Karl Vaters

Discipleship Looks More Like Sacrifice Than Success

I’ve chosen to be a follower of Jesus. A disciple. From the moment I did that, I gave up ownership of my life.

My life is no longer mine. It’s his. So my goals don’t matter anymore. My potential is not enough. Not for me, my church, my family or my ministry.

I don’t want my best. I want God’s best. Because his best is so much better than my best.

Of course that’s what so many of these self-help gurus are claiming. That, whatever my dreams for my life are, God has 10 or 100 times more than that for me. (The really holy ones will use old-timey bible terms like 10-fold and 100-fold).

But the difference between my best and God’s best for me is not a matter of scale. It’s not that I’m asking for 100 and God wants me to ask for 1,000 or 10,000. Getting more of what I want is not God’s best, it’s just more of my best.

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The Grasshopper Myth Hits a Major Milestone!

Testimonies come in every day from church leaders who have read The Grasshopper Myth.

“A burden is lifted off my shoulders.” “I have a renewed vision for what my church can really be.” “Like a lot of cool water to a parched soul.” “God has given me new strength, joy and hope for my great small church!”

As I read words like these, it causes me to pray every day, “God, I don’t know what you’re doing with this, but whatever it is, please help me not to screw it up.”

Not exactly the poetry of The Serenity Prayer, but it’s just as sincere.

Here’s the latest sign of how many people are being touched by this little-book-that-could. While doing a quick inventory of books for our internal record-keeping, I realized that at some time in the past month or so…

We sold our 5,000th copy of The Grasshopper Myth!

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23 Non-Numerical Signs of a Healthy Church

“If we don’t use numbers to determine if a church is healthy, what criteria should we use?”

I get that question a lot. Mostly from other pastors.

And no, they’re not being facetious when they ask it. They truly don’t know the answer.

Isn’t that… I don’t know… a little disturbing to anyone? Have we really become so obsessed with numbers that many, maybe most pastors really don’t know how to tell what a healthy church looks like, outside of crunching the numbers?

The truth is, I’m not opposed to taking church attendance or tracking our numbers. I’m in favor of them. Numbers can help us see things objectively that we might otherwise be blind to. But just like lack of numbers can blind us to some truths, an obsession with numbers can blind us to other truths.

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The Growing Disconnect Between Spiritual Hunger and Church Attendance

Doing church together is an essential aspect of what it means to be a Christian. But church attendance rates keep dropping in most of the developed world.

Why? I often hear it’s because people aren’t as spiritually-minded as they used to be. After all, if it’s not their fault, then some of it might be our fault. And that can’t be.

But the evidence doesn’t support that. In fact, it suggests that people’s spiritual hunger may be growing, not shrinking. Spiritually-themed books, movies, TV shows and blogs are having a major resurgence. Alternative spirituality is booming.

Spiritual hunger isn’t a cultural thing. That God-shaped hole is hard-wired into every one of us. Church attendance isn’t down because people have stopped caring about spiritual things. It’s because we haven’t done such a great job at showing them how church attendance will help them answer that longing.

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Small Church Ministry: A Stepping-Stone Or a Place to Stand?

You know that pastor you run in to at church conferences who’s always looking over your shoulder to see if there’s someone better to talk to?

A lot of us may be doing that to the church we’re pastoring.

In a recent comment on NewSmallChurch.com, a reader named Tom Burkholder wrote this: “As a bi-vocational pastor for over 23 years there are very few fellow ministers who do not see small churches as stepping stones instead of real long-term ministries.”

I responded to him this way:

“That’s a great point about stepping-stones, Tom. I think one of the big reasons many Small Churches stay unhealthy when they don’t need to, is that too many pastors aren’t putting their heart into the Small Church ministry they have.

“Instead, they’re looking for something bigger – or they put all their energy into making their Small Church bigger, instead of healthier. This makes the church they are supposed to be pastoring feel overlooked and neglected. That’s not a great recipe for a healthy ministry or a healthy church.”

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Don’t Try To Be Successful – Try To Do Good Work

I’ve always tried to live my life and do ministry by this rule: Don’t try to be successful. Try to do good work. Not people-pleasing work, God-honoring work Not self-promoting work, Christ-magnifying work Not numbers-driven work, Spirit-led work The one time in my ministry that I abandoned this principle and did things for the numbers, I

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Great Small Church Leadership Teams Aren’t Hired, They’re Built

People often ask me how I was able to hire such a great leadership team in our Small Church. My answer? We didn’t hire our team. We built it from the inside out. And we’re still building it. Not one of our staff members was hired from outside the church – other than me. They were all attenders and members

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Church Members Aren’t Attending as Often – Are They Trying to Tell Us Something?

Church attendance is down in the western world. Why? Because church members don’t attend as consistently as they used to. That’s not the only reason church attendance is down, of course. It’s not even the main reason. But it’s definitely a trend I have seen as a pastor. And it needs to be addressed. But how?

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