Category Archives: Church Leadership

Barna Study: Even Christians Are Leaving Our Churches


Why Christians are Leaving ChurchThe church may want to stop focusing on those elusive and extremely sensitive “seekers” for a while, because now, even believers are starting to leave the church.

We were warned back in 2005 that this was coming, but few paid attention to it then.  Many scoffed and pretended it could never happen.  But it is happening. That is what a recent poll by the Barna Group has uncovered, and the implications of it are alarming.

In this article, I want to share some of Barna’s findings with you.  I warn you:  Brace yourself!

I invite you to join the discussion in the comment section, as well as answer the polling questions (there are two polls at the bottom of the post) so we can get a better idea of what is going on from your perspective.   In the next post we will offer our analysis about why it is happening.

“What, if anything, helps Americans grow in their faith?”

When the Barna Group asked this question, people offered a variety of answers:

  • Prayer
  • Family or friends
  • Reading the Bible,
  • Even having children

But CHURCH did not even crack the top 10 list.

That is staggering in its implication.  Christians of all Read the rest of this entry

Worship Leaders: It IS all about YOU!


All about youLike it or not, if you are the worship leader at your church, it IS all..about…you!  Just not in the way you would expect.

You are in charge of planning, preparing and executing one third to one half of the entire service.  How well you do that is essential to the people you are charged with leading week after week.

I know there is a lot more to being a good song leader than what the congregations hears on Sunday morning.  It takes a lot of work away from the stage to create a service that effectively inspires God’s people to worship rather than being entertained.  The responsibility for that lies squarely on your shoulders.  In that sense, it IS all about you.  It is about how you view the gathering and how you prepare for it.

Choosing Better Songs

If you want the majority of the men and women in the congregation to sing with the team, you Read the rest of this entry

Is the Casual Approach to Church Producing Casual Christians?


it's worseIt is worse than it looks!

It doesn’t  matter which study you read about the church, because they all say pretty much the same thing:  The church is in decline.

The church is in trouble.  I don’t need to read a study to know this.  I have observed it over the years in countless churches that I have visited.  Churches are weak and though they may have exciting services, they are largely failing to develop strong, grounded and mature Christians.  The church at large (there are exceptions, of course) is also failing to impact the lost around her.

The statistics on this are over-whelming and should stop every pastor and leader dead in their tracks so that we immediately fall on our knees to cry out to the Lord “What are we doing wrong?”  Sooner or later that will have to happen.  Let’s pray it is the former!

Is This Decline the Result of a Flawed Church Model?

I have a theory.  It goes something like this:  The decline we are seeing in the church is directly related to Read the rest of this entry

Everything I Know About The Lord I Learned In Church?


study the word“Your challenge is NOT that people won’t believe what you teach.

Your challenge is that most people are going to believe EVERYTHING you teach.  When you stand in the pulpit and teach God’s word, you better make sure you know what you are talking about!”

I have never forgotten how my Greek professor started that Intro to Greek class.  He laid out a challenge to the entire class that has shaped me all these years.   When I was preaching every week, it guided my preparation time.    It is why I spent 30-40 hours every week as a pastor studying the texts I was teaching on.  I took it THAT seriously.

A lot of us out here in the blogosphere know how to study the scriptures for ourselves. We read books and articles all the time that help shape our faith and practice.  Still, vast majorities of people rely on the church corporately and pastors specifically to teach them the faith.  How are we doing?

According to a report by George Barna, the church is failing miserably in this area.  “Believers” know less and less about God and understand the Bible less and less.  Yet it is the Church’s job to make disciples and to “Teach them to Obey everything I (Jesus) commanded you.”

Why is this happening?  If you read this blog, you know that I don’t lack an opinion on this!

Could one of those reasons be the failure of our younger pastors to grasp the significance of their preaching task?  I have been to over 30  40 different churches in the last 8 years.  One of the things I have noticed is the casual manner that a majority of pastors have towards their preaching.  I can tell when someone has prepared.  It is obvious to a wordsmith when a fellow wordsmith has put in the study and preparation time.  It is just as obvious when they are winging it.

From what I have seen, many pastors are winging it!

The reasons for this can be summed up into to broad categories:   Time Management and Skill/training

Pastoring has never been an easy job.  Preaching week after week is not for the faint of heart.  The demands of today’s ministry on a pastor’s time only make it harder to be faithful in your study.  I am no longer pastoring, and I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to get quiet alone time to study in today’s world.

For many pastors, there just isn’t enough time to adequately study AND keep up with the ever increasing demands of today’s ministry.  The only solution I know for this is to let other things go.  Pastor, if you find that you don’t have time week after week to study the word and show yourself approved, you need cut other less valuable things out of your schedule.  You know what those things are.

The other issue that may be causing this “Wing It!” mentality is a lack of skill in studying the Bible.  Judging by what I’ve seen, our seminaries may no longer teach Hermeneutics.  I doubt they are teaching Homiletics.   If you don’t know how to study a text or passage, and you are a preacher, you need to stop reading this and go learn how to do it!

When you stand in that pulpit to teach God’s word, we are listening!  We are ready to believe what you teach.  Many of us will believe what you teach even when you are off base and wrong, due to a lack of serious thought on the text.  For our sake, and for His sake, take some extra time and prepare the way you should.

If your pastor is already doing this, rejoice!  Send him a note and thank him!  Encourage him to keep doing it!  Find out when he studies and never call or email or text him during those times, unless it is a real emergency.   Teach others in the congregation to do the same.  Help guard your pastors study time, and you, he and the entire congregation will be the better for it!

Why God Might Not Be Concerned About Our Doctrinal Differences


blog-oh-my-god“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”

I asked, as my friend looked on in utter disbelief at what had just been said. We had been discussing the state of the church in its four major divisions: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant. (For the sake of brevity, I have lumped all us Protestants into one category. I don’t have time to list us all!)

“Of course THE Church matters to God”, he replied, “He died to give it birth!

I can’t argue with that!

What perplexes me though, is that there are so many different types of churches. Clearly a lack of unity within THE church has eluded us. Catholics believe in purgatory, the other three divisions of the church, don’t. That is a pretty significant difference. We can’t all agree on how many books are actually in God’s Holy Word! That also seems significant. Some of the churches teach that how one lives has absolutely nothing to do with one’s salvation, while others teach that it has a lot to do with it, still others are somewhere in-between. Maybe it is just how I think about things, but I would have to say this one is a critical difference of doctrine. We have Catholic decrees calling the Reformers heretics, and we have the Reformers labeling the Pope the anti-Christ. Orthodox and Catholics are at odds over one word in the Creed among other substantial issues. We can’t even seem to agree on the purpose of Christianity.

Then we have us Protestants who agree to disagree!

We agree that Jesus Christ died on the cross for “our” sins, but we can’t agree on who is included in “our”. We believe there is such an important and critical thing as the Atonement, but can’t agree on what it actually entails. We believe that people worked miracles, but can’t seem to agree on when or IF that has stopped. We can’t agree on how a church should conduct itself in worship. We can’t agree on something as simple as how a person actually comes to Christ. We can’t agree on what it means to follow Christ. We don’t agree on a host of important issues.

The world looks at us and sees “Christian” sects that argue amongst themselves and who can’t seem to agree on the essentials. We are divided, pure and simple. Stating otherwise is foolish and wishful thinking.

“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”

Of course, Jesus did pray for “those who would believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…” (John 17:20-21, 23.) Unity was important enough to pray for on the eve of the crucifixion.   It would seem the Father didn’t answer that one in the affirmative. Or am I missing something?

Why would God have allowed that to happen?

Many Protestants believe that around 300AD the real church was infiltrated and perverted by the Catholic Church. As a result, the true Gospel was lost.

If the church is so important to Him, and if the purity of the Gospel and the doctrinal teachings that stem from understanding it correctly matter so much, why didn’t he step in at such a critical moment to stop the hijacking of the Church? Why would God allow the church to embrace a false gospel that would consign its followers to hell? Why didn’t he intervene? Why didn’t he put a quick end to it? I find these questions a bit troubling.

Of Course Catholics believe that the Reformers are the real usurpers. Who can blame them? After all, the church had existed virtually unchanged for 1500 years, until Luther and the young punk come along and want to change the whole thing. It is understandable that they got together at Trent and called the Reformers heretics.

Here’s the compelling issue for me: In both cases, God did not stop the supposed error from taking root. Make no mistake about it; God knew what the result would be of doing nothing to stop these movements. Because of the omniscient nature of God, combined with His foreknowledge, the ensuing doctrinal mess would not have surprised him. He knew it would happen if He did nothing, and he did…. nothing. Think about that!

We do know that if God wanted to step in and crush the rebellions, he could have. He did that very thing during the Exodus when Korah and his crew openly challenged Moses leadership of the young Israel. Read about it in Numbers 16. The gist of it is that God caused the ground to open up and swallow the leaders of the rebellion, their families and everything they owned! Rebellion over. Case closed. God’s leadership of his people settled.

But that is not what he did in 300AD. That is not what he did when the West and East Split. It is not what he did at the beginning of the Reformation. In all three cases, God allowed it to stand. In all three instances, The Father had the opportunity to answer the Son’s prayer for unity, but chose not to. Even when, in the case of the Reformers, God knew that a Pandora’s Box of doctrinal disunity would surely result if He did not act. Still, he refrained.

This brings me back to my conversation with my friend. Most assuredly, the doctrinal differences we have killed others for matter to us. They are a big deal. But do they matter to God?

Before you get the kindling and light the match to burn me alive at the stake for the heretic that I am, realize that I am not saying that God does not care about the Gospel or the church. That is not what I am saying at all. Actually, I don’t know what to think about all this. This is a conversation I have been having, largely in my own mind, for quite some time. I thought I would put it out there for others to interact with and see how you might approach the topic.

Why do you think God did nothing to stop any of these movements?

Read another thought provoking post on worship:  God Does Not Need Our Worship…We Need It!

Idol Worship: How Your Church May Be Doing It and How To Fix It


American Idolatry_revised“If it feels good, do it!”

This has been one of our favorite slogans since the 1960’s.  It seems that the American church has adopted a similar pragmatic view for church: “If it makes people come to church, we should do it.” Today, church leaders of every persuasion are willing to try anything if it works in drawing more people into their services.  If it “works” then it must be fine and stamped with the  approval of God Himself.

I can hear you now saying “Of course this is true!  Why on earth wouldn’t it be?”

Because it wasn’t!

One of the things that is clear for any to examine is that… Read the rest of this entry

Worship: Why Your Church Is Failing And What You Can Do About It


Failing worship gradeFrom my view in the cheap seats, it seems that what it means to worship God has become open to interpretation.

Can I worship God any way I want to?

Does church leadership have biblical authority to design a worship service anyway they think is best?

Judging by the state of worship in the American Evangelical church, the answer is Yes to both questions. And boy do we ever take this permission seriously!

It would appear  that Read the rest of this entry

How To Get More Men into Your Church Service…the Easy Way


bethechurch“Whatever Works!” 

That is the take many younger pastors have on Paul’s “I have become all things to all men…” mission strategy.   Now, we take it to the next level.

It is always a challenge to get men to attend church.  They just don’t want to come.  They see it as a complete waste of their precious time.  Yet, somehow we must reach them. I absolutely believe THAT!  But how to do it?  Perhaps a little creativity is in order.  So, if you don’t mind thinking waaaaay outside the box, or care about church history or any parameters the Scriptures might lay out, try these pragmatic suggestions.  Several studies suggest that this new approach will pack the house. Read the rest of this entry

Leaders: You Can Make Your Public Prayers More Meaningful


write your prayersWhen I was a new worship leader, I prepared like crazy for Wednesday nights and Sunday Mornings! I made sure the music charts were written out and CORRECT and that everyone had the one they needed. I would play through the songs multiple times on my own and work on any tough parts. I would create interesting modulation changes! This was all before we even rehearsed the team. Probably like most worship leaders, I took it seriously and prepared everything.

Except for any prayers!

Prayer was the one thing I didn’t need to think about ahead of time. I could always pray in front of others. I had no fear of it, loved doing it, and could make it up on the fly. I was good at it. Or so I thought.

Then one day, it happened.

I listened to several of my preaching tapes, and I was horrified at Read the rest of this entry

Is God Really Calling You To Plant a Church?


cross-with-roots3-e1288037811724“Do we really need another one?” I asked with an annoying tone. I must have been bothered by it, because I asked my passenger Dakota her thoughts on the subject. Dakota is my Golden Retriever, and from what I could tell she was all for it, as long as they gave away tennis balls to all visitors.

In my town, it would seem there is a new church starting every couple of weeks. I understand the idea behind planting a new church. It is suppose to be the most effective form of evangelism known to mankind. At least that is what I was told in seminary, and it would seem our young leaders are being indoctrinated with the same idea.  But is it true?

I think the greatest form of evangelism is one on one. More people are still introduced to God and Jesus Christ via interaction with people outside the congregational walls. Period.

Church planting certainly has its place.   Is it possible to over plant the church? Can there be too many churches in a city? If you are considering planting a church where the church already exists in abundance, it would be wise of you to thoughtfully and unselfishly pondered that question.   I think the answer is a resounding YES!  Take a look at Colorado Springs, CO.  Do you think it needs one more evangelical congregation?  The red dots are churches.

Churches in Colorado Springs

Over church planting in a city can cause a stumbling block for evangelism.  So many different churches can lead non-christians to believe that even Christians can’t figure this stuff  about ultimate issues out.    I can imagine the questions that arise in the mind of the non-Christians: “Why are there so many churches if the claims of Christianity are true?  Isn’t the fact that there are so many different churches PROOF that Christianity is false? Why are they starting another one?  Why do they all believe different things?  If they can’t agree on what the truth is, maybe they are all just a bunch of misguided, well-meaning people who I should not take seriously.”

We won’t even talk about how one more church plant will dilute the scarce resources of leaders, servants, and dinero.

I applaud you for wanting to step out in faith and make a real difference in people’s lives.  Still, I want to issue a challenge to if you are thinking about planting a church.   If God is calling you to a particular area that is church saturated, perhaps it is NOT to plant your own church.  Perhaps you are being called  to come alongside someone else. Here’s an idea:  If God has called you to come to a city where there are hundreds of churches, why not find a job like Paul did and the rest of us do.  Why not volunteer to help another local church like the rest of us?  Why start something new?

Be honest with yourself, isn’t what you are thinking about starting exactly the same thing as the last 35 guys who came here to start something?  Does God really need 36 congregations that are essentially the same thing?   Perhaps it would honor God more and make a bigger impact on the community if you went and helpedp the last guy God sent here.  They don’t have enough money to pay you, but they need your help.  Just a thought.

Want to be challenged more or get more upset?  Read our post “Would The Apostle Paul Plant a Seeker-Sensitive Purpose Driven Church?

Check out the result of 4 different polls and the challenging conclusions arrived at in our post It’s Official: People Don’t Want To Sing So Much On Sundays.

A Must Read Book For Worship Leaders and Pastors: Discover The Mystery of Faith


Mystery of FaithNotForItchingEars.com was born out of my utter frustration with, and sincere love for, the evangelical church.  Having visited congregation after congregation and reading many studies, I  knew something was wrong.

I spent a considerable amount of time pleading with the pastors and  leaders of the church at large to come back to the ancient path.  I challenged many worship leaders to re-think the worship services they led.

The response of many in the worship leading community was less than enthusiastic.  Most people just wanted me to  Read the rest of this entry

Is the “Worship” Centered Church Model Bankrupting Christianity?


Bankrupt. Destitute. Impoverished. Insolvent.  Whichever word you choose, they all carry the same basic idea: They describe the inability to meet one’s obligations.  These  words are used to describe people that have been reduced to a state of financial ruin.  We also use the term to depict an individual or organization that is completely lacking in a particularly desirous quality or attribute.   One might be morally bankrupt or spiritually impoverished.  You get the idea.

While sitting in a church service the other day, I came to a conclusion about the church at large, which has serious ramifications for my life.   It was a long time in coming.   I am not sure why it happened that day, but I can’t ignore that it did.  This conclusion was fueled, in large part, by my own journey through the church world:  I have been a senior pastor, a worship pastor, an associate pastor, a volunteer, and a normal guy in the pew who isn’t doing anything.  Over the last three years I have “worshipped” in close to 30 different congregations with varying denominational or non-denominational affiliations.  I haven’t seen it all, but I think I have seen enough! Read the rest of this entry

The Year That Changed My Life


Adjustment. Refinement. Correction. Modification. Reversal.  Say it anyway you like and it means the same thing: Change.   We’re told it is good for us. But few truly enjoy it.   Most people are willing to change, not because they see the light, but because the feel the heat! I’m no different. This year, I’ve been going through a lot of adjustments and refinements. I quit my band, picked up my Colorado roots and moved the whole family to the retiree state.  I closed a thriving business and started it up again in Florida.  (Thriving is not the word I would use to describe the new business.)  We also learned Read the rest of this entry

Our Top 11 Most Discussed Posts of 2011


We had a lot of interesting discussions over at Not For Itching Ears in 2011.  We have listed our Top 11 most discussed posts below.  They cover a wide range of topics from the Seeker-Sensitive Church movement, Calvinism, Solo-Scriptura, Worship, The Best Salsa Recipe in the Blogosphere, American Idolatry and more.  It’s never too late to join the discussion.  Jump into any you may have missed.  Happy New Year Everyone.   Thank you to all who follow us! Read the rest of this entry

The Top Ten Most Read Posts of 2011 from Not For Itching Ears


That’s right, my friends.  The following post contains our own version of the Top 10 list:  The most read posts from Not For Itching Ears this year.  You may be very surprised at the#1 post.  It is not only our number one post for the year, it is #1 of ALL TIME.  Far surpassing anything else!  It is clearly out of character with the rest of the blog and reveals a spicy secret about me… I dare you to try it out.  You won’t be disappointed. Read the rest of this entry

A Compelling Argument AGAINST Sola Scriptura? (The Scriptures Alone) Part 4


I just couldn’t resist reposting this article by Father John Whiteford, who happens to be an Eastern Orthodox priest.  If you are a Protestant like me, then you may have never even heard of the Orthodox church, I know I had not.  I am very grateful that I have discovered them.  The following is a very well thought out rejection of one of the cornerstones of the Protestant Reformation:  Scripture Alone.   Read it with an open mind and then share your thoughts with the rest of us.   I think he makes some good points.  It is a very long article, so I  broke it up into 4 parts.  Here’s the fourth and final part:

Read part 1 HERE,
Read Part 2 here,
Read part 3 here:

 THE ORTHODOX APPROACH TO TRUTH

“When, by God’s mercy, I found the Orthodox Faith, I had no desire to give Protestantism and its “methods” of Bible study a second look. Unfortunately, I have found that Protestant methods and assumptions have managed to infect even some circles within the Orthodox Church. The reason for this is, as stated above, that the Protestant approach to Scripture has been portrayed as “science.” Some in the Orthodox Church feel they do the Church a great favor by introducing this error into our seminaries and parishes. But this is nothing new; this is how heresy has always sought to deceive the faithful. As Saint Irenaeus said, as he began his attack on the heresies current in his day:

By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous opinions….

Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than truth itself.18

Lest any be mistaken or confused, let me be clear: the Orthodox approach to the Scriptures is not based upon “scientific” research into the Holy Scriptures. Its claim to understand the Scriptures does not reside in its claiming superior archaeological data, but rather in its unique relationship with the Author of the Scriptures. The Orthodox Church is the body of Christ, the pillar and ground of the Truth, and it is both the means by which God wrote the Scriptures (through its members) and the means by which God has preserved the Scriptures. The Orthodox Church understands the Bible because it is the inheritor of one living tradition that begins with Adam and stretches through time to all its members today. That this is true cannot be “proven” in a lab. One must be convinced by the Holy Spirit and experience the life of God in the Church.

The question Protestants will ask at this point is who is to say that the Orthodox Tradition is the correct tradition, or that there even Read the rest of this entry

How To Make the Gospel More Attractive


 

Why I Read the Early Church Fathers and You Should Too!


“Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Or so the saying goes.  In essence it means that those who don’t consider the past, when making choices in the present, will likely arrive at similarly bad conclusions.   This phrase strikes a chord with many.  Perhaps it is because we tend to always look forward, seldom pausing to consider the past.  Part of our DNA seems to include the belief that the next best thing is just up on the horizon.  Who can blame us?  Isn’t it often true?  At least with technology it is.  The next generation computer, or Iphone or IPad is going to be better than the previous one.  Things we build seem to improve over time, as we discover new ways of making them faster, smaller, bigger, cheaper, and more reliable.

Many within the evangelical Christian community seem to adopt this same belief when it comes to understanding Christianity and how that applies to our corporate lives.  We are often looking for the next thing, God’s next move, a “new and improved, better than the old” way of Read the rest of this entry

Has The Church Become the Newest Contestant on “American Idolatry”


“If it feels good, do it!”

This catch phrase, introduced in the 1960’s, has become a well established creed in American culture. It now appears that the American church has adopted a similar slogan: “If it makes people feel good, we should use it.” And are we ever!   Today church leaders of every persuasion are trying all kinds of new methods in order to fill the pews. If something we do succeeds in drawing more people into services then it “works” and is therefore good, right, and stamped with the very approval of God Himself.  Because as we all know, God wants people in pews.  Or so the story goes.  But are these new methods approved by God himself?

One of the things we should be clear about… Read the rest of this entry

Worship Leading Gone Wild: What Can Happen When Worship Becomes A Song…..


Sometimes the truth contained in satire can pierce like a sword. The scene this video portrays about worship leading gone bad is one of those times.   After I stopped laughing, I began to ache.  This is how things truly are in some circles.  In many churches that I have visited over the past 3 years, it seems that simply getting people to sing is the goal.  It doesn’t matter what we actually sing about, Read the rest of this entry