Thom and Sam Ranier, writing in the January-February issue of Outreach Magazine, talk about a church’s conversion ratio as one way to tell if a church is evangelistically healthy. Their research indicates that an evangelistically healthy church maintains an annual ratio of at least 20:1. That means that it takes 20 people within that church to win one person. They further state that of the estimated 400,000 US churches, only 3.5% are effective evangelistically. That means that four churches out of 100 maintain a conversion ratio of 20:1 or better.

The nation’s population is now 300 million. If only 3.5% of the churches are healthy in evangelism, there is only one healthy evangelistic church for every 21,400 persons in the United States. (Outreach Magazine, Outreach Inc., 2230 Oak Ridge Way, Vista, CO 92081, January-February, 2007 issue, page 16. NOTE: You might want to subscribe to this magazine.)

One of our emphases on healthy churches is that they are effective in their evangelism as evidenced by influencing unchurched persons to place their faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus says in Luke 19:10 that he came to seek and save the lost. A lot of churches are proud that they are fundamental, conservative and evangelistic, but they never really reach many unchurched, unsaved persons. I hear of wonderful altar services where Christians pray and make commitments to a deeper life. But rarely does the deeper life result in their leading lost people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. To me, and I think I’ve said this before in this blog, that spiritual depth is not measured by what you know, but whether you are using what you know to make new disciples for Jesus.

So, how are you doing in your outreach?

There was something that I wanted to say and just forgot, so here is a little add-on to yesterday’s SFD (Single Focused Determination) post.

What distracts us? I am sure we could develop quite a list. But after developing that list, most of the things would be good, decent things. Satan knows better than to try to distract most of us by suggesting something evil, bad, or unchristian. So he tries to get us so busy with so many good things that we do not focus on the best things.

Most of the distractions are good things, but developing a SFD upon that which is best helps us prioritize our day-to-day pressures and demands on our time. It seems to me that being able to identify from our to-do lists those items that are “best” is a sure way to live a life with SFD.
What do you think?

A few weeks ago EJ and I were in Wheaton, Ill., with our granddaughter celebrating here sixth birthday. She had received an Ant Farm as a gift at Christmas but hadn’t sent for the ants until just before her birthday. The ants arrived the same day we did. What excitement to open a package of ants and turn them loose in the ant farm.

Most of the ant farms I had seen consisted of sand, but not this one. It had a blue translucent gel material that had been developed by NASA. It seems they took some ants into space to see how they reacted to weightlessness and they needed a medium they could live in safely in space. So, this gel was developed. Anyway, we turned them loose. What an amazing sight.

The ants began running around the case in which they were placed. It looked like they were totally disorganized. But soon it became apparent that was not the case. Little balls of the blue gel began piling up on the surface. Looking closer, you could see the ants beginning to make their tunnels. There was an organization after all. Some did the digging with their mouth, laying aside small pieces of the gel, while others picked up the gel and took it away to pile it up out of the way of their tunnel. They worked and ran their little legs off to build their tunnels.

Here is another question that has come to me.

What are we getting if we sign the National Church Covenant?
I have been a licensed minister in this denomination since 1964. There is nothing in the covenant that I did not agree to when I was licensed and then ordained. It is odd to me that some pastors want to object to signing, but they still want to keep their license. The covenant is not just a one-way street, from the church to Huntington. There also must be a path back to the church from Huntington.

I really do believe that the denominational office exists as a resource to the local church. We exist for you, not the other way around. We provide some services, such as:

  • In-depth weekend church assessments.
  • Mentoring/coaching of senior leaders, church elders, boards, and staff.
  • Helping pastors network.
  • Leadership development (i.e. seminars and conferences).
  • Pastoral placement services.
  • Church multiplication/church planting.
  • Counseling for pastors.
  • Full service bookstore.
  • Models of effective ministry.
  • Helping pastors network with other like-minded churches.
  • Helping churches and pastors partner with other churches in Global Ministry opportunities.

Those are some of the resources we provide to churches who choose to partner with us by entering into a covenant relationship. I am very committed to this office being a resource to the local church. Some churches may not feel as though they need us for anything, but by sending their 3.5% partnership fee (one item in the covenant), they help us work with churches that do have needs.

Most of the resources that we provide come with no cost attached. If you are participating by sending your 3.5%, our service to you is simply your “tax dollars at work.” The only resource for which there is a cost is the material you order from our bookstore.

In case you are curious, my initials are RRR, thus triple R. In case you’re not curious, just don’t bother reading this!
Anyway, here are two questions that came to my attention through the grapevine.

How available are you to our church?
I am as available as you want me to be. In other words, every church that has contacted me over the past two years with a request for my service received a response. Whether it was a phone conversation or a visit to a church, I have tried to be available. Now, my style is not to push myself into a church, but rather to respond to invitations and try to work out a mutually agreeable date. I heard someone say a long time ago, “If I’m too big for the small churches, then I’m too small for the large churches.” I agree with that.

I realize I must provide balance to my job. A great deal of administration needs to happen at my desk. But part of the balance is being available to our churches. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not asking to come to any church, but merely responding to a question regarding my availability. I am simply a servant of the church. Now, make no mistake about it: if I come to your church, I will cast the vision God has given me for this denomination. If you don’t know what that is by now, read the previous blog entry.

What if I am at a church that is not growing. Will I be replaced, moved, etc.? Do I have any job security?
It is no secret by now that I really do want to see the Church of the United Brethren grow. Does that mean that every church will grow? Probably not. Some are in very poor locations for growth, and if relocation is not feasible, then probably there will be no growth. Some are controlled by “church bosses” who are more interested in getting their way than reaching lost people. Unless the power block can be broken, probably there will be no growth. If you are a pastor at one of these churches and you are content to stay in that situation, then you’ll probably be left alone.

I believe that healthy churches grow. I do not believe that every growing church is necessarily a healthy church. But healthy churches grow!

Tom Blaylock, our Director of Church Multiplication, recently sent me a review of the book, The Forgotten Ways, by Alan Hirsch. The author lists church growth principles if you want to grow a contemporary church. I don’t believe he was referring to worship style, but simply a church in this contemporary society. He says there are several things you must do and constantly improve upon:

  1. Expand the building to allow for growth.
  2. Ensure excellent preaching in a contemporary style dealing with subjects that relate to the life of the hearers.
  3. Develop an inspiring worship experience by having an excellent band and positive worship leaders.
  4. Have excellent parking.
  5. Ensure excellent programs for children and youth (do so and people will put up with less elsewhere in the-mix).
  6. Develop a good program of cell groups built around a Christian education model to ensure pastoral care and a sense of community.
  7. Make sure that next week is better than last week, to keep people coming.


Just when you think nothing could happen that would shock you, something happens that is a tremendous shock. Of course I am talking about the shootings at Virginia Tech. While I don’t know anyone who was shot, it still caused me a sense of great grief when I heard the news. We live in such a violent and depraved culture. My thoughts and prayers go out for the families and friends of those shot. I trust that you too will join me in praying for the families and friends as well as the administration and faculty of Virginia Tech.

Thank You!

Dave RahnDr. Dave Rahn, professor of youth ministries at Huntington University, has collaborated with Youth for Christ to create a series of materials for young adults focusing on how to build relationships with Jesus Christ and their friends.

The program, titled “3Story®,” was first introduced to students at the Youth for Christ DCLA conference in 2003 and 2006. DCLA is a conference that is held in both Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles for middle school and senior high students. The program proved to be effective and had many students asking how they could take the program back to their friends.

“‘3Story®’ is a way of understanding and seeing how we lean into key relationships that influence us,” said Rahn, “especially as we lean into the key relationship – a relationship with God.” Rahn and YFC took the curriculum from DCLA and polished it into a set of eight one-hour sessions. Each session is used mainly in a small-group setting and includes resources to stimulate discussions and support clips.

The “3Story®” curriculum, published by Zondervan and Youth Specialties, is available at and booksellers nationwide. The kit includes the two-disc curriculum course and five participant guides.

Cal Hodgon (right), pastor of Heritage UB church in Dansville, Mich., also plays basketball for the Lansing Capitals, a minor-league pro basketball team. Last weekend they played the Grand Rapids Fight, which boasts the world’s tallest basketball player–Sun Ming Ming of China at 7 feet, 9 inches. The online Daily Press and Argus published an article about the game, which included comments from Hodgson about Sun Ming Ming.