The Missions is Disciples Not Fans

The Mission is Disciples, Not Fans

One of the things that I love about what I get to do in my life is serve, connect, and work alongside people of all different backgrounds, religious beliefs, race, ethnicity, and nationality. I’m on a senior management team at one of the largest youth serving non-profit organizations in my community. I’m also a pastor and itinerant minister. By the end of this year, we will have reached 26 nations around the world ministering and advancing the Gospel message. I love working in the marketplace and growing the bottom line. I also love preaching the gospel, sending mission groups around the world, and building the local church by advancing God’s Kingdom locally and in other nations. I love working with people in the marketplace who do not know Jesus. I also love working with pastors to help build their vision to serve their local community. I guess what you could call me is a Marketplace Pastor. Because of how God has positioned my work to overlap the marketplace and ministry – I have discovered two things about people who I interact with in the marketplace:

  1. People are truly hungry and seeking more out of life
  2. People are religiously confused about who Jesus is

Believe it or not, there are so many people who are hungry for something deeper and who want more out of life. With everything that has happened in our nation over the last decade and even this last year, people are truly open to the Gospel like never before. America is the greatest mission field for harvest. My greatest pulpit is not at any particular church, but it’s my success within the marketplace, which becomes a platform to influence others.  The 2nd point is the most interesting. Because religion works overtime to confuse and misrepresent the purity and simplicity of the Gospel message. There are so many people who are sincerely confused and/or misinformed about the person of Jesus and what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus. If I had to drill it down, people are missing who Jesus is because of four reasons, and when I say people, I’m speaking of people who are far from God or (unchurched) and people who would call themselves Christians (churched):

1. Poor Christian representation – people who have been hurt by other Christians and churches
2. Poor Christian media representation – people who have been turned off by weird Christian TV preachers
3. Other Religious/Cultish views and opinions brought by inaccurate interpretations of the Bible. – People who are very intelligent sometimes miss the simplicity of the Gospel and begin to be influenced by something that is a false religion or false teaching
4. A lack of empowerment on how to grow and disciple people in their faith – What I see right now for the 21st Century American Church is a strong ability of knowing how to build and grow crowds, but a lack of ability on how to build and grow people in their faith and in their purpose. (Another blog on this later.)

This mission of the church is to make disciples in every nation (Matthew 28:18-19). We are not called to make fans of Jesus, but to make disciples of Jesus.

The greatest churches that will be rising up in this next decade will be those that know how to strategically reach new people, grow people, and send people. Right now in America, you are seeing churches that only do 1 of the 3 very well. The church is called to do all three, at the same time, in harmony – reach people, grow people, and send people. A church that doesn’t reach new people, is a club. A church that doesn’t grow their people, doesn’t influence their community. And a church that doesn’t send people, is typically led by an insecure leader.

Wherever God has placed you in this season whether in the marketplace or in full-time ministry – be a person who adds value to others by growing people in their faith and in their purpose. Discipleship always precedes influence. The reason why are mission is to disciple nations is because God wants His church to lead and influence every circle of industry and society.

Influence and lead where you are at and watch God expand your world.


The Difference Between Speakers and Communicators

No matter what career context you are in – church, philanthropy, business, politics – everyone at some point in their career will give public presentations to an audience. Since my context is more ministry with a background in business, I always love to watch up and coming communicators present content that impacts an audience.

I started public speaking when I was 13 years old. I’ve been doing it for 19 years in domestic and foreign countries. The more you do it, the more frequent you do it, the better you get. Nobody starts out being a great speaker. Even some of the greatest speakers we know today – John Maxwell, TD Jakes, Brian Houston, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Christine Cain, etc… all of them started just like you… growing, fine-tuning themselves, discovering their unique voice, and finding their comfort zone on stage. I had the honor to meet Pastor Joel Osteen and his team a couple of months ago at Lakewood Church in Houston, TX. One thing I learned from him is that he watches himself after and between every Sunday service before the service goes to broadcast. He does this so he can make changes in his presentation or to the service and adjust himself for the following Sunday. My takeaway from that was even Joel Osteen, who pastors America’s largest – one location church still works on being the best communicator he can be. Public speaking is an art and a craft that will always be an ongoing education for yourself. You will never arrive at it. We are all growing in it.

As for my journey, it took me years to find my voice and establish my own style of communicating. It’s tempting to copy someone else’s style, but it’s also dumb too. God has given you a unique message, a fresh sound, a distinctive voice, that only you can do. If two speakers sound the same, speak the same, do the same, then one of you is unnecessary. Be you and you will make an impact.

But, let’s talk about the impact for a second…

I have seen lots of people try to emerge as a speaker. Some of them are good, but to be honest some of them like just having a platform so they can get their 20-30 minutes of fame. There’s really nothing wrong with that per se, but with that approach and mindset comes with a very low ceiling of impact and influence. You can easily tell if a speaker really does care for people or if they just care about their own success. I’ve observed over the years that the truly successful leaders understand the difference between public speakers and communicators. These two people are different in how they prepare, how they think, how they deliver, how they engage, and how they connect with their audience.

To sum it up, communicators are less concerned with making a good impression, and more concerned about adding value, which enables them to be real. I like how my longtime friend, Dr. Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders and author of “Habitudes”:

Let’s break it down.

Public Speakers:

1. Public Speakers want to impress people.
2. Public speakers teach lessons.
3. Puts the message before the people.
4. Asks: What do I have?
5. Emphasizes techniques
6. Focus is the content of the words
7. Polished (image-conscious)
8. Goal: Complete the message.


1. Communicators hope to impact people.
2. Communicators teach people.
3. Puts the people before the message.
4. Asks: What do they need?
5. Emphasizes atmosphere.
6. Focus is a change in the listeners.
7. Personal (impact – conscious)
8. Goal: Complete the people.

Steve Jobs & The Succession Plan

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, announced today that he would be resigning from his position and turning over his company to COO Tim Cook. Jobs had been suffering from recent health issues and he is quoted as saying, “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could not longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know.” He advised his board by saying, “Execute our succession plan.” (quoted from Mashable.)

This phrase got me seriously thinking about pastors and churches and their “succession plan.” I think most pastors view their role like a judge – lifetime appointment – rather than like a businessman and implement a succession plan.
Do you have a succession plan or do you feel that the success of your ministry or church is solely dependent on you living forever? Or maybe that ever-faithful hope of “Jesus will return before I have to turn over my church to someone else.”
As much as I hope Jesus will return soon…the reality of progression is that you won’t live forever and if the Lord tarry you need a succession plan.

Tim Elmore president of Growing Leaders teaches a Habitude called, “The Joshua Effect.” In a nutshell he explains that if we do not equip and mentor the next generation we are setting them up for failure. In order for your ministry to continue growing – beyond your lifetime – is to have a culture that is constantly mentoring and raising up people to possibly take over one day. Perhaps even take over in your lifetime. Gasp!

What is your plan of succession?


Rethink Influence

You are a leader. Regardless of your position, you can be an influence.
Everybody can influence. We can all influence someone somewhere about

Position does not dictate whether or not we influence. Read more

“The Cause” Interview with Pastor Matthew Barnett

In Los Angeles, there’s a man with a cause, Pastor Matthew Barnett of senior pastor of the LA Dream Center and Angelus Temple. You may recognize his last name, his dad is Tommy Barnett, pastor of Phoenix First Assembly.  Both father and son are two of the most respected men in ministry. It’s a joy to call Angelus Temple and the LA Dream Center my home church when I moved to southern California, and now an even greater joy to interview Pastor Matthew about his latest book, “The Cause Within You: Finding the One Great Thing You were Created to do in this World.” After reading the interview, enter our giveaway to receive a signed copy of his book that released on February 1.

ImpelMinistry: Your last book, “The Church that Never Sleeps” released 10 years ago in 2000 – why this next book, why now?

Matthew Barnett: The most frequent question that I am asked on a daily basis is “How do I find my cause?” Through my book, I wanted to point the way for anyone searching for hope that God created them for a great cause and give them the tools to find and pursue it. The story of the Los Angeles Dream Center is also one that has never been fully chronicled and the stories of those that have come through the Dream Center and changed their lives is incredibly inspiring and powerful.

IM: What do you hope a reader will take away after reading “The Cause Within You”?
MB: God birthed a cause in me that has not only transformed my life over these years but millions have been reached as a result. God has called us all for a great cause that he wants us to embrace. I  hope that after reading “The Cause within You” others will either pursue a cause that has been on their hearts or seek to discover their own great cause.

In my book I share that a transforming cause is never about you-promoting yourself, achieving greater fame or fortune, experiencing more pleasure or comfort, amassing greater power.  It is always about using the resources God has given you-skills, relationships, experiences, money, time, intelligence and all the rest to make a positive impact on others.  If you live for a cause greater than yourself, you will live a life of peace, joy, passion, and lasting meaning.  Proverbs 29:18 reads, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed.”

IM: What is your cause?
MB: I grew up in a preacher’s home and knew at sixteen years of age that God had called me to be a Pastor.  But, it was after moving to Los Angeles, to help turn around a struggling congregation of Bethel Temple, that I discovered my great cause.

One night, in Los Angeles, God woke me from my sleep and told me to walk to Echo Park.  There I was surrounded by crime, gangs, prostitutes, and many homeless who had found the park to be their home.  It was then that I heard God speak to me.  He told me that He “did not bring me here to build a great church but to build people-these people.  You build the people.  I’ll build the church.  I don’t ever want you to think about success again.  Think about being a blessing.  Success is obedience to your calling.  I have called you to bless people.  Love them.  Heal them.  Help them.  Serve them.”

For the past fifteen years, I have now been the Pastor to the Dream Center and Senior Pastor of the historic Angelus Temple that brings in more than 7,000 weekly.  The Dream Center is a 400,000 square foot building only a few blocks from Echo Park that runs as a 24-hour hospital and sanctuary, providing free help and counseling, food, clothing, and medical services to those in need. We have worked with literally thousands of people who were addicted, abused, prostituted, abandoned, and disabled.  The Dream Center runs more than 200 need-centered ministries, reaching more than 50,000 people each week in Los Angeles alone. Currently, there are over 85 dream centers established throughout the world to model this one.

IM: Do you feel you realized your cause when you came to LA or earlier, prior to leaving Phoenix?
MB: When I was sixteen I was standing outside, looking up at the stars one Sunday night after church. As I was praying, the Lord impressed upon my heart that by the age of twenty I would be pastoring a church in LA. Little did I know what God’s full plan was for me. It wasn’t until I moved to LA 1994 that I realized an even larger cause that the Lord had for me which was to serve, love, bless, and lift up the hurting, the suffering, and needy in the inner cities of Los Angeles.

Connect with Pastor Matthew Barnett on Twitter (he’s a tweeting machine) and on Facebook (he’s maxed out his friend limit…so his Fan Page is here.) Watch services online Sunday’s at 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM PST and Thursday’s at 7:00 PM PST. Check out the video-documentary of his one night on Skid Row.

We’re giving away a FREE SIGNED COPY of Pastor Matthew’s book!! Enter to win in 3 easy steps:

  1. POST a comment on this post.
  2. FOLLOW @ImpelMag on Twitter
  3. RETWEET the giveaway/interview

What is THE CAUSE within you?

Same-Church or Different-Church Dating Relationships by Elizabeth Podgurski

Disclaimer: “At the time I wrote this piece, David and I where in the dating stage of our relationship. Now, we are in the engagement stage and very excited how God has blessed our relationship. During the dating stage, we frequently discussed about church culture and the impact it can have on Same-church and different-church dating relationships. Since we attend different churches, here are some thoughts we discovered along the way in our relationship journey. Oh, and FYI, we will be attending the same church when we get married.”


“So I haven’t seen you guys at church together, what service do ya’ll go to?”

“Oh I go to the 9:15am here and he goes to the 11:00am at his church.”

“You don’t go to the same church?” “Yeah, you guys ARE dating, right?”

And so with my revelation my two acquaintances were shocked to hear my boyfriend and I attend different churches. Over the next few minutes we discussed what we thought about the intersection of dating and church attendance. I’d like to let you in on the conversation and get your thoughts too.

“Is that even biblical?” There’s an expectation in some church cultures that once we start dating we are expected to attend service, class and bible study together. Where did that came from? We all grew up influenced by culture (inside and outside the church walls) so maybe the expectation is cultural? The Bible doesn’t even mention dating, but it does talk about relationships. So let’s help one another say yes to healthy relationships rather than expecting mutual church attendance from dating couples.

“Don’t be playing the couple.” Relationships are best when they go through the process of stages and if we play “the dating couple who regularly goes to church together, stays together” we enjoy the emotional and sometimes physical sensation of security without the actual relational security found in the committed later stages of dating moving into engagement. Dating is not for the purpose of having someone to sit next to in church. Sometimes keeping church attendance separate until the relationship progresses past “fun” and “interest” stages allows for maintaining a healthy level of intimacy on every level of who we are as disciples: spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically.

“How are you accountable if you are not in the same church?” Most often this question deals with the goal of chastity or purity that involves others input or protection and comes with some fear of moral failure. Intentionally inviting trusted friends/wise counsel into our relationships helps behave wisely more often than not. More than just maintaining purity, an accountability partner helps with overall soul-health which increases the ability to focus on the good now and later. For those who have had previous non-Biblical relationships, having involved friends is key to re-training old patterns and that can happen in same-church or different churches.

“Grace is always at work.” In attempting to date in a biblical, and not cultural, manner we must rely on the truth that God’s grace is at work in our dating. See your dating life from God’s vantage point and change your approach accordingly. We don’t need to make choices based on expectations of others. We see a great relational example of this in Joseph as he heard of Mary’s pregnancy. He chose to be driven by great love and commitment to another person (Mary’s) well-being and also by his own inner conviction of how he wanted to behave. By getting to know the character of God, who we are in Christ and His design for relationships, then more often than not we will put grace-filled care into practice.

In our conversation we agreed dating is a form of a relationship that doesn’t have any biblical precedent, but because it is a relationship we have plenty of instruction to apply. Dating someone in the same church is just as risky as is dating someone in another church because most cities have a connected Christian community. If we are dating in a healthy manner it might not matter a whole heck of a lot whether it’s same-church or not.

So there’s some of our conversation.

There’s a lot we didn’t talk about, so let me hear from you.


Elizabeth Podgurski, M.A., NCC, LPC, is a Christian Family Therapist and Counselor at First Evangelical Free Church, Austin, TX and is the President of the Austin Area Chapter for the Christian Counselors of Texas. She is engaged to David Lawrence, lead blogger at You can friend her on Facebook HERE and follow her on Twitter HERE.

Navigating through Change Resistance

Change is always a unique time for any church. You may be launching a new ministry, adding venues, services, or restructuring an existing area or experiencing leadership turnover. Change is change, no matter how big or small, often times, people naturally resist it. So how do we deal with those who resist this change? We expect everyone (our team, volunteers, and members) to be on board, but in reality it takes some people longer to embrace it, and sadly sometimes we will lose people in the midst of it.

About 10 years ago I worked in retail, and my boss at the time gave me this book (Who Moved My Cheese) and asked me to read it – no explanations. I got very nervous and scared to say the least, but that book and the changes that followed were the beginning of a journey toward flexibility and trust. As I embraced change, God taught me how to navigate through it and be a champion of it.

Being someone who resisted change, I learned as a church leader how to steer people without losing their trust. The goal in casting vision and creating change is trust.

There are 3 kinds of people we will navigate: runners, walkers, and sitters. The runners are with you no matter what new thing is happening, they are on board no questions asked and are ready and willing to make it happen. The walkers are those who evaluate the new thing, ask a lot of questions, then begin running forward as they trust more. The sitters are those who oppose the new thing and vocally let their opinion be known and try to influence others to sit with them.

The runners are your champions and cheerleaders to the walkers. We all know in those early stages of something new the details are not always available, so those who need a lot of information up front will feel very insecure and cautious. You can gain their trust by allowing them to share their questions, concerns, and hesitations. Validate their feelings, ask for their help, and assure them they are valuable to making it all work.

Beyond the natural resistance to change, are people who openly oppose anything new and are intent on keeping things the old way, they are the sitters. The sitters are dealt with privately and quickly – we do not accommodate sitters. Allow them to express their perspective or opinion, then cap it. As a person of influence they must be able to trust you as their leader by letting go of any negative attitude and opposing opinion. If they cannot be won over, and agree to get on board, then you may have to have the difficult conversation of removing them from influence and replacing them with someone who will champion the new.

Negativity causes division and strife and will kill any forward movement. It’s natural for people to hesitate in the midst of change, but they should be able to fully embrace it and stay open to what God is doing. Your leadership team will voice questions, concerns, and other perspectives, but they will champion the forward movement of God’s Kingdom. Surround yourself with those champions (the runners and walkers), and remove any negativity from influential positions.

How are you navigating through upcoming changes?

Recalibrate – Living on Purpose by Cheryl Luke

Have you ever spent a considerable amount of time searching for something valuable?  You can recall having it in your possession, yet for some reason, you are unable to uncover what you’ve done with it?  Maybe you’ve tried to identify or connect with something that clearly belongs to you.  It is in your possession. You own it. You know it’s yours; however, you just don’t know what to do with it.

Remember who you are.” This is something my sister, Cissy, advised my nephew every time he extended his reach toward the handle of their front door.   Derrek might have been going out to play with his childhood friend, Angel or on his way to school.  She faithfully recited these unforgettable words as he exited the car for band practice or a soccer game.  Without fail, this authoritative phrase became an anthem in their household, “Remember who you are.”

As I reflect on the simplicity of this all too familiar expression, I cannot help but wonder how often we lose sight of who we are, our true identity, our purpose and what we have to offer as individuals.  Life circumstances – disappointment, triumph and failure – help shape our distinctiveness, yet, they also have the capacity to send us reeling down a path we were never intended to travel. It is during these times we might ask the question, ‘how did I get here’ or ‘how do I get back to the place I’m supposed to be?’

During these times of reflection we have the opportunity to regroup, make course adjustments or to recalibrate.  In an effort to recalibrate one has to go back to their original intent, purpose or context – remember who you are.  Coming from the word caliber, recalibrate is the degree of excellence or the quality of something; recalibrate expresses the necessity to revisit one’s unique and initial state of existence.

Because life has become so busy, one may think ‘now’ is not the appropriate time to take advantage of life-adjustments.  Going off course or experiencing a win in life can be used to our benefit.  At this stage, you have the opportunity to further define who you are and why you are here.  So, take the time to recalibrate, assess your life and ‘Remember who you are’.  There is no better time than the present!

Here are a number of tips to help you reposition yourself:

1.     Stop – long enough to assess your position.  Think about where you’ve been and where you are going.  How did you get here and what will it take to move forward. Ephesians 2:10

2.  Pray – for wisdom. Ask the Lord to provide insight for your life. James 1:5; Proverbs 3:3-12

3.  Redirect – your thoughts.  This is a good time to think about what you have been thinking about.  Our thoughts are powerful and have great influence on our actions. Philippians 4:8

4.  Ask — for help.  Those who know you well have the capacity to provide a different and honest perspective about your situation.

5. Keep moving – forward.  You may have to change course.  Forward is the only direction in which you are intended to move.  You may or may not progress at maximum speed at first; nevertheless, you are moving in the appropriate direction.  Movement creates momentum.  Philippians 3:12-16 (MSG); 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (MSG)

6.  Live to give – your life away.  Pastor Laura Koke of Shoreline Church in Austin, Texas,coined this phrase.  Jesus is the greatest example of living and giving; He presented all that He had. We were created to share our lives with others. Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

One of my favorite translations of the Bible is the Message.  I want to encourage you to review and study these verses mentioned above in various translations.

Question:  When things go awry or when you encounter a win in your life-journey, how do you recalibrate?

***Cheryl Luke is the Women’s Pastor at Shoreline Church, Austin, TX. You can follow her on Twitter HERE and friend her on Facebook HERE.

National Porn Sunday

First appeared on

National Porn Sunday takes place next year on February 6, 2011, the same day as Super Bowl Sunday here in the U.S. This is a great opportunity to bring pornography addiction out in the open and reach people in your church with hope for healing. The event is free and offers a 30-minute message featuring Craig Gross along with several other professional football players speaking about the issue of pornography. When you register, you’ll receive a Porn Sunday Manual that will help your church prepare.

Craig Gross and the team at XXXchurch are doing a fantastic job at equipping the Church to offer real help for people who are struggling with pornography.

Now is a good time to start planning for National Porn Sunday, check out the video and then sign up for free.

The Tension & Debate on Church Hiring

A poll was taken on about how church leaders feel about hiring in their organizations. Here were some of their responses (shown below). I find it interesting that 53% agreed it doesn’t make any difference, just hire the best person for the job. I would agree with this assessment, however, among many church leaders depending on who you talk with, will find an element of tension and debate between hiring someone from within the church vs. hiring someone from outside the church.

Like, any church, it is still an organization – that requires a staff, a budget, a board, and a volunteer force. However, I believe that some churches unintentionally underestimate the skill sets and leadership abilities that reside within their own volunteers. I think a lot of churches have missed out on some great hiring opportunities, because they quickly overlooked their congregation by looking outside of the church, before they had time to fully asses the talents among their church.

For any church staff position, the objective should be, find the best person for the job. Nothing more, nothing less. I do not agree with churches or ministries that hire people based on a relational connection to other people in senior leadership, members of the board or staff just because they need a job and are a nice Christian. If their skill set and experience matches the duties of their position and are performing their duties above average, then great! But, if they’re holding a staff position only because they have a relative that sits on the board, then that type of church has an unhealthy hiring system and probably an unhealthy leadership culture in general.

What is the position profile? What is the “dream candidate” profile? What skill set is needed for the position? What are the duties and job responsibilities of the position? Does he/she have the experience and education to meet qualifications for the position? And, most of all, I believe this is what makes or breaks the potential working relationship — can your candidate(s) flourish in your church leadership culture? Does he/she know and understand the vision and mission of the House? So many servant leaders (volunteers) in churches today understand the vision, mission and culture of their church. The question is can a volunteers skill set, experience, and education match what you are hiring for?

If you have a candidate for a staffing position that understands your churches’ mission and culture with the appropriate skill set and experience to match the position you are hiring for; then those will be the church leaders that will flourish and go further, faster in your organization.

Bottom line: Before you expand the hiring search outside of your church, make sure you have fully assessed the talented volunteers that serve every Sunday by driving your vision forward.

Your Thoughts?