Category: Ministry (page 1 of 6)

The Essential Church Podcast

We’re really excited to announce the launch of what we’re calling the “Essential Church Podcast.” For years now I’ve been wanting to create a platform to talk regularly and openly about all of the massive, important issues that local church ministry leaders face on a daily basis—things like worship, preaching, creating a discipleship culture, ministry to our communities, and much more.

Well, now we’ve got one: The Essential Church Podcast. Each week we’ll be sitting down with ministry leaders both inside and outside of New Life to talk about what we’re learning about church life and leadership. We’re doing this NOT as “experts”, but as fellow practitioners in the ongoing kingdom effort that is the local church. Our desire is that your own ministries will be helped and strengthened through it.

We hope you’ll listen in each week. You can follow us on Twitter (@essentialchurch) and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (look up “Essential Church Podcast”). You can also go to our website: where we’ll post episodes, show notes, and all kinds of other cool resources.

If you find any of our conversations helpful, please share them around the web and/or leave a good review for us on iTunes. It will help more leaders just like you find our podcast.

And of course, if you have any suggestions about topics you’d like for us to cover or people you’d like for us to interview, please let us know!

Can’t wait to share this with you.

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The Praying Church

Recently, I sat down with Pastor David Perkins, who oversees the prayer movement here at New Life, to talk about the practical steps churches can take to create life giving prayer meetings. We talk about planning the meeting, leading the meeting and empowering others to take ownership of these prayer gatherings.

Click here to watch the video.

What have you learned that works well at prayer meetings? Leave your comments below.

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Does Jesus Need Us to “Take a Stand for Him”?

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23 NIV

It occurred to me today while speaking about Christ on the cross, that he never once asked his followers to defend him or attempt some rescue. I’m guessing if he did not need defending that fateful Friday, he probably does not need our defense today. I am certain Jesus would much rather us follow him than defend him.

Heaven and its advancing kingdom are not under threat of siege or hostile takeover. Each generation has moments when it seems the world is about to suffocate the teachings of Jesus, but the light of truth always overcomes darkness. We are not the first Christ-following generation that has faced tough and complex questions about sexuality, marriage and violence. We will not be the last.

Yes, we should preach and teach the Scriptures and proclaim the coming kingdom of Christ. We should repent and teach others to live lives that are honoring to God, but the reality of Jesus, the fully human and fully Divine savior of the world, will survive and thrive despite any secular debate or scrutiny.

Historically, the church that humbly follows Jesus by loving each other and serving others has flourished and multiplied, while those who felt the need to perpetually protest were swept away by public cynicism. We have the same choice today. I choose love and serving. It was the radical new way of living that Jesus showed us on that bloody cross. He could have called for an angelic rescue and maybe a few generations would have retold that story.

Instead, Jesus joined us in our sufferings, gave up his life, and allowed the same Holy Spirit that is at work in us today to bring him from the grave. This story will be told for all time. When Jesus ascended a short time later, he went to an established kingdom that has no end and left behind a church that was built on an immovable rock. He needs no defense but he sure needs believing followers who will live as he did, maybe die as he did, but most certainly will be resurrected as he was.

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The Blessings and Challenges of a Young Team

We are really blessed to have a great team of young leaders at New Life, but a young team also brings unique challenges that not all churches are ready to face. In fact, most churches tend to lean toward more mature pastors and leaders because of these potential messes. While I value maturity and believe we should honor those with experience we cannot leave young leaders behind.

So, if you are committed like I am to working alongside a team that reflects every generation, including the college and 20-somethings, take note of the challenges and rewards before you start this journey.

1. Young leaders sometimes have poor work habits.

This is especially true if they have never worked outside the church in the “real world.” Even though the church is a family, there is still work to be done, tasks to be finished, deadlines to be met and communication to be made. To do all this requires time management skills which are difficult for most young leaders who tend to think only about an hour into their future.

2. Young leaders do not know the right questions to ask.

I have heard many mature leaders complain, “I could have helped them if they had only asked.” Most of the time we think young leaders are arrogant, but most of the time, young leaders simply did not know what questions needed to be asked. We should tell them upfront to come to us with questions. More importantly we should make it easy for them to come to us because we have earned their trust and they know we want them to succeed.

3. Young leaders mean more messes to clean up.

Yep! That is true, but some of the greatest discoveries in human history were made in really messy laboratories. If you only want to perpetuate the status quo, work only with people who think and act like yourself. If you want innovation, youth and messes are a part of the deal. Yes, we can do it quicker without any messes, but that does not mean we can do it better.

4. Young leaders need places to practice.

Young leaders need laboratories where they experiment. Classrooms are fine for discussion of data and facts, but at some point they must get their hands in the soil. Right now, young leaders are overseeing many of the 24-hour prayer meetings at New Life and are getting real congregational leadership experience. Are all the meetings being led perfectly?  Probably not. But they are all being led sincerely, which is more important to me. We will coach them and lead them, but better yet, we will also learn from them.

We want young leaders at New Life. That is why we invest staff and resources into the Desperation Leadership Academy and into our New Life School of Worship. Students from around the world are on our campus right now, learning, studying, and making messes. I promise, both of us are better because of it.

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How Many Weekends Should a Pastor Preach?

How many times do you expect your pastor to speak on the weekends at your church? I am assuming your pastor gets to take some time off for vacation and rest, but is he supposed to be in the pulpit each of the other Sundays?

When I became the pastor here at New Life, I asked my mentors, who were also pastors of churches, what was a reasonable expectation, considering all of the other resposibilities that go with the vocation and calling of pastor. I also asked my elders to weigh in. We all decided that I should teach at least 36-38 Sundays. For the past five years, I have done just that.

Typically, I am here at my church for long stretches in Janauary and February, during the Easter season, in September and October and always at Christmas. Those are priority times for the lead pastor, in my opinion. If I am invited to speak at other places, I schedule those trips away from the busy seasons so I can focus my attention at home.

I try to take time off during the summer months and during holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. These are times I give my staff the pulpit. They are all great communicators and the church needs to hear their voices. I also try to schedule our Overseers to speak at least once a year so our church can hear from the men who give us counsel.

So far, this has been a healthy rhythm for me and for New Life. I have space once a month to read, study and decompress from the weekly schedule of sermon prep. It also gives me space to focus during the week on being a pastor to the people in our congregation and allows more time at work for key meetings. It makes the Sundays I am here much better and it keeps me far from the cliff of burnout.

What do you expect from your pastor? Are our expectations and demands actually harming the pastors we love so much? Will you come to church if “someone else” is preaching? Let the conversation begin.

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Pop Quiz – How Well do you Know New Life?

As a former high school teacher, I love to give pop quizzes. From time to time, I give one to our staff to test them on how much they know about the church where they work. The results are always very surprising and reminds us that we have to communicate clearly and constantly, especially since we are a part of a large and growing church family.

Take the quiz below and see how many you can answer without looking at your computer for help. And no peeking at your neighbor’s quiz, either. I am watching!


1.       What is the title song for the new Desperation Band album?

             Answer: Center of it All

2.       What are the Sunday morning service times at our Downtown campus?

Answer: 9am and 11am 

3.       How many years have we had the Desperation Conferences?

            Answer: 10 years

4.       Who leads our children’s worship choir?

           Answer: Amanda Ferrin

5.       In the recent Legends and Misfits sermon series, which one of these three WAS NOT discussed?

a.       Daniel – Answer

b.      Nehemiah

c.       Moses


6.       As part of our mission statement, what three words do we use to communicate our goals for each New Lifer?

            Answer: Worship, Connect, Serve

7.       Freely Give and Freely Receive is this weekend. What local inner city ministry are we partnering with for this ministry event?

Answer: Springs Rescue Mission 

8.       Pastor Brian Newberg’s daughter, Tami, just married a man from what country?

           Answer: Egypt

9.       We opened our first Dream Center last July. What is its ministry function? What happens there?

           Answer: It is a medical clinic for women

10.   Approximately, how much debt have we paid off to date through Move the Mountain?

Answer: $1.3 million


Name the three US cities where we have planted churches in the past four years?

Denver, Austin, Tx, and Fort Collins

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Everyone has a name that is personal and a story that is important. To remember their name and to hear their story shows respect and communicates value. At New Life, names and stories matter and that is why you will see a lot of Twitter and Facebook posts using the hashtag #TheirNamesAre

Social media is a great tool for celebrating the many people we meet each week through the ministries of our church. You are invited to join us, following a few simple guidelines. First, don’t publicly share any embarrassing or personal information that should be kept private. Second, it is a probably a good idea to ask them permission to post their story or info if you are unsure.

So, starting this weekend, introduce yourselves to some new people, ask their names and listen to their stories. These “chance” meetings might be the highlight of your worship this week and may open the door for new friendships and ministry.

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Paying Off Debt While Not Standing Still

A New Lifer recently asked why we were hiring staff and opening Dream Centers when we had so much debt to pay off at the church. It is a good question that deserves a candid response.

I explained to them that our church could not stand still and ignore the needs of our church family and the city in which we live while waiting to pay off the debt. In fact, that is the very dark nature of debt. It paralyzes it’s victims, disabling them from their primary purpose. I ‘m not going to let that happen at New Life. I do believe the mountain of debt will be removed from our church, but in the meantime, we can begin to fulfill at least part of the minstry call to our city and world. I am convinced God will reward us for taking faith steps now, instead of waiting on the sidelines until we are debt free.

It is a delicate balancing act for sure. We always want to be wise when expanding ministry, careful not to add to the burden of debt by over-expansion of staff or ministry properties. In our case, we have taken a low risk or debt free approach when opening the women’s medical clinic last July and with the recent pursuit of an apartment complex for homeless single moms. We are applying for some promising grants and have been blessed with some private donations so that we can not only pay cash for the projects but can operate them with excellence. Even the new downtown campus that opens Easter Sunday was acquired with a low risk, very affordable lease that made perfect sense to me and the elders.

At the same time, the challenge for all of us at New Life is to give above our tithes to the Move the Mountain campaign so that we can do more in our city in the years ahead. We are taking small steps today so that we can take giant leaps later.

As for the number of staff, we are basically at the same level we were three years ago. The recent hires were all replacements for staff that left for various reasons, which is normal attrition for a team our size.  I am very thankful God has sent us super capable reinforcements because the future growth of ministry is bigger than any of us can possibly imagine.

We will move the mountain of debt and we will pray for wisdom as we venture cautiously but courageously into the new places. This I know for sure – God wants us to do both, trusting Him to provide every step of the way.

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10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me 15 Years Ago

This is what I taught today to our New Life staff. It is a list of things I wish I had known when I started on this journey as pastor. This would have saved me a lot of pain, for sure. Read my list and then add some of your own.

1. Sheep bites can’t kill me, but the gnawing will make life miserable a few days each year.

2. No matter how hard I try, I will always be tempted to measure my success by attendance numbers.

3. The best thing I can do to build and grow God’s kingdom is to be myself and not compare myself to others.

4. It takes a long time to become old friends so nurture and cherish the old friendships God has given me.

5. I will only have as much spiritual authority as I am willing to submit to myself. Independence will destroy me but there is power in submission.

6. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Challenge people to go deeper even when the message is unpopular.

7. My brain will always feel like scrambled eggs on Sunday afternoon so don’t make any major decisions until Tuesday morning.

8. Some people will only trust you after a really long time of proving yourself and another group will never trust you no matter what you do.

9. Don’t feel guilty about taking a Sabbath. It was not a suggestion.

10. I will never regret spending time with my family instead of saying yes to a church meeting that someone else could lead.

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Multisite Minus the Big Screen

In just a few weeks, New Life will open a new location near the center of our downtown district for people to gather and worship. When most large churches open new locations, the sermon is from the lead pastor and is shown via video with some very cool technology making that possible. In this season at New Life, we are exploring another option. We will have a very real and present human teaching the Scriptures.

I am not here to pick a fight with all my pastor friends who have video campuses. There is certainly merit to each approach and I certainly respect the innovation and technology that allows some of our best communicators access to growing audiences. But I do think our approach has strengths that need to be considered, too.

1. We are giving young communicators a chance to grow

I remember all the chances I got while in my 20’s and early 30’s to actually study and preach a sermon. Mostly, it was on street corners on Saturday mornings, or at rescue missions right before lunch, or at some small, rural church led by one of my relatives. But they all were opportunities to learn, to fail and to ultimately grow up. Preaching and teaching, like any other skill set, requires reps and it is hard to get 10,000 hours of needed practice when there are fewer and fewer openings on the preaching calendar.

2. We get the privilege of studying together

Our model of campus expansion calls for each campus to preach from the same text each Sunday, allowing for some differences based on life lessons and personality. This means we have the privilege of studying together. Yes, it is a privilege. Since I have started this with a group of young leaders, my overall study time has been reduced by at least 30% and my preaching has gotten better, or at least, my wife says so. Together, we can read more Scriptures, study more commentaries and have better exegetical debates than if the burden of study rests on just one person. Plus, the unity that is forged in these collaborative study sessions is very powerful and only helps on Sunday in the pulpit.

3. We get to pastor people right in front of us

There is an unmistakable bond that happens between the teacher of the Scriptures and the listener each week. I want to look people in the eye and pay attention to what God is up to in the room and I cannot do that effectively by video. I love when the Holy Spirit alters my course in a gathering because of something unique happening in the hearts of people. Then in the next gathering, I don’t sense those deters, so I follow my outline with equal effectiveness. Somehow, for me, I need to be in front of people to be at my prophetic best.

We are just starting this journey and I am very thankful for a talented team of communicators at New Life that makes experiments like this possible. I may very well use technology to primarily communicate at future campus sites, but for now I really like the relational path we are on together.

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