.

I’m sure the process will go much faster the next time I go through the Pre-check line. It would not be wise to judge the line based on my first attempt; it would be even worse to give up on the line altogether.

As a leader, don’t give up if the first time or two is not what you expected. Hang in there. You are blazing a new path. You are going to the edge and beyond. It may take a while to get to the desired outcome. It may take a few attempts to get to Philippi, especially if you are transporting a Blue Yeti.


My latest book, To the Edge: Reflections on Kingdom Leadership, Mission, and Innovation, is now available.


David Sills on Changing World, Unchanging Mission

written by JD

Strike the MatchThe world is always changing; our mission remains the same. Dr. David Sills is my guest and we discuss his forthcoming book, Changing World, Unchanging Mission: Responding to Global Challenges. In this conversation, we address some of the key global challenges confronting disciple-making today.

David calls us to be proactive as Kingdom citizens and to grow as students of both God’s Word and God’s world.

In addition to this book, David is the author of several other publications, a seminary professor, and president of Reaching and Teaching International Ministries.

** CORRECTION: In this conversation, reference is made to Samuel Chiang as being the president of the International Orality Network. Since this recording was made, Chiang is no longer in this role and is now the president and CEO of The Seed Company.


Rise of Poverty in US Suburbs

written by JD

A Brookings’ article released last year drew attention to the new reality that, in the U. S., poverty is more prevalent in the suburbs than in the urban areas. Fifty-six percent of those living in poverty in major metro areas are living in the suburbs. Between 2000-2013, the suburban poor grew twice as fast as the urban poor.

While such growth is tragic, suburban poverty growth is especially troubling. The suburbs were designed for wealth and escape from changing urban contexts. This design did not allow for the development of the infrastructure which often assists the poor (e.g., public transportation, government offices). The suburbs do not have much age, houses and buildings have not had time to become dilapidated. Therefore, no poverty to see here!

Could one of the reasons for the explosion of new churches (and relocating churches) in the suburbs from the 1970s-1990s have been in preparation for the rise of poverty? In a time when evangelicals are making urban ministry cool again, we should be careful that we do not overlook (or ignore) the changing realities in the suburbs.


My latest book To the Edge: Reflections on Kingdom Leadership, Mission, and Innovation was published last week. Get your copy here.


World Population Numbers

written by JD

The United Nations recently released an update on the 2050 world population estimates. While there is some degree of uncertainty with such numbers, here is a glimpse at the new possible reality:

  • The population will increase by 1 billion people in the next 15 years.
  • The population will increase to 9.7 billion by 2050.
  • More than half of the growth between now and 2050 will occur in Africa.
  • Europe will experience a shrinking population.
  • The population of India will surpass that of China.
  • The volume of international migration will remain high with the top net receivers of international migrants being the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, the Russian Federation and Italy.
  • The countries projected to have net emigration of more than 100,000 annually include India, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan and Mexico.
  • The median age of the population will increase from 30 to 36.

Let’s not wait until 2050 to then consider strategy and change. Now is the time to plan. Now is the time to adjust. Now is the time to change. It’s a Kingdom stewardship thing.


Mark Snowden was my guest last week on Strike the Match. Check out our conversation on orality and disciple making in the United States. iTunes | Android | RSS



His Predictable Unpredictability 

written by JD

We take great comfort in the predictable.

But what happens when the Spirit brings God-fearers and Gentiles into the Kingdom? That is unexpected.

Are we comfortable with His lack of predictability in certain areas? Yes, I know we are whenever we read about His actions in the Book of Acts as we stand 2000 years removed.

But what about when the Spirit does the unexpected in August 2015? Or have we domesticated Him enough over 2000 years that we can assume 100% predictability? Did the artistic and dynamic Spirit of Creation become as predictable as a programmed computer after the Canon closed?

If the thought of His unpredictability makes us uncomfortable, then we should ask, “why?”


Tuesday, August 4 is the last day to take advantage of the “Buy 1, Get 1 Free to Give Away” discount on my new book To the Edge: Reflections on Kingdom Leadership, Mission, and Innovation. Act now.

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