Posted on January 3rd, 2014 at 10:04 PM by Brad Bridges
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In an attempt to reach younger people at my previous church, we made a decision to start what we called “Third Service,” a highly contemporary worship service. After spending six months planning, we launched it and the church was packed! Success!

But it didn’t last. With each passing service, attendance dwindled until we only had a handful of people. After nine months, we shut it down.

Why did this ministry fail? Because we were trying to meet a need that wasn’t there, something I think we church leaders tend to do a lot. We brainstorm and plan ministries that look great on paper. But in reality, we have no idea if that’s where God is calling us to minister.

So, what’s a better approach to starting a new ministry?
Here are five practices I’ve discovered are critical before starting a new ministry.


1. Don’t start with a strategic plan.
A strategic plan is critical, but it’s not helpful if we start it too early. First, we need to discern what people in our community care about and struggle with, as well as how God wants to reach our community.

2. Start by listening.
Any effective ministry starts not with planning, but with listening.

  • Listen to your neighbors. Simply put, ministry is intended to connect people to God. But people experience that connection in different ways. Some experience it through music, some through thoughtful discussions, some by being clothed and fed. We need to listen to our neighbors to discern their needs.
  • Listen to God. We do this by spending time in the scriptures, through prayer, and by reflecting together on what we are hearing and learning from our neighbors.

3. As you listen, ask, “What is God up to?”
I am convinced that God is already at work in the world ahead of his church. Whereas I used believe that people could only experience God if I brought God to them, I now believe that God is already at work in the lives of people in our neighborhood and he invites us to join him in that work.


4. Then ask, “How can we join God in what God is already doing?”
As church members and leaders begin to discern what God is up to in their neighborhood, they will naturally begin to discover how they might participate with God in the ministry he is already doing.

5. Start the strategic planning process.
Having listened to your neighbors, listened to God, discerned what God is doing, and now that you have a sense of how you might join God—now you can start putting a ministry plan together.

I’ve got two more posts coming in which I’ll share with you a very simple and effective learning process called Neighborhood Connection Groups that helps us implement these practices. In my next post, I’ll describe exactly how we run these groups. In my third post, I’ll share some of the benefits we’ve experienced from these groups.


Markus Watkins Bio: Markus Watson is the pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in San Diego, California.  He is completing a Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary focusing on Missional Leadership.  Markus is a contributor to the film review journal, Visual Parables, and the book, Finding Church.  Read more from Markus at

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Posted on December 6th, 2013 at 5:00 AM by Brad Bridges

Richard Moore has been preaching and communicating to youth since 1994. He is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry.  He is married to Simone and has 3 children, Ana, Lydia, and Caleb.  Richard is passionate about seeing an ever-increasing number of students come to know, worship, and obey Jesus authentically.  To connect with Richard click here


As I described in my last post Paul’s discipleship strategy was intense, personal and emotional.

Please be sure to read the passage that was described in 1Thessalonians 2:1-19 before continuing.


1. Suffering (for the Gospel)
2. Boldness (in the Gospel)
3. Opposition (He faced opposition to the Gospel)
4. Exhortation (A deep pleading to obey the Gospel)
5. Approved (He was deeply called by God)
6. Entrusted (He was entrusted with the gospel, and He entrusted them also with the sacred Gospel.)
7. Spoke to please God, not men (Paul always sought to please Jesus through reliance on Him.)
8. Non-flattering speech (He did not seek to flatter the Thessalonians, but was in their face, or told them the truth in love.)
9. Non-greedy (He sought to never be a burden on them.)
10. Non-glory seeking (He sought only God and His glory.)
11. Gentle (as a nursing mother)
12. Affectionate
13. Labored (Faithfully labored among them)
14. Experienced Hardship (Faced great hardship for the gospel and them)
15. Proclaimed Fearlessly the gospel
16. Devoutly (He was devout, so they could see holiness in action.)
17. Uprightly (Not just a holy life, but he avoided things that could be construed as not being right.)
18. Blamelessly (and walked a blameless life in Christ in front of them)
19. Exhorting (as a father does his children. Notice he made it personal by seeing himself as their mother and father. It’s just a bit personal huh?)
20. Encouraging (as a father does his children)
21. Imploring (as a father does his children)
22. Constantly thanked God when the word was received (He rejoiced! I am terribly poor at this!)
23. Connected in the spirit (He saw distance from them as an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to connect them deeper in Christ!)
24. Eagerness to see each other (How many times are we so eager to see each other that you can hardly stand the time when you are not together?)
25. Enduring suffering (He endured suffering for them to get a glimpse into the sufferings of Christ.)
26. Disciples are hope, joy, and crown of exultation in the presence of Jesus at His coming (Do I really think of the students that I have discipled over the years as my crown of exultation (rejoicing) when I stand before Jesus on the day of his return?)

If we are honest, we all probably fall woefully short of this standard of discipleship that Paul lays out in these verses. Let us repent of our inadequacy and learn to lean completely on the adequacy of Christ to disciple his Church through us. He will after all do that for and in us.

Remember the great commission, where He promises us that we will be his witnesses:


Let us run to Jesus the perfect discipler and “fisher of men”, and ask Him to make us desperate for Him, and His way of affection, boldness, suffering, gentleness, Holiness, and rejoicing that He lived in, and now lives in for us. Jesus is alive in heaven and praying for your discipleship strategy to be effective! “Who (Jesus) is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding (praying) for us.” (Romans 8:34 ESV)


To go back and read part one of this series click here
Stay tuned for the final part of this series about Radical Hospitality.

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Posted on December 3rd, 2013 at 7:22 PM by Brad Bridges

College football kicker receives death threats

As someone who once was a kicker, I hated to see what people said about the Alabama kicker on Saturday. It was interesting to note that the kicker that was being demonized and received death threats was not the one who missed the final field goal. My focus here is not on who missed what field goal or in anyway evaluate their performance on the field. As I process this event my gut reaction was to get frustrated and focus on how disappointed I was in those people who criticized the kicker.


But the silver lining in the story is that those who sent the death threats are now the ones who are watching the kicker rise to stardom as tens of thousands of people in the state of Alabama and around the world come along side the kicker to encourage him, to speak out against those who’ve threatened, and also to make the point that sports should never be a life or death issue, and definitely not an opportunity to make threats. One writer’s apology to Cade Foster went viral: “Dear Cade Foster…I want to apologize.” Well said Kaitlin Goins, well said.

Taking it a step further

One of the real difficult parts of this story was thinking a little deeper. Did Jesus die for those people that made death threats against a kicker who missed a few field goals? Any bible believing christian, I would hope, would say yes! Jesus died for them too! You see, we enjoy demonizing others as it helps us not to have to wrestle with and address our own faults. Each of our sins are just as deplorable as the sins of those who made threats against the kicker, so rather than focusing on calling out those who made the threats, I think we should focus on the filth our own sin and our gratitude for the sacrifice God the Father made in sending His Son to die for us. May we daily walk with the spirit as he refines and shapes us more into the likeness of Christ.

Black friday sales down, a discussion of why

Black friday sales were down this year. How in the world could sales be down? If you live in America, you know what I mean. Black friday sales plummeted because sales moved to Thursday (see the articles on Fox News and CNN). The christian world is divided on their perception of Thursday sales. Many people seem to be upset and communicating doomsday thoughts about how in the world we could possibly have people work on Thanksgiving, while the other side says that at least people have work and other opportunities.

The bigger issue

The real problem to me is the pervasive materialism and interest in accumulating rather than giving. My intent here is not to judge anyone who went shopping on black friday (after all there are very good deals on that one day that aren’t there the rest of the year.) What concerns me is that we have such an excitement in our culture about buying more things but very little excitement about giving things away (other than today’s #GivingTuesday). Endless economic discussion goes on while we as Americans still lavish the opportunity to go spend more money on a weekend where we should be saying thanks.

What is do you think?

Hunger Games – Catching Fire


The christian world is split yet again on another issue: Hunger Games Series. Others such as Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition and Tyler O’Neil at The Christian Post have evaluated and assessed not only the movie but our interpretations of it. The movies are clearly not meant to portray the bible, but while watching them its hard to miss the self sacrificial overtones that Katniss demonstrates not only for the people in the movie, but for the viewer. The ideal of sacrificing self lives on, not only in christianity but in the movies.

In Suzanne Collins post end of the world, non ideal society, the viewer is forced to wrestle with the idea of what life will be like after the end of the world. This issue is one that our society grapples with virtually everyday and seems to be playing out its ideas, fears, hopes, and dreams in modern day movies.

Connecting with an unbelieving world

It saddens me when christians come out wholeheartedly against a movie and then find themselves unable to connect with an unbelieving world. How is your church or ministry utilizing movies such as Hunger Games – Catching Fire to connect with those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ? What have you learned about yourself or God as you watched and/or processed this movie?

Mark Driscoll accused of plagiarism | Dave Ramsey accused of prosperity gospel

mark-driscoll dave-ramsey

Over the weekend there was a significant amount of media attention, at least online, centered around the personalities and ministries of Mark Driscoll and Dave Ramsey. Although I’m not in any way, shape, or form a copyright expert or lawyer, it appears that various ideas are found in Driscoll’s new book “A Call to Resurgence” that are in others books (see the Patheos article here). Although the copyright issue will have to play out in other context I was particularly concerned with the attacks on both sides at times. It certainly would be encouraging to see more christian leaders humbly working out their differences in private or in public in a way that honors the Lord and doesn’t put either one down.

Many people are asking tough questions about a post that Dave Ramsey (known for “Total Money Makeover” and “Financial Peace University“) put on his website that some area allege hints at a prosperity Gospel. Depending on how one defines the prosperity gospel this may or may not be the case. Mr. Ramsey is clearly not pleased nor are those who are criticizing him happy with what some are calling “a lack of compassion for the poor.” Hopefully the two sides can come to see the validity on managing ones resources (financial, material belongings, time, thoughts, etc.) as well as showing compassion for those who have grown up in systems that have made it difficult for them to succeed in life (to say the least). I’m not sure there is an easy answer here but compassion for your brother and sister in Christ should extend to both those who are hurting and in need of help as well as to those who are in need of accountability and better decision making. Perhaps if both of those could be achieved true financial peace would be accomplished with or without money. What do you think?

Paul Walker

Paul Walker passed away this weekend in a tragic car crash in California. He was on his way to an event to support a non-profit that helps victims of natural disasters. The star of the movie Fast and Furious and many other movies, left behind a teenage daughter and many loyal supporters. Those supporters eulogized Paul on Social Media throughout the weekend.

Paul Walker

The concept of social mourning is nothing new as this has gone on at funerals for a long time. But today we are seeing a growing trend of social media mourning. The news breaks, people share it, and people begin processing their shock together online. My fear is that, although beneficial to process with others, people may be retreating into further isolation by not processing their grief with others in person. This grief lives on as it is now commonplace to see Facebook pages of the deceased getting comments and posts years after their deaths.

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Posted on November 29th, 2013 at 5:00 AM by Brad Bridges

Richard Moore has been preaching and communicating to youth since 1994. He is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry.  He is married to Simone and has 3 children, Ana, Lydia, and Caleb.  Richard is passionate about seeing an ever-increasing number of students come to know, worship, and obey Jesus authentically.  To connect with Richard click here


Paul’s discipleship strategy was very  intense, personal and emotional.  That is why it was also so effective.

One of the many passages where he expresses that strategy is found in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-19, where he expresses his deep affection for the Thessalonian believers.

Guest Blogger 01 - image to use - valentin paul writing 1800x1337

Actually, I am pretty sure that if Paul read the title of my blog it would seem so foreign to him to call this a ‘strategy’ because it was so personal to him. But that is the label we put on it in the modern era of ministry.

Discipleship (Only) Happens on Sundays…?!

As we all know and are probably familiar with, many of our modern attempts to disciple people into the life of Christ have and are failing. We, as the modern Church, have for the most part relegated the discipleship life to what we as a church do on Sundays.  This would never have been able to fit into the practice of Paul. He could not have even come close to accomplishing what he describes in this passage only on Sundays.

I recently heard from a mentor and friend that a very famous preacher said that, “discipleship happens during my sermons on Sundays”! Paul would have never thought this could, would, or should be a true discipleship.

I also heard from this same mentor that a youth pastor had been, ‘let go’ recently after 10 years at a large church. This youth pastor was of course devastated.  He was devastated because youth ministry is the ministry in churches, in my experience, that comes closest to what Paul talks about here. In youth ministry over time you get really close to people in your desire to minister to them.  This has been my experience at least.

Paul’s Discipleship Strategy

As I read and exegeted Paul’s experience or ‘strategy’ of discipleship it blew me away how little of those things I actually did while discipling students for the past 8 years. I practiced only some of these aspects that Paul describes, and that is why it was very hard to leave my most recent church like I did in August. When you show a deep affection, your job then as a pastor or youth pastor becomes so personal. It is not a job anymore.

The following passage describes what I believe is the beginning of Paul’s discipleship strategy, not the whole of it but just the beginning.  Paul practiced these things with the Thessalonian believers and I ask myself, Does my discipleship strategy line up with his?…


Stay Tuned for the next installment in this series.

Posted on November 27th, 2013 at 8:48 AM by Susan Malphurs

Thankfulness is a quality that God has asked us to have! But, many of us become so busy or tired to remember just what we can and should be thankful for. Many times those things are the simplest things.


I went to see Calvin today. And as I sat on the step with him, his head on my lap, his mouth on my hand, I realized how simple the satisfaction of that was. I was thankful for this big “beast”. And he was just loving me!

As I drove away, I thought of all the other simple things I was thankful for, here are a few:

  • God’s love for me
  • Freedom to think and believe in what I want
  • Having others who make my live richer and better
  • My home
  • My family. All of them, which includes my four children and their spouses and children, my five siblings, their spouses and children and the many ways friends share their kindness and love.
  • Travel to places I would never have dreamed of when I was a child
  • Art and music


It is God’s idea to be thankful. And it is very, very important to instill that idea in those around us whom we love and minister to. I truly believe thankfulness is best “caught” than “taught”, and we can all be a good example of that.


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Posted on November 25th, 2013 at 5:00 AM by Brad Bridges

I struck out. Not once. Not twice. But three times. 0 for 3. #fail

You’ve felt that way. You failed. You forgot a crucial task. Your team plateaued.

All organizations experience vision limp. We reach that plateau. We become consumed by activity. We trade vision for a monotony prison.


1) From suture to future

Day to day fires erupt. First we get interrupted. Soon we live for the interruptions. Interruptions consume our day and thinking. Shift from sutures (“urgent” interruptions) to future. Visionaries paint a picture of the future.

Past and present inform future vision. But future vision doesn’t conform to the past. ***Tweet This***

2) From mission language to vision

Nearly 90% of all leaders communicate mission language when asked about their vision. We are battling a vacuum of vision. Don’t state what you will do (mission). Visualize a future result of strategic action.

Visionaries create the future with words before realizing it with their actions. ***Tweet This***

3) From status quo to status know

Most pastors don’t achieve vision clarity. The status quo is here.

If you don’t know where you are going you’ve chosen the status quo.


Evacuate the status quo. Move to status know. Clarify your vision. Identify priority metrics. Unleash a focused team. The day you hit 0-3, you can chose to avoid that feeling at all costs. You can also choose to normalize it, to create a pattern.

Go eviscerate your vision limp. If you don’t, your temporary 0-3 will become a slump. If you do, your 0-3 will become a celebrated memory of failing forward towards vision clarity.


Strategic Planning Consultant - Take action. Bring a Malphurs Group vision consultant in to guide your church towards vision clarity. Complete the contact us form and we’ll call you to start eviscerating your vision limp.

Leadership Link - Go further. Faster. Sign-up for our Leadership Resource called Leadership Link. We’ll equip you to lead. Click here to receive this free  leadership tool called Leadership Link.

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Posted on November 22nd, 2013 at 8:00 AM by Brad Bridges

You are stuck! Your church grew fast and now you must decide what to do next. You are debating on adding your second site or to start a capital campaign for a new building. Or both!

Simply put, what got you to the point you are at will likely not get you to the next stage. The radical, game changer decisions you made before stoked your internal fire. The next steps will require greater a leaps of faith.

Are you ready? We are.


1) Your Leadership Needs to Change

Your church burst onto the scene. You captivated people with a “Dallas Cowboys Stadium” sized vision. Unstoppable momentum compelled you forward. So, what happened?

As your church grows, your style is as likely to change as Willie Robertson’s beard. You need intentional input and vision clarity to change your leadership culture. Changing your leadership will shock people whose comfort now trumps their growth.

2) The Church’s Vision Lacks Clarity

Celebrate this at first. You’ve accomplished much of your original vision. That’s a radical blessing.

Missional impact increases, discipleship multiplies, and pastors move from the danger zone to the sweet spot when you recalibrate your church’s vision.

Our process ignites visionary thinking. Our consultants navigate the change process with you and your leadership team.

3) Outsiders See Things Insiders Don’t

Few people can adequately evaluate themselves or their company on their own. Get an outside voice, an outside set of eyes.

We don’t take a cookie cutter approach. Our team will push you to assess your context, identify your unique church identity, and clarify the Spirit directed vision that God has for your context.

So what’s holding you back from taking the next step? To reenvision the church you’ll need to recapture the innovative and energetic zeal you once had.





Strategic Planning Consultant - If you are interested in learning about having a Malphurs Group ministry consultant guide your church through the Strategic Envisioning process to revitalize your church, please complete the contact us form on our website. We’ll usually call you within 24 hours.

Leadership Link - Our team regularly sends out a Leadership Resource called Leadership Link focusing on equipping pastors and other Christian leaders to lead. Click here to receive this free monthly leadership tool called Leadership Link.

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Posted on November 21st, 2013 at 1:00 PM by Susan Malphurs

Prejudice creeps into your mind without you even realizing it. Prejudice is not limited to the color of someone’s skin!


Prejudice comes in all shapes, sizes, and targets. It certainly can be there because a person looks or speaks differently than we do. It can also be about those people who live their lives differently than we do. Many prejudices that have nothing to do with race:

A person who has a deformity
Someone who looks differently than you do
People who speak a language we don’t know
The poor
The ill
The substance abuser
Some who makes bad choices
Where someone lives
Someone who divorces their partner and they are Christians
What car they drive
How they dress

There certainly are many more. When we think about how God looks at us, we must remember that He only sees that we are His children. He loves us in spite of any of those things we may be afraid of. He loves us in spite of who we don’t like or who we think we are better than. The church should not have prejudice, but it’s there, and it’s very subtle.

Think about your outreach program or any outreach ministry you’ve been involved in. Most are based on those who are needy. And that’s a really good thing. In our church consulting, we encourage churches to create a vision that involves helping the poor and implementing a clear strategy to reach them with the Gospel.

But we leave these people behind when we walk away from our ministry. We walk back into our own setting. They are still not who we are. They are different. And we are thankful we are not them.

Read that again. We are thankful we are not them. Ouch!


I feel the guilt of this so often when I start down that path of thinking somehow, someway, I am better.  We are all at the mercy of God and His love and have no idea what will happen tomorrow that would cause others to have a prejudice against us.

It is helpful to pray for others, but it’s also helpful to get to know people who are not like you and understand that they have lives and families and tragedy too. They just look different. They act different. Or is it you? Me? Us? Maybe we are different?

Pray God will give us eyes to see others as He sees them. In His image.

How will you or your church work to reduce, eliminate, or confess prejudice in the months ahead?

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Posted on November 18th, 2013 at 10:20 AM by Brad Bridges

In the movie “Elf” Will Farrell chews gum that he took off a subway handrail. Disgusting…I know!

Most pastors feel the same way about capital campaigns. Disgusted.

But what if you embraced a few reasons to love capital campaigns? Don’t check out. I’m not crazy…it is possible. Ingest, hate, or embrace these three reasons. They could transform your perspective.


1) The challenge to take a steps of faith

Raising a large amount of money stretches most everyone. It reconnects us to the radical nature of our faith. God gets the credit, not us.

2) The joy of our faith impacting our finances

Impossible! Right? Wrong.

The giver always experiences great joy. Rob people of the chance to give and you’ll take away their joy (or at least part of it).

3) Capital campaigns propel us to vision clarity and strategic thinking

When you invest a large amount of money in something, you need clarity about its return. Flee vision ambiguity and strategy dearth.

Capital campaigns will push you towards clarity. They’ll force you to define your direction and the steps to get there. They raise the temperature on your leadership.


For information about capital campaigns or strategy consulting with The Malphurs Group, contact us.

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Posted on November 2nd, 2013 at 4:27 PM by Susan Malphurs

Psychologist Dr. Richard Blackmon finds pastors to be “the single most occupationally frustrated group in America” resulting in 30 to 40% of them dropping out of ministry altogether.

Members of the clergy suffer from higher rates of obesity, depression and hypertension. And 25% of them do not know where to turn when they have a family or personal conflict or issue. (Request information about confidential marriage coaching for those in ministry or marriage coaching training for your church)

Pastors need safe, unconditional acceptance and participation in true, transparent Christian community. If they don’t have this security amidst the frustrations, the likelihood of burnout increases.


How do you know if you are on the verge of Burnout?

The Mayo Clinic has listed Signs of Burnout:
– Being overly cynical or critical.
– Having a hard time getting started on an assignment.
– Behaving irritably.
– Lacking the energy to be consistently productive.
– Lacking satisfaction from achievements.
– Appearing disillusioned or expressing disillusionment.
– Using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or simply to not feel.
– Changed sleeping or eating habits.
– Suffering from unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints.

The Downward Spiral: What happens during burnout
– Burnout causes inefficiency.
– Inefficiency creates increasing demands.
– Demands create pressure and guilt for not achieving.
– Added pressure and guilt causes stress.
– Stress causes depletion of energy and drive…which in turn causes inefficiency.

How to help yourself
– Develop relationships and hobbies outside of the church.
— Delegate.
— End bad relationships.
— Have fun on purpose.
– Consider getting a Leadership Coach for accountability and momentum.

– Do things you wish you could do.
– Walk away when needed.
– Take time for yourself and those you love.
– Pray and Laugh. And if you can’t…find someone who will help you do that.


To request information about Leadership Coaching with The Malphurs Group, contact us.