Excellence Must Be Chosen For a Mid-sized Church to Grow

Some decisions to excel are tough to make, for they take you out of the “aw shucks” mode, and call for strong pastoral leadership. See if you are willing!

Senior Leadership

1. The pastor earns and embraces the role of senior leader of this ministry, this local church, by vision, hard smart work, and excellence.

2. The pastor makes the hard calls to improve and make excellent the work of friends on staff—either to demand a change or dismiss the person.

3. The pastor defines the board’s role as guardianship of excellence and guidance of values rather than that of management and staff functions.

4. The pastor and staff choose, at least subconsciously, to “swim hard” rather than to “float,” to excel rather than to be comfortable.

5. The speaking pastor continually improves.

6. The leader risks being a little obsessive about details of ministry, believing “the little pixels make the big picture.” Even non-chalant strong leaders worry about small excellencies.

7. The senior leader envisions and teaches the embraceable values and purposeful mission goal for the church.

8. Fewer people are involved in congregational decisions. Voting at annual membership meetings pertains to call of senior pastor, main board, budget and capital decisions, and constitution issues. This can be hard for people who remember the small “church family” meetings.

Pastoral and Church Staff

1. There is a “point person” from the paid staff for each of the ministries and potential ministries that should be in a larger church. The point person is the one who studies and envisions what can be done in that ministry area, and to whom volunteers go when they are frustrated or have a need. (Otherwise the senior pastor will be the point person for all ministries.)

2. Staff takes the time and risk to select and orient a “ministry manager,” a lead volunteer, for each specific area of ministry.

3. Staff are organized for true accountability for goals, work, and attitudes. Not all of them like this.

4. Delegation to and training of volunteers is not yawned at by the staff. It is easier to do it yourself, but not better.

5. Administrative staff and part-time coordinators are used well and held to excellence standards.

6. There are specialists for major areas of ministry such as worship, care, missions, youth, kids, and administration.

Main Board

1. They have a “job description” for the board and do not operate the same way as they did when the church was smaller and they were dealing with daily management and ministries and Sunday services.

2. They do not allow “tribal chiefs” who enjoy authority to lead the board by sheer power of personality. Instead they follow biblical principles for vision and excellence.

3. The board is not too small. Two or three elders (plus the pastor-elder) are an “aw-shucks” group rather than a board for foundations, resources, values, and visions.

4. The pastor and board chairman are “on the same page.” They agree to unite on divisive issues before they go to the board.

5. People feel they are called to the board not to “represent” a segment of the congregation but rather to serve as one mind for the best for all the church.

6. Individual board members do not “elder” as individuals as they walk the halls or talk to people. Instead they act only as one mind and make decisions only when they are all together.

7. The pastor earns the role of senior leader among leaders by vision, hard work, and excellence.


1. The pastor and worship leader worry about details, themes, segues, mood, timing, excellence, appropriateness; sensitivities to unbelievers; and proper enjoyment, worship, and challenge for believers.

2. There is a point person on staff and a volunteer ministry manager in charge of guests and assimilation, a most important ministry for a growing church.

3. Leaders give careful consideration to styles of worship music and whether to have one style, a variety, or The Blend.

4. There is excellent signage, a good welcome center, a security system for children’s area, and clean halls and rest rooms.

5. Participants are not chosen to help in worship services to give them experience or because they are veterans in the church. A standard of excellence is graciously, tactfully kept. There may be a warm family spirit, but not all the family lead or speak up front.

6. There is a strong desire to plan services and say things from the platform that do not alienate guests or unbelievers. This can be guarded without compromising the gospel. If there is anything offensive, it is the cross, not our in-house jokes or evangelical habits.

7. Services start and end at consistent times, in most of our cultures, and the attenders can also count on consistent excellence.

8. Speakers and pulpit people refrain from inside-jokes or excessive church “family” references that make guests feel like outsiders.

Groups for Community and Personal Growth

1. There is a point person on staff to study strategies for true community and care in the Sunday and home mid-sized groups of the church.

2. There is a good understanding of how excellence in community and care are achieved in both Sunday and home groups. People are urged to join one or the other.

3. There is excellent provision for the needs of senior adults, who often like their meeting and study time to be on campus on Sunday. Many rumor mills start with seniors and we want them to give a good report.

4. Sunday groups are designed not just for content (electives or straight teaching). Real community is developed.

5. Leaders recognize that a mid-sized home group (ten or more) is not true discipleship, but is true community with study and application. These are good purposes, but discipleship-accountability happens best in gender-specific groups of seven or eight or less, in groups that stay together for that specific purpose.

6. Churches use short electives (three to five weeks only) as good entry points for sanctuary people. When this elective-entry method is used, the people there are introduced to and invited to the regular Adult Bible Fellowships (community-study groups) that meet all the time. They are urged to try these as the elective closes.

7. ABFs and Home ABFs are asked to take on regular ministries as a group—in the church, or community, or in support of missionaries. Many churches that used to neglect this now see the good of groups adding ministry and a mission to their purposes.


1. There is a strong concern and strategy from the pulpit and staff and lay leadership to be strongly missional locally and around the world—with near and far both being strong emphases.

2. Leadership for local and global starts with pastoral staff, instead of being delegated to mission-minded lay leaders, as is often the case in smaller, family-type churches.

3. There is a carefully planned strategy for helping with needs of individuals or groups in the area or city.

4. There is a point person on staff responsible for local mission, and volunteer ministry managers who care for specific local ministries.

5. There is a strategic plan to become known in the area.

6. There is a strong percentage of missions offerings designated for local concerns, or at least a goal for this.

7. Leaders do not make the wide, often artificial gulf between spiritual help to people and physical medical- holistic help—without forsaking the high goal of redemption spiritually, and the establishment of churches.


1. Leaders emphasize both “wings of the airplane”—“come and see” (to the church services and special attractors), and “go and tell” (the witness of the individuals to neighbors, friends, and others). One is called “attractional” and the other “missional.” Both can be excellent.

2. There is a point person… 


1. There is a standard of excellence for all brochures and emailings that represent the church. Usually one person or department must approve. Homey ways are nice, but… This includes or starts with the website and bulletin.

2. Leaders know one announcement in a public service means little. There are multiple ways to stress what is for all the church.

3. Whatever announcements or “pushes” make the public service are done by the one who can do them best.

4. There is a person selected to keep the church in the news for good publicity, and to manage talking points and be spokesperson when there is bad news.

5. The senior pastor accepts the role that increases in importance as the church grows larger—to be the main spokesperson and vision-caster for the church. This may include short emails to the church, campaign news or promotions from up front, a brief pastor’s note in the bulletin, and other ways of communicating mood and cheerleading vision.


1. The senior pastor disciplines self to share the responsibility. Care is done through the Sunday and home groups, and others on staff or part-time care people and volunteers do a lot of the normal pastoral care. In some cases “it is not the same as it used to be,” but normally the attention to needs can be more excellent.

2. One of the people in #1 is seen as the senior care-giver rather than the lead pastor.

3. Others on staff have care responsibilities (discipleship, tragedies, crises, etc.) for the people in the areas they lead.


1. Better, cleaner, more important.

2. A lot of volunteers may be utilized, but the oversight responsibility shifts to a person on staff. 3. Every growing church longs for more lobby!

On whether or not one should even think about Jesus Christ as necessary personal Savior

An important conversation about our personal ties with God for now and for eternity


First, it’s about God. So we are accepting that He exists and is Creator of the universe. People who do not believe He exists have to start somewhere else.

Then it is about how we connect with Him, assuming He is holy, powerful, and a person (which the Bible says a lot).

And we are not holy, which goes without saying.  The Letter to Romans says it clearly: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).   Very short!


God is revealed as holy and far above sin. He cannot just embrace us. By virtue of perfect holiness, He cannot just overlook sin.

So we are challenged to face that there is a real problem in life, to believe that our spiritual problems are real. If we agree with that – a constant theme in the Bible – we will look for the way to connect with God, and begin a spiritual journey.

“All we like sheep have gone astray,” is a famous Isaiah statement (53:6).


God is holy, far above sin.  And He really loves the people He created, and He said they ran away from Him.

Because of that love, He plans the way for connection with people that would actually meet His standards for holiness.

It was all His idea.


First, God does not change His standards. He remains holy, and cannot just say, “Boys will be boys,” when noticing our sin.His way is clearly defined in the Bible.

He comes to earth in the person of the eternal second person of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.    That is Christmas, the incarnation, the Son taking on human nature also. 

Mary had a baby.


All through the Bible’s Old Testament, there are prophecies about someone to come as a victor and Messiah, “the anointed one.” As early as Genesis 3, when God stated that someday “the seed of a woman,” a baby, would somehow crush “the snake,” Satan. (A strange prophecy indeed.)

Then there are hundreds of prophecies of a deliverer in the Old Testament, including even that he would be “a child to be born,” and “a son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).

The eternal Son comes to earth and lives a perfectly sinless life as a human person.


He is crucified for other reasons.   Actually,  as prophesied in Isaiah 53, He dies as a substitute for every one of us.

His judgment-death actually counts as our death or judgment for sin. He dies for us, for our sins. Instead of us.

“For our sake, he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin.”  He took ours on his back,  “who knew no sin,  so that in him we might become the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21).   

That is  an extravagant statement.  It is quite the opposite of religion by itself,  where we see what we can do to get in with God.

So our judgment for sin is already accomplished, should we receive this gift of the Savior by faith. By believing. That is the generous connection – faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.


Yes.  This is, in one sense, just half the gift.  This gives us the penalty-paid-to-our-holy-God stamp.  No question.  “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

So that gets coverage or removal of our sin record in front of a holy God. Pure grace.

But how do we get a perfectly righteous standing in front of His holiness?

Enter the gift of righteousness.  You have to be perfect to go to heaven, to be with God —and perfect is a gift!


The Bible is very clear that the perfect record of righteousness of Jesus Christ is credited to the person who places his faith in Christ alone — who he is, and what he did in his life and death and resurrection.  Christ’s righteousness or perfect record is counted as ours in God’s eyes!

That is the essence of the gospel, the good news.


When we admit we need help, seeking Jesus as Savior, and place our faith in Jesus —who he is, and what he did for us then in God’s eyes —  the death and judgment of Jesus actually count for us. His punishment for sins covers us when we trust Him by faith.

What is more, His perfect life record counts as ours. “Our faith is counted as righteousness.”

This is most amazing.


It has been buried under a pile of religion and misrepresentation and rules and regulations.  It has been forgotten.  For some, it has seemed too good to be true, or maybe even too much a gift rather than something we earned.

And of course the Bible is clear,  and history verifies,  that people or even civilizations lose interest in finer and eternal things when selfishness and sin capture their hearts!


If God is Creator and Owner of the universes, and He is perfectly holy, as He says, we are in trouble without His help and forgiveness. And He is clear that He cannot connect with sin. He cannot touch it, or just shrug His shoulders at it.

Jesus Christ, the perfect God-man, is the answer for that. He is the huge theme of the Bible – that God, the Creator, takes care of our need, and makes possible our faith.

Sadly, part of being fallen out of connection with God is that we do not even seek after God. Not many people follow up their emptiness in life with a chasing after God. Most of us have not met  many people on a  God-search.

That is just the way it is.  Other interests capture our hearts.

Augustine,  a famous church father centuries ago, wrote. “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until we rest in Thee.”

That seems true.


At least be sure you know the facts. So many people never think about God.

In a Gallup poll of people on the street, 75% said they would probably go to heaven by keeping the Ten Commandments.   Now think about that! Not one of us has been able to keep the Ten Commandments – they had to make up that answer on the spot!  And yet that was their quick go-to hope.

Point is, not many of us search for God, or study the life and claims of Christ, or even the specifics of the gospel gift of forgiveness and righteousness.  Or how to be compatible with God’s holiness.

So easily we just avoid the subject, or notice hypocrisy, or try to figure out the evils and unfair twists of life and history. 

The answer is the Savior,  the only one who really got it right.

To ask yourself before you start delivering your sermon…..

…..assuming you have prepared and prayed well and checked your heart:

** Is there a significant huge event that I should at least salute?   Most people hear or see the news, and we do not want to appear that we live in a separate world.

Of course if it is huge tragedy, we must reach into an already prepared emergency tragedy sermon file.  No one after 9/11 preached on the next few verses in the series.

** Is this near a holiday that I should acknowledge?

We do not have to look for a verse about July 4, but can refer to it or use an illustration that does not make everyone a US citizen. Otherwise, listeners may think we do not know where we are on the calendar.

** Is there a major physical or personal need or event that needs to be prayed for or announced in your size church?

A birth, a death, a tragedy, something the church should rally around.

** Is this a church anniversary that should be celebrated?

The English have an expression, “River crossed, bridge forgotten.”

** What does the start of the sermon follow that should be acknowledged or used as a bridge?

We would not follow the “Hallelujah Chorus” without a careful reference to it, of course. Neither should we take the stage as if nothing else has gone on. This is sometimes called “awareness of surroundings”!

** Is there something the church just did that should be celebrated, or coming up that should be supported?

Our staff used to say that announcements were pushes (and we tried to keep it to three a week),   but something at the start of the sermon time was a shove!

** Is there a personal need or event that should be shared with good friends, and not just kept secret?

If you just had a baby or grand baby, you will not need this reminder, but some other joys are also meant to be shared. And the church rejoices with you or cries with you.

The simplest evangelism for the local church,

and one that puts some responsibility on each person


The church simply makes available a small card to tuck in the Bible —

on one side are simply lines for three names;

With a simple heading:


My three

Daily prayer and frequent show of friendship

and love and at the right time a church invite




On the other side, for example:

God’s Word

John 3:16

Acts 2:47

Romans 3:23-25

Romans 10:14,15

No one shows the cards around, but keeps them at home where they pray

or in their Bible for daily reminders to pray…

…for God’s grace to be shown in their lives

…for their eyes and minds to see the human need

…for opportunities to become better friends with their three

…for an openness for the friends to try our church when invited.

No big campaign.

No trumpets.

No pressure.

This reminds the people of faith and of the church that evangelism

is for each of us, and it is often relational, and a response to a life example.

Speaking of sermons


  • You are going to “preach the Word” — that is an actual order from God though His friend Paul.
  • You are going to have a discipline to study to know what was in God’s heart (1)  when He had it written.
  • You will have a will and a plan for it to grip your own heart (2).   This will show in your passion and delivery.
  •  A strong goal as you preach is to help listeners take it into their own hearts (3) and want to believe it….feel it….do it++


++ for a long time those who study preaching have  explained that every sermon should help the listeners  to do one or more of those three:

Believe it : God really created the universe…. He loves me …..Jesus really took all my sins to the cross.

Feel it:  God is all-powerful and our Creator and, “Look at that new baby!”

Do it:  I will not lie any more.  I will “truth it in love.”


— PAUSES at appropriate times.  Some say it is the best attention-getter.

— PASSION AND EMOTION at appropriate times.  Shows it has hit your heart.

— PERSONAL FEELINGS ABOUT THE TRUTH.  Knute the man, not just Knute the speaker.

— VARIETY:  in how your move and where you stand….in pace of delivery… In volume….in genre of speech (challenge, explanation, illustration, humor….)

— APPLICATION: They should know early on that this talk is for them, even to change their lives!

Child Dedication

One thing I changed  that was  different was that I only met with the father when there was a couple involved. Sometimes it was three or four or five fathers. That way he had to convey the information about Sunday morning, but also take the responsibility for going through what is expected of parents. (So many fathers just hang onto their wives for such things.)

At that meeting I went through salvation again….and also the least parents must do…..

As well as explain the Sunday procedure.

Always asked them how they came up with the name.

Did not make a big deal if the name was in the Bible, as if those parents

win.  (Knute, you may know, is only in a few mss.)

After introducing one couple at a time:

Questions to all of them:

Do you publicly acknowledge your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your lives?

Will you bring this child up in the teaching and lifestyle of the Word of God as best you can,  showing them the ways of Christ by teaching and ways of living?

Will you keep him or her under the influence of the church and its teaching as you raise them in love and joy?

Church, will you, as you have influence, seek to keep this a church that loves its children and provides strong teaching and partnership with this home?  (If so, please answer, we will.)

Then prayer for each individual child and parents.  Realistic and brief……And we join them in dedicating (Name) to you for your glory, and we seek your grace and protection for (her,him) to help them walk in your ways of faith and obedience……

The closing of the sermon and the worship service…

…is one of the most important times for someone who has paid attention and might think about changing some habit or belief in response.

But, alas, I have heard the following closings to sermons:

* “That’s it. See you next week!”
* A prayer that reviews the sermon…..Amen….Guitar player gives some thoughts about the sermon, sometimes showing she was not listening….then starts a song.
* “Shake hands with three people on the way out!”
* “Let’s sing something — what shall we sing, Freddie?”

Years ago, many churches had a response song — often “Just As
I Am” (as in a Billy Graham service)…..and some invited people to
come to the front of the church room to show they wanted to
“Accept Christ as Savior” or respond to “how God had spoken to

Maybe in response to that, some went to the “alas” ways noted.

______Clearly a sermon is given to urge obedience and application to life.
______Clearly a pastor should think carefully about a response avenue.
______Consider the following:

Sermon (with practical obedience and application calls throughout)
Prayer by sermon person. Not a review of the sermon to God, who does not need a review….

A brief prayer++ of worship and appreciation to God for the main truth given…then giving people a private quiet moment to thank God for that gift, or to ask His help to obey and apply it…..(Many will actually pray that way…)

Then a moment of quiet prayer introduced by, “If you are not sure of this connection with Christ as Lord and Savior, ask God for help to go that way, and to be sure….(Quiet moment)…. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Then, to show the chosen response song is tied to the sermon, not a separate issue or a production number but a response-from-the-heart song, the speaker intros the song in two or three sentences….and asks, “Please stand” as short intro to song immediately starts…. And the speaker sings it also. Maybe even stays up front to sing along with the people, for he is responding also, and helping others to respond with thanks to God and obedient faith.

This also positions the pastor-speaker to give a meaningful benediction or blessing from the Word of God to tie together the whole worship service, followed by a sentence of care or sendoff.

++(To remember: I have watched a lot of closing prayers on video and “playback” where the praying pastor is straightening his notes and closing his Bible or moving his lectern out of the way, causing me and other cynical viewers to wonder if he is really praying :-). Of course you can pray while you drive or do something, but this is about leading the church and viewers in worship and response.)

Seems like the closing
of the service should be carefully
thought through and purposeful

Helping Staff Teams to Know and Understand Each Other Better Without Paying for Personality Tests!

The best exercise our staffs ever did to know and appreciate each other, and see God’s grace in action

“The Ten Most Important Decisions or Events in My Life”

Each staff member prepares the list, to be given and described in just seven minutes in front of all staff, just one at a time, early in a staff meeting.

(Does not include physical birth, which is assumed ☺ )

Okay, everyone will say he or she cannot do it in seven minutes, but stick to that, and allow three minutes for brief questions after.

➢ Very healthy exercise for people to go back through their lives and narrow down the most significant decisions or events, positive or negative, that affected them. And still do.

➢ Very healthy for their teammates to hear where they, the presenters, have been and see why they are the way they are.

> God always ends up getting a lot of credit