Thursday, February 26, 2009


I'm still pondering some of the things that grabbed me in Thom Rainer's recent book Essential Church. This book, based on research, talks about why two-thirds of 18-22 year-old church-going adults drop out of church. They don't necessarily leave their faith; they just leave the church

Rainer debunks one myth--that these dropouts leave the church because of their desire for personal freedom. Actually the opposite is true. Eighty percent of high school church-going students do not plan to leave the church. They feel connected and believe the church is essential in their lives. Yet when they turn eighteen, they leave in droves.

Certainly if blame is to be given, some must go for those young adults who drop out. However, the church must accept a significant part of the blame as well. These young adults are not angry at the church. They are not rejecting their religion. They are just quietly leaving the church in epidemic proportions.

Style of worship plays a significant role, especially if the style of adult services is much different from their teenage experience. But actually, more important than worship style are relationships and service. The church must do everything it possibly can to keep older students connected in community-building small groups. And the church must do everything it can to keep them serving in meaningful areas of ministry responsibilities (greeting, children's ministry, media, etc.). Those churches that have done well keeping this age group in church verify the accuracy of the above statements.

Here is another area of weakness. Churches have done well converting children to Christ; but they have not done well discipling them. As a result most of the dropouts don't see the value of staying in church. They see it as just another social venue that they can readily give up. Pizza parties and high energy programs aren't the key. Teaching them how to live life is the key. Older teenagers especially search for truth. They don't want a watered down quick devotional thought. They want to know what the Bible teaches.

Again, Essential Church is an excellent, though convicting, read. I encourage you to pick up a copy. The news is not all bad. Some churches are doing a great job keeping them. Moreover, many of these dropouts find their way back to church later in life. But our quest should be to keep them in the fold all through this critical stage of their life.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Nugget from Mark 1

I'm really enjoying digging into the Gospel of Mark. There is so much in each passage; but no way is there time during a 35 minute sermon to cover it all. So, along the way I'll pass on some nuggets that I might not get to on Sunday mornings.

In the story of Jesus' baptism in 1:9-10, we find a clear basis for our Christian belief in the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. One God manifested in three persons. Read the two verses and you can easily capture the three persons. Jesus (God the Son) was baptized by John the Baptist. After He came up out of the water, the heavens opened, and the Spirit (God the Holy Spirit) descended on Him. Then a voice from heaven came (God the Father), "You are My Son...."

Another interesting insight is that in the first 13 verses of his Gospel, Mark mentions the Holy Spirit three times. First, John indicated that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Second, the Spirit descended on Jesus. Third, the Spirit sent Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted.

The Trinity is the bedrock of our Christian faith. This belief separates Christianity from every other religion. Will we ever fully understand it? Not this side of eternity. But believe it and ponder it. And don't ever minimize the role of the Holy Spirit. He's just as much a part of the Godhead as Jesus.

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16. Father, I know that when I'm not experiencing joy, there must be something wrong with my heart. So please change me from the inside out.

17. Lord, I feel there are many against me. I do not want the same spirit David expressed. Please don't let a root of bitterness come into my heart.

18. Lord, my life made no sense until I placed all the pieces before you. My life is complete. Even when attackers are all around me, You are my bedrock, my castle.

19. How I love my times each day in Your Word. Your Word helps pull my life together, points me down the right path, and shows me the way of joy. Help me start each day afresh.

20. "Everything is going to work out." What a confidence booster, O God. Remind me of this promise every day.

21. Demonstrate Your strength, Lord, so that it will be obvious to all at Chapin Baptist Church that You are alive and working.

22. Who am I to complain about my struggles? Your Son hung on a wooden cross, suffering humiliation and shame. You Yourself turned Your head away from Him because You could not look at the human sin He became.

23. Father, there is so much busyness and stuff going on. Lead me to your lush meadows and quiet pools.

24. Father, I want to climb Your mountain. So give me clean hands and a pure heart.

25. Father, You reminded me this morning that worship is what life is all about. It is Your bulls-eye. May my life today be a gift of worship to You.

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Here is round 2 on my prayer journey through Psalms:

6. Father, when will you let up? The trials I've been facing have gone on for so long. Give me a breakthrough.

7. Sometimes, Lord, I feel I'm running to you for dear life because of the negative forces that push hard against me.

8. Who am I, Lord, that you would even bother to allow me the privilege to preach Your Word? I am grateful.

9. Thank you, kind God, for providing a safe house when my soul is battered.

10. Father, our nation continues on its moral downward spiral. Do something. Put us on the right track.

11. When times are tough, remind me, O God, that you are in charge.

12. Lord, protect me and my family from those who spread rumors and half-lies and full-blown lies.

13. Father, no matter how difficult my life's challenges are, I want my head to be held high. I want my life to be one answered prayer after another.

14. As I long for a great turnaround at Chapin Baptist, I recognize that you alone are the One who can make that happen.

15. Holy God, shape my character into your likeness so that I can be invited to sit for dinner with you.

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."


On Sunday, Feb. 15, I will begin a lengthy series of preaching through the Gospel of Mark. One of the comments I often hear is a hunger to go deeper in the study of God's Word. Well, in Mark we're going to do just that. We won't sacrifice the practical relevance of applying the Bible to our daily lives. But we will spend more time understanding biblical backgrounds and theological teaching.

As an extra, if you're interested in going a little deeper than the message goes, I will post a blog here and there that will help you grasp the Word a little better.

When you study a book of the Bible, it is always helpful to know as much background surrounding the book as possible. A 35-minute sermon can't cover it all, so here are some tidbits about Mark.

  • It was written for Gentile readers, primarily the Romans.
  • It is the earliest written gospel, probably around AD 50.
  • Scholars believe that Mark and Peter were very tight friends and that Mark got much of his material from Peter.
  • Matthew and Luke got lots of their material from Mark.
  • Mark presents Jesus as the ultimate servant.
  • He emphasizes what Jesus did more that what He said. The word immediately is used 40+ times, showing Christ to be a servant of action.
  • Over half of Jesus' recorded miracles (18 of 35) are recorded in Mark.
  • Mark is the shortest gospel.
  • Mark devotes almost as many chapters to the last week of Jesus' life (six) as he does to the prior three years of ministry (eight).
  • Mark was Jewish, born in Jerusalem, most likely from a well-to-do family. His mother was Mary (no, not the Virgin Mary). She had a house that served as a meeting place for believers.
  • Mark and Barnabas were cousins. He went on the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas. Some kind of riff caused him to abandon the journey. He and Paul later reconciled.

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I'm asked every now and then, "Don't you hate preaching those messages on tithing?" Actually I enjoy them. Why? Because I'm preaching straight from God's Word. And money is a subject that is treated all through the Scriptures. In fairness, if I preach proportionately, I should be doing it more than once a year.

Yes, once a year I take the subject of money and give and give it a full force LeBron dunk. I knew it would be different this year because of the economy. But the Macedonian Christians provided us with an excellent example of sacrificial giving in a difficult economy.

Yes, I got a snide comment or two and one long tirade, but actually it was moving to read the responses people gave me personally and on the connection cards. Several requested prayer that they would be more obedient. Some committed to begin tithing. One family said they would start with 5% and move toward the tithe. Others asked for prayer regarding difficult job situations and financial stress. I am praying for families in our church.

Another reason I enjoy preaching on tithing is that I know what God does when people step out in faith and make that commitment. After these messages I get one story of victory after another from our people. I heard two powerful stories Sunday morning between the services. God always delivers more than we ever expect.

But what about the other 90%? With my 10 one-dollar-bill illustration, in no way did I suggest that you set aside one dollar, save one dollar, and then use the rest however you see fit. No, the Bible teaches that we are to honor God with all our money (Prov. 3:9-10--go read it!).

If I loaned you my car and you wrecked it, I don't think you would come up to me and say, "What's the big deal? I was a good steward of 10 percent of your car. It's only 90% damaged." All our money belongs to God. He owns it all. Everything we have is on loan from Him. Certainly we can't tell God, "I've given you 10%. You said the rest is mine." No, no, no. We should be good stewards of all 100%. the way. I've been listening to some recent sermons by Andy Stanley. He recently finished a five-part series on guess what? Money. I guess my one Sunday a year is not too bad after all.

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."