Preaching that Mobilizes

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I am convinced that many churches in the U.S. find themselves in a quandary these days. Pastors are frustrated because week after week no matter how long and hard they prepare to preach, their hearers in the church pews will continue to be “hearers and not doers” of the Word. No amount of pastoral education or congregational exposure to the truth will ever change this unfortunate fact.  The problem is not education or information. It’s obedience.

The Preacher

First, most preachers believe that the only thing we are to “invite” people to do when we preach is to “be saved.”  We preach for conversions, which lead to baptisms, which lead to church growth and denominational ladder-climbing. Yes, we are even guilty of preaching the gospel of Christ for our own ends, which is shameful. Each Sunday we go for the jugular of the lost person that we hope showed up by chance. And if no one bites, we leave our congregation with a sense of guilt and shame for not bringing their friends to church. As the last verse of “Just as I Am” comes to a close, we hang our heads in disappointment and remind the church with all the joy we can muster to come back for the evening service followed by the monthly business meeting. On second thought, we might repeat the last verse again in hopes that one of the youth will “rededicate.”

Of course we are to preach EVERY time for decision. The gospel demands a response. But the gospel is not just about a conversion experience. It is about experiencing the grace of God throughout our entire life and walk with Jesus. Our mission is to make disciples, not converts. So even if the Sunday morning congregation is filled with believers, we should still preach for decisions because our mission is to make disciples. Therefore missional preaching is always aimed at challenging the hearer to do whatever Jesus is telling them through biblical exposition and proclamation. There are ALWAYS NEXT STEPS for anyone hearing God’s word preached. 

This makes the preacher’s task even more involved. He must know what the mission of the church is and make it clear to the congregation. He must refuse to settle for anything less. He will be tempted each week with attaboys and encouragements from his hearers. “Wow pastor, good word today!” “Man I’ve heard that passage preached before, but never as well as you delivered it today. You really opened my eyes today.” “You hit a home run today preacher! great job.” If we are content with such responses, we are fools. Consider this scenario. A father (like me) of five (again, like me) calls his children to the living room of their very messy house. After everyone assembles, he tells them about how messy the house is and that he expects everyone to do their part to clean it up. After explaining with great moral urgency the need for a clean house, and outlining the three-point plan for getting the job done, his children all applaud. Each one comes by and shakes his hand with big smiles and pats him on the back saying, “Great job dad! Man, I’ve heard mom give speeches before on cleaning, but yours exceeded hers by far.” “Wow, dad, no one knows how to clean a house like you!” “Dad, I was going to watch the game this afternoon, but I might just come back to hear part 2 of your cleaning series.” Each compliment is followed by an abrupt exit back upstairs to play.

Now if you are this father, I bet you aren’t smiling. I wouldn’t be. I don’t think any parent would be satisfied with such a response. So why are so many preachers satisfied with the accolades? Why are so many preachers satisfied with the comments and praises that actually insult our heavenly Father? Because many of us think that our job is simply to proclaim a message well, when in fact it is to lead our church on mission. It is to equip and mobilize. Missional preaching mobilizes people to continue following Jesus.

Becoming more articulate, going deeper, having an attractive voice, preaching shorter sermons, wearing different clothes, overemphasizing hand gestures and the like, will NEVER make a disciple. As Neil Cole put it, “If the cross of Christ does not motivate your people, your sermon certainly will not.” It is an insidious pride in preachers that assumes anything we do personally could outshine Calvary! That our personalities could endear someone to Christ more than the old rugged cross! So preach the cross and show your congregation, from Scripture, what it means to FOLLOW Jesus. And then hold them accountable to do just that. And if you aren’t willing to risk your livelihood to hold them accountable, the enemy has won the battle over your church, and neither you, nor your church is a threat to the kingdom of darkness. (A church that refuses to follow Christ is just a religious organization with a Christian name.) But if you are willing to risk it, and end up losing your salaried position and religious reputation, be of good cheer, for you are advancing in your walk as a Christ-follower, and the enemy considers you a threat.

The Church

The congregation must agree with one another about the mission of the church to be disciples and make disciples. They must agree that they all share the same DNA as Christ followers and are all on the same journey together. They must anticipate hearing new marching orders from God’s word every time they gather for worship.

In Matthew 22:37-40 and 28:19-20 we find what many have called the “great commandment and great commission.” They can basically be boiled down to this: love God, love others, and make disciples. Jesus has told us how to love one another, how to love God, and how to follow Him (Jesus). Every church should have a localized expression of this triad written down and practiced. It should be preached, taught, talked about regularly, and well illustrated. It is also best if the church, or at least a core group within the church, develops this expression with the leadership of  the pastor(s). In my experience, when a singular pastor forms the mission statement, though his motives be noble, the church body gets suspicious and rejects it. The church must go through the process of prayer and searching so that the level of congregational ownership is high. This is usually the most difficult phase of missional church development because much humility, patience, and deference is needed.

Once the values of the great commandment and great commission are expressed through a localized mission statement, the church must begin the process of filtering everything through the values of the mission statement. Programs, positions, budgets, and many other things must be reorganized under the marching orders of Jesus expressed in the mission statement. Some programs will need to be eliminated. Some budgets may need to be reduced or cut. Some budgets may need to be increased, like missions, church planting, and benevolence.  Some services might need to be eliminated or revamped for more missional impact. Sometimes aligning church life to the great commission means a complete overhaul of certain philosophies of ministry.

The sacrifice for missional alignment is great. A church may lose key leaders, servants, volunteers, and even close friends. But the benefits to being on mission with Jesus is exponential and eternally impactful. If a religious group of 300 became a missional church of 50, the gates of hell would tremble in fear.

Here are the three missional values our church uses to express our mission. We consider them the three life rhythms of a Christ-follower found in Scripture.

  1. Leaning into the lives of others. (Love your neighbor) -Life in Community
  2. Looking up to God for direction. (Love the Lord your God) -Life in Communion
  3. Living out our faith in the world. (Make disciples) -Life in Commission

A missional church must begin to see the preacher/pastor as the equipper. Paul describes the gifts given by the Spirit, in Ephesians, as for the “equipping of the saints for the work of service.” The weekly worship gathering should be a time where ambassador-missionaries come together to be challenged, equipped, encouraged, and inspired to go engage their respective mission fields with the gospel. We should never leave satisfied without knowing how to better love our neighbor, love our God, and follow our Savior. A warm fuzzy feeling will never satisfy the Christ-follower. A pretty homily will not appease the hunger for one’s unbelieving friend to be born again. The church is an army that must be equipped for enemy engagement on the battlefield of everyday life.

For the church to be healthy and faithful to Christ, preachers must preach for the mobilization of disciples. Likewise, congregations must begin to lay everything at the foot of the cross and embrace the mission to make disciples. We must assemble with expectation and excitement to be equipped for the work of ministry. We must come for the purpose of being mobilized.



Healthy Marriage Tips

Let’s get to the heart of the marriage matter! Whether you are a husband or a wife, young or old, everyone could use a few helpful tips for making their marriage strong and more healthy. So, here are a few quick and helpful tips that I hope will benefit your marriage today.


1.  Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.

I have never spoken to another person with such passion as I have when speaking to my wife. Whether it’s an argument or a lengthy discussion, I oftentimes find myself simply waiting for her to stop talking just so I can make my own case or contribute my own point of view. Usually by the end of the conversation, I realize that all I have done is push my point across in an attempt to be understood without every truly seeking to understand her. This is a common problem with both husbands and wives, and if left unchecked, can cause significant harm to the family.

Alan Covey explains this concept in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He calls it “empathetic communication.” In order to truly influence someone in a positive manner, you must first seek to understand them. Marriage makes this difficult because, in many cases, both husband and wife are jockeying for position and grasping for opportunities to establish their own place in the relationship. The continuation of such power-moves can suggest a significant lack of trust within the relationship and can make reciprocal communication difficult.

So, be the one who stops talking and starts listening. Put your need to be understood on hold for a minute, and honestly seek to understand your spouse. You will find that by becoming an “empathetic communicator,” your spouse will feel more valued and appreciated. Don’t be surprised when they reciprocate.


2.  Apologize Less.

I know this sounds crazy, right? But the word “apologize,” means “to defend.” In Peter’s first letter, we are encouraged to “make a defense” (apologia/grk) to anyone who asks us to give an account of our faith in Jesus Christ. Peter is telling us to give a reason to the unbelieving world for the way we behave as Christians. So he is not encouraging us to change our behavior; only to explain why we do what we do as we follow Jesus as Lord.  Unfortunately when we offer up apologies today to our spouse, they sound like we are simply defending our wrongful or hurtful actions:

“Well, I said that because YOU implied that you weren’t happy with me!” “So, SORRY IF I hurt your feelings!”

Notice that there is no admission of wrongdoing in most of our apologies; only the acknowledgement of possible collateral damage by our words/actions. We can apologize all day long with absolutely no intention or motivation to change our behavior. This makes our apologies insulting and meaningless to our spouse. We must learn to apologize less and repent more in our marriages. It is much easier to apologize than to change direction or to cease certain destructive behaviors, but we must.


3.  Forgive More.

Nothing can do more harm to a marriage than resentment. Gary Smalley gives four main reasons for why people like to harbor resentment:

  1.  Protection:   “If I build a wall of resentment, then I will never be hurt again.”
  2.  Power:   “I’m right, you’re wrong, now I have this on you and you have to grovel to get back.”
  3.  Pity:  “Wow, I’ve been hurt. . . . life is so unfair.”
  4.  Performance:  “I’ll show them that I’m good enough and worthy to be loved.”

Forgiveness is perhaps the most difficult thing for a person to do in a relationship. The desire to protect oneself from harm is innate. But as new creatures being transformed into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can forgive others as He has forgiven us. Make it your aim to outdo your spouse in forgiveness. Be the first to forgive if you can, and forgive often. Resist the strong desire to harbor resentment, and remember what Jesus did for you on the cross. Here are a few words from the apostle Paul that will give you courage:

“Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”

I hope these tips help you today as you grow in your marriage. Please leave a comment below and/or like us on Facebook if you have found this post helpful or encouraging.


A Parent’s Worst Fears

Being a parent in today’s world can be a bit frightening, let’s be honest. Whenever I go out on the weekend with Emily and our kids, I always see an unsuspecting father who has that look of terror in his eyes as he realizes the work involved with raising kids. He can work sixty hours a week closing deals and manipulating clients into buying what he’s selling, but he just can’t seem to divine a way to convince his four year old to behave long enough to make it through the Costco checkout line with some dignity. I usually smile and chuckle to myself, remembering those early, more difficult days.

It is such a high honor to be a parent. Children are a gift from God and being a parent is the highest form of stewardship. Parents are entrusted not just with smaller physical versions of themselves, but with budding hearts and minds that are growing into future world-changers. Oh yeah, and they have souls created in the image of God! Okay, so no pressure right? But honestly, we are shaping the next generation. So here are some helpful tips for raising your kids the way God desires.

1.  Work That Wet Cement!

If you have ever seen a crew of men pouring a concrete slab for a house or building, you’ll notice that they work very rapidly and with precision tools. After the cement is poured, the crew will work the mix into every crevice and beam while the mix is malleable. Then the finishing crew quickly comes in and puts the final touches on the work, leaving a smooth and even surface.

Parenting is like working with wet cement! Kids are most malleable during those early years. It is therefore vital that parents take their God-given right and responsibility to proactively form their children. It is not the responsibility of the church, government, education system, entertainment/internet, Grandma and Grandpa, the babysitter, or the neighbor. It’s yours. So work it.

The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Two things stand out from this verse:

1. There is an objective way in which God wants us to parent. We have the right and authority to form our children according to God’s word. It is not up to our children to decide how they will be formed(maturity problem). It is not up to society as to how they will be formed(values problem). It is up to the parent(s).

2. There is a promise and expectation that the way in which we form our kids during those early years will help determine their values later in life. (Someone WILL impact your child’s values most. WILL it be you?)

On a personal note: My wife and I disciplined our children the way our parents disciplined us. We saw it work in our families growing up, so we decided as a team to implement the same strategy. Oh, and we also were convinced that the Bible supported it. We have found from raising (5) kiddos that if you do the hard work of discipline while they are young, they are much easier and independent when they grow into the preteen/teen years. (Just our experience)

2. Coach.

Successful coaches spend time on and off the field with their players. They look at film together, condition together, practice together, etc.. Coaches are invested in the lives of their players, not just in the organization. And, a good coach considers his/her impact on the players more important than their win/loss record as an organization. Likewise, parents have the unique opportunity to disciple their children through coaching.

Coaching is a way of bringing out the best in your children so that they can see the gifts and abilities with which God has blessed them. This cuts against the normative grain of high, and sometimes impossible expectations that some parents create for their children. The goal is for your child to recognize their worth and God-given calling in life. But they have to discover it for themselves. They have to own it. Like a coach who is not allowed on the field of play, parents must lead, love, encourage, discipline, train, equip, and then let go. Oh, and champion them: hoist them up on your shoulders when they win, and embrace them with pride and empathy when they lose. By doing this, you model the love of Christ and show them the heart of the Father.

3.  Heave! Ho! Pull Together!

I have always hated tug-of-war; unless there is a pit of mud or flaming fire between the teams. That would be cool. Actually though, what I see so often with parents is that they are pulling in different directions while their kids stand by watching. Believe me, kids see and hear everything, even when you think they aren’t. A word to the wise parent: don’t have open disagreements with your spouse in front of your kids. If you’re a father and think that it is okay to do this simply because you are the head of your household, think again. If you’re a mother and think that this is okay simply because you spend more time with the kids and know what they can handle, think again. Table the conversation, whenever possible, until you can get alone with one another and out of ear-shot from the kids. They will thank you later.

Don’t undermine one another’s authority. Kids will always try to pit mom against dad. They will always push this envelope. Parents must continually and strategically provide a united front in the home. Kids should know that if they ever attempt to deceive and divide leadership in the home, they will pay the ultimate price(whatever that is for you). This not only helps support the integrity of the home, but it promotes and models the type of healthy marriage relationship your children will seek when starting a family. Let them know in no uncertain terms that you(mom and dad) are a team not to be trifled with.


Get physical. One of the most significant aspects to a healthy marriage and home is an openly romantic relationship between husband and wife. In short, little billy and sally should be somewhat afraid of sneaking up on mom and dad making out. Nothing says to your kids, “we are on the same team,” and “we will still be here having fun when you move out,” like some good ole huggin and kissin.



Grace Discovery Groups

Beginning in September, Grace Fellowship will be holding several different small home-based groups throughout the week. These vibrant new small groups will center around community, Bible study, and spiritual growth.

You can find out more about being part of a Grace Discovery Group by filling out an info card during one of our Gatherings on Sundays or by emailing us at

The Art of Neighboring

As residents of one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S, Maricopans have a unique opportunity to connect to one another. Our city is filled with new homes, clean streets, and new families looking for a fresh start. Maricopa is a great place to call home.

As followers of Jesus, the people of Grace Fellowship Church engage our neighbors in a proactive way and seek to be involved in the life of our community. We believe that what our community needs most is not more churches for people to attend, but for more churches to attend to the people of the community. We believe that more followers of Christ need to practice the “art of neighboring.”

This is the kind of church we are planting. It is the kind of church we want to continue to be in the future. It’s the kind of church Jesus called us to be when he said, “and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Redeemed

“I don’t need fixing.” “God accepts me just the way I am.” “Don’t tell me I have to change.” These are statements we may hear often from friends and family with whom we share Christ. The spirit of our time is tolerance. The more tolerant a person is, the more our society respects them. But what are we to tolerate? At what point does tolerance become license?

God does accept sinners (us) just the way we are. But what does this mean? It means that we have done nothing to merit Jesus coming to die for us on the cross. It means that God came to us because of his love and mercy, not because of our attractiveness or qualities. But it doesn’t mean that when we stand before God at the end of this life, that God will simply accept us into heaven just the way we are. He will only accept us if we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, his son, who died in our place on the cross. He will only accept the redeemed.

The Bible says that the redeemed are all who believe in Jesus and follow him. We are not redeemed by our qualities or our works. We are redeemed only by the person and work of Jesus. God accepted us just as we are today many years ago way back in Bethlehem where Jesus was born and at Calvary where Jesus died. He will not accept us as we are at the end of this life. But he will accept us as  new people: people who have been forgiven of all sin through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ came to redeem us from the curse of sin. He personified God’s grace on earth as he touched lepers, healed the blind, and shared food with prostitutes, traitors, and extortionists. Jesus is God’s acceptance of people just the way people are. However, Jesus called such people to believe and follow him. He would not allow them to remain as they were: living a life separated from God.

So come to God now just as you are by believing in Jesus and following Jesus. But don’t expect Jesus to allow you to stay the same. He left heaven for you. He suffered and died for you. He paid a debt for you that you could never pay. So come as you are and accept God’s free gift: his son, Jesus. Accept God’s gift and then give him everything. Give him your life, and prepare to be forever changed. This is redemption. Have you been redeemed?


The Whosoevers

Who is the church? What is the church made of? Some people consider the church a piece of architectural material. Others may even consider the church an organization or corporation. The Bible describes the church as a gathering/body of certain people: whosoevers.

The church is distinct. It consists of a certain type of people. The distinction does not concern sex, race, ethnicity, or age. The only distinction is faith. People of faith make up the church. To be more specific, people who possess and express faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Son of God and Savior of the world. Any type of person in the world can place their trust and faith in Jesus Christ.

There is no distinction between people of faith. Jesus dined with sinners and outcasts and He offered healing to the sick and broken. He also invited the proud, the rich, and the powerful to forsake their way and follow Him. Many rejected Him, but “to those who received Him, to them He gave the right to be called children of God.”

In the book of Acts we learn that the “many” who received Him were “added to the church’s number.” The church was made up of anyone and everyone who believed and followed Jesus as Lord and Savior. There was no distinction between “Jew or Greek, slave or freedman, male or female.” But all were “one in Christ Jesus.” Even today, each person in society is on a level playing field when it comes to faith. “Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Grace Fellowship Church is just a group of “whosoevers.” We are nothing but a gathering of broken people who live passionately for the One who saved us from our sin. We seek to give the love of God generously to our neighbors. If you are a perfect person, you might struggle to fit in here. But if you are a whosoever, you’ll feel right at home.

Grace 1.1

Some things are hard to believe. It was hard for me to believe that my wife of sixteen years actually went through with it and said “I do” on January 8, 2000. I was flabbergasted! It seemed too good to be true then, and still does today. I doubted the possibility of her hand in marriage because I was keenly and constantly aware of my unworthiness.

The same is true about God and our relationship with him through Jesus Christ the Son. Grace is so hard to believe in fact, that mankind has invented myriads of religious systems which attempt to recreate a salvation story that ultimately credits man himself as his own savior. Even some Evangelicals will explain salvation through Jesus Christ as simply following his example of a moral life dedicated to God the Father. Still to others, the person and work of Jesus Christ is a simple footnote in their own religious schema. For many, Christianity is no different than other religions who have a messianic or prophetic figure to whom allegiance and obedience are required in order to obtain eternal benefits. But that is not the gospel of grace.

The gospel is grace and grace is the gospel (or good news). Anything short of grace is not good news. The gospel is that God stooped toward sinful mankind as a baby born in a manger. He clothed himself in flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus died the most brutal death on a cross of shame and suffering in our place, giving full pardon and life to those who would believe in him. Our contribution to such a transaction is simple belief (faith). We bring nothing of value to the table, and nothing can ever be added from our hands to make the good news more plausible or make ourselves more worthy to receive it.  The gospel of grace is hard to believe, but it is true. It is God’s story. It is radical.

The gospel of the grace of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ is the only thing that has the power to save and change the lives of people. Grace is more than a word, name, or title for our church. It is the essence of our identity and message. It reaches past religious denominationalism. It supersedes all of academia’s theological constructs. It frustrates the anthropocentric modern mind. It is foolish, scandalous, and simplistic. It is absurd and beautiful. It is life to everyone who believes, and therefore, the very fabric of our mission as a new church in Maricopa.


Sending Churches

As a new church plant, we believe in the power of partnership. As the Apostle Paul traveled on his missionary journeys through Asia and Greece, he counted upon local churches to partner with him in the work of the Gospel. Likewise, GFC depends upon the prayer and financial support of our sending churches like The Vine Baptist Church in Davis, Oklahoma, and Mountain Ridge Baptist Church in Glendale, Arizona. Both churches provide leadership counseling, prayer support, and financial partnership to GFC.

Other partners include Prairieville Baptist Church in Prairieville, Texas and Emmanuel Baptist Church in Sun City, Arizona. We are thankful for the sacrificial giving of missional churches and the giving of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program. We will continue to carry the cooperative spirit of partnership as we launch a new church in Maricopa, and look for other opportunities to give and support as we grow.

If you or someone you know may be considering a partnership with Grace Fellowship Church, please leave your name and contact information in the comments above, and we will be sure to contact you.

Vision Meeting 1

Grace Fellowship Church leaders and launch team members will be hosting our first vision meeting at Copper Sky Recreational Center, April 17th from 3-5pm. Leaders will share short term and long term vision goals as well as testimonies about God’s direction for planting a new church in Maricopa. Our team looks forward to meeting all who come out to catch the vision of this new church. We are in prayer for God to begin directing the minds and hearts of people who will partner with us as launch team members leading up to August.

copper sky
Copper Sky Rec Center