Thursday, November 19, 2009


Planting Fast-growing Churches is the title of a book written by Stephen Gray. He is the Director of National Missions for General Baptists. He is also a former church planter. Dr. Gray sent questionnaires to 336 recent church plants in 5 denominations. The criteria for churches in this study: 1. At least 3 years old, but no older than 6 years; 2. Had to be led by a first-time church planter; 3. The new church must have been started in a city of at least 30,000 people. He separated the churches into two categories: Fast-growing and Struggling. A fast-growing church reached an average attendance of at least 200 and was financially self-supporting by 3 years from its public launch. Only 7% of the 2285 churches that qualified for this study were fast-growing. All other church plants were labeled struggling.

Here are some of the conclusions that the author reached from this study:


· Churches that received no additional startup money didn’t grow as fast as those that could get some help. But churches that received over $50,000 in additional funds (after salary) did worse than churches that received less than $50,000. Dr. Gray was concerned that new churches that received too much money or received support for too long could develop a welfare mentality.
· A significantly higher percentage of fast-growing churches taught financial stewardship within the first 6 months.
· Churches that gave a greater percentage of their income to outside causes did better.


· The new church should have between 25 and 50 adults prior to launch.
· Both small groups and preview services should be used to build the core group.
· Many fast-growing churches had preview services every other week instead of once a month.


· 97% of fast-growing churches had a children’s ministry, while only 42% of struggling churches did.
· 92% of fast-growing churches offered 3 or more ministries at their opening. The most common ministries were worship, children, and teen.

This book was interesting to me. But that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with every conclusion. I would like to know more about the fast-growing churches. In what region of the country were they located? Did they have significant number of other members of their denomination or a mother church help them? Were some of these statistics the cause or the result?

However, this book can help us think about what we need to do to have faster-growing churches. It would especially be good for new church planters who haven’t had their first service.

I’ll end this with a quote from chapter 1:
“Church planting will make you feel alive, and it can push you to the brink of insanity. It will give you a new sense of God’s presence and convince you that Satan is alive and well. You will celebrate the birth of a new church will unearthly joy, and experience betrayal from friends and family in ways you never thought possible. As a church planter, you will experience high highs and low lows. It’s dangerous and dramatic. As they say on television – kids, don’t try this at home.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009



The “Nones” are people who claim no religious affiliation. According to an article in The Week magazine from November 6, 2009, a study by Trinity College found their numbers are increasing. In 1990, 8 % of Americans claimed no religious affiliation, while in a recent survey that number has climbed to 15%. Their numbers are higher in the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest. Nones also have a higher percentage among younger people.

Ravi Zacharias in Jesus Among Other Gods says,
“Philosophically, you can believe anything, so long as you do not claim it to be true.
Morally you can practice anything, so long as you do not claim that it is a ‘better’ way.
Religiously, you can hold to anything, so long as you do not bring Jesus Christ in to it.”

Another survey by the National Opinion Research Center says that regular church attendance has fallen in the US. In 1971, 41% of the population attended church regularly, while in 2002 the number had dropped to 31%. Denominational loyalty has also eroded with churchgoers shopping around. Southern Baptist researcher Brad Waggoner says, “There’s no simple answer why people are so restless.” Since younger people tend to be more nonreligious, some are concerned this may be a growing trend in America. Trinity demographer Ariela Keysar says secularism in the US may one day rival the famed religious indifference of Europeans. “We’re not there,” she says, “but we’re going in that direction.”


A slim majority of the Nones believe in God and a third say they pray weekly or daily. Fewer than 10% call themselves atheists. Even though over 3 million people in America claim to be atheists, that number is only 1% of our population. This, in spite of an almost all out war by evolutionists and atheists in books, curriculum, TV shows, etc.

A lot of these people leaving organized religion are leaving liberal, unbelieving churches and the Catholic church. Erwin Lutzer says the persecution in China during the Cultural Revolution wiped out theological liberalism. Maybe the Catholic church’s scandals and the liberal church’s lack of answers is starting to do that here.

It has looked tough before. Spreading the gospel in the first century Roman empire looked daunting. In the 1800’s infidel Robert Ingersoll claimed that “churches are dying out all over the land.” A 1966 cover of Time magazine asked, “Is God Dead?” In each case, the church of God preached the truth and endured.

The devil would like us to be discouraged and overwhelmed so that we would quit before we got started. God is alive and well. He is working in America and in your town. Let us be realistic and admit we have a challenge in America. Let us also remember that people still have needs that only God can answer.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Boot Camp

A week long training for new home missionaries was held at the Home Missions office during the week of October 19. Seven new church planters attended.

Pictured above (from left to right) are Danny Elliott (Quebec), Brian Williams (New York), Barry Long (Colorado), Josh Bennett (Arizona), Donnie Burke (Colorado), Jeff Goodman (Arizona), Richard Atwood (Home Missions Staff), James Kilgore (California), and Larry Powell (Home Missions Director).

The discussion was informative and encouraging. Two missionaries on the field - Howard Gwartney in Arizona and David Sexton in Virginia - talked to the guys by webcam over the internet.

Here's pizza one day at the office.

Here's supper one night at the Atwood's house. Sandy Atwood makes great lasagna. That's Emily, Lauren, and Leah Williams near the front of the picture.

Of course, we had snacks to hold us over between lunch and supper.
Besides great discussion and good fellowship over food, some of our best times was the prayer together. We had times of laughter, but also times of tears. These are all sincere men with a great burden to reach unsaved people and build a new Free Will Baptist Church. I felt honored to spend a week with them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


This past weekend (October 9-11), Sandy and I went to New Mexico to visit Mark and Khristi Shores.
We spoke at a Marriage Seminar at their church on Saturday. Here's some of the group:

Sandy and Khristi are doing a little cleaning up.

On Sunday, Mark leads the singing while Khristi plays the keyboard.

The church auditorium and fellowship hall. They have worked hard to make it nice.
From the outside:
The Shores son Josh is in the middle. He is deputy with the county Sheriff's Dept. He is also an eligible bachelor. (Josh, you owe me $10 for putting that in there. ha)

This was also the week of the Balloon Fiesta. It is called the largest ballooning event on earth, the most photographed event on earth, and the largest annual international event held in the United States.
Mark, Sandy, and I got up on Saturday to see the balloons take off. Here's a flying cow:
I counted about 400 balloons in the air at one time.

We had a great weekend with the Shores and the church folks. Pray that they will be able to find a bigger building so they can continue to grow.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oakland in October

Tim Osborn and the Faith FWB Church in Oakland, Tennessee had an Operation Saturation and participated in a town festival on the same day (October 3). Here's the church's booth.
The Faith Praise Team sings to the early morning crowd
Ken Akers (Masters Men Director) and my wife, Sandy, and I went down for an Operation Saturation. Here is a group from Grace FWB Church in Nashville with Pastor Jamie Lane. We appreciate them driving 3 hours to help.
Tim Osborn was in charge of parking and was riding around in his buggy all day. He does a good job of connecting with people. Between walking around door to door and riding around with him, I got a sunburn.
By the end of the day, Micah Osborn was getting tired. Next to her are Jordan and Emma Osborn.
The church meets in a school. Like a lot of new churches, they have to haul their chairs and equipment and set up and take down each Sunday. Here's Seth Osborn before church.
Free snacks and drinks before church.
The Praise Team leads the morning worship.
Between the two events, a lot of people in Oakland heard about the church.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Battle Creek, Michigan (aka Cereal City) is the home of Kellogg and Post. It is also where home missionary Jeff Isaacs is working hard on establishing a new church. The church has just relocated. They bought a former church building that had been unused for 15 years. Jeff and the folks from his church had help from some people from other Free Will Baptist churches in renovating the building. They now have a nice building in a great location.

Ken Akers (Master's Men Director) and I went to Battle Creek on September 25-27 for an Operation Saturation and their first weekend in the new building. A special Dedication Service was held on Friday night with several other pastors attending.

About 80 people were present, including several of the guys who had worked on the church. One man had his thumb 85% severed while working on the church. He had it stitched up and returned to work 2 days later!

On Saturday morning it was raining, but 9 brave souls ventured out to give out literature about the church. We had a great time and some people showed up on Sunday. Here's the 9 and also a picture of Jeff setting out.

Sunday morning was a great service with 138 people present!

Here's pictures of a full parking lot, a full house, and Jeff and Charissa.

Pray for the church as they follow up on the visitors. Pray for Jeff who has back surgery on Thursday, October 1.

Other News:

Dexter Guin and the church in Colorado Springs let us know that they finally got their building permit. Here's how Dexter put it:

Thanks for praying with us! After 3 yrs 9 months we finally pulled our permit today!!!!!!! Thank the Lord!!!!

This from Allen Hall in York, PA:

Hi, Bro. Richard. We baptized 6 all together in the frigid waters of a swimming pool. The first to be baptized was my daughter, Allison. I can't tell you what that did in my heart. Three of those baptized were a dad, mom & son. It was a precious service!

Tim Osborn in Memphis, TN reports that on their 1st anniversary service, the church broke its attendance record with 58!

Howard Gwartney in Arizona had 153 folks present for their 2nd anniversary service!

Friday, August 28, 2009


My wife, Sandy, and I just got back from visiting 3 church planters in the Northeast. Our daughter, Rachel, went with us and was the official photographer.

The first visit was with Tim and Lori Byers in Conneaut, Ohio. This is right on Lake Erie not too far from the PA line.
On Saturday, the church had a "cookout". Here's a picture of Tim cooking and me trying to look like I'm helping.

People eating in the fellowship hall:

It was Tim's birthday, so he got to wear the birthday hat:

I would have helped clean up, but somebody needed to hold young Joseph Byers.

The beautiful church was built in the late 1800's.

Sunday morning service:

We drove from Ohio to upstate New York to visit Dana and Betty Booth and Jim and Sylvia Martin.

They bought a former Nazarene church building.

Shaking hands on Sunday morning:

Jim Martin is leading the singing:

We stayed with our son, Nathan, and his wife, Rachel (they've been married only 2 months). They work with the youth and children in the church. Here is a picture of them with the Booths and Martins.

Our third visit was with Tom and Pam Jones and Nate and Jenna Altom in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
We had a short time with them, but a good time with a lot of laughter.
While the Byers and the Booths bought former churches, the Jones bought a former bar and dance hall. Several groups have come up this summer to help them in the renovation. I think it's great that this building will now be used to save souls instead of destroy them.
Still more work to be done.
It's tough everywhere to start churches now and it's really tough in the northeast. I appreciate all these families who are working hard to spread the good news about Christ.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Some people collect stamps. Some collect autographs. Others collect antiques. Jay Leno collects cars. I like to collect quotes. (They are a lot cheaper than cars.) A good quote can communicate something important or interesting or funny in just a few words. If you are a preacher or teacher, I hope you use good quotes. They can help get the point across. And they are often memorable.
Here are some quotes that I like. Maybe you can use one or two of them.

Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin and inspiration will find you.

You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do. Henry Ford

I believe in planning ahead, because if you spend enough time planning, you never actually have to do anything. Garfield the cat

CS Lewis on the Christian faith:
If it is false, it is of no importance; if true, it is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.

If you are talking to people about Jesus, you are having a 100% success rate in sowing the seed.

"Ninety percent of all those who fail are not actually defeated. They simply quit."
-- Paul J. Meyer

A couple of quotes from Steven Wright:
I almost had a psychic girlfriend but she left me before we met.
I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
All those who believe in psychokinesis, raise my hand.

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. Will Rogers

“Smoking is not a sin; but if you like putting dried leaves in your mouth and setting them on fire that’s your business.”

You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take. Wayne Gretsky

* If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.*

Listen as if someone were about to give you the winning lottery number and you would only hear it once.

People judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard boiled egg.

Never decide to do nothing just because you can only do a little.

God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us. Martin Luther

A little girl had just finished her first week of school. 'I'm just wasting my time,' she said to her mother. 'I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk!'

We don’t need more strength or more ability or greater opportunity. What we need is to use what we have.

I’d be happy to hear from you with some quotes that you like. As I said, I collect quotes.