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Posts tagged top 10 lists

Blog / Discipleship

Top 10 Best & Worst of 2012

December 31, 2012

Another year has come and gone. And with all due respect to the ancient Mayans, looks like there will be a 2013. Before we move on the next year, here’s my list of the best and worst of 2012.

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Blog / Leadership

Top 10 Books I Read in 2012

December 27, 2012

I love books, digital books and dead tree books. Here are some of the best I read in 2012.

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Blog / Miscellaneous

My 2012 Top 10 Christmas Movies

December 7, 2012

Since Christmas movies have been playing all week, I thought it was time to update and post my annual Top 10 Must-See Christmas Movie List. Here’s my 2012 list…

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Blog / Leadership

10 Leadership Lessons from My 1st Global Leadership Summit

August 12, 2012

I caved into the peer pressure of the Every Nation Nashville office and attended the Nashville live satellite feed of the Willow Creek Association’s annual Global Leadership Summit last week. I’m glad I did. Here are my Top 10 tweets from that summit, and musings from it.

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Blog / Missions

A Mosque on Every Corner, the Power of Prayer & Other Reflections on Egypt

July 5, 2012

I’m sitting in he Dubai airport on my way from Cairo to Manila. A three hour and forty-five minute layover to reflect on my first trip to Egypt. Here are the top 10 thoughts bouncing around my exhausted mind.

1. THE POWER OF KINDNESS. While boarding our Dubai to Cairo flight, Pastor Shaddy Solomon and I were behind a burka-covered woman who was struggling to herd three small children onto the plane while dragging four oversized carry-ons. As Shaddy helped her with her heavy bags she said, “you must be a Christian.” The obvious implication was that no man from her religion would lift a finger to help a woman. The kindness of God leads people to repentance (Romans 4:2). I hope we do a better job of demonstrating his kindness to our “cousins” in the Middle East.

2. THE PAIN OF POVERTY. I hate to admit it, but I think I have gotten used to the poverty in Manila. It doesn’t bother me like it did 25 years ago. Cairo takes poverty to a whole new level, and my eyes and heart were reopened to the brutal pain of poverty. I hope I never get over it. God’s word has so much to say about the poor. And most of it is about what we should do to help them.

3. THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL. Many prosperity preachers do more harm than good. Most Egyptian believers are poor in material goods but rich in faith, and there is much the wealthy West can learn from them.

4. SAUDI ARABIA FLAGS AT TAHRIR SQUARE. Difficult to understand how Egyptians can tolerate Saudi money meddling in their national politics. I can’t imagine foreign flags at a political rally in DC or Manila, but they are ubiquitous in Tahrir Square.

5. NO PRIVATE FAITH. Muslim men are not ashamed to publicly express their faith. They kneel and pray five times a day in offices, malls, restaurants, sidewalks and every other place you can imagine. They don’t do the personal private religion thing. All public. No shame. I wish Christian men would be so bold.

6. THE BEST BREAD IN THE WORLD! Man should not live on bread alone, but if he does, it should be fresh Egyptian bread.

7. A MOSQUE ON EVERY CORNER. Cairo has Mosques everywhere. And many were built with Saudi oil money. This fact reality tempts me to trade my wife’s gas-guzzling truck for a Prius. (I’ll keep my VW.)

8. CHRISTIAN SUPORT OF ISRAEL. Christians in the Middle East don’t understand the Western church’s blind support of the state of Israel, especially when Israel consistently persecutes Arabic-speaking Christians. I don’t understand it either.

9. CHURCH AND STATE. When the church becomes more political than prophetic it loses it’s voice.

10. THE POWER OF PRAYER. When Catholics, Coptics and Evangelicals pray together, something good is bound to happen. On our last night in Cairo, we attended a 2-hour prayer meeting at a Presbyterian church in Tahrir Square, along with 1500 believers from every church flavor in Egypt. This prayer meeting has been happening every Monday for over 10 years. All this prayer probably had something to do the original revolution, which seems to have been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood. But prayer is more powerful than protest and while thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were outside protesting, 1500 believers were inside praying for their nation. Who do you think ultimately wins that battle?

Blog / Church

Seven Deadly Sins of the Pulpit

June 1, 2012

I was digging through an old notebook this morning, looking for notes on Ephesians 1 for my sermon this weekend at Bethel Franklin. I did not find what I was looking for, but I did find piles of vintage Steve Murrell sermons. This blog is a summary of a sermon I preached at Victory-Manila in November, 2004. Not sure where the original idea come from, but I think it was inspired by a conversation with Rice Broocks.


It is increasingly common today to hear parts of the gospel proclaimed. The same was happening in the early church. In Acts 20:26,27 Paul says to the Ephesian church elders, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you.  For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the WHOLE WILL OF GOD. (Acts 20:26, 27)

Unlike many modern preachers, Paul refused to edit out the difficult parts of the message. He insisted on preaching the whole gospel.

In 604, Pope Gregory wrote about the “Seven Deadly Sins” which included pride, gluttony, envy, lust, anger, greed, and laziness. In the spirit of the Pope’s top seven, here’s my list of “Seven Deadly Sins of the Pulpit.”

1. PREACHING CHRIST WITHOUT THE CROSS. No cost Christianity. Paul determined to know and preach nothing except Christ and Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Today it seems we preach everything but Christ and the cross, causing many to live as enemies of the cross (Philippians 3:18).

2. PREACHING SALVATION WITHOUT SANCTIFICATION. No change Christianity. So many claim Christ today with no evidence or change in their lives, and the pulpit is at least partially to blame.

3. PREACHING DECISIONS WITHOUT DISCIPLESHIP. No commitment Christianity. I know we are getting crowds and decisions, but are we making disciples?

4. PREACHING LOVE WITHOUT LORDSHIP. No compliance Christianity. Jesus is Lord, and because He is Lord, he heals, delivers, provides, and saves.

5. PREACHING PROSPERITY WITHOUT PURPOSE. No cause Christianity. God blesses us so that we can be a blessing.

6. PREACHING BLESSING WITHOUT BIRTHRIGHT. No covenant Christianity. Esau threw away his birthright and still expected a blessing. It does not work that way. If we want the blessing, we must accept the covenantal responsibilities that go with the birthright.

7. PREACHING REVIVAL WITHOUT REFORMATION. No transformation Christianity. We are called to be salt and light, to impact individuals and cultures, families and nations. The gospel is supposed to be transformational.

I have certainly been guilty of all of above at different times in my life as a preacher. As I have matured, hopefully, I’m being more and more faithful to preaching the WHOLE WILL OF GOD. How about you?


Blog / Church / Discipleship

Church Growth: Are You Playing the Numbers Game?

December 8, 2011

A couple of decades ago when I was a fledgling church-planter, I didn't have a clue what I was doing, but I didn't let that stop me. In those days church growth was all the rage. I read church growth books and took a pilgrimage to Korea in an attempt to learn how to grow a church. I think my primary motive was love for the lost, probably mixed with a bit of self-absorbed insecurity and youthful ignorance.

Early on I had this idea that as long as there was one lost person in my city, then my church was not big enough. I still think that way, and I hope I never get over my obsessive compassion for the lost.

While church growth books and seminars seem to now be out of style in most Western circles, I remain convinced that un-churched, de-churched and anti-church people still matter to God, and they should matter to us. I am convinced that we are supposed to do our best to engage our communities with the gospel. If we do a decent job of engaging, our churches will grow. And, that is a good thing, whether our growth is organic, organized or orchestrated.

Anyone concerned with growth will eventually have to deal with numbers. The trick is to figure out which numbers really matter and which numbers don't.

Many church leaders make the mistake of thinking that the two numbers that matter the most are the offering amount and Sunday attendance. Those two numbers often deceive us and never tell the whole story.

Yesterday I received a year end report from my Manila office that contained a lot of numbers about our church (Victory). Some of those numbers were vital, others were simply interesting. Here are 3 of the most important numbers on that report and why they matter to us: 91, 5009, 4183.

91 WORSHIP SERVICES in 16 Metro Manila venues with 58 preaching pastors. Victory is a multi-site multi-service multi-generational church that meets all over Metro Manila. Because leadership development is important to us, we do not use digital sermons, only live preachers. So, for us to grow from 80 services in 14 locations to 91 services in 16 locations, we had to identify, instruct and empower new preachers, kids pastors, worship leaders, head ushers and other leaders. Because we increased the number of venues and worship services, our attendance increased 31.4% from 2010 to 2011. We have averaged about 30% annual growth for 10 consecutive years. But, the most important number is not how many show up, but how many we raise up to places of leadership. That's why discipleship numbers are so important…

5009 DISCIPLESHIP GROUPS (called "Victory Groups") meeting weekly in Metro Manila. That number is probably the most important number we track. It is the foundation of every other number that matters. 5009 represents a 41.8% increase in 12 months. That's a good number and that's good news! We also saw a 29.2% increase (from 1,827 to 2,360) in Training for Victory participation, which is a foundational part of our discipleship training track.

4183 BAPTISMS in 2011. Another important number. Most of our baptisms are conducted at Victory Weekend which had a 71.3% 2010 to 2011 increase from 3149 to 5393 participants.

Are you playing the numbers game? I hope you are, as long as you are tracking the right numbers.

Depending on what kind of church you want to be, some numbers will be more important than others. For us, numbers reflecting evangelism, discipleship and leadership development are the most important numbers we track. The unavoidable and eventual result of evangelism, discipleship and leadership numbers increasing will be more people showing up at our worship services and more money in the offerings.

SUMMARY: Stop obsessing over nickles and noses and start making disciples.

Blog / Family

My 2011 Top 10 Christmas Movies

December 4, 2011

Since Christmas movies have been playing all week, I thought it was time to update and post my annual Top 10 Must-See Christmas Movie List. Here's last year's list. And here's my 2011 list:

10. The Family Man (2000) – A modern version of the best Christmas movie ever (see my #1) starring Nicolas Cage, before he got in IRS trouble and started making lousy movies. Bonus: Don Cheadle is the best angel since Clarence. 

9. Joyeux Noel (2006) – Last Christmas our oldest son introduced us to this Oscar-nominated true story of German, French & Scottish troops in WWI who called a ceasefire on Christmas Eve. Peace on Earth, at least for a night. 

8. Bells of St Mary's (1945) – Bing Crosby as a priest. Ingrid Bergman as a nun. The movie is a bit slow at times, but the 5 minute 1st grade Christmas pageant is worth watching over and over. 

7. Elf (2003) – Opening scene with Sr Elf, Bob Newhart, reading the intro story about different types of elves is worth the price of the DVD.

6. Christmas in Connecticut (1945) – Black and white classic that never gets old.

5. The Nativity Story (2006) – What The Passion of the Christ is to Holy Week, this movie is to Christmas.

4. Christmas Vacation (1989) – It doesn't really feel like Christmas until Cousin Eddie shows up.

3. Die Hard (1988) – Some doubt this is a Christmas movie, but the whole thing took place during an office Christmas party. Bonus: Hans Gruber is the best movie bad guy ever.

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – Wish they still made them like this. Bonus: one of my all-time fav soundtracks, real Jazz on a Christmas album.

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) – THE Christmas classic of all Christmas classics.

PS: Every year after I post my updated list, I get comments asking why A Christmas Story is not on my list. Here's the simple answer: because it's my list and I hate that movie.

Blog / Church / Discipleship

Church Growth: Slow is Fast

October 18, 2011

As I type these words on my iPad, I am 35,000 feet in the air somewhere between Nashville and Detroit, heading to Manila, reading Acts and thinking about church growth.

Too many of us (pastors & church planters) find our value in how many people show up at church functions. The more time I spend in the West, the more I have to shake off that sad obsession with size and remind myself that I am called to make disciples, not to build churches. Jesus said he would build his church – the kind of church that the gates of hell would not be able to stop. He has a long history of doing what he says he will do, so he probably doesn't need my help.

(Note to self: your job is to make disciples, not to build a church. If you make disciples, Jesus will build them into a great church.)

If Jesus had been obsessed with numerical growth like many pastors today, he would have felt like a failure.

QUESTION: After three years – preaching good news, healing the sick, feeding the hungry and discipling 12 men – how many did Jesus have in his "church"?

ANSWER: "In those days Peter stood up among the believers – a group numbering about a hundred and twenty" (Acts 1:15)

Three years and 120 believers. Outreach magazine would have totally ignored those results. And many modern church planters with similar results would be thinking about a career change.

While it took 3 years to grow from 12 to 120 – it only took weeks for the 120 to grow to 1000's. Why? Because in the words of Joey Bonifacio, SLOW IS FAST!

If we focus on making disciples (which is a slow tedious process) it is just a matter of time before those disciples begin to multiply out of control. That's the Book of Acts. And that can be your church, if you focus on making disciples and leave the church growing to Jesus.

Blog / Discipleship

The Next Generation

March 1, 2011
MONDAY REPOST. Wrote the following article/blog many years ago for Evangelicals Today magazine. I re-read it a couple of days ago while doing research for yesterday's "Finish Strong" sermon at Bethel-Franklin. Since i did not have time to incorporate this story into my sermon, I decided to re-post it here.
The year was 1924. The Olympic Games were staged in Paris, France. These were the same Olympics immortalized in the film "Chariots of Fire" that traced the dreams and internal struggles of two Olympic champions, Eric Liddel and Harold Abrahams. While Eric and Harold were fighting for gold on the oval, another battle was raging on the water. And, still, another was being fought all the way across the ocean in Arlington, Virginia.


The United States was expected to bring home the gold in the rowing and canoeing events, and Bill Havens was the heart of the team. A few months before the team took the two-week journey across the ocean, Bill received some good news and some bad news. The good news: his wife was expecting a baby! The bad news: the baby was due about the same time as the 1924 Olympics.


Bill now faced the toughest decision of his life. Should he go to Paris and fulfill his dream of competing in the Olympics and possibly win a gold medal or two? Or, should he stay home in Arlington, Virginia for the birth of his child? Bill spent many sleepless nights agonizing about this decision. Since childhood, he had dreamed of standing on the winner’s platform with the American flag being raised behind him and his national anthem blaring through the loudspeakers. His dream could finally become a reality in a few short months.


After many sleepless nights, Bill Havens arrived at a decision that would haunt him for three decades. He decided it was more important to stand by his wife’s side as she delivered their child than to stand on the winner’s platform and receive an Olympic medal.


As it turned out, Frank Havens was born August 1, 1924, just four days after the closing ceremonies. Had he made the trip to Paris, Bill would have been somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean while his wife was delivering their son.


For almost 30 years, Bill Havens would second-guess his decision. Hardly a day passed that he didn’t relive his gut-wrenching decision. Many nights he had vivid dreams of competing in the Olympics and of winning the gold. He could hear the cheering crowds. But every time he reached out to touch his medal, he would wake up and realize it was just another dream.


The torment finally stopped in the summer of 1952. One brief telegram from Helsinki, Finland convinced him once and for all that almost 30 years ago he had made the right decision. Here’s what the telegram said: "Dear Dad, thanks for waiting around for me to get born in 1924. I’m coming home with the gold medal you should have won. Your loving son, Frank."


Frank was bringing home the Olympic gold medal for the 10,000-meter canoeing event.


The father had a dream. He passed it on to his son. The son fulfilled it. Because Bill Havens was somehow able to transfer his vision, values, and passion to the next generation, his son, Frank, was able to pay the price to become an Olympic champion. I hope I’m able to do the same with my sons (physical and spiritual sons). I hope that one day they will take my dream of "making disciples, training leaders, and planting churches" a step further than I was able to. I hope they will catch the vision and pay the price to run the race that God has set before them. I hope they will run for a crown that doesn’t fade. I hope they will live for the applause of heaven, not the applause of earth.

The Bible speaks repeatedly of the next generation and our responsibility to prepare them to walk in the purpose of God.

"…He commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children"  (Ps. 78:5,6)


God’s purpose and plan is to be transferred from one generation to another. It is not enough that we experience "revival" in our generation. We must transfer our spiritual passion to those who come after us. It is far too common in Scripture and history for one generation to serve God’s purpose and for the next one to reject it. We cannot afford to repeat this mistake. We must begin to think and plan long-term. We have to realize it is not about us, and how much success we can achieve. It is about those who follow us–the next generation.


There are many who, because of their eschatology of escape, vehemently deny that there will ever be another generation. They insist that the present "terminal generation" will soon be raptured, then a demonic anti-Christ will rule the world. This terminal mentality must be once and forever destroyed if we are serious about building the next generation. Child-training and disciple-making take time. What we plant today may not be reaped for many years. If we think and work long-term, then we’ll see that time is on our side. We must live for the day when, like the patriarchs of old, we will lay hands on our grandchildren and speak a prophetic blessing over their lives.


It’s more important to prepare the next generation to win gold medals than to neglect them while we pursue glory and gold. Of course, it would be great if we win and prepare them at the same time.