Four Areas of Focus for Church Health


There are a lot of things competing for a congregation’s attention, but the healthiest churches are relentlessly dedicated to three or four things.  The simpler, the better.  Those three or four things may be different for each church, but the power of focus on these defined areas creates congregational health.

At CIL, we focus on  . . .

Bible Teaching – Scripture is our authority and source of truth.

Next Generation – Kids, teenagers and college students are the church of today!

Small Groups – People will stay a month for a great service, a year for a great program, but a lifetime for a friend.  Relationships are irreplacable. As a church gets bigger, it must get smaller though smaller groups.

Experiential Worship – God is not a concept to explain, but a presence to experience. Experiential worship includes prayer, music, singing, liturgical prayers, spontaneous prayer, silence, the taste of communion, the physical interaction of fellowship, and much more!

Staff Members Reaching Kids Benefits All

Kids RehearsalWith limited resources to staff a church, I am going to staff for children and teenagers. A mistake I believe mid-size churches make is hiring staff for adults, then using volunteers to be the department leaders for children and youth ministry.  While I have high respect for volunteers who are department leaders in churches with no staff budget, that respect doesn’t change my opinion. When having the choice between staff for adults or kids, choose kids.

People will put up with mediocre ministry to adults if their kids are fulfilled.  If you have the slickest and deepest ministry for adults, but the kids are not being ministered to, that family’s future with the church is in jeopardy.  An effective children’s and youth ministry engages adults in ministry, which disciples and creates community for all ages groups.

At CIL, all of our paid staff have significant roles in children’s and youth ministry. As we grow, more specialized staff for adults will emerge. Still, I believe the growth we will experience to bring future staff is a result of our current emphasis on children and youth.  I’ve always believed this, and I’m see it work at CIL!

Missed the news lately?

2014 is turning out to be an eventful year . . .

Putin– Civil war continues in Syria, spilling into Iraq.  The Middle East has more instability than we have seen in decades.

– After the winter Olympics, and Russia‘s accidental diplomatic role in preventing an international war in Syria; Vladimir Putin is slowly, but steadily reasserting Russian influence through Soviet-style tactics both domestically and internationally.  An imperialistic Russia will effect world stability.

Iran is being quiet, which means they could be quietly developing an atomic bomb.

– Racial tensions in America have remained docile for the most part in recent years, but we all have known that an eruption of mistrust can occur at any time. An example of this is in the small suburb of Ferguson, Missouri which is about the size of Gallatin, Tennessee. The use of violent force sets in motion consequences that are difficult to contain.  I’m praying for Michael Brown’s family, the Ferugson community and the authorities involved in these matters.

Israel FlagHamas is proving once again to be a protagonist and terrorist group who stirs up trouble with Israel.  Disdain for Israel is in vogue. Israel’s government is not perfect, and they do make mistakes.  However, they have been a faithful friend to the United Sates, and they are an example to the rest of the world of religious tolerance and democratic values. Hate for the Jews has happened since Genesis, yet humanity falls into that trap every generation. Hamas is hurting the Palestinian people.

– The United States cannot seem get out of Afghanistan and Iraq.  These wars are costing us more than we are willing to pay.  America was not prepared to pay the price true success cost, nor could we afford to.  God bless those 5,281 American soldiers and their families who have perished to date from these two meandering wars.
Kenneth Bae – With all this we don’t have time to focus on the border crisis with Mexico, the crippling national debt in the United States, the danger of North Korea (pray for Kenneth Bae), the Benghazi scandal, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, communism in China, and dehumanizing practices in Africa (such as the genocide and civil war in Congo, South Sudan, Darfur and the wasteland once know as Somalia).  We are also holding our breathe that India and Pakistan will not go to war, as there relationship is always fragile. Is Europe losing its culture distinctive through the advance of Muslim extremism?   The evil sex trafficking of children in Europe and Asia is breathtaking.

So what is the most important?  The mass media determines what is important for us to focus on each day with what they decide to highlight on the news programs, newspapers and websites.  Remember #bringbackourgirls?   No one is talking about those missing girls now.  The news cycle ran its course.

I am sure I have overlooked equally alarming situations.

What is the solution?
– Effective leadership.  We need more of that.
– Morality. Relative truth is a disaster for humanity.
– Sound economic principals.
– The just use of the millitary.

I say, come Lord Jesus!  Jesus will lead this world with complete justice and righteousness.

For as the earth produces its growth,
and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations. – Isaiah 61:11 (HCSB)





Pray for the Leadership Summit


Ever since the year 2000, I have attended the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit most years, and have regretted the years I had to miss this annual conference.  I’ve always participated at one of their satellite sites near my residency. These last eleven years in Nashville means that People’s Church in Franklin has been the host site by which I have experienced this wonderful event. The Global Leadership Summit is one of the highlights of my year. This event is like fuel to my leadership passion tank.

This year is no exception, as my wife Beth, CIL Operations Pastor Deborah Jackson, and myself will be filling our minds and hearts with great leadership insights from thought-provoking speakers.  These presenters come from both the church and corporate world, which brings quite a nice balance of the Lord’s wisdom.

The event occurs today and tomorrow, and though it originates from Chicago, it will occur literally around the globe through simulcast technology.

Pray that God will use this time for both the CIL team, and the tens of thousands of leaders around the world who will be experiencing this intellectual and spiritual event.  As the founder WCA founder Bill Hybel often says, “When a leader gets better, everybody wins.”  There are a lot of wins ahead of us!

Do “Apostles” exist today?

It depends on your definition.

Does the specific definition of apostles that are described in the New Testament exist today? No.

Are there special messengers for the LORD’s message today, that the word “apostle” could be? Yes.  We functionally call those messengers, missionaries.

In recent years there has been a lot of interest in studying Ephesians 4:11-12 which states:

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachersfor the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ

I have gone back and forth some in my working definitions of the term apostle, so I give you my current opinion with caution.  Yet, when faced with theological ambiguity, its probably best to choose a conservative position, which I currently take.

Much of the debate over the role of an apostle today is differences in nomenclature, and not a reason for further division in the church.

apostles-creed31. The narrow Biblical definition of an “apostle” seems to be a temporary position that no longer exists.

In order to be an apostle in the Bible, you must have:

a. Seen Christ physically (Acts 1:22)

b. Personally been appointed by Christ to be an apostle (Matthew 10:1-7, Acts 9:5-6, 1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:7-9)

c. The apostles’ letters were authorized as Scripture (with the exception of Mark, Luke, Acts, Hebrews and Jude – who were written by men close to the apostles, and apparently authorized by the apostles.).

We know that there were twelve original apostles appointed by Christ (the eleven plus Matthias), Barnabas, and Paul (Acts 14:14).  The original twelve are so important an unique that their names are inscribed on the foundations of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:14).

There were likely other apostles, such as James the brother of Jesus, but there seems to be no apostles appointed after Paul.

2.  It’s not sinful to use the term “apostle” – just not helpful

There are powerful, Biblical ministers who call themselves an apostle.  While I don’t think using the term today is accurate or beneficial, it certainly wouldn’t be the exclusive reason for me to not receive from those who call themselves an apostle. Again, it can simply be a disagreement on terminology.

3. If you need the term “apostle” to be a functioning term, an apostle is a “missionary”

Some people simply cannot accept that a Biblical office is no longer functioning. For those who need a definition for the word apostle, it is good to refer them as a missionary.  A general meaning of the word apostle is the term messenger. This is used three times in the New Testament (Philippians 2:25, 2 Corinthians 8:23, John 13:16).


grudem-podcast* Note: The main resource that has guided my current opinion is Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology text.  Much of what I write is a summary of his research and interpretation.

Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.


One week ago today . . .

BSB - 2014 - collageWe were in the middle of our 8th annual Back-to-School Blessing, and it was so fulfilling for so many reasons.  Here are a few reasons why . . .

– The event didn’t feel like condescending charity. The families we helped were neighbors, co-workers and classmates who just needed a boost after an eventful summer. The volunteers from CIL and the recipients interacted as friends, not as separated factions.

– So much prayer happened.  The prayer was authentic, sweet and so human.  The divine presence of our holy God was in the parking lot of the Goodwill that morning.

– There was joy in the recipients, with no trace of shame or embarrassment (as there shouldn’t have been!).  I believe the tone of our volunteers created this Christ-honoring culture.

– The gorgeous weather was a remind of God’s sovereignty, and our vulnerability.  We can’t control the weather, the seasons or our days. We think we can control our health and finances, but we’re vulnerable in these areas too.

For some reason, I believe I will always remember Saturday, July 26.  All seemed right that morning. BSB - 2014 - teenagers

BSB - 2014 - little girl

What is Maturity?


I don’t know what your definition of maturity is, but I’m sure you consider yourself mature.

In my current message series called Maturity, we are looking at key verses in Ephesians Chapter Four that helps us define maturity from God’s perspective.

If you missed the first two messages in the series you can listen to them here

Or, listen to them on iTunes.

Or, you can get the jest of the series very quickly in these two points:

– Maturity is demonstrated in unity.

until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son . . . – Ephesians 4:13 (HCSB)

– Maturity is being like Christ.

growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. – Ephesians 4:13 (HCSB)

Well, I have a long ways to go to be like Christ.  Maturity is not a destination, its a constant ideal to live.

I’ll share on this subject again this Sunday (August 3).  It’s going to be a great Sunday, with water baptism and Back-to-School prayer.

It’s not too late to be baptized, as we will have people doing so in both the 9:00 a.m and 10:45 a.m. service.  Let me know if you have any questions about water baptism. To learn more about water baptism now, click here.

This is a picture I post some years ago of my great-grandfather, Pastor James Tracy McKissick baptizing in a river in the early 20th Century.  I never met him, but I’m grateful for the Christian heritage in my ancestory.

McKissick Baptism