Bruce Larson tells this story in his book, “Faith for the Journey.”

Once there was a successful factory that made drills. One day the owner told his corporate officials that he was going to retire and that he had chosen his son as his successor. At the next board meeting the son asked his four vice presidents, “What are your goals for the company for the next five to ten years?”

One vice-president replied, “Well sir, we’re looking at new sizes and shapes for different drills.”

The son then dropped his bombshell. “I have news for you – there is no market for drills.” One could feel the tension in the air. He continued, “From now on we will not think drills. We will not sell drills. We’ll sell holes! People don’t want to buy a drill; they want to make a hole!”

As they began to think of other ways to create holes they developed, among other methods, lasers for hole drilling. This attitude change and other innovations keep this company in business while its competitors are losing large shares of the market and many are even going bankrupt.

We need that kind of attitude adjustment in our local churches.

Many of us think in terms of presenting the message of salvation so that people will not spend eternity in hell. But look at it from a different perspective: Scores of people I’ve talked with can’t even begin to imagine eternity in hell because they think they are living in hell now. Their question is, “how can it be any worse?”

They live in a personal hell of drug and/or alcohol addiction and abusive relationships. The hell of rampant sexual immorality; AIDs; terminal cancer and insurmountable stacks of debt. The hell of deep and dark depression; the betrayal of a spouse; the bottomless pit of bitterness and the hell of desolate loneliness. People all around us are being overwhelmed by hopelessness.

Each of our local churches offers the solution: Hope! Jesus came so people can have real life; now, today – and in eternity! They can have a life today that is better than anything they ever dreamed of! (John 10:10)

Will coming to Christ solve everyone’s problems? No. There will still be pain, cancer, unfaithful spouses, and unpaid bills. But Jesus says, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.” (Matthew 16:24 The Message)

Instead of being repulsed by these people we need to beg God to help us see them as He does: People that desperately need to be embraced in Jesus’ love and offered unconditional grace and forgiveness and hope!

We have the message: Jesus is the Son of the Living God. He has come to save us from the sinful ways of life that rob us of hope – to give us abundant life, overflowing life, life lived to the max.

He has given His Bride, the local church, an awesome task of being a lighthouse of hope in a world of dark desperation. And He empowers us to the task in Matthew 16:18 when He says, “I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out!” (The Message)

Portions of this article originally appeared in the March 2006 issue of the Christian Union Witness.


I’m traveling in OH visiting pastors and churches. Sometimes, not often, I eat a meal alone and found myself in that situation this past Saturday evening. I always have something to read with me and the server, probably in her late 20’s,  made note of the copy of Christianity Today which I was flipping through.

When she brought my salad she said, “You must be a spiritual person. I am, too. I’m rediscovering my spiritual side and am becoming a very spiritual person.”

I replied, “That’s great!” Where are you involved in church?”

She was exasperated as she said, “Oh, I don’t go to church. I don’t think being spiritual really has anything to do with organized religion.”

“So, what are you doing to explore your ‘spiritual side?’” I asked.

“I grew up in church and never really understood how people could claim to be Christians on Sunday and then raise hell all the rest of the week! Now I’m studying meditation so I can re-awaken the real spiritual me. I think spirituality is very personal.”

I said, “I agree. Being spiritual is all about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

The server looked at me for a moment and then said, “You’re not one of those Bible thumpers, are you? I don’t like your type! My spirituality is very private and has nothing to do with any God who has a bunch of rules.” And she walked away.

When she brought my meal she wouldn’t even make eye contact and the conversation was obviously over. What a shame. But the whole event made me think. What is it that makes a person spiritual?

Hundreds of books have been written on this topic and I’m reluctant to add anything to the great wisdom that has been shared by people whom I consider spiritual leaders. But I’m convinced that we’ve allowed this issue to become far more complicated than necessary.

Let’s face it, there’s a huge disparity between contemporary spiritualities and the spirituality that is derived exclusively from the Holy Spirit. There is virtually no way to move from Oprah’s so-called practical spirituality to Biblical spirituality.

Solid, Biblical, Christian spirituality always involves repentance – at the beginning, constantly in the middle, in all things. Repentance. It is a deep, soul-searching, humble confession of sin; the turning away from sinful ways, and a new, total dependence on God.

Spirituality is not a feeling or a technique or a system of beliefs, nor is it a quest for the sacred through artistic creativity and mystical experience. It’s not found in one’s own inner voice. It is a personal relationship with Jesus, the Christ. It is in and through Christ that we know both ourselves and God.

Spirituality is not about going to church and following a bunch of rules. My participation in a household of faith and the moral and ethical absolutes I claim flow out of my relationship with God. And so I recognize that I’m spiritual not because of what I do but because of Christ in me.

There are scores of people just like the server I met on Saturday in your community. As a Christ-follower, you have the indescribable privilege of modeling genuine spirituality right where you live. Look for the open conversations and begin the dialog. You can be sure that next time I’m in the area I’ll stop at that restaurant and look for that server.

I really enjoy my job!

I really enjoy my job! I get to visit different churches and talk with pastors and leaders. I admit it, every time I pull up in the parking lot of a church and prepare to get out of the Camry and walk through the doors to chat with the pastor my heart and respiratory rates increase. If you watch me in the parking lot you’ll see me bow my head and pray – mostly to ask God to control my breathing so I’m not out of breath when I walk in!

Why am I excited to visit churches? Because your local church is a source of hope for your whole community. Your church can impact the lives of people who have fallen through the cracks, lost direction and have no where else to turn. Your church has the potential of being “family” to individuals who have never experienced unconditional acceptance.

Being a Biblical Household of Faith is uncomplicated. It takes a few people who are fully committed to Christ, the Word of God, and prayer. Accomplishing this doesn’t take huge budgets or the latest technology. The Household of Faith flows naturally as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in developing and cultivating meaningful relationships – both with each other and with those who are far from God.

Here are some “talking points” for your consideration as you lead your church in being and becoming a Biblical Household of Faith:

– Jesus describes following Him as “taking up our cross” which obviously includes suffering and pain and hardship. Does our leadership model self-sacrifice, self-discipline and self-control with the same humility as Jesus? Are we even trying?

– We must recognize that we don’t have an exclusive on the Gospel. There are other solid, Biblical churches around with whom you should develop partnerships. These partnerships serve to encourage one another by multiplying outreach. For instance, in the school district where I am part of the ministerial association, the churches partner to help families in need. This past year they spent almost $20,000.00 helping needy families; something no one church could possibly accomplish.

– Look for ideas from multiple sources. It’s so easy to succumb to “tunnel vision” because we have a natural tendency to operate within our own comfort zone. If we expect God to speak to us from His Word we need to prepare our minds and hearts. Music and literature and art help us begin to understand the world in which God has placed us and that expands our understanding of how He is moving and working.

– Seek transformation but remember that God loves people just as they are! No where in the Gospels does Jesus require someone to “clean up their act” before accepting the message of salvation. Maybe we should all post a sign on the church front door: “No Perfect People Allowed.” But that should never become an excuse for failing to confront sin with dump truck loads of grace and love.

– Promote healthy small groups where individuals can find meaningful, deep, personal relationships. Most people come to Christ and make significant decisions about following Him because of the personal relationships they have with those who are living out the Gospel. We need groups where those relationships can grow and flourish.

I hope you recognize this isn’t a formula or a program. These are topics for you as leaders to discuss as you study the Word and pray. God will direct your path as you depend on Him. It is only through Christ that we can be and become healthy, Biblical Households of Faith. The potential of the local church makes my heart beat faster!


New Life Tragedy

B from OHIO called about the tragedy at New Life Church: I’d like to know if they usually have armed security or if they had weapons only because of what had happened during the night at the YWAM place in Denver. IF a church needs security they shouldn’t carry loaded weapons.

K from MO writes: Loaded weapons in a church? No way! Too risky.

C spoke to me on the phone: Satan is attacking the church in more ways than one. Ushers should have a Taser and know how to use it.

J sent this email: My heart goes out to all those who’s lives were forever changed by what this young man did.  I also want to say my heart goes out to the young man who obviously had a lot of pain and struggle inside.  I do believe that this situation brings us to at least one moral dilemma, if not more.   . . . if a person believes in police protecting them (or any one else) with the use of force outside of the church building, then why on earth would it be wrong for someone to do the same inside the church building.  The argument, I know, is that we should trust God to protect us and I agree but the Scriptures are full of times where God used people to protect others by using force.  Trusting God does not mean we should pass up all physical means of protection while waiting for His supernatural protection.  Now some would say, “I just don’t think we should have guns in church.”  I am not saying we need to all pack a hand gun to church but if there is a threat and there is a gun there, then by all means, save lives with it.

D from OH writes: I keep a loaded shotgun in the pulpit. (Just kidding!) But maybe we ought to consider being armed to protect our selves from these crazies.

D responded by email: Your comments relative to the tragedy at the Colorado Springs church were provocative to say the least.  What would I do?  That probably can’t be answered clearly until one finds himself in that situation.  For myself I have a license to carry a concealed weapon. No one knows when I carry it or needs to know but I have it to help out in just the situation you are discussing.  I am not so much concerned about my own safety as for my wife and family or those around me who may not be able to protect themselves.

F from MN writes: The shootings at both the YWAM house and New Life Church come from the bias toward Christians from the media. If it weren’t for the godless liberal news we wouldn’t have this problem. How much do metal detectors cost? Much more, I think, than most churches could afford. Most people will get a gun inside church if they want to.

M from OH in a phone conversation: This is why God never meant for churches to be so huge. That way everybody knows everybody. These big churches are just asking for trouble because it gets the troublemakers on TV.


Lois and I have had the privilege of visiting several different churches recently that are not part of Christian Union. They range in size from 30 to 300 and have a statement of faith that is very comparable to what we are familiar with. Some are in buildings they’ve occupied for generations and some are in very new, modern buildings and others are renting facilities.

One church in particular was planted three years ago in a suburb of a major metropolitan area. When the church began they identified some core values – none of which includes owning a building. They rent space and have now moved to their third location within three years.

Their mission statement says they “. . . exist to allow people to come to know God through Jesus Christ…to guide people in their knowledge, growth and obedience to Him…and to give people an opportunity to use their gifts and talents to bring glory to God through worship and service to Him and others.”

Their Core Values begin with Prayer and include Worship, Missions, Preaching & Teaching, and ministry to Children and Youth. Woven into the fabric of this household of faith is a commitment to families. They state: “The home is the institution ordained by God, even before the church and we strive not to do things to take away from the home and family time together but to keep our calendar as free as possible.”

On Sunday mornings they have two worship services and childcare is offered for both with a full children’s church program during the second service. There are no Sunday School classes and they don’t have a regular Sunday evening service although they do plan special events on Sunday evenings about four times each year. Small groups for Junior High and High School meet at the church but the small groups for adults meet in homes at various times during the week.

This church has four staff members: A senior pastor, a worship pastor, a youth pastor and a Children’s ministry coordinator. All of them are “tent-makers” who have jobs outside the church which have structured hours. At this point the church isn’t providing any insurance or benefits but each staff member is receiving adequate compensation. The 2008 budget for staff salaries is $87,000.00. Each staff member also has a church credit card to use for approved expenses.

This congregation is growing and having an impact in their community. Christ is being lifted up. When I step back and look at what is taking place in this church and others I find some principles that could be applied to any and every church:

1 – Function as a household of faith. In a healthy household the focus is always on the whole not a particular individual or event.

2 – Worship is the chief goal. This is not relegated to singing a few songs, announcements and taking up an offering. The worship of God is something that permeates Christian Education, missions, youth ministry, small groups and Sunday services.

3 – Silence and prayer is a high priority. Every gathering begins with a time of silence in order to help move worshipers from the noise and commotion of busy schedules into an attitude of heart that allows God to speak and lead.

All this combines in such a way that people have an understanding of how the Word and Worship are integrated into every aspect of life for a Christ-follower. We are called to help people have a practical grasp of how the Christian life is worked out at home, at work and on the softball field.

What would happen in the church you are part of if these principles became a priority? I can hear the reactions! But before you dismiss these ideas as impractical or even impossible allow me to point out that these are things individuals can begin to practice. You could choose to make these a priority for yourself.