The quarterly newsletter of the association that shares an important editorial on church ministry and the latest about MCMA activities.


2nd Quarter 2016 - Volume 20 - Number 2

Throughout this rough and tumble presidential campaign it seems apparent that there is a general coarsening of the culture around us.  Even presidential candidates are not presenting themselves in a positive or classy manner.  The rhetoric of the campaign trail and apologists on all sides of the debate have lowered the standards of general discourse making us wonder if civil conversation will ever return.


Political spin is constant.  Straight answers on any questions are almost impossible to arrive at.  Hard truth is rarely articulated; only spin.


Looking beyond the focus of the political scene, the general news in the community it is not encouraging.  Traditional morality, even concepts of gender identity, are being called into question and new definitions are being introduced that defy time-tested standards. 


The institution of marriage has been expanded through court decisions to include unions of same sex couples with demands by other splinter groups for equality of any domestic arrangement…of whatever types or numbers of people.


Divorce is lower partly due to the fact that many people are not bothering to get married…cohabitation has become a norm for many.


Cheating in America’s educational institutions has been rising at all levels over the last decades.  Beginning in elementary school and stretching all the way through grad school students attempt to better their chances at success by playing fast and loose with the rules.


Oh, there are many other discouraging deficits in our culture today; these are only a few.  But what are we who are in the leadership of the church to do in response to them?  Let me suggest the following:


1.  We must identify the evil that is present in today’s society.  The Bible is full of examples of the same evils we can point to in the current day.  Our teaching and preaching will be especially relevant if we relate how the Scripture illustrates the challenge of the current culture.


2.  We must teach clearly what biblical holiness and obedience entails.  Without compromise, God’s standards must be clearly taught.  It may not always be comfortable to contrast the current day with biblical standards, but our people will be without guidance if we do not connect the dots and help people honor God in their daily behavior.


3.  We must celebrate the examples of those who rise above the current culture.  In our own lives and in that of our people, when courageous examples of faith and faithfulness that fly in the face of the trends of the day are true, we need to call attention to them.  Special testimony should be given when people, as in the spirit of Daniel, refuse to defile themselves with the temptations that prey on them.


4.  We must model and reassure all that a bold resistance is possible.  As Joshua made it clear, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”  No matter how bad it gets; no matter what the mindless majority may think or do; by the power of God in us, we can be God’s holy minority! 


As the clouds darken on the horizon of today’s culture, we can call our people to remain faithful to God and become a bright witness to His power in daily living!


                                                            Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director



3rd Quarter 2016 - Volume 20 - Number 3

The Global Leadership Summit, offered worldwide by the Willow Creek Association is always a good investment of time for us as church leaders.  Among the speakers on this year’s program, a very compelling presentation was made by Jossy Chacko, President and Founder of Empart, Inc.  He offered us three directives on how to maximize our effectiveness as leaders…to expand our leadership reach:




The daily, weekly tasks we must care for oftentimes narrow our focus so much that we don’t think in expansive terms.  Our eyes become so trained on the immediate challenges and responsibilities, we fail to see beyond today.  We attempt to protect the status quo rather than take risks to go beyond it.


The challenge for the average church is obvious.  The coordination of the current program requires so much energy and attention, that more long-range goals are oftentimes never even entertained. 


Church leaders need to get their eyes open by getting out to meet people in the community, visit other churches on Sundays to see what they are doing, have probing conversations with people inside and outside the church to brainstorm possible expansions of the reach of the church.  If we don’t intentionally look beyond the status quo…that is where we will be five years from now.




Learn the joy of setting people free to minister.  Begin by helping to build character in them through teaching and mentoring.  Walk with them through their process of growth, as Jossy says, “lead from alongside.”  Relational leadership will bring out the willing best in others.


Once those foundations of character and relationship are established, then agreed upon objectives can be set, all in keeping with the mission of the ministry.


Then…let them serve!   Don’t micro-manage or try to control.  Don’t take back tasks you have already delegated.  Trust God that he will empower, motivate, and energize your team members to accomplish their work, hence your work, with excellence and measurable achievement.




Mr. Chacko challenges us to recognize that risk-taking is just another name for faith.  It is fundamental to Christian life and ministry.  When we fail to take risk, we “move from pioneering to preserving.”  Chacko’s other admonitions regarding risk include: “Risk is a friend to be loved, not an enemy to be feared;”  “See comfort and safety as your enemies;” “Embrace fear;” “Don’t let earthly practicalities blind you to heavenly possibilities;” “Expand your pain threshold.”


Where do you want to be five years from now?  The great motivational speaker, Charlie Tremendous Jones used to say, “Five years from today, you will be the person you are today plus the books you read and people you get to know.”  Those are the resources necessary for us to move out to enlarge vision, empower people, and embrace risk.  We need to take the time to read and take the time to consult others to get new perspectives.  May God give us the boldness to expand our leadership reach!

                                                            Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director


4th Quarter 2016 - Volume 20 - Number 4

The presidential campaign of 2016 was one for the books!  There were several unprecedented aspects of this contest, but one of the most disheartening things about it was that both major party candidates were held in such low esteem due to the negatives that swirled about them.  Accusations on both sides of corruption, incompetence, lying, and philandering seemed to demoralize the electorate.


What led to this sullenness in the populace?  Although some relativists may claim that American society has become desensitized to a lot of traditional mores, I believe that what we saw in the attitudes of Americans in this last election cycle is that character still matters.


The evident enthusiasm gap that existed in this election was due to the fact that most of us really do have ideals about leadership.  We really do believe that people of impeccable character make better leaders.  On balance, trustworthiness, truthfulness, dependability and respectability are preferred in leaders.  Even though getting a job done is a necessary thing; getting it done with integrity intact is an even higher value.


It seems to me, that these dynamics need to be constantly on the minds of church leaders as well.  In this season of American life, we can be tempted to be very pragmatic and just want our pastors and leaders to do their job efficiently, economically, and with good statistical results.  We want budgets balanced, programs run, the windows washed, and attendance increasing.


Ultimately, though, if these external signs of success and efficiency are not accompanied by internal strengths fueled by spiritual power, they fall flat.  Why is character so important in Church work?


1.  THE CHARACTER OF LEADERSHIP CAN GLORIFY GOD.    Our ultimate concern is that those with whom the church is identified, reflect the spirit and character of Jesus Himself.  The reputation of God is besmirched in the eyes of both the members of the church as well as the general public when leaders fail to maintain moral and ethical standards as they pursue organizational objectives.


2.  THE CHARACTER OF LEADERSHIP IS MODELED BY THE PEOPLE.  We are often reminded that the flocks that we lead will progress only as far as the quality of the shepherds that lead them.  Our people are always watching us for direction in how to live life in a way that honors God.  That is a sobering truth.  Even when we are not aware of it, they are observing our actions and reactions as leaders.  They are making value judgments based on what we value.  As our character grows, we will give a real life example for the people to follow.  Peter admonished the elders in I Peter 5 to be “examples to the flock of God.”  Whether we like it or not…we are examples for good or ill.


3.  THE CHARACTER OF LEADERSHIP PROJECTS VALUES TO THE COMMUNITY.  Beyond the flock of God, the general public is looking to leadership in the church for an indication of what the Body of Christ is all about.  In communities where leaders have poor reputations, where they are known for their malfeasance or cruelty, where the fruit of the Spirit is not evident in their private and public deportment, the Church is misrepresented and the work of God is short-circuited.  When this happens, the dynamic evident in Acts 2 in the 1st century church, "having favor with all the people" - is lacking and the ministry suffers.

In all of these dimensions…God’s glory, the spiritual progress of the flock of God, and the impact on the wider community…character still matters.  May God give us grace to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to develop character in ourselves and our people regardless of the strengths or weaknesses of character ev evident in the public square as this 21stcentury continues to unfold.

                                                                           Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director



1st Quarter 2017 - Volume 21 - Number 1

In the political conversations of the last couple of years, we have been exposed to several “narratives” that have been put forth by all sides attempting to either cast the opposition in a bad light or to explain away their own problems.  A “narrative” is basically a story that tries to put a certain construction on a situation in support of a particular agenda.  It is spin; it really is deceit; it can be manipulation; it is not necessarily true.


When it comes to the living out of personal lives, the “narrative” has become a convenient device to enable people to offer an excuse for their behavior.  We are told these days that everyone has a story; my story is different from your story; there is no right story or wrong story; it is what it is.  We are as much products of our story or narrative, as we are players in the drama.  We can be given a convenient explanation for who we are—cold, insensitive because our story is that of the Scandinavian stoic; emotionally unconnected because our story is that of the adult child of an alcoholic; wildly promiscuous because our story is that of the son of a philanderer with no better role model to follow.


In local churches, the “narratives” of specific assemblies are also taken into account.  We are the way we are because we are:  “immigrants”; “Pentecostals”; “traditional”; “denominational”; “congregational in polity”; “working class”; “urban in orientation”; “rural in orientation”; “suburban in orientation”; “controlled by the founding family of the church”; “seeker-driven”; “contemporary in worship”; “missions-minded”….and the list goes on.


There are consultants who have made an industry out of helping local churches understand what their story is and what they want it to become.  The fact is that there is something substantive in a local church’s narrative that explains why it is the way it is today.  Even with its inadequacies, those realities should not be automatically critiqued…many of them probably need to be celebrated.


For all of us, though…whether in our personal lives or in the corporate life of the church…we must believe that it is possible for us to rise above where we are today to a brand new reality!  We are not pre-determined by our past; we are not forced to follow patterns that have retarded growth and progress; we are free to analyze where we believe God wants us to be and move in that direction.


In Romans 12, Paul tells the church not to be “conformed to the world, but be transformed by a renewing of the mind.”   Many of us conform our attitudes and behaviors to what we have been conditioned to believe about ourselves based on our own observations and the opinions expressed by others.  We are then, as one translation puts it, “pressed into a mold” that restricts our growth and development.  We can be led to believe we are the way we are and there is no escape.


That simply is not true…the renewal of our minds can put us on a fresh course that does not eliminate the DNA of our personalities, but transforms it in a positive direction.  How do we then renew our minds?  Consider….


1.  Constant meditative study of the Scriptures to think God’s thoughts after Him and ask the strategic question, “What would you have me to do?”


2.  Broaden your field of experience and knowledge  Visit some other churches; attend some conferences; see what others are doing and saying; read and research possible future paths.


3.  Discuss the issues of life and service with fellow disciples.  As the Scripture tells us, “Iron sharpens iron.”  We need the collective wisdom within the body.


May God help us to be transformed to rise above the narratives that hold us back!


                                                                           Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director



2nd Quarter 2017 - Volume 21 - Number 2

In the rhythm of local church work, it is a very healthy thing to pause long enough to celebrate accomplishment within the fellowship.  In America, that logically comes toward the end of the school year when regular programming culminates and a summer break ensues.  So…my recommendation is that you throw a party!  Why?…


1.  Throw a party because God deserves it!  Volunteers in your church have been working throughout the last season with remarkable faithfulness.  Oh, there have been some glitches along the way, but it is an awesome thing to know that even with all the distractions and alternative options people have, they have still been willing to serve in your congregation.  What accounts for that?  Ultimately it is a God who inspires and equips people for service!  It is God who has been showing up right along with your people against all odd through these months.  We need to throw a party to glorify God for what he has done!


2.  Throw a party because it gives honor to whom honor is due!  The Scriptures are clear that we should show appreciation to those who have served well among us.  All people who have applied their time, talent, and treasure for the sake of the ministry should be celebrated and shown gratitude.  In the setting of a dinner, an ice cream social, an evening of special entertainment…however you wish to package it…those who serve should be recognized for the sacrifices they have made.


3.  Throw a party because it reminds everyone of your mission.  When the above recognition and appreciation event is announced, the disciple-making task of the church is automatically restated once again and the entire membership has their basic purpose rehearsed, never to forget why they are in business.


4.  Throw a party because it measures actual accomplishment.  In the course of the celebrating and recognition in your party, some statistical reports on progress made in ministries as well as the anecdotal evidence offered through testimonies of individuals will reveal the real life impact of what has been done throughout the year, many times behind the scenes away from public view.  People in the pew can become cynical and questioning whether or not anything is really happening in the ministry.   A party can give living answers to those questions.


5.  Throw a party because it enhances relationships.  Anytime you give an occasion for people to gather together in fellowship, you add another building block to ongoing relationships in the church.  When you add to that the dimension of gratitude and affirmation, relationships are deepened all the more.  Warm, heart-felt connections between people will develop when the culture of your church is shown to be thoughtful and thankful.  A celebration party can do just that!


6.  Throw a party because it inspires others to participate.  In an event in which the congregation is invited to participate, everyone will see just how many people are offering their time and energy to the work of God.  Their example, the testimonies about the impact of their work, and the loving treatment of the leadership of the church will speak loudly to all potential future volunteers.  When ministry celebration and recognition takes place, recruitment for the future becomes far easier.


What will you do to celebrate the faithful service of your people?  In whatever form it takes, let it be a light-hearted party in which the faithfulness of God and His people is on center-stage for everyone to see.  God will be glorified and all the saints will be blessed!

       Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director



3rd Quarter 2017 - Volume 21 - Number 3

In Minnesota, one of our great goals through the summer months is to avoid sweating.  We usually have such beautifully moderate temperatures that it rarely becomes a big issue for us.  But...when the heat arrives, we keep the air-conditioning on in the house, the car, the workplace, and quickly move from one cool spot to another to avoid perspiring.


It struck me on my recent trip to Africa that the avoidance of sweat is really a futile venture.  Sooner or later you are going to sweat in the African heat.  But then nature kicks in.  You don't overheat; the evaporation of perspiration has a cooling effect on your body and if you remain hydrated, you will stay reasonably cool till the end of the day.  You definitely welcome a shower at the end of the day…but you feel just fine.


In America, however, we are led to believe that sweating (or any discomfort) is not necessary.  We can and should avoid it whenever possible.  We avoid pain, we control the climate around us, we seek to be comfortable at all times.


And yet in church ministry, we do not benefit by avoiding all pain.  In fact it is impossible for us to grow as people or develop as ministries without going through the inevitable discomfort we encounter.  For instance:


1. Personal Confrontation Produces Self-Examination.  Most of us do not crave confrontation with others.  We take seriously the scriptural admonition to “be at peace with all people.”  And yet, whenever we have an uncomfort- able run-in with someone, it forces us into a process of self-examination in which we have to ask ourselves, “Am I right or wrong in this situation?”; “Could my opponent have a point and I have been blinded to something?”; “How am I coming across to others?”  In leadership, the temptation to arrogance gets quickly corrected when we are forced to deal with disagree-ment and discord.  This is a positive corrective for us, though uncomfortable.


2. Honest Evaluation Produces Change.  As we move forward in ministry, we are better served if indeed we go through formal evaluations of what we do and how we do it.  As leaders, it is not necessarily pleasant to see how the ministry we have been doing over the last season is viewed by the general public or how it is practically moving people toward spiritual growth.  Asking hard questions about the effectiveness and impact of what we do, however, can bring about necessary changes and shifts in approach.


3. Proclamation of the Truth Produces Growth.  A lot of American preaching and teaching has become happy talk.  Pastors tip-toe around moral issues and avoid at all costs offending anyone in the congregation.  And yet, the discomfort of hearing the truth of the Word of God must be experienced in order for it to have impact.  The Gospel itself must be bad news before it is good news. Unless we realize we are sinners in need of savior, even our salvation is not possible. So, regularly we usher our people into a place of discomfort in order for them to be changed by the Word and grow.


Although we should not welcome unnecessary pain or discomfort in Church ministry, we must recognize that there is truth in the sentiment of the old cliché, “No pain – no gain!”

                                                                           Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director



4th Quarter 2017 - Volume 21 - Number 4

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has distinguished himself as a credible Christian commentator on today’s society, with his strong background in both business and higher education.  In his book, The Vanishing American Adult:  Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance, he makes recommendations on how we can build the next generation of adults emerging today.  He offers five disciplines that need to be developed as we face the future:


1.  Flee Age Segregation.  One of the weaknesses of American culture today is the separation of the generations.  Whether it is in education, community activities, or the Church…we are stratified along age lines.  There is no way that the wisdom and experience of the ages can be communicated between generations with this division.  We must do what we can in our individual families, churches, and other social contexts to unite younger and older in meaningful relationship and conversation.


2.  Embrace Work Pain.  There is a lack of a strong work ethic in the emerging adult population.  Many people coming of age today have not been forced to hold a job that has taught them important life skills.  Sasse urges those of us in the older generation to introduce younger ones to the joy and pain of work.  This builds character and sets the stage for our economic future.


3.  Consume Less.  America is known for conspicuous consumption of almost everything…food, drink, possessions.   This is both wasteful and an improper focus to communicate values.  By both personal example and exhortation, we need to convey the truth of what Jesus said:  “A man’s life consists not in the abundance of things he possesses.”  In that way, the door is open to pursuing higher values that transcend mere things.


4.  Travel to See.  The myopic American perspective is often the result of a lack of exposure to the rest of the world.  Our worldview is expanded and enhanced by travel to as many places as we can.  An understanding of other cultures and surroundings helps us mature and put all of life into a coherent framework.  With all the current day opportunities for such travel, there is the potential for greater maturity in the coming generations.


5.  Build a Bookshelf.  Success as a society will be greatly enhanced by creating a reading culture.  If all we have are the meager thoughts in our own brains bouncing around, prospects for the future may grow dim.  But…a reading list of classic books and works of emerging thinkers will prepare the coming generations for a life-long process of personal growth.


In each of these above recommendations, the local Church can play an important role.  Just think through each of them.  What can you as a leader and influencer in your local assembly bring about to positively impact the current young adult population and then the future generations to come?


We must proceed with faith and expectation that whatever cultural drift may have happened in the recent past, things can be turned around in a positive direction if we take affirmative action in relation to the generations now coming of age.  May God bless us in this important responsibility!

                                                               Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director

UNIVERsals to celebrate!


1st Quarter 2018 - Volume 22 - Number 1

At a recent meeting of the International Bible Givers ministry in Anoka, we heard a wonderful testimony about the rise of a new church planting effort.  The pastor related that the vision for a new church came to him and his wife at 35,000 feet on a flight between California and Minnesota.  They landed in Minnesota on a Wednesday with a clear conviction that God wanted them to hold a worship service on Sunday.  The pastor was led to clean out and paint up his garage and furnish it with white plastic chairs.  Once that project was done, he said that God gave him the idea to text everyone on his phone to invite them for worship on Sunday.  That week they welcomed twenty people to worship at this instant church.  They have grown since then and now are a fellowship of about 100 people serving together.


I thought to myself, “What a wonderful rebuke to the conventional wisdom about church ministry!”  The pastor didn’t do any in-depth demographic studies of his neighborhood; he did not launch a small Bible study in a living room, working up to a core group of people to launch formal meetings; he did not develop an online presence; he did not go through any targeted training on how to start a church.  In the end, although he broke all the supposed rules, a thriving fellowship now exists nonetheless.


This experience points to some universal principles of success in any ministry that have been true ever since Pentecost and we should recognize and celebrate them:


We must be driven by the mission of the Church.

The disciple-making mission of the Church…to lead people to faith in Christ and help them to grow to maturity by the ministry of the Word needs to drive us.


We must be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

As we pray, study the Word, and meditate on the next steps in our ministry, we need to have our spiritual ears open to what the Spirit of God wants us to do.


We must begin with our own personal connections.

Those family members and friends who already know us will more likely follow our lead in any ministry.  We need to be expanding that circle of friendship to maximize the reach of the ministry over time.


We must welcome anyone regardless of demographics.

Whereas you may have a certain natural focus of ages or interests in your ministry, an openness of heart to everyone regardless of where they are in life will communicate the spirit of Jesus who reaches out to ALL!


We must pursue relational ministry always.

There is no organization, website, church facility, public show, or professional staffing that will succeed without making ministry as relational and personal as possible.


We live in an era in which the experts demand we have a highly developed understanding of the demographics of our community, that we are strumming on cultural strings that will resonate with the common man, that we need to be connected online to really be relevant to anyone.  These factors may contribute to our success, but the spiritual foundations and the relational connections that have been central in every generation need to intentionally be pursued in the 21stcentury.  May God give us grace to maintain our focus on these universals!


Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director



2nd Quarter 2018 - Volume 22 - Number 2

There are many joys we experience in our international ministry in Africa; we also experience some sorrows along the way.  During our last overseas mission, we lost four important people in death who were key supporters and encouragers in our work.  They included Minister Cindy Hayden of Philadelphia; Elder Natt Miller (father of our Associate Director Natt) in Liberia; Pastor Charles Goah, member of our MCMA Board; and Dr. Harry Evans, my university president and mentor.  As I think of each of these friends who have gone before us, I thank God for the legacy they leave behind.  They led lives of impact and consequence and are worthy of our celebration.


A time like this gives us opportunity to reflect on the fact that every one of us is leaving a legacy of as we carry out the responsibilities of each day.  It is helpful for us to remember:


We begin with our primary relationships.  The impact we have in any other area of our lives will be compared with the quality of our closest relationships with family and friends.  If we intentionally live each day conscious of the positive influence we are having on those in our immediate circle, the genuineness of all other legacies will come clear.  Instilling values in the next generation, modelling integrity and faithfulness to those who are observing us, and being a source of truth and right in our private lives sets a foundation for everything else.  In fact, if the inner circle of our lives is touched with lasting impact by us...we have accomplished the most important thing anyway.


We continue with our relationships in the community.  Expanding upon that inner circle, as people of integrity we move out similarly to the next ring of influence to others in the community.  Every person we meet, every conversation we have, every activity we enter into with the broader public gives us opportunity to establish patterns of action and attitude that can leave a lasting mark on hundreds and thousands of people directly and indirectly.  In the words of that great old song:  "If I can help somebody as I walk along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody how they're travelling wrong--then my living shall not be in vain."


We build a special legacy in the church.  As the 21st century continues to unfold, involvement and leadership in the local church is going to be an increasingly rare thing.  Church attendance is waning; regularly commitment to it is falling.  When we make a definite, public identification with the people of God, dedicate our time, talent, and treasure to its health and growth, and maintain a long-term connection with a local assembly...we stand out as noble examples to the Body of Christ and the surrounding community.  Some of the most heart-warming memorial services I have attended in my life have been those of faithful church members who have invested deeply in their congregations and as a result have spiritual legacies that extend far and wide.


As long as we live, we are building the legacies that follow us.  May God give us grace to intentionally lead lives of high impact in our primary relationships, in the broader community, and in the Church of Jesus Christ.  May He further inspire us as Church leaders to instill the value of intentional living in all those whom we lead in our assemblies.


Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director


3rd Quarter 2018 - Volume 22 - Number 3

Dr. Harry Ironsides, who pastored the historic Moody Church for an impressive period in the 1930’s and 40’s used to repeat the statement “If it’s true it isn’t new and if it’s new it isn’t true.”


That is a healthy reminder for us these days in both what we say and how we say it in church ministry.  Both the substance of our teaching and preaching and the style and form which our ministry takes needs to be tested against time proven standards.


This is not an easy task in the current climate of unending innovation and rebranding that happens in this early part of the 21stcentury.  As we look toward the coming school year of ministry in the church, there is a natural tendency for those in leadership to want to make their local church look cool, attractive, cutting-edge, leading edge, relevant, updated, and especially desirable to the emerging young adult population.


As a result, during these summer months there are facelifts going on in many church buildings, some are installing the latest coffee bars, some are rehauling their sound and light systems, some are posting new high-tech marquees, and still others are reworking weekly programming to be just what the current culture demands.


Such renovations are not necessarily bad.  I know if my wife did not have a certain decorating sense and artistic touch and things were totally left up to me, the home we have lived in for the last 25 years would probably still have the same carpeting, 70’s style avocado-colored appliances, and dark paneling it had when we moved in!  Her redecorating from time to time has enhanced our lives in that place.


And yet, the cosmetics of a building or even of the superficial aspects of a ministry do not go to the core of what the Church is all about.  We must embrace with renewed enthusiasm and anticipation of the blessing of God the true dimensions of ministry that have served well since Pentecost.  What are they?  Let me suggest…


1.  A foundational commitment to the ever-living Word of God.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  It must be the basis of our teaching and the direction for our lives and ministries.


2.  A recognition that we are in the people-transformation business.  Our buildings and organization should all serve to bring people to faith and growth in Christian faith.  We are to help people meet their Savior and become more like him…to be transformed by a renewing of their minds.


3.  A genuine effort to build real fellowship within the local body.  We must always seek to encourage the body, nurture relationships between one another, and meet the real needs of individuals and families, rising above the superficial.


4.  A regular emphasis on the need to reach out to others in love.  Once given the nurture and encouragement within the body, daily ministry needs to be taking place all across the community as members reach out with the love, grace, and gospel of Jesus.


5.  A restated reminder of the future we are all heading toward.  As believers we are looking forward to a heavenly future in the presence of Christ Himself.  That is a motivating factor that needs to be regularly reiterated and emphasized.


Go ahead and install that new coffee equipment…but be sure in the end you are leading people to faith and growth in Jesus Christ, mobilizing them in daily outreach, and keeping a heavenly future out in front of them. 

Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director



4th Quarter 2018 - Volume 22 - Number 4

Church real estate becomes sacred to those whose lives have been impacted by the ministry of the assembly at a particular address.  Sometimes sentimental attachment to a building is denigrated as unspiritual devotion to bricks and mortar.  I was struck, however, by the emotional response I had when my brother Tom and I stuck our heads into our home church…the Kenosha Bible Church a couple of years ago.  This space in which I personally came to faith in Christ had been beautifully upgraded and maintained since my days there in the early 1960’s.  It was an indication of the respect and care the new congregation had for this place that was important in my own spiritual formation.

Several years ago I was struck by the eloquent expression of the late Elton Trueblood in his classic work, The Incendiary Fellowship:

I can never pass a little building devoted to Christ's cause without a sense of reverence and the utterance of a short prayer of thanksgiving. I know, by sad experience, how dull the Adult Bible Class probably is, and I could repeat many of the stereotyped testimonies of the Prayer Meeting; I know, furthermore, how great the likelihood is that the pastor is an unimaginative man; but I know some other things as well. I know that it was in such ugly buildings that many of our Christian leaders first learned to sing God's praise and to hear the marvelous cadences of the Psalms. Furthermore, I can never forget that, apart from the poor little fellowships in such poor little buildings, there isn't a chance in the world that I would be enlisted today in the cause of Christ. In my youth I was impressed by seeing devout Roman Catholics tip their hats, as the street cars passed the doors of their church buildings. I am tempted to do the same whenever I pass a place in which the love of Christ has been consciously nourished and where I know simple men have prayed. Because I can never see such a place without a sense of wonder, aware as I am of the sacrifice on the part of so many, which has made the place possible, I can never join in the fashionable depreciation of "place." The value of the place is not in itself, for that would entail idolatry, but rather in the recognition that there is no available power unless it emanates from a center. It was necessary, Christ said, for the Apostles to gather at Jerusalem before they could be effective witnesses in the world.

Let me suggest the following:

1.  Your place is proof of the power of God in His people.  God has motivated a local assembly to provide your current space.  There has been sacrifice inspired by faith and trust in God and a compelling mission that reflects spiritual vitality.

2.  Your place becomes strongly associated in people’s hearts with their spirituality. As God moves in the space in which you meet, that very square-footage becomes sacred to those whose lives are being impacted.

3.  Your place is the launching pad for your people’s witness in the world.  Your church is the gathering place where equipping and preparation for ministry takes place; your people with a renewed sense of mission then move out into the community to share the love, grace, and gospel of Jesus Christ.

4.  Your place deserves respect, care, and investment.  Though real estate cannot be idolized, because of the importance of what takes place within the four walls, it deserves to be beautified, maintained, and upgraded to accomplish the Church’s mission.

May God help us care for the space in which we pursue life-changing ministry.

Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director



2nd Quarter 2019 - Volume 23 - Number 2

On my 37th trip to Africa recently, I was musing about the wonderful opportunities I have had over 16 years of ministry there.  Most strikingly, I have developed deep friendships over this time and find opportunities to make new friends on every trip.  And so, I have been thinking about the importance of relationships in the wake of yet another meaningful round of ministry.  Consider these thoughts:


1.  What matters most in life is relationships.  There are many demands on our time and energy in modern America.  We have jobs to perform, property to maintain, products to purchase, and bills to pay.  Yet what keeps us emotionally stable and moving forward in personal growth are the relationships we enjoy.  Unfortunately, we are not doing as well in that department as we might.  One recent study showed that the average American has not made a new friend in the last five years.  That is an amazing statistic.  The art of engaging and keeping good friends...including family members is one of the surest ways to keep ourselves on an even keel.  The evident relational deficits in American life become an opportunity for churches to provide something that is lacking in many people’s lives.


2.  Relationships that matter most are spiritually-based.  My trip to Africa has proven to me once again that there is a special depth to relationships that have a spiritual dimension to them.  The hundreds of church people we connect with in on any one trip to Africa are part of a wonderful fraternity.  Christians have a built-in brotherhood because they believe that the Holy Spirit of God indwells all believers and they have inner strength and character that unifies them even before they get to know each other.  Once they start talking about their lives and their experiences, the common bonds of faith and spiritual community become obvious and the inner-connection between human beings is a remarkable thing to sense. It leads to the deepest of interpersonal relationships possible.  Because spiritual connections produce strong friendships, the Church again provides a solution to our nation’s ills.


3.  Time seasons and enriches all relationships.  As I think of 37 trips to Africa over 16 years, it is heart-warming to see how time itself has produced deeper, broader, more meaningful connections with people.  The more years we spend in relating to friends and family, the more meaningful they become.  I have just explored Uganda for the first time with the help of one of leaders from Nigeria...Bishop Mike.  He is a man I have known for 15 years and we have experienced life and ministry together in many settings both in Africa and America.  This collaboration on this trip has been the crowning touch in our friendship so far.  We understand each other; we respect each other; we enjoy each other's company; we care deeply for each other.  Those dimensions of relationship simply do not happen instantly overnight.  It takes time for us to develop deep feelings from the heart.  In our instant-everything world in which we live, we need to learn the patience it takes to really develop relationships over time.  For our connections in the Church to deepen, we need to continue on in fellowship with a specific local congregation long enough for these long-term benefits to come to us.


May God give us the courage and grace to evaluate and strengthen the quality and quantity of relationships within the Church…the environment in which we help each other deepen our relationship with God Himself!


Timothy A. Johnson – Executive Director




1st Quarter 2019 - Volume 23 - Number 1

For the last four decades or so in the Church in America there has been a strain of

prophetic declarations being made by consultants and ecclesiastical observers that the

Church needs to quit being so reactive to conditions and make up its mind to be

proactive in anticipating the challenges and opportunities of the future. This has

become the conventional wisdom in church leadership. If we don't anticipate the

nature of things in the coming decades we will first of all cease to be effective and

eventually cease to exist.


That seems to have the ring of truth as we look at declining church attendance in

America and also the demographic that still attends. As I visit churches on Sunday

mornings, there is a remarkable display of gray hair and bald heads, including my

own! The conclusion? Churches with aging membership have simply not been

proactive enough to draw younger generations to worship and service.


Pollster George Bama led the way in the 1980's with his analyses of trends heading

toward the year 2000 in The Frog in the Kettle; following up around the turn of the

century with Revolution ... with warnings that the Church needed to be out ahead of

the curve to avoid obsolescence. This futurism based on sociological surveys have

brought a great deal of discouragement to the Church because honestly the individual

church doesn't know what to do and where to tum to get traction in this 21st century

environment. What are the current options for the established church?


1. Recognize that being proactive may not be all that it is cracked up to be. This

concept often has called for anticipating changes in demographics, the tastes and

proclivities of the various generations, and the shape of programming and facilities to

be ready for changes before they occur. Sometimes those predictions are not realized

and there is a waste of energy in the process. The key for any organization, business,

or ministry is to be as immediately reactive as possible; to be flexible and nimble

enough to respond quickly when changes actually occur.


2. Recognize that vitality in any congregation, old or new will center on a certain

number of basics: clear preaching and teaching of the Word of God, heartfelt

worship, genuine fellowship and care, and an outward focus that leads people to

influence their spheres of influence toward faith and growth in Jesus Christ. These

dynamics happen in a wide range of cultural and demographic settings. Our call is to

be faithful right where we are and impact as many people as we can directly and

indirectly as our assemblies continue to gather each week.


3. Recognize that churches do have a lifespan just as individuals do. A constant

upward trajectory in numbers and vitality is not logical nor warranted. Some

congregations simply will go out of existence. That may be emotionally disappointing to the remaining members, but does not mean that even during periods of statistical decline the ministry has been worthless.


4. Recognize that there are paradigm-shifting options for the future. There is a

movement in which aging churches around the country are merging their efforts with

younger congregations with the effect of extending the life and impact of their

fellowships. Such mergers entail challenges as well ... but the wedding of different

ages and life experience opens up possibilities for unique community within the



Jesus said He would build His church. May God give us the grace to be faithful and

flexible in the specific field he has called us to.

Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director



3rd Quarter 2019 - Volume 23 - Number 3

When we approach the beginning of another school year, I have a wave of nostalgia that crashes over me.  My memories of my childhood with a bitter- sweet combination of anticipation and dread that came around Labor Day, facing another round of studies and enforced schedules…take me back to days of discipline and rigorous training.


When we go through another round of political debates as we are experiencing right now, I am reminded of a more civil time and place where actual arguments could be made and debated without ad hominem retribution.


When we think of the passing of the great generation of post-World War II church leaders who are either in heaven or heading there soon…Billy Graham, Torrey Johnson, Ted Engstrom, Jay Kesler, C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Henrietta Mears, Harold Ockenga, John Stott, Bill Bright, Warren Wiersbe, A.W. Tozer…to name a few…I remember the depth of their spirituality, the clarity of their thought, and their unstinting commitment to the cause of Christ.


On a more personal level, when I think of the members of my own family who have been sterling examples of Christian character, whose sacrifice for their families, their communities, and the church has produced great good that is impossible to measure…I am inspired by the previous generation.


But wait…there are those who would say, “Tim, when you let your mind wander to the past like that you are not facing reality!  You can’t live in the past; you can’t proceed through life looking in the rear-view mirror.”

At one level, my response can be…”Why not?  If I get a glimpse of some good things from the past, why should I not keep them clearly in view.”


Of course, many will point out that the “good old days” were not necessary that good.  Oftentimes…people point to all the technological advances that have made life easier for us.


Well, our nostalgia rarely runs to recapture the glories of the outhouse, manual typewriters, or pre-micro-wave cooking.  Our hearts more likely pine away for meaningful relationships, reliability in people’s character, honesty and truthfulness in conversation, and trust and respect between human beings. We see the value in taking time for other people, genuinely caring for them, and offering a helping hand to people in need who are within our reach.


We rightly long for days in which people related to each other in positive and affirming ways that contributed to healthy community.


When those good qualities of the past are still in our memories, we have a responsibility to find creative ways for them to be recreated in our own time.  This is not living in the past…but rather bringing the past into the present to make life more what God intends for it to be.


May God give us the wisdom to bring the positive spirit of the past that still lives on in our nostalgia into daily experience as we face the real challenges of life and ministry as future unfolds.


Timothy A. Johnson – Executive Director



Rising Wisely Above the Trailing Edge


4th Quarter 2019 - Volume 23 - Number 4

I may be one of the last people in America to own a 3G iPhone.  It has served me well and still does work…although it must almost always be tethered to a charger in order to be functional.  But I have always maintained thingsuntil they just don’t work anymore.  Witness my 2002 Ford Taurus, graciously totaled the other day, opening opportunity to buy a newer used car!


Now some people observing these attitudes about things may be very affirming and declare me to be free of materialism.  Others might point to the apparent pride I have in maintaining older possessions and condemn me for just that…pride!  It is worth thinking, however, especially in the life of the local church…just how much above the trailing edge of technology, equipment, facilities, and even décor should we be striving to be.


Historically, impressive architectural masterpieces have been built by the church many times with the spiritual purpose of erecting something that is worthy of the presence of Almighty God.  These buildings were monuments of faith that made a public statement to all those looking on.  They were physical proof of the value and importance that corporate worship and the life of the body meant to a local congregation.


On the flip side, house churches, borrowed meeting spaces, and humble, even shabby buildings have been defended by local assemblies because they have called their people to true inner spirituality that does not depend on the ostentatious trappings of brick and mortar.


So where does the truth lie regarding physical material stuff in the church?  Is it more spiritual to cling to the trailing edge of electronics, architecture, and style?  Or…can we embrace the latest fashion and equipment and still maintain our inner spirituality?  Let me suggest the following:


1.  What is your motivation?  Your choices as a congregation regarding building, decorating, and equipping can be fueled by pride, arrogance, false humility, realism, or an escape from reality.  Ultimately…we should be aiming to glorify God in all things…and not be concerned with mere appearances.


2.  What is your ministry focus?  People who need to meet Christ and become more like him should be the ultimate goal of ministry.  Shabby surroundings may well repel some people; the latest gadgets and gizmos may attract some people.  But…we need to ask the question, what environment is necessary and reasonable to effectively gather people from our community to be with us?


3.  What are your finances?  Overextending a local congregation financially in order to undertake unnecessary over-the-top upgrades is not good stewardship.


4.  What unspoken messages are you delivering?  As you make decisions on the property and material appearance of your ministry…members of the church are watching and listening, as are members of the community.  Your values will become apparent to those observing…so we need to think and pray as we discuss and decide.


May God help us use wisdom as we rise above the trailing edge in style and stuff…knowing that upgrades are necessary, but our values must remain directed by the Spirit.

Timothy A. Johnson – Executive Director



1st Quarter 2020 - Volume 24 - Number 1

Thom Rainer, one of the consultants and number crunchers in the Southern Baptist Convention, has offered some statistics regarding church attendance that are both interesting and arresting.  Take a look to see where your church lies in this scheme:


Smaller Standard

0 to 49 worship attendance

40% of churches in America

Larger Standard

50 to 124 worship attendance

27% of churches in America


125 to 249 worship attendance

18% of churches in America


250 to 499 worship attendance

8% of churches in America

Very Large

500 to 999 worship attendance

4% of churches in America

Mid Mega

1,000 to 1,999 in worship attendance 

2% of churches in America


2,000+ in worship attendance

Less than ½ of 1%


Based on these statistics and to some extent, in spite of these statistics, let me suggest the following to help us make peace with our own statistics:


1.  Take Courage…most churches are smaller in attendance.  It is interesting to see that less that 15% of churches in the country have attendance over 250 on Sunday morning.  It is fascinating to consider that many of the leadership conferences that pastors from smaller places attend spotlight the ministry of big box pastors who may not be dealing at all with what the vast majority of local pastors face.  As H.B. London famously said years ago, “80% of pastors now serving will never lead a church over 200 in size.”  That reality should not discourage…it should be a fact of life that needs to be embraced.


2.  Take Note…vitality in the fellowship should be the primary goal.  No matter what our local statistics may be, leadership must engage the people in the disciplines of discipleship in as dynamic a way as can be brought about using the gifts and strengths of any one congregation.  Those disciplines include worship, prayer, study, fellowship, care, and outreach.  Those elements can be present in churches of any size.  They also may be lacking in churches of any size.  I remember the palpable vitality I felt in visiting a Village Missions church in Northern Minnesota several years ago.  An upbeat, positive, forward-looking pastor kept a church of about 50 members well-engaged in the fundamentals of vibrant church life.  The members were mobilized in a way that many churches with greater attendance are not.


3.  Take Stock…analyze and celebrate what is happening no matter where you are statistically.  Whether you are growing or shrinking, identify where vitality exists in your fellowship, spotlight it, celebrate it, and fan the flames of its success.  This can be in either formal ministry programs or in the informal expressions of ministry in the daily lives of your people.  Since you are still gathering regularly, there is some sense of identity that is holding you together.  That identity needs to be nurtured and linked to the Spirit-motivated activity that is taking place.  Leadership needs to keep their eyes open in order to regularly highlight the good things that are happening.  When the people sense that there is forward movement even in small ways, they will be inspired to continue to be faithful in making positive contributions toward future progress.


Ultimately, we should be following Christ’s forward lead in the Church, as he made it clear long ago in his declaration, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  May God give us the boldness to step out in faith to lead our people forward regardless of our current statistics!

                                                Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director




Quarter 2 & 3  2020 - Volume 24 - Number 2

Since the death of George Floyd there have been genuinely peaceful protests around our country that have rightfully focused on the need for humane and proper behavior on the part of police officers.  No doubt there will be helpful reform that will come in several directions as a result.


Other responses however, which continue to rage on at this writing, have come in the form of anarchic nihilism in which people have thrown all reason and civility to the winds.  Burning, looting, destroying statues and monuments, and doing bodily harm to both peace officers and civilians has gone on, sometimes totally unanswered by the powers that be.


The argument that such anarchists raise is that current conditions cannot be tolerated:  systemic racism permeates every institution of American life; capitalism is simply a manifestation of white supremacy; the forces of law and order cannot be allowed to operate because they too are a source of oppression.  Nothing is right as it stands now…everything must be destroyed.


In the minds of such people, there is an imagined utopia that somehow has not yet been realized.  In exasperation, they conclude therefore that everything must be scrapped.  The only problem is that there is no compelling vision of a new system or arrangement proposed…only the destruction of what has been.


The tragedy of nihilistic civil unrest that goes unchecked is that honest, hard-working contributors to the general welfare are seriously undermined and harmed.  People who have worked for decades to build up their own businesses, given jobs to people, enhanced their communities, raised their families, and supported their churches can have a lifetime of work destroyed in a night of burning and looting.


How do we respond to all of this…and how does it apply to the ministry of the church?  Let me suggest…


1.  Let’s be disabused of the silly notion that utopia this side of heaven will ever be realized.  Every system is flawed because they are operated by flawed human beings.  We cannot expect perfection in a fallen world.  Even churches are led by imperfect, yet forgiven sinners.


2.  Let’s not forsake our ideals simply because of today’s imperfection.  On both the community front and church front, we need to keep the ideal of how things ought to be in mind and work toward that.


3.  Let’s discover the structures already in place that can facilitate change.  In most cases, there are ways to bring about change in a non-destructive manner. People of good will can coalesce to make it happen.


4.  Let’s proceed toward change with respect for the status quo.  The way things are today are that way for a reason.  Sometimes the rationale for things being the way they are has not been well-communicated in the past.  Wisdom needs to be exercised so that important values are not simply neglected in the process of change.  The inherent good in the status quo needs to be preserved.


5.  Let’s respect and celebrate the contributions made by people to bring us to this point.  In our nation and in our churches, we would not have a stage to stand on to bring about change without the hard work and sacrifices of the past.  There needs to be a genuine celebration of that contribution.


May God give us the grace to patiently work toward change, resisting the temptation to nihilism while stretching toward godly ideals.

                                                Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director




Quarter 4 2020 -  Volume 24 - Number 3

The year 2020 will be recorded as one of the most remarkable seasons in American history.  The profound impact of a pandemic with all of the attendant economic and personal effects will be commented on for many years to come. 


In the church, the usual ways of doing things have been shelved for the moment.  Large group gatherings have been curtailed; small group gatherings are on an uncomfortable footing; whole segments of the church membership have been homebound.  Attendance has dropped off.  Some people are simply not accounted for and have slipped into no-man’s-land.


For many churches that have a lot of older saints in their membership their identity as a local assembly has been nearly erased overnight.  Others with more age groups represented still wonder what the coming months and years will be like.  Will some people everreturn to the fellowship?  So, what has Covid taught us regarding church ministry?  Let me suggest…


1.  Covid has revealed that the American church may have been pursuing ministry with some faulty foundations.  The premise of American church life to this point has included the concept that there are no limits, no restrictions, and we can proceed to whatever heights we want.  We have the money to build big buildings, equip them with the latest hi-tech stuff, pack them out with thousands of people, and this will propel us forward.  Bigger is better and we will enjoy endless progress.  Well, both a virus and government regulation turned those presuppositions on their head.  We have had shown to us that outward trappings of the Church are not necessarily limitless.  But those trappings should never have been our proof of real ministry anyway.


2.  Covid has forced us to return to the relational fundamentals of ministry.  The fundamentals of ministry lie in the relationships we build with God and with other people.  Covid has forced us to drop back and attempt to be very solicitous of the needs of those in our membership.  Since we don’t have the guarantee that we will see people face to face on Sunday, we have to make a personal effort to reach out to them and know what their needs are.  Those who do not do this through this season will see members slipping away.


3.  Covid has tended to cause flexibility and creativity to flourish.  It has been impressive to see pastors and leaders mobilize to provide ongoing services to people like streaming worship online, organizing Zoom Bible studies, and doing what can be done to maintain public health in their facilities.  It speaks of a commitment to meet challenges head on and it is commendable.


4.  Covid cannot kill the church; the Church is still marching on!  Jesus made it clear that he would build the church and the gates of hell would not be able to stand up against it.  Some of the public expressions of the work of the church have been eclipsed in this season, but the informal reach of the church in homes, schools, the marketplace, and community through a mobilized membership have continued on and will do so no matter what.  The historical example of the Church in China should encourage us…even being forced underground does not kill the Church.


May God give us the grace to march on into the post-pandemic opportunities that lie ahead, with a fresh foundation of Christ-like ministry established!


Timothy A. Johnson, Executive Director