2014 means more intently focusing on our churches

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay, gives us some powerful insight into why it is healthy for churches to look outside themselves for solutions to particular challenges. I asked him if I could share this word with you in my column, and he graciously agreed. Here’s what he said:

“The pattern is conspicuous. Churches that are insular are not as healthy as churches that are regularly seeking outside perspectives. Of course, there will be exceptions. But, as a rule, those churches whose leaders and members are involved only in their own church ministries tend to be less healthy in evangelism, retention, discipleship, and community ministries.

“Healthier churches have leaders and members who thrive on good conferences, meetings, consultations, and other external perspectives. In the Southern Baptist Convention, churches have the opportunity for their members and leaders to obtain training, learn trends, and develop best practices from their own state conventions and many times in their local associations.

“So why are healthier churches more likely to have representatives at these events than other churches? Here are five reasons:

  1. Healthy churches understand that God’s Kingdom is larger than just their particular church. They grasp that they can and will learn valuable insights they would not receive otherwise.
  2. Healthy churches understand that leadership development is key to their ongoing health. They are thus more likely to send church members to external events for that development.
  3. Healthy churches desire to take the benefit of skilled experts in a very specific area that might not otherwise be available within their own churches.
  4. Healthy churches avoid ‘ruts.’ Training and conferences offer fresh ideas and approaches. They are no longer bound by ‘the way they’ve always done it.’
  5. Healthy churches have members who are more open-minded to new ideas and approaches without compromising theological and biblical beliefs. One of the main reasons they are open to change is that they have heard that it has worked at other churches. And they often acquire this information by external help such as meetings and conferences and even consultations.

“In 1966 Simon and Garfunkel released a hit called ‘I Am a Rock.’ Some of the more memorable words were: ‘I am a rock. I am an island. And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.’ The thesis of the song was that loners who have no need of people or love are some of the unhealthiest people alive.

“Churches whose members never seek perspectives beyond their own churches tend to be unhealthy churches. They become islands that think they need no one and no perspective beyond themselves.

“Healthy churches, to the contrary, have members who are lifelong learners. They relish new and outside perspectives. They are thus part of churches that are willing to make changes when needed. These churches are constantly seeking to improve, constantly seeking to grow, and constantly seeking to do things better for the glory of God.”

Upcoming events

There are some amazing events scheduled for 2014 and I encourage our churches and their leaders to participate.

You will want to clear your calendar to participate in the Sowing in Tears – State Evangelism/Discipleship Conference, Jan. 27-28. This amazing event with world-class speakers will speak to the heart of every believer. Register now. Come early to get a seat. For details, go to

Church Revitalization Conference with Johnny Hunt in St. Louis Feb. 13. Our pastoral ministry team is partnering with the North American Mission Board to help churches infuse new life into their congregations. Visit for details.

What does a church do to protect its premises and participants? Join us for the Church Security and Intruder Response Conference at Miner Baptist Church, Sikeston, Feb. 15. Go to for additional details.

For those who seek a national revival, join us at Refresh in the Ozarks Feb. 27-28 with Michael Catt, Tom Elliff and others. Go to for details.

The Worldview Conference at Hannibal LaGrange University will be of great value to you and your church as you navigate the special cultural changes that impact our Christian convictions in an increasingly secular society. More details are available at

Make these events a priority to assist your church and facilitate a healthier congregation.