I've loved 2014. It's been crazy busy, but there's also been a sweet rhythm to life. I haven't blogged as regularly as I have in past years, but my posts have often been longer, more article-length, and at least half of this year's top ten are actually the top ten of all time (and this is my tenth year blogging). Without further delay, here were the best button-pushing, attention-garnering articles I wrote for pastors and ministry leaders this year.
10. The Truth of the Bible Still Matters, And It Always Will
This has been a bit of a roller coaster year in American culture, from the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case to the various gay marriage cases heard. In the middle of that chaos, I felt a calm assurance because of a decision I made when I started my ministry at age eighteen – to accept the Bible as God's perfect Word.
"Regardless of the outcomes of these and other controversies, I will still carry a Bible in which I completely trust. I believe it to be timeless truth as a whole and in all of its parts. Therefore, I have an absolute truth that guides my moral decision-making and my sense of what is right and true."
9. When Things Get Real In a Church Plant
This post reflected one of the biggest highlights of our year – a record-setting day at Grace Hills and the life change that came with it. The message I preached that day has done more to set a culture for us than almost anything else.
"God is at work, gathering a community of believers who are coming to know Jesus and serving others for His glory. And I can't wait to witness what is next!"
8. Five Reasons Why the Church Must Engage the World with Social Media
I wrote and released a book this year called Rewired, published by Passio (Charisma House). It was all about this subject, and this post is somewhat of a summary of my convictions about social media and the church.
"People have real needs that can be met via social media. Therefore, social media is a tool that cannot be ignored as a viable means of extending the Great Commission and helping others heal with the message of Jesus."
7. Why Talking About Church Growth Matters
Numbers aren't everything, but they can be rather important indicators of effectiveness, or a lack thereof.
"When a church stops growing, instead of settling for "good enough," maybe we should diagnose the situation. It's possible that we could depend on God more, pray harder, preach more relevantly or passionately, love families better, organize to reach new people, etc."
6. You Can Have Growth, Or You Can Have Control
This shorter article communicates a single, timeless principle communicated by one of my friends and mentors in ministry…
"You can have growth or you can have control. And you have to decide how much of each you want."
5. God's Five Purposes for Your Marriage
One of the areas of tremendous personal growth for me personally this year was in my relationship with my wife. Few people have taught me more about love and grace than Angie. Out of what I've learned, I wrote a post applying God's five big life purposes to the marriage relationship.
"God has these five purposes for your life as an individual believer. He also communicates these five purposes to the church, and every local church that focuses its work and ministry on fulfilling these five purposes in the world will be healthier for it. And as I've devoted plenty of thought to it, these five purposes wonderfully express God's design for marriage too."
4. A Scalable Model for Making Disciples In Small Churches
While Grace Hills is growing somewhat fast, it's still a small church, and aside from my time at Saddleback, I've always served churches of less than 250 in attendance. This post is essentially a summary of the discipleship process I've seen work well in a small church context, but it's also a re-cap of what I've learned about being a purpose driven church.
"At the end of the day, every church is driven by something – money, tradition, politics, fear, etc. – but I want to lead a church driven by God's eternal purposes!"
3. Just How Large Should a Local Church Be?
I think this one was popular because people tend to have a lot of pre-conceived ideas about church size, and because it included a pretty infographic. Whenever you talk about growth or numbers, there will always be the jaded rebuttal as well as the pseudo-spiritual Jesus juke.
"When we grow without compromising our message or mission, the Kingdom wins. I celebrate both timeless biblical theology and innovative strategies for reaching unengaged people. How large should your local church get? That's really the wrong question. The right question is, how do we make disciples of everyone we possibly can?"
2. From the Heart of One Pastor, I'm Sorry I Let You Down
In many ways, 2014 was a year of healing for me. I feel more whole than I have in my entire life in ministry. In some of the hardest moments, when I've been most disappointed in myself, I learned these lessons. Here was my bottom line…
"I love you. Your Pastor most likely loves you too. I'm sorry if I've let you down. I'll try to do better. But for my own spiritual and emotional health, and yours too, I've decided to find my confidence in my identity in Christ, my calling by grace, and my commission to leave the ninety-nine in the flock to go after the one who is lost. When I try to keep you happy, I fail us both."
1. To Every Pastor Who Is Ready to Give Up
This is actually the most popular article I've ever written, which breaks my heart. Ministry is a lonely place at times, and this post traveled across the social web at break-neck speed because there are so many hurting leaders out there.
"My hope rests on the fact that Jesus Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her on the cross. He started the church, is the Chief Builder and Shepherd of the church, and will see to the church's survival and success until He comes again. But until that day comes, we we see eras of painful pruning."
Big News… Grace Hills Is Pregnant! We're Expecting a Daughter Church!
I wanted to mention one more post that ranked somewhere within this list but was a little more personal and newsy in nature. One of the more exciting developments in the life of our church this year was sending out our one-year resident, Michael Smith and his wife, Jennifer to begin the work of planting Journey Church as a daughter of Grace Hills. The post I wrote announcing it gathered a lot of attention, which thrills me!
"We're asking God to give them favor with the community, financial provision, and spiritual protection as they venture into the deep end of church planting. And we're also asking our friends to get involved. Here's how…"
What's coming next year? More of the same, but better, hopefully. I intend to post far more frequently, but to keep the longer article-length posts coming too. I started blogging ten years ago because I wanted to encourage people. That's still my goal today – to encourage people who lead in the trenches of ministry.