The Ralph Moore Podcast

Helping you become a leader you'd want to follow

Want to make a difference in the world? Who doesn't?You can, and should make a difference but ministry can feel like trying to push water uphill.If you're reading this you've probably invested your life in making discipl

Small Place Church Planting Opportunities

Season 2, Ep. 5020
Small Place Church Planting Opportunities Church planting in small places is a new concept for me. I’ve done it for years, but somehow missed the grand opportunity and huge need that it represents.Think of urban neighborhoods and towns of fewer than 15,000 people as small places. Add the 5 million, or so, people who live an entirely rural lifestyle and the numbers are huge. Thankfully, there is a renewed focus on urban areas in the U.S. Lets talk about the 60 to 90 million people living in small towns and rural areas. The numbers vary depending on who is measuring. It’s 60 million if you look at towns smaller than 15,000 and 90 million if you think a community becomes large if it boasts more than 25,000 people. This represents a wonderful opportunity for the gospel. Everyone knows that the United States is currently the third largest mission field in the world. North America is the only continent where the church is shrinking while it grows everywhere else. Not everyone knows that 90 million people would represent the 13th largest country in the world if they were their own nation, or that these people are seriously underserved by the church. We need to think missionally toward rural and small-town America. They constitute nearly 25 percent of our entire population.Rural/Small-Town America is Growing And the opportunities are growing. Rural America lost population in the 1980s, only to reverse the process beginning in the 1990s and continuing to the present. Millions of people flee mostly the suburban commuter lifestyle to live in smaller places each year. This is different from the nasty “white flight” of a generation ago. People of all socio-economic backgrounds now make the trek. They bring with them their high-tech industrial parks, brew pubs and upscale coffee shops. What’s lacking are new churches to go with the migration. And its not just the new arrivals who need new churches. Churches across America are closing their doors. Older churches are dying faster than newer ones and the mainline denominations shrink the fastest. The unique combination of older mainline congregations that were once foundational to small communities is going away and going that way faster than churches in the suburbs. We need to replace the dying churches by planting new congregations. But replacement alone won’t touch the opportunity or the need. The 13th largest mission field in the world awaits us. The same logic holds for most urban neighborhoods.This is SignificantIn the 1970s more than 90 percent of Americans called themselves Christian of one stripe or another. Today, according to Pew Research, that number has fallen to just 71 percent. In the early 70s, 53 percent said they attend church at least once each month. In the early 2010s that number has fallen to 43 percent. Of those who say they attend on a regular basis, the 1970s tally was 38 percent. Today it has fallen to 28 percent. We are losing ground.When you consider that these numbers are magnified in smaller communities you realize there is a massive mission field that is white unto harvest and awaiting our attention.Seeing the Culture Through A Different LensI spent most of my years pastoring suburban churches. The last congregation was on the edge of an urban area of Honolulu. Things were different there. We had to plant “homegroups” in food courts and coffee shops because of unavailable parking near urban apartments. I came to realize that I unintentionally saw the world through an “us-them” paradigm. We in the suburbs got things right while urban dwellers didn’t quite get it. I simply didn’t understand the differences in needs and opportunities. Now I understand that the same is true of my understanding of rural/small-town America. This has been a good wakeup for me. Question: “Are you thinking about ‘us’ or thinking about getting the gospel to ‘them?’” Do you think “Come to my church?” or “How can we get the gospel into every corner of our land?”A Question for YouI recently discovered something which Jesus said that I had overlooked, “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come” (Mark 1:38, NIV). In referencing villages, he said, “That is why I have come.” I get it that he’s not only interested in the villages, but I have not been interested in them at all. Question: “Do you believe small towns are central to God’s plan for the church?”

Innovation vs Covetousness

Season 1, Ep. 5015
Someone once told me, “The reason the grass is greener on the other side of the fence is that they painted it.” Once when I was surfing at a place called the Cove, in Palos Verdes California. A movie company had been there a couple of days earlier and had actually painted the grass green for shot they were filming. The grass may be greener, but so what? You’ll never innovate if you covet what another person has—at best you’ll seek to copy them, losing a portion of your identity along the way. Innovation starts with accepting and revelling in what God has already supplied.Content in Your IdentityI was just 8 years old when Little League baseball first came to my neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. More than 350 kids tried out for the first teams. Two were not chosen. I went home feeling pretty bad about myself as I was one of the two rejects. However, that summer saw another first in my neighborhood—someone invented a bookmobile. I’m pretty convinced that my clumsiness and poor showing in sports was orchestrated by God as I became a vapid reader that summer. My reading habits have always contributed to the person and roles God intended for me. Today, I’m thankful I never made the cut in baseball.Can you say you are content with “Who I am, how I’m made and what I possess?” Or do you spend time coveting whatever the guy down the street has? How do you answer these questions: “What is my spiritual niche? What am I doing that only I can do? What is my ministry from the Lord? Am I being loyal to it? In what way is my life precious to Jesus?”Do you understand that what you have is better for you than whatever the next person has and what they have might actually be harmful for you. Also, what you have probably wouldn’t do them much good. I began pastoring in a California beach town where my wife and I knew no one. We inherited a tiny building and invested our life savings to get the church off the ground. But two weeks before planting we heard Chuck Smith talk about how he structured and taught a church of 2,000-plus mostly hippies in a building that fit 350 people. I soon found myself a wannabe surfer surrounded by surfers and hippies overcrowding that tiny building. And, overcrowded buildings and a pastor’s sacrifice somehow stoked enthusiasm. The things we apparently lacked became some of our strong points. We learned that creativity comes from appreciating whatever God decided was best for us. Covetousness Is DeceptiveJesus said, "Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own,” Luke 12:15 NLT. It’s scary when I hear pastors bragging about numbers of people, budgets and especially when they get off into talking about “trophy members.” These are the people who own the “biggest…” or manage the “most famous…” or the “first ever…” I’ve sometimes caught myself asking God why he doesn’t send those kind of people to churches I’ve led only to realize that he probably has but it was more important for us to treat everyone the same without identifying some people as more important than others. And, I’ve come to see any kind of bragging as an admission of personal insecurity. What We Covet Won’t LastPaul wrote to the Corinthians, “…we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever,” 2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT.Coveting and envy sap your strength. You get into competition you cannot win—I found myself in competition with the 1,800 guys over the shirts they possessed. Having grown up without a lot of money, clothing styles became too big a deal to me. As soon as I got a job I began collecting shirts. One overstuffed closet later I realized that it would be impossible to collect every shirt that I coveted when I saw someone else wearing it—a very good lesson.There is nothing wrong with wanting a car if you don’t have one, or house that you hope to purchase someday. The problem comes when we covet something simply because someone else has it. In the end, it’s all going to burn and you’re going to face the Lord who will be concerned with whether or not you accomplish his purposes for your life. I promise you he doesn’t care whether you have more than the next person. He will meet our needs, but is not interested in stroking our egos.If you do manage to obtain whatever you’ve coveted it’s liable to turn to sawdust in your mouth. Just ask King David how happy he was after he spent that first night with the wife of his friend Uriah.The comparison game is a form of covetousness—even when we compare ourselves to ourselves… Paul warned the Corinthians about pretentious leaders who “…tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” 2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT.Those people apparently used self comparison as a way to lower the bar of excellence, but we often do the same thing a little differently. We compare what we have to whatever we had in another phase of life. I loved pastoring the churches that I led but comparing what I do now to what I did then is a losing game. You lose by comparing yourself this year to yourself last year. The comparison game only leads to pride or unhappiness and covetousness. Peaceful Heart & Healthy BodyWe all have to find our niche in life and spiritually we find it when we engage our calling admitting that it is a gift from God. Beyond that we need to exhibit loyalty to that calling, to count our lives precious in fulfilling of that ministry. The result is looking in the mirror at a person it’s easy to live with. Covetousness breeds anxiety, jealously and disappointment. Innovation comes to healthy people who are free to embrace God’s creative impulse in their lives. There is truth in the saying, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” Proverbs 14:30 NIV.”I remember hearing a friend talk about someone coveting another person’s job. They said, “When they finally got to sit on the throne, they found out it was only a folding chair and they had to set it up themselves. What a bummer.”Don't stop with the notes, there is more to the podcast..

Innovation & Contentment vs Frustration and Paralysis

Season 1, Ep. 5014
INNOVATION AND CONTENTMENT vs FRUSTRATION AND PARALYSIS As a young person I learned that if I would seek God, he would meet my needs. This took the form of great jobs that I didn’t quite deserve. As I learned to save and invest money, I made more mistakes than most of you in this room. Yet, God turned even my mistakes into financial blessings. He is in the business of working miracles for those who take him seriously at his word. He will meet your needs!Jesus told us this in Matthew, “Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'32 For after all these things the non-believers seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.In spite of great experiences, which I attribute to God, I still fight worry and anxiety which can lead to a spiritual, emotional and leadership paralysis. This is the polar opposite of faith-filled wonder leading to creativity and innovative leadership.DISCONTENT AND ANXIETY HAUNTING A FAMILYI’ve known chronic anxiety, or “Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” my entire life. Since I blew an emotional tire, I’ve discovered that several people in my extended family constantly struggled with anxiety and worry. It can’t be coincidental that they were prescribed the same medication as I take today.Anxiety and discontent stuck to my family a long time. Its presence may have spiritual ramifications, but there were circumstantial contributions as well. My great-grandfather lost a large cattle ranch to the Great Depression. He was a strong man who eventually rebuilt his life and raised my father after his parents divorced. As a child I loved to hear his stories about his forebears and the Oregon Trail. His colorful life included a stint as an old-time Western marshal. However, he lived in the grip of fear stemming from his Depression Era financial loss. For him, if it happened once it could always happen again.When my dad turned fourteen, he left his grandfather to live with his mother in Portland, Oregon. He moved from the countryside in order to attend a specialized (public) school in the big city. Upon arrival, he discovered that his mom had no room for him—the depression impoverished her to the point that she could not afford an apartment large enough to include him. As a high school freshman, my dad found a job as a personal caretaker for a mentally ill man. On several occasions he awoke to find the man trying to strangle him. My father worked his way through high school with cardboard stuffed in the holes in his shoes. He would walk three miles, many Sunday afternoons, to stand on the corner in front of a friend’s house. He always hoped the family would invite him in for a hot meal. Most Sundays they did not. Lack of money heaped of anxiety on my dad during the days when he should have been playing sports, or just being a kid. That anxiety never left him.In my family, anxiety hung in the air like fog over the ocean. My father worried about money until the day he died. That worry found its way into my own head. You might ask, “Is this a spiritual matter or purely a product of environment?” “Is it possible that anxiety is inscribed on the chain of a person’s DNA?” Or, “is it a matter of a satanic assault against a family?” I don’t know the answers to those questions. Looking back, I do see that I have been prone to unreasonable worry all my life. WE CAN CHOOSE TO THINK CORRECTLY ABOUT GOD AND OUR CIRCUMSTANCESI’ve learned that I can exercise choice over how I will view my circumstances. I can choose to see through eyes of deprivation or to see the world in terms of God’s provision. The one leads to a sense of never having enough. The other is a path toward creativity. I love the way the Message Bible puts this, “So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!” Ephesians 5:15 THE MESSAGETo use my head, making the most of every opportunity and every resource is innovative thinking. The times are indeed desperate. Our country is divided. People are ignoring Jesus by the hundreds of millions. We need to think very differently than we’ve recently done. God’s done what he’s done, so it’s time to look at ourselves and examine our thinking. We should ask, “Am I seeing my situation correctly in light of scripture that says he will meet my every need?” That question will lead to innovation. To wallow in what we don’t have—discontent leads to mental and operational paralysis.PRAISE RELEASES BLESSING It’s easy to overlook the Psalms as we formulate understanding over day-to-day experiences. I recently discovered an interesting passage linking praise to intended blessing (after decades of walking with Jesus I’m still learning the Bible). It goes, “May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. 6 Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us.” Psalm 67:5-6 NIVThe implication is an if/then proposition. If people praise God, then the land will yield a harvest and God will bless. It seems that praising God for what we have somehow unlocks our guarded hearts toward him allowing his hand of blessing to operate within our jurisdiction. The passage presents an interesting prayer.CONTENTMENT IS LEARNED BEHAVIORPaul wrote the Philippian church thanking them for offerings they had sent his way. He acknowledges having learned to live with little and to live in abundance. He expands the educational part of this by saying, “…not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” Philippians 4:11 NLT. He had what he had because God resourced him, both through the Philippians and others. Either way the education was over contentment and making much of whatever situation he was in. The deal is that we can learn a lifestyle of abundance if we adjust our paradigm to appreciate whatever ways God has blessed us rather than focus on what we would like for him to have done. Don’t know about you, but I’m still learning this…Contentment does not come naturally, especially in a society which repeatedly pelts us with advertisements about things that are supposed to make us into more of a person than we are. In the end a luxury car and an economy car accomplish the same purpose. A $20 Timex watch keeps time as well as a $9K dollar Rolex. You get the picture. This is all about attitude and learned behavior. In the end it pays off with satisfaction. GREAT GAINPaul wrote to a young pastor, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV Whenever I’ve chosen contentment I’ve found freedom to look at the world through different eyes. It unlocks the prison of fear and frustration making way for creativity and a freshness in leadership that is as pragmatic as it is winsome. Godliness with contentment is great gain!

Supply and Innovation

Season 1, Ep. 5012
Note: These notes are an extremely truncated version of the actual podcast.SUPPLY AND INNOVATION Ever have a time when you felt God had let you down—completely? I have.Shortly after planting the first church we had gone through all the money our previous church had given us as a departing gift along with the money we had saved for a down payment on a house. We emptied the savings account, put the money into checking and mailed off the bills. We had pocket change to buy our kids an ice cream cone, but not enough to get them for ourselves. God had supplied zilch! In the midst of my despair, the Lord gently spoke, “I’ve taught you to abase (go without) and now I’ll teach you to abound (have plenty). Two days later the windows of heaven opened. This was God telling me that he was TEACHING through lack. That’s a very important lesson. Paul wrote, “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Yet, I needed to hit empty to learn to function with less than I thought necessary. My point is that sometimes my vision gets in the way of his vision and having everything I think I need keeps me from looking at things through God’s eyes. Not having what I think I need can lead to innovation if I assume that he already supplied all I need. I’m forced into a different paradigm—this is where creativity blossoms.Innovation and SupplyJesus made some pretty astounding statements in John 15… “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit… ‘These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain… ‘whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” His goal for us includes bearing lots of fruit—that will remain long after we depart the planet. It also includes joy which can be difficult to come by during winter when everything is brown and rainy, or when you’re burned out and lack sufficient leaders to accomplish whatever you’re trying to do. In those down times its hard believe his words promising that the father will give us “whatever you ask…” A Higher Purpose Than I Can See at the Moment Along with the suffering church in first century Rome, we’re told, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…”God created the world through his son. Jesus is creator and creative. Part of being fashioned into his image is to become more creative today than yesterday. And, tomorrow is another new opportunity. However, we’re prone to copy more than to create. We read a book and imitate the author, especially if they are outwardly more successful than we are. Not good! God often strips us back to bareness in order to press us toward innovation. I’ve got dozens of stories about forced innovation, mostly having to do with Jesus “painting” voids onto the canvas of my life. It is in those voids that we learned to multiply and train prospective church planters through small groups. It was the crowds being forced to sit on the floor in the aisles and on the platform, even outside looking in the windows that gave enthusiasm to our first church. It was after our church opened a free clothing store only to get ripped off by the swap meet crowd who stole stuff that the lady who started it began distributing food bank groceries in a government housing project which led to “crafts day” for little kids and a microchurch for their parents. The saga continues to make the point. Jesus shapes us as much by withholding what we don’t need as by supplying what we do.Values drive narratives and narratives drive behaviors. Telling these stories generates even more creativity. In the end it comes to doing what he asks with what he supplies. Paul wrote, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. “His words bring me back to Jesus’ promise of joy. We get joy when we live in fulfillment of our created purpose and part of that includes becoming more like Jesus in the area of creativity. Let both supply and the lack of it drive innovation and you’ll be a happier person.