Six ways to better represent the diversity of your community
Many Christians in the Western World have confused culturally determined expressions of the Christian faith with the faith itself.”
That quote from analyst Christian Schwarz, leader of the Natural Church Development movement, is all too telling. As our world becomes more diverse, we’ll need to examine our own “culturally determined expressions” of Christianity in light of the gospel.
Much of what we believe in the United States simply doesn’t make sense in other countries, which tells me we haven’t found a spiritual truth, but rather a Western approach to life. One of those areas, I believe, is our approach to leadership, specifically our leadership criteria.
I doubt I have to tell you that your town or city is becoming more culturally and ethnically diverse by the day. Below are some ways your church can begin to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of its neighborhood and empower people from diverse walks of life to become the people God created them to be:
1) Diversify your leadership. Look around. Who is on your staff? A bunch of middle-aged white men? If you’re in a culturally diverse neighborhood—and you care about reaching the people in that neighborhood—consider looking for leaders with which your community can identify the next time you fill a staff position.
2) Recruit young. When you put young people into ministry, you plant seeds for your church’s future. The young people in your church already understand cultural diversity. Their schools are culturally and ethnically diverse. Train them as ministers, and they will make a difference.
3) Create opportunities for leadership. Proactively look for and discover the talents and giftings of the people God has placed in your church. Get to know those who aren’t currently serving in ministry. Create, or better yet, empower them to create and lead ministries that match their passion and vision.
4) Tell the story. You know those giant screens in your sanctuary? Use them to share people’s stories. Tell the story of a guy in recovery (make sure he’s in a stable place) or the mom who didn’t think she could make it. Help the people in your congregation get to know each other outside the Sunday morning arm pump.
5) Work together. If cultural diversity has some real kickback in your church, start with the men. Enlist some of your key male leaders to be on a work team with other men from a different socio-economic grouping and ask them to work together for a few months. My experience has been that as groups work side-by-side and get to know each other, unity develops. Check back regularly to ensure cultural differences haven’t become the focus of the group.
6) Connect with the neighborhood. Sometimes the real problem is that your congregation isn’t a good representation of the neighborhood. If the people in your church are commuting and the people of the neighborhood are sleeping in on Sunday, you need to create opportunities for people in the neighborhood to feel welcomed. Find ways to celebrate what makes your neighborhood unique by connecting with the community and discovering their concerns.
God put your church in your location for a reason. He isn’t surprised that the neighborhood has changed; in fact, He wants to help you reach this new, diverse group of people. Leadership in mixed cultural situations can be challenging, but communication and an understanding of the strength that diversity brings will help you create a firm foundation for growth now and in the months and years to come.
Your first step is to take an honest, hard look at the makeup of your church leadership, your congregation and the surrounding neighborhood. Does your leadership reflect the congregation? Is your congregation a fair representative of the community? Take these disparities to prayer and discover God’s starting point for your unique situation.Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor working primarily in urban areas. She has a master’s in Theology from Fuller Seminary and is a contributor to Linked2Leadership.com. Connect with her on her blog Deepimprints.com and on Twitter @KimMartinez.
A divine plan for propelling us onto new spiritual plateaus
Bright and sunny with a soft breeze.
That was the climate this particular morning and exactly how I like it when headed out for a walk. My then-2-year-old son, Jude, loved our walks for many reasons, but particularly for the thrill and excitement of the downhill runs in his stroller. These hills couldn’t come soon enough for him.
We had barely left when Jude yelled, “Let’s go faster!” Pointing to the uphill crest in front of us, he leaned forward in enthusiastic anticipation. I looked at the graduating elevation before me and realized he had his directions mixed up. An incline wouldn’t give him the speed he was looking for; the hill had to turn in the opposite direction. Sure, we could gain some speed, but it would be more difficult (certainly for me, the one pushing). What he wanted would be best achieved when this uphill journey pointed down.
I assured him that on the other side of the summit, where the curve of the paved road seemed to meet with the sky, he’d get what he wanted—a full-speed race down to the bottom. A downhill journey would set the perfect stage for maximum momentum to occur.
Where We Find Full-Speed Faith
“Things are looking up.”
That’s what we say when the downturns of life reverse direction. We much prefer the “uphill” portions of our journey—the seasons where things are headed in a positive trend. None of us would likely choose the more difficult “down” times over the easier to manage—or at least easier to accept—rise of the “up” ones.
Yet time and again, experience shows us that spiritual momentum and full-speed faith are often best achieved when things are looking down. Somehow, when our days and details are not going in a way we’d prefer, eagerness in our seeking and searching for God picks up the pace and intensifies in speed.
To be clear, we can most certainly experience spiritual growth when things are going well. Thank the Lord that difficulty is not a requirement for discipleship. But in our quest for happiness and ease, could we be sacrificing the spiritual growth we deeply desire on the fleeting altar of good times? Is it possible that in our drastic attempts to keep ourselves and our loved ones from experiencing the “downs,” we are being robbed, and robbing others, of the optimum environment for spiritual speed to be gathered, distance to be covered, endurance and character to developed, and quickened faith to be cemented into place?
Scripture says it this way: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy ... your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow” (James 1:2-4, NLT).
Maybe, instead of merely detesting the “down times,” we can also be expectant of the high-speed work God is preparing to do in us while we’re passing through adversity. Maybe, just maybe, the warp speed with which He wants to propel us to the next dimension of our callings will be best achieved on this side of the hill of life.
We can and must address and encourage each other through harsh realities, yes, and we can also count it as our privilege to make our requests for His intervention in our lives known. But we must also have the sting of joyful and holy fervor that reminds us our more difficult days are propelling us onto new spiritual plateaus. Somehow, through this, we start trusting more fully, believing more abundantly, expecting more wholly and our hearts start percolating with a newfound spiritual passion.
Things looking down, my friend? I pray that things will look up again soon. But until then, lean forward into the fast and furious winds of grace and prepare for the ride of your life.
Priscilla Shirer is a Bible teacher who speaks nationwide. She has written multiple books, including A Jewel in His Crown. With her husband, Jerry, she founded Going Beyond Ministries. For more information, visit her blog at goingbeyond.com or follow her on Twitter@PriscillaShirer.
Are your sermons as well-lived as they are well-studied?
Afew years ago I played hooky from our Saturday night service and hit the ski slopes with my son, Parker. It was the last weekend of the ski season, so it was our last chance to go after a life goal we share in common: learning to snowboard. It was an amazing day, but one moment is frozen in my mind forever. We were riding up the chair lift when I had an epiphany. I realized that my life had completely revolved around National Community Church for the better part of a decade. In one respect, that's the price you pay when you plant a church. But it was as if the Holy Spirit said in no uncertain terms: "Get a life!" Let me be blunt: If your life is boring your sermons will be too. If you have no life outside of church—no hobbies, no friends, no interests, no goals—your illustrations will feel canned, your ap-plications theoretical instead of practical and your sermons will be lifeless instead of life-giving.
John Adams once said that “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.”
What a time to live in when you constantly hear about Stage 4 cancer getting healed, missing limbs growing back, marriages being restored, deaf ears opening up, blind eyes now seeing, cancellation of debt, children’s hearts turning back to their parents.
The church has a unique and tremendous opportunity to see the kingdom of God continue to touch our world in our time and to see it increase in the next generation. It’s important that we live our lives in such a way that will set up a generation we will never see for success.
One trip to Israel was all it took to make me repriotize my life and ministry
After 19 years of international ministry, a weekly television broadcast, establishing a consultancy for pastors and other initiatives, I have experienced something that has caused me to entirely rethink my approach to ministry and also my theology. It has changed the way I prioritize, the way I preach and the way I pastor. This life-changing encounter was with the land of Israel.
After sailing in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, standing in the Garden of Gethsemane and peering into the field where the battle of Armageddon is to take place, I realized that much of my ministry had been based upon personal introspection—what I had read and what other scholars had interpreted. Moreover, we often allow English grammatical rules to interpret biblical text and biblical culture.
However, Western theology often opposes Eastern thought. For instance, the Western mind argues the truth; thus we have so many denominations and different reformations. But the Eastern mind simply obeys the truth. In the past, this difference in approach would have inhibited me from fully absorbing the Scriptures. But my trip to this unique place changed all that. I can now personally identify with Naaman the leper who took soil from Jerusalem back to his native land of Syria, so that he could stand upon it and worship the God of Israel.
Eight reasons Christians need to be active in standing with Israel
We as leaders find ourselves in a sobering moment in history, which calls us to take a stand with God’s covenants in the earth. It is our responsibility to do kingdom business until He comes (Luke 19:13).
More than 10 years ago, Robert Stearns asked me to join him in encouraging Christians to pray every year on the same day for the peace of Jerusalem. It is a daunting task to stir the global church to unity in prayer, but the millions of believers who now do just that the first Sunday of every October are proof that God’s grace is on this important issue.
The most essential things I could hope to pass on to the next generation of church leadership are these several reasons for standing with Israel:
What my grandfather taught me about the essentials of ministry
Publisher’s Note from Steve Strang: Jamie Buckingham had a huge impact on my life and on our organization. He encouraged me to start Ministry Today and wrote in it many times. He served as editor for several years before his untimely death in February 1992. We recognize his ongoing legacy with this article. You can read more about Jamie Buckingham, and enjoy some of his best articles in a special online tribute at ministrytodaymag.com/jamie
It has now been 20 years since my grandfather, Jamie Buckingham, passed away. I cherish the 11 short years I had with him. He inspired me to pursue a life in ministry, for which I am very thankful.
Jamie was a unique man, and consequently a unique pastor. He often spoke and wrote about the various traits and the type of character required of those who have been called into ministry. They remain relevant for leaders today, and I am pleased to be able to share some of them with you to honor his memory.
Be real.Jamie often preached and wrote about his many flaws, citing specific examples of ways he had fallen short. He discovered how God could work in those imperfections to give encouragement to others. Living and preaching like this takes a lot of courage (and, according to my grandmother, requires permission from your spouse), but it allows you to experience an intimacy with others you might not otherwise find.
Don’t worry about being ‘too political’ in the pulpit
“Pastor, you are too political,” said the irritated parishioner. But he did not stop there. “If you continue this, I’ll leave the church.” A further implication was obvious: “along with my tithe.” In that moment, the pastor is at a crossroad.
Some parishioners have heard sufficiently diluted preaching for so long that they don’t recognize truly biblicalpreaching. Therein lies the problem.
After all, isn’t the Bible quite clear? “Go into all the world—except the political realm,” according to some people’s Bibles? How has that type of preaching worked out for us? Is anyone’s community morerighteous today than 20 or 40 years ago? Not one.
You can’t stand on the sidelines of the culture war
There are times in life when you can choose your own battles and times when your battles choose you. In 2007, my church was targeted by the homosexual community. A decision was made by our church leaders not to compromise our faith by allowing a memorial service, which would have emphasized and celebrated homosexuality, to be held in our sanctuary.
We did, however, reach out to the family with many acts of love, including paying for another venue to host the memorial service. In response, gay activists unleashed a barrage of attacks through email, blog sites and the media—intending to shame us into silence. I soon came to learn the importance of pastors and churches standing together in a bold front for righteousness and biblical morality in our communities.
One of the most effective strategies used to silence and defeat those who would stand for morality is isolation—making them feel as though they stand alone and public opinion is against them. I was amazed at how quickly the homosexual community was able to organize and mobilize its attack.
This strategy would not have been as effective if the body of Christ would have quickly shown its support and taken a stand with us for biblical morality. The silence of the church spoke volumes. The church should learn from those who oppose us. It’s time we get organized and be ready to mobilize when our values come under attack.
A proactive approach can help minimize the X-rated threat to your ministry
Porn is probably the fastest-growing problem in the church. When speaking at my Sex, Men and God conferences, I have found that more than 50 percent of the men attending will admit to being addicted—not struggling with—to pornography.
What about your church staff? Many of your staff members were also raised sexually by Playboy, the Internet and our sex-saturated culture. We have to accept the reality that being in ministry doesn’t make anyone immune to the porn problem. This problem is largely a male issue, but there is more research supporting the fact that there is a rising in number of Christian women who are also dabbling in pornography and social networks for inappropriate relationships.
I know from personal experience what it’s like to be trapped by porn and sex addiction. I have been free for over 24 years, and being free is much better.
How to transition from attracting followers to reproducing leaders
Have you paused to consider that you’re pastoring the first generation in history that doesn’t need leaders to get information? When you see your folks on Sunday, many have been online, finding all kinds of other pastors, authors and zealots and obtaining all sorts of information. Even though people no longer need us for information, they do need us for interpretation as we help them navigate the barrage of information they consume each week.
My concern is that we, the leaders of the church, have either misunderstood the biblical idea of leadership or we’ve dismissed it as “secular” or “fleshly.” We’ve read the Bible with a “follow-ship” bias and missed the call from God across the Old and New Testaments to lead.
Look again at the book of Genesis, where we read familiar words: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image.” Just what does that mean? We receive a clue to a part of its meaning in the next phrase: “and let them rule” (Gen. 1:26, NIV).
How God turned a tragedy into a divine leadership transition
Nov. 29, 2009, was a marked moment in my life. My husband, Billy Joe Daugherty, passed away after our 36 years of marriage and ministry together.
Billy Joe was not only my husband, but he was also my spiritual mentor. There are others as well who have influenced me, but he had a major impact on my life and on the lives of our children, our staff, our congregation and many others around the world. He challenged me, inspired me, encouraged me, valued me and loved me.
Before we were married he turned to me and said, “I see us as a ministry team together—as husband and wife.” Because Billy Joe had such a gentle, forbearing, yet firm strength, he was easy to follow as the spiritual head in our relationship. Billy Joe had laid a strong foundation for us at Victory Christian Center—one of compassion, servanthood, outreach, discipleship, debt-free operations, vision, wisdom, healing and supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit.
International House of Prayer’s founder reveals how the24/7 ministry hub actually works
On Sept. 19, 1999, a group of 20 people in Kansas City, Mo., began to worship God 24/7 and pray for an outpouring of the Spirit on God’s people to build the church and establish His kingdom in every sphere of society. Today we have about 1,000 staff members who raise their own financial support as “intercessory missionaries.” We were inspired by the financial model used by Campus Crusade and Youth With A Mission, both of which have about 25,000 full-time staff who have raised their own financial support.
All staff members spend at least 25 hours each week in our worship-based prayer room and a minimum of 25 hours per week in ministry outreach, works of justice, administration and service. About 300 of our staff and interns have reordered their lives to serve in the prayer room from midnight until 6 a.m. We call this faithful company the NightWatch. Along with staff, we have 1,000 students and interns in our full-time Bible school, International House of Prayer University (IHOPU), training to serve their local churches in prayer, worship and outreach.
Our week is organized into 84 prayer meetings, each lasting two hours. Every meeting is led by a worship team of 10 to 12 staff members who interact with intercessors in what we call the “harp and bowl model” of prayer (see Rev. 5:8). This refers to combining worship music and intercession in corporate prayer settings.
Mike Bickle explains the importance of today’s prayer movement
I am honored and challenged to be the guest editor of this issue of Ministry Today. It’s impossible to cover all the important elements and ministries the Holy Spirit is emphasizing right now regarding the prayer and worship movement. But in this issue we seek to highlight some of what is happening, why it is important, and how it will strengthen the church’s efforts in evangelism, world missions and in establishing local congregations.
In this hour of history God is raising up a worship-based prayer movement as the leading edge of a youth-led missions thrust that will reach all nations with the power of the gospel as it invades every sphere of society with the presence of God’s kingdom. This massive movement involves people from all around the world, in many different congregations, ministries and denominations.
The Lord led me to focus on building an evangelical missions organization based on night-and-day prayer and led by worship teams serving 24/7. For the past 12 years our missions base, the International House of Prayer, has continued nonstop in worship and prayer.
Just telling our societies that Jesus is what they need isn’t enough
In the current vitriolic and polarizing culture-war atmosphere, a Sermon on the Mount emphasis of giving mercy, going the second mile, turning the other cheek, and forgiving “70 times seven” would serve the cause of Christ far better than an angry stance that smacks of, “We’re Christians and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Recently I was at a stoplight, and the car in front of me had a bumper sticker that read: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” The statement is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Of course it’s overstated and far too much of a glaring generalization. But I find little comfort in that.
When I saw that bumper sticker, I wanted to get out of my car, walk up to the driver and apologize. I wanted to say something like: “I know. We have been far too unlike our Christ. Please forgive us.”
We live in a world where much is wrong. And what is most wrong with the world is not the politics or the economy or who happens to be living in the White House. What is most wrong with the world is the human heart.
The greed and pride and lust of the human heart are the epicenter of all that is wrong with the world. We should realize this by now.
As followers of Christ, we are not so much called to know the answer or preach the answer as much as we are called to be the answer. This is how we are salt and light (also found in the Sermon on the Mount). We are to model the answer by being Christ-like in a Caesar-like world. This is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about.
The narrow (and difficult) way of the Golden Rule demands that we consider and not use others. The Golden Rule of considering others by giving them love, respect and mercy is the narrow gate that leads to salvation. Not because this is how salvation is earned, but because this is how salvation islived.
Using other people as objects to satisfy our self-centered agenda is absolutely the highway to hell—it is the kind of life that leads to the utter and final ruin of the human soul. When creatures created in the image of God cooperate with sin and Satan to use other image-bearing creatures as objects to satisfy their own greed and lust, they conspire to erase the image of God from their own souls. This is what Jesus is trying to save us from in teaching us the narrow way of the Golden Rule.
This is the Sermon on the Mount—to choose the Christ-like way of giving over the Caesar-like way of taking. To give mercy to the undeserving. To forgive the offender. To turn the other cheek to the enemy. To go the extra mile with the oppressor. To give the cloak to the scoundrel. To give cheerfully to the beggar. To forgive again and again. Seventy times seven.
This is the narrow way that Christ invites us to follow Him on. It is a hard and difficult way. But because it is Christ who invites us to follow, it is also possible.
Above all, it is the way that leads to life. Do we dare believe this? To be Christians means that we do believe this. And not only do we believe it; we live it. We live it in community with others who share our faith in Jesus Christ. Even more significantly, we live it in fellowship with the One who promised to never leave us or forsake us and to be with us on the narrow road to the end of the age.
Brian Zahnd is pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Mo., and the author of What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life and the new Unconditional? (Charisma House) from which this article is taken.
The auditorium was jam-packed with visitors for a dead man—my father, in fact. Students, teachers, engineers, taxi drivers, businessmen, nurses ... all lined up to pay their respects to a fallen hero. Hundreds came to the memorial service, with more waiting outside amid an overflow of familiar faces. All this for a simple music teacher.
In the last several years I have witnessed at least two astounding miracles where Christian ministries have experienced a literal rebirth.
The first is a doctrinal miracle. The Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong in 1934, reexamined its doctrines and practices after Armstrong's death in 1986. This led to a complete theological reformation to Christian orthodoxy in the 1990s. Today, no longer viewed as a cult, the denomination has changed its name to Grace Communion International and is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.
In my view, this is nothing short of a miracle. Almost always throughout history, the drift of denominations over time is away from biblical orthodoxy. But the Worldwide Church of God was captured by grace and took a radical turn out of darkness and into the light.
There's a second, even more recent miracle where a ministry has experienced a genuine resurrection. This is the financial miracle experienced recently by Oral Roberts University (ORU). Two years ago ORU was drowning in a quagmire of a $55 million debt. Millions were owed in current bills. Added to this crisis were high-profile accusations and lawsuits filed by former faculty, the resignation of the second president, and a general malaise that had gripped many students, faculty and staff.
But all that has changed - and changed dramatically. The generosity of a missions-hearted family from Oklahoma City erased almost all of the University's debt. Alumni giving is now at an all-time high. Student morale has soared. Millions of dollars have been poured into campus renovations. And a new, capable and godly president, Mark Rutland, is pointing ORU toward a bright future and its greatest impact ever.
ORU has played an important role in my family. I have been privileged to know Oral Roberts, his wife, the late Evelyn Roberts and their family since I was in high school. Both of my sisters received their undergraduate degrees from ORU. One sister met her husband there. Although my undergraduate degree is from another outstanding Christian university, I was humbled to receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from ORU in 1988.
Growing up in Tulsa I watched with joyful amazement as an evangelist's colossal faith was translated into the construction of innovative, futuristic buildings and a bustling hub of worldwide ministry. Now, four decades later, it's thrilling to sense the same excitement that permeated the campus in those early years returning to ORU.
In 1967, as a teenage preacher, I attended the dedication of ORU. My young heart pounded with vision as I witnessed the two greatest evangelists of that era, Billy Graham and Oral Roberts, standing together at the zenith of their strength. I will always remember how Billy Graham, in his dedicatory address, charged the new institution to be forever faithful to its commitment to world evangelization.
Fast-forward 42 years. Last month I stood in ORU's Christ's Chapel. As today's ORU students exit the chapel, they read again the directive the Lord gave Oral Roberts at the university's founding: "Raise up your students to hear My voice, to go where My light is seen dim, My voice is heard small, and My healing power is not known, even to the uttermost bounds of the earth." That is Great Commission language and a clear, missional vision.
The next day I attended Rutland's inauguration as the third President of ORU. I drank in the historic importance of the moment as the 91-year-old founder, Oral Roberts, laid his hands on the new president and pronounced blessing over Rutland and the university Roberts' faith had birthed.
Oral Roberts was a towering figure of the 20th century. We have much to learn from his life and legacy. In a few years we will begin to understand just how much we owe him. I am convinced that his fiercely focused faith, in the university's darkest hours, simply would not permit ORU to die. Like the patriarchs of old, he was human and therefore (like all of us) imperfect. But also like the patriarchs of antiquity, he shaped history by his faith and his clear vision of an all-sufficient, conquering Christ.
At the investiture of Rutland, the ORU combined choirs and orchestra performed the majestic "Hallelujah" from Beethoven's Christ on the Mount of Olives. The powerful strains of triumph filled the air:
Hallelujah unto God's almighty Son!
Let your heart rejoice today. God still performs miracles. Hallelujah unto God's almighty Son!
David Shibley is founding president of Global Advance, a Dallas-based ministry that provides on-site training and resources for some 40,000 developing world church and business leaders each year. His latest book, co-authored with his son, Jonathan, is Marketplace Memos.
A few months ago my pastor asked me to preach on a Sunday he was away on vacation. I’m not a preacher and knew several others who would’ve been better substitutes. But I also knew the Lord had been sharing with me something I felt would help our congregation, so I said yes.
Early in the movie Amazing Grace, William Wilberforce sits in a field of wet grass enthralled with finding God in the intricacy of a spider’s web. The legendary abolitionist is in his early 20s and on the cusp of political stardom, yet at the time he’d gladly give up his career aspirations just to “meet in secret” with God. Wherever he turns—from feeding beggars who arrive at his doorstep to staring at the passing clouds—the young Wilberforce finds himself lost in worship. And it’s from this disposition that he embarks on a journey that eventually shapes world history.