Higher Education http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education Thu, 03 Sep 2015 23:38:15 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb NICL: The School of Practicality http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21812-school-of-practicality http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21812-school-of-practicality

As a senior pastor, it's one of the more challenging and gut-wrenching situations with which you have ever been faced. Attendance at your church is declining and, subsequently, it has affected your church's income through decreased tithes and offerings.

For budgetary reasons, someone on your staff must be dismissed. Over the years, you have developed great relationships--even friendships--with your subordinate pastors, and each has performed their duties with efficiency, diligence and enthusiasm. The decision is agonizing.

As a leader, however, you're well aware that this type of dilemma comes with the territory and it must be handled with compassion and professionalism. The knowledge that God has put you in a leadership position and entrusted you to make these choices doesn't make them any easier.

"That is a situation no leader wants to ever be in," said Dr. Mark Rutland, founder  and director of the National Institute for Christian Leadership. "But that's only one of many difficult practical situations that pastors and business leaders deal with on a daily basis.

"I have spent 46 years in leadership in one capacity or another. What I've tried to do is ask myself, 'What have I really learned here? Was it just for experience or for the stripes on my back, or was it to formulate the knowledge into transferable concepts that will help others become the leaders that God wants them to be? It's one thing to understand those concepts, but it's another to take the time to formulate them into a deliverable package."

Enter NICL, a program Rutland established in 2011 to train not only ministry leaders but also leaders from all walks of life in the practicalities of areas like management, organization, structure, staff, debt management, fundraising and board relations. It is an intense, one-year course that meets four times a year in three different venues and offers credits toward a bachelor's degree at Southeastern University and a master's degree at five different schools of higher learning.

If you're looking for formal theological training, the National Institute of Christian Leadership is not for you. However, if you need some help in making decisions concerning every-day issues facing your church, organization or company, NICL, presented by Rutland's Global Servants Ministries and Ministry Today magazine, is a solid investment.

"Whether you're in ministry or in business, NICL is basically the nuts and bolts of leadership," Rutland said. "It's practical, and it's highly intense. NICL is not a theology course. It's hour after hour of godly, impactful teaching based on life experiences and reality."

Graduates of the NICL course include Larry Stockstill, director of the Surge Project in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jonathan Stockstill, senior pastor at Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge; Jackie White, senior pastor of Church on the Rock in Lubbock, Texas; Oklahoma state senator Dan Newberry; Rachel Lamb, Rebecca and Jonathan Lamb, children of Daystar Network founders Marcus and Joni Lamb; and Charisma founder and publisher Steve Strang.

Larry Stockstill, 60, who has more than 35 years experience in the ministry and spent 30 years as the lead pastor at Bethany until retiring two years ago, felt led to take the course in 2013. He didn't regret the decision, and challenges veteran pastors as well as younger leaders to enroll.  

"If you are seeking to sharpen your leadership or management skills, spend the money and take the time for the NICL," Stockstill said. "Your life, your ministry, your business and your career will take a new direction to help you affect your world."

When touting the National Institute of Christian Leadership, Rutland makes it clear that it is not an online or video course. It's one that he teaches live every quarter on the campus of The King's University in Dallas, Texas; at Jenetzen Franklin's Free Chapel church in Gainesville, Georgia; and at the offices of Charisma Media in Lake Mary, Florida.

Course Curriculum

Each quarter, NICL students assemble for 2 ½ days of intense training. Session 1 tackles leadership vs. management, in which Rutland shares how leadership is about doing the right thing and management is all about doing things right.

Session 2 focuses on staff and volunteers--how to build, direct and lead for quality. Students learn how to recruit, manage and keep volunteers to help their organization grow.

Session 3 deals with 'turning the ship,' a subject Rutland is most familiar with as a result of his work at Calvary Assembly, Southeastern University and Oral Roberts University. Students learn how to effectively lead those around them, communicate ideas and expectations accurately and manage organizational finances. Debt management is a key in this session, and Rutland's philosophy of debt--with which he has no issues as long as it is handled properly--has drawn criticism from some. His excellent track record in this area, however, speaks for itself.

In the final session, students will learn how preaching and worship can work together to effectively communicate the message of Christ. The session will address your skills as a public speaker or worship leader and help you focus and obtain the objective of your worship experiences each week.

Common Church Issues

Questions concerning church growth, Rutland says, are the most common among those asked by students. Many church leaders are simply stumped when searching for solutions to the problem and have found solid answers through NICL.   

"Church growth has flattened for so long, and maybe it's even subsided," Rutland says. "Pastors will tell me, 'I don't know how to start it up again. How do we get some momentum going?' Their attendance may not be in decline, but the air is out of the balloon. It's not growing in numbers, and their church's finances are not growing. They have kind of settled into a routine ministry. We have a lot of great suggestions to help jump start it again."

Randy Ayres, lead pastor at Cross Mountain Church in San Antonio, Texas, has experienced some personal dry spells in his more than 20 years of full-time vocational ministry. While he has survived past situations such as those, dealing with them has become much easier since he attended NICL and is applying the concepts Rutland teaches.

"I've been around for a while, and there are definitely seasons when personal growth is limited," Ayres said. "NICL will pull you out of that and will give you the necessary essentials to lead yourself, your staff and your church to new heights. What I learned at NICL has given me the motivation to continue learning. I will be pursuing the remaining part of my master's degree this fall."    

A member of the Association of Related Churches (ARC), Cross Mountain met in a tent underneath sprawling oak trees in 2002 with a membership of around two dozen. The Cross Mountain campus now has four buildings, including a new 20,000 square-foot worship center that opened in early October.

In his 12 years at Cross Mountain, Ayres has seen his congregation grow to 800 and say he now, after taking the NICL course, has the right tools to help it expand further and has encouraged him to complete his graduate work.

The Right Man for the Job

Rutland's credentials for teaching the Christian leadership course are impeccable. He is a nationally recognized leader in organizational turnaround.

As a pastor, he helped turn the fortunes of Calvary Assembly Church in Winter Park, Florida, taking the reins in  1990. When he left in 1995, the church had whittled more than $4 million in debt and its congregation had swelled by 200 percent from 1,800 to 3,600.

In 1999, he was tasked as the president of Southeastern University, a small, dying Bible college in Lakeland, Florida. The university had experienced financial difficulties and a declining enrollment prior to Rutland's arrival. The school is now thriving in both areas.

In 2009, he was chosen as the third president of Oral Roberts University. He helped the university to eliminate $55 million in long-term debt and oversaw the completion of $40 million in campus renovations. The school, now under the guise of Dr. Billy Wilson after Rutland's resignation in 2013, has experienced six consecutive years of enrollment growth.

Rachel Lamb, daughter of Daytstar Network founders Marcus and Joni Lamb, studied business and earned a business degree from ORU during Rutland's tenure there. She also took the NICL course in 2013.

"To sit in such an intimate setting with someone that has been so successful and has done what he has done is such a privilege," Lamb said on a recent edition of the program Marcus and Joni. "Dr. Rutland has such a wealth of knowledge to share. He has so much wisdom and experience and can impart so many practical applications to people in the ministry and business that can have a major impact."

Rutland's teaching prowess also impressed Newberry.

"It's one thing to talk theories, but their application is yet another," Newberry said. "In the leadership realm, Dr. Rutland knows what works and why it works. That's why he's able to connect with such various audiences."

Influencing Politics

Newberry is perhaps the most intriguing student to take the course. After receiving a bachelor's degree in theology from ORU, Newberry spent seven years as a youth pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before beginning his career as a legislator in 2008.

Upon the recommendation of a friend, he took the NICL course and graduated in 2013, gathering information he has been able to practically apply to his position as a state senator.

"Legislators attend a lot of conferences where you learn things like how to motivate volunteers; how to form a committee, how to speak in public and how to craft legislation," Newberry said. "But, there isn't a lot of solid baseline teaching at those events. With NICL, there's a level of teaching that digs into the issue of one-on-one communication and how to find out what the best interests of the hearts of your constituents are.

"The things that really stuck out for me during the class was the instruction on developing relationships and identifying the areas of commonality you have with people; what motivates the individuals, what's their vision in life. The course was extremely helpful in our fundraising because we've been able to expand our base beyond lobbyists of special interest groups to talk with the business community. It helps you to identifying issues that are important to them."

Newberry has also been a business professional in the mortgage banking industry for 14 years and serves as the vice president of TTCU the Credit Union in Tulsa. Since 2012, Newberry said TTCU has grown from a $30 million producer annually to $120 million.

Success Story

Pastor Jackie White started Church on the Rock in Lubbock, Texas, in 1985. Attendance has never reached epic proportions, but in 2013, after White and a member of his staff attended NICL and applied the principles they learned, Church on the Rock found itself at No. 63 on the list of the 100 fastest-growing churches in America. "The National Institute of Christian Leadership was instrumental in making that happen," White said. "I can testify that was the turning point for our church."

Spreading the Word

Allan Kelsey, an associate senior pastor at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, took the NICL course in 2013 along with nine other staff members from Gateway. The church, with a congregation of nearly 24,000 spread out over four campus, sent a few more staffers in 2014 upon Kelsey's recommendation.

"Gateway sees NICL as a very helpful general leadership tool," Kelsey said. "Probably 50 percent of the folks we hire don't come a theological background or from any type of leadership program. We're a large church and we can afford to specialize, but we don't have church leadership or management tools. It's a wonderful introduction to church leadership for them. We're sending all of our campus pastors and leaders for this training."

Measuring the Impact

Rutland is so certain that the course will bless leaders and potential leaders that it comes with a money-back guarantee.  

"If you finish the year and feel like you did not benefit from the course, we'll happily refund your money," Rutland said. "We've always stood behind that statement."

No one has asked for a refund since the course began three years ago. And, no one has ever failed to finish the course. Many have referred to it as a "life-changing experience."

"If you are in a leadership position in ministry, NICL will really hit home," said Jonathan Lamb, the director of corporate relations for the Daystar Network, who took the course with his wife, Suzy. "If you are a veteran leader or aspire to be a leader in the church, the principles that Dr. Rutland teaches will impact not only you but also the people that you are leading. Your whole church or organization can benefit from it." 

Shawn A. Akers is the online managing editor for Charisma Media.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Shawn A. Akers) Education Mon, 08 Jun 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Pentecostal Academics Name New President at Diverse Annual Meeting http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21651-pentecostal-academics-name-new-president-at-diverse-annual-meeting http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21651-pentecostal-academics-name-new-president-at-diverse-annual-meeting

Themed "Global Spirit: Pentecostals and the World," the Society for Pentecostal Studies' 44th Annual Meeting drew students, theologians and other academics to Southeastern University, March 12-14.

Dr. Kenneth J. Archer, professor of theology at Southeastern University, was inducted as the new president of SPS and Saturday morning gave his presidential address themed around hermeneutics.

Scholars from across the United States and around the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Canada, were present with 355 registered for the weekend. Exploring the relationship between Pentecostalism and the world, the conference also considered the social, historical and political impact of the transformation of world Christianity, among other topics addressed in plenary sessions, symposia and panel discussions.

Dr. Ivan Satyavrata, leader of the Assemblies of God church and its network of ministries in Kolkata, India, spoke at the opening session on celebrating the Spirit's free movement in the world. The ministries he oversees in India include medical services and a school system for thousands of children.

Dr. Kenneth J. Archer, professor of theology at Southeastern University, was inducted as the new president of SPS and Saturday morning gave his presidential address themed around hermeneutics.

Several awards were presented at Saturday evening's closing banquet. Around 150 registrants were in attendance for the culminating event that featured the talents of the 24-piece Southeastern University Jazz Ensemble.

The Pneuma Book Award honored author Angela Tarango for her book Choosing the Jesus Way: American Indian Pentecostals and the Fight for the Indigenous Principle (The University of North Carolina Press). In the book, Tarango, assistant professor of religion at Trinity University, focused on the historic Assemblies of God mission work among Native Americans that encouraged missionaries to train local leadership and create an indigenous church rooted in the native culture.

At the banquet, Dr. Archer also presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Frank Macchia, professor of theology at Vanguard University, an Assemblies of God school in Costa Mesa, California, and senior editor of Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies for a decade. Among his many achievements, Macchia had contributed chapters to more than 20 books.

"This is the highest honor that a scholar working in Pentecostal or Charismatic studies can receive, so I am naturally moved by this honor," said Dr. Macchia in a Vanguard University statement.

Memorials for past presidents were presented at the banquet as well.

"In 2014, one of our co-founders passed away and two of our former presidents passed away, so we had an acknowledgement of those in the meeting," said Dr. Lois E. Olena, executive director of SPS.

Daniel Ramirez presented a memorial to Manual J. Gaxiola, an SPS past president. Additionally, Olena, who wrote a biography on Stanley Horton, presented a memorial. Horton was known as a prominent theologian and senior editorial advisor of the Committee on Modern English Version Bible Translation.

Horton's "granddaughter and grandson-in-law were able to be there at the banquet in attendance," Olena said.

Other awards were given during the banquet by the Pentecostal Foundation to Robert Graves, and a Young Scholars "Best Student Paper" Award was presented to William Kyle Clukey of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.

A 24-piece Southeastern University Jazz Ensemble honored the gathering with its musical presentation at the banquet.

SPS has nearly 500 members with 191 institutions and 60 denominations represented in its membership.

"We have such diversity at SPS," Olena said. "We've got such a multitude of denominations represented and academic institutions represented. We're also very multi-ethnic. To me, it's sort of a little taste of heaven in terms of how diverse, and it's also very gender-friendly in terms of men and women partnering together both in academics and in the church. ... One of the things that really made me willing to go ahead and take on such a huge responsibility is the fact that it's such a great partnership between men and women in the society. We've had female presidents all along, but I'm the first female executive director."

The 45th Annual Meeting of the society will be held March 10-12, 2016, at Life Pacific College in San Dimas, California. The theme will be "Worship, the Arts and the Spirit."

Christine D. Johnson is the managing editor for print for Charisma Media.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Christine D. Johnson) Education Fri, 20 Mar 2015 21:22:00 -0400
Our Journey of Hope Equips Churches to Support Cancer Patients http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21640-our-journey-of-hope-equips-churches-to-support-cancer-patients http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21640-our-journey-of-hope-equips-churches-to-support-cancer-patients

Cancer is perhaps the single greatest health crisis affecting our nation's churches, and yet until now there has not been a coordinated effort to meet the widespread need for spiritual support among Christians facing this struggle. 

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Churches across America are filled with people fighting cancer, either as patients or as caregivers for a loved one.

Yet many pastors and lay leaders find themselves unprepared to meet the growing need for biblical cancer care ministry. Most churches have ministries for people experiencing divorce, financial difficulty and other life challenges but few have a dedicated outreach for cancer. 

Our Journey of Hope is a ministry program created by the pastoral care team at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) to fill this void. Designed to provide spiritual and practical resources to pastors and ministry leaders for outreach to cancer patients and caregivers, Our Journey of Hope began in 2004 as a one-day seminar for churches. 

Reverend Percy McCray, Director of Faith-based Programs at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, played a foundational role in creating Our Journey of Hope.

"As the years went by, CTCA noticed that a large percentage of the patients seeking integrative care at our hospitals identified themselves, not only as religious or spiritual, but as Christian specifically," McCray says. "Understanding that spiritual support was an important need of our patients, we began purposefully connecting with faith-based communities and their leaders in an effort to bring awareness and resources to the needs of families fighting cancer, regardless of where they sought treatment. We wanted to offer churches the resources to help their members before and after they got to the hospital."

In 2013, Our Journey of Hope expanded to offer Cancer Care Leadership Training in five cities across the United States: Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa. The updated program consists of a two-day training seminar for church leaders provided free of charge at each hospital, followed by an eight-week small group curriculum for starting and leading a biblically based cancer care ministry. 

Each Cancer Care Leadership Training Seminar walks participants through the unique physical, emotional and spiritual effects of cancer and provides key strategies to help church leaders meet those needs. The pastors and ministry leaders who attend have a rare opportunity to interact with and learn from cancer ministry experts and doctors who share their faith, as well as hear the personal testimonies of cancer survivors whose experience with the support of their church family empowered them to overcome their diagnosis.

Additionally, the seminar specifically aims to prepare participants to return home and begin their own cancer care ministries, including specific steps and curriculum resources. The powerful two-day experience includes a behind-the-scenes tour of a modern cancer treatment facility and culminates with a commissioning service for those who are ready to begin cancer care ministries in their churches. 

When they return home, these pastors are given everything they need to recruit and train volunteers within the church as cancer care ministers. As a small group, the volunteers go through eight weeks of biblically based lessons that cover spiritual and practical topics related to cancer. At the end of the curriculum, the new cancer care ministers are paired with patients and caregivers within the church to develop a personal, one-on-one relationship. 

Rev. McCray believes Our Journey of Hope plays a crucial role in supporting a patient's well-being during cancer treatment.

"Decades of research strongly suggest that people with a faith in God live longer, happier lives. When it comes to cancer treatment, these people are more likely to be optimistic and choose more aggressive treatment options because they believe God has a purpose for them. Our Journey of Hope gives pastors the specific knowledge and tools to support that faith and provide encouragement for their fight with cancer." 

The response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive among the hundreds of pastors and church leaders who have attended Our Journey of Hope training seminars in the last year and a half. Randy Hammond, a cancer survivor who leads the cancer support group at Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago area, compared the impact of Our Journey of Hope to what his church does

"We have an organization called the Willow Creek Association, which is sponsored by the church, that helps other churches be better churches. And I see the same relationship here. Our Journey of Hope helps churches build better cancer care ministries," Hammond said.

"We are one of only two cancer care ministries in the Chicago area. I've often wondered why other churches aren't doing the same thing that we are in terms of having this ministry in our church. It just seems like the right thing to do. And as far as I know, there isn't anybody else in a position to help a church build a cancer support ministry. And if there were, I would say they probably don't have the amount of resources and experience that you'll get from Our Journey of Hope." 

The American Cancer Society estimates that over 1.5 million Americans receive a cancer diagnosis each year. With this ministry program, churches have the opportunity to step into the gap and offer compassionate care to the individuals and families impacted by this devastating disease. Many churches have already made the commitment to provide cancer care ministries to their communities, such as First Baptist Church in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

"Our Journey of Hope has given the church tools and training on how to be really, in a sense, the hands and feet of Christ to those that are in need," says Carl Harris, lead pastor at First Baptist.  

More information can be found on the program's website at ourjourneyofhope.com

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Kelsey Potter ) Education Fri, 20 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
NICL: ‘The Business Side of Ministry’ http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21416-nicl-the-business-side-of-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21416-nicl-the-business-side-of-ministry

Recently, Dr. Mark Rutland, Founder and Director of the National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL) appeared as a special guest on the Marcus and Joni show on Daystar television network. 

"What I'm teaching is all the things I wish someone would have told me," he said during the interview with Marcus and Joni.

That is the heart of the NICL. With over 45 years of hands on leadership, Dr. Rutland uses the NICL to equip other pastors and leaders to take their organization to the next level. Whether you are a businessman, church planter or seasoned minister, the NICL has something for you. 

Several of the Daystar crew personally went through the program and shared their personal experiences from attending the NICL.

"From a business background, to sit in a class room with someone who has successfully turned around 3 major organizations, this is the best place to learn about the business side of ministry that no one else is talking about," Rachel Lamb said.

Take an inside look and hear from several recent students on how the NICL has impacted their lives by watching the full length show on Daystar here.

About the NICL:

The NICL is a year-long intensive leadership training program with Dr. Mark Rutland, designed to take your ministry and personal leadership to the next level. Students will learn from Dr. Rutland's 40-plus years of ministry and business experience. Over the course of one year, Dr. Rutland walks participants through dealing with management issues, budgeting, staff and volunteers, turnarounds and much more. Click here for more information.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ministry Today Staff) Education Fri, 12 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Disaster in the Making: 20 Pieces of Bad Advice for Young Ministers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21364-disaster-in-the-making-20-pieces-of-bad-advice-for-young-ministers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21364-disaster-in-the-making-20-pieces-of-bad-advice-for-young-ministers

People love to give advice to young adults just entering the ministry. I'm sure they think they're helping.

I was a senior in college when the Lord fingered me for the ministry. When my coal miner Dad got the news, even though his experience with church leadership was minimal, he had advice for his third son: "Start off pastoring small churches. That way you learn how to do it before moving on to the bigger places."

As if I had a choice.

Unity Baptist in Kimberly, Alabama, ran 35 on a good Sunday. I pastored it in the slivers of time available when not working at a cast iron pipe plant and trying to be husband and father. I stayed 14 months. I did them no harm and they did me a lot of good.

When in seminary, the Paradis Baptist Church of the bayou community of Paradis, Louisiana, checked me out as a possible pastor, the fact that I had (ahem) pastoral experience tilted the scales. That church ran 40, but we lived in the apartment in the back of the educational building and more or less pastored full-time, if you don't count the four days a week spent 25 miles east on the seminary campus.

The third church ran 140 in attendance, and the fourth one over 500. I was off and running (smiley-face here).

Not all advice young ministers get is as basic and solid as what my dad offered. Some of what follows I heard personally, while friends volunteered some of it.

1. If you can do anything else other than preach, do it. I suppose what this implies is that "if you can be happy doing anything else," then do it. But even then, the advice is suspect.

On the surface, it implies that if one is a carpenter or has skills in some other line that would support his family, he should stay out of the ministry. What about all the wonderful bi-vocational ministers, we wonder?

2.  Study diligently until you are 40 years old, and after that, preach out of the overflow. Yes, that counsel was given me. My ordination council was composed of two ministers from our church, several neighboring preachers, and the editor of our state Baptist paper. It was the editor who offered this strange counsel. He was 60-ish, as I recall, and therefore we may assume he'd not studied for 20 years or more. What I would not give for the opportunity to ask a follow up question of him. Something eloquent, like, "Say what?"

When I shared this advice with an older minister who became a mentor, he scoffed, "What overflow?"

3. Do not get close to your people. Several friends say this counsel was given to them, so it's not as rare as No. 2 above. We assume this means you should not have church members as your closest friends and should not take members into your confidence. It's something of a half-truth, I expect, as there are churches where it holds and some where it does not.

Early in our ministry, my wife confided in a lady who was so helpful and had a great attitude. Soon we discovered she was telling others everything about us. A hard lesson well learned. We continued to hold the woman as a friend, but limited what we said to her.

In subsequent churches, the Lord gave us true friends who remain to this day some of our best and dearest friends. We thank God for mature, godly believers who came alongside us and loved us as the flawed disciples we were.

4. You don't need to get a theological education. There's no need, no time and no point. The counterpoint to that is that our Lord had only 33 years on earth, so before preaching for 3 years, He prepared for 30.

Almost every minister I know went to school while pastoring churches. So, it's not either/or. Frankly, I shudder to think what poor leadership my churches would have received had I not gone to seminary and continued to learn and grow.

5. Don't ever turn down an opportunity to preach. The preacher who received this advice says he almost killed himself running here and there until it occurred to him he could turn some invitations down. (I'm now realizing the same thing in my retirement mode. Just because someone invites you does not mean you must accept. Ask the Lord.).

6. Never let the congregation know when you are hurting. This is a variation of the leadership line that goes: Never let 'em see you sweat. And it's dead wrong. On the one hand, pastors should not overdo this, but on the other, God has surrounded the minister with faithful friends who would love to help share his burden. But he has to let them know. (I suggest a small group of leaders, told in confidence what the pastor has to deal with, as the starting place. In most cases, that will be sufficient.)

7. Keep moving. Two years is long enough for any pastorate. My wonderful dad told me one year is long enough for most pastorates. But while his instincts were usually sound, this time he missed it. His experience was limited to the country preachers who did little other than show up on Sundays. Time has shown repeatedly that the great churches have pastors who stay for decades.

8. Don't be a Baptist. There's no money in it. Yep, one friend said that pearl of wisdom was given him.

9. It's better to get forgiveness than permission. This manipulative tool is used by abusers and is unworthy of a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

10. Go along to get along. Variations of this philosophy include: Don't rock the boat; It's not worth dying for. You get the impression that some pastors stay at a troubled church for decades by employing this approach. But like No. 9 above, it's unworthy. The minister should be devoted to helping a church become healthy and strong, and as with any other diseased body, sometimes that requires surgery or even amputation.

11. Avoid that other group in your denomination; they're liberals. Labels are libels, as they say. And no hostility is as strong as the competition between brethren. The minister who heard this counsel tells me it was as wrong as it can possibly get. Some of those churches and those ministers were sound and Christ-honoring.

12. Do not answer the phone on your off-day. People don't always know your off-day, and trouble does not honor it. The minister with a servant's heart will find ways to get away from the phone but still be available when needed.

13. Do not use the same sermon material twice. Throw it away after using it once. The minister given this piece of wisdom testifies, "I recognized it then for what it was, and never obeyed it once."

14. Do not take off-days. The devil doesn't. Follow this advice if the devil is your role model. Otherwise, take your off days and enjoy your vacation. Jesus told the disciples, "Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest a while" (Mark 6:31).

15. When you get in a difficult situation in your church, leave. Cut your losses. Church splits look bad on your resume. The minister's wife who shared this says they stayed another seven years at that church and God did some wonderful things there.

16. You don't need that Greek stuff. Not everyone needs to study Greek and Hebrew. But those taught the languages by faithful brothers or sisters in Christ will find many a delight as a result of their efforts.

May I share one of my favorites? In Romans 8:26, Paul says the Holy Spirit "helps us in our weakness." The word helps in the Greek is synantilambanomai, a compound word made from several word parts scrunched together. Syn means "together, with;" anti means "opposite to, in front of;" and lambanomai is a form of the verb "to lift." 

Therefore, we conclude that the Holy Spirit "gets on the other side of our burden, and together with us, gets under it and lifts." That's pretty special stuff. (I think of making up a bed or pulling a crosscut saw: It's so much better with a friend on the other side),

17. Change denominations. That other one pays better and the retirement is terrific. It's all about money? All about furthering your career? If so, please find honest work, friend. But if God calls you into this work, ask Him to direct you and go there. He's not been proven wrong yet.

18. Stay with your race. White people cannot reach African-Americans. And vice versa. A variation of this is that your church can reach only people just like its members. Both philosophies have just enough truth in them to make them dangerous. They may be half-right, but they are totally wrong. If we could reach only people like us, no missionary would ever have a chance, and the gospel would have remained Jewish.

19. Spend an hour in the study for each minute you spend in the pulpit. I could name—but will not—the venerable pastor of a half-century ago who counseled preachers far and wide with this bit of flawed wisdom. For those of us preaching two-and-a-half sermons a week (Wednesday night being the 50-percenter), we would have time for nothing else.

20. Wherever there is a need, you find a mission field. And the nearest Christian is the missionary. A saintly missionary veteran gave this pearl of wisdom to our seminary in chapel one day when I was the fresh-faced 25-year-old eagerly soaking up everything I heard. Only in time did I realize that adopting this philosophy would mean frantically rushing helter skelter to meet every need, no matter whether the Lord was leading or if I was equipped.

One day, I saw how Jesus walked away from a crowd of needy people who had brought their sick to Him in order to preach heaven's message to the neighboring cities, for "that is why I have come" (Mark 1:38).

If wisdom is where we find it—another pearl which years of experience has proven accurate—and sometimes great insight originates from the unlikeliest of sources, then it's equally true that saintly servants of the Lord are capable of ladling out disastrous counsel to fellow travelers.

No one's counsel should be followed just because they have been in the Lord's work for a half-century. Or, in my case, 53 years.

We who have been doing this for a while love being invited to address young ministers—in seminary or in ordination councils or simply over a cup of coffee—on what to do, what to avoid, where to go and who to do it with. We are so full of wisdom and so quick to share it, one would think the experience of our years would have shown the futility of much of what we say. 

Nevertheless, the phone rings and some young minister asks for 10 minutes of our time (as one did last evening; we will be "meeting" on the phone this afternoon) and we look forward to dispensing the lessons of the decades for which we have the scars.

The best advice for a young minister I know how to give is this: If the Spirit within you says something on this list is dead wrong, ignore what we have said and obey Him.

You never go wrong obeying the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) Education Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
To Be a Great Leader, You Must Be a Reader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21297-to-be-a-great-leader-you-must-be-a-reader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21297-to-be-a-great-leader-you-must-be-a-reader

If you've ever been to Israel, you know there's a real contrast between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee is full of water and full of life. There are trees and vegetation. They still do commercial fishing there. But the Dead Sea is just that—dead. There are no fish in it and no life around it.

The Sea of Galilee is at the top of Israel and receives waters from the mountains of Lebanon. They all come into the top of it and then it gives out at the bottom. That water flows down through the Jordan River and enters into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea takes in but it never gives out. That's why it's stagnant. The point is, there must be a balance in our lives to stay fresh with both input and output. There's got to be an inflow and an outflow.

Somebody has said, "When your output exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall." There must be a balance. Most Christians get too much input and not enough output. They attend Bible study after Bible study. They're always taking in, but they're never doing any ministry.

The problem we pastors and church leaders face is the opposite. You're always giving out, and if you don't get input, you'll dry up.

Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy in prison. At the end of the letter he tells Timothy, "When you come, bring my coat ... bring the books too, and especially the ones made of parchment" (2 Timothy 4:13, GNT). At the end of his life, while in prison, Paul wants two things: "I want my coat and I want my books." C.H. Spurgeon, commenting on this passage, says:

"He is inspired, yet he wants books. He has been preaching at least 30 years, yet he wants books. He's seen the Lord, yet he wants books. He's had a wider experience than most men, yet he wants books. He's been caught up to heaven and has heard things that are unlawful to utter, yet he wants books. He's written a major part of the New Testament, yet he wants books."

Oswald Sanders in his book Spiritual Leadership says, "The man [and woman] who desires to grow spiritually and intellectually will be constantly at his books." I remember reading the biographies of both John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards. Both of them were intellectual giants. They stayed fresh by having a book with them continually while they were on horseback riding from event to event. Everywhere they traveled, they had a book. I've seen drawings of Wesley with a book in one hand, reading, not even looking where his horse is going.

Leaders are readers. Every leader is a reader. Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers. A lot of people read, but they're not leaders. If you're going to lead, you've got to be thinking further in advance than the people who you're leading. There are at least four reasons reading is essential:

1. You must read for inspiration and motivation. Harold Ockenga said, "Read to refill the wells of inspiration." William Law, who wrote Christian Perfection and a number of Christian classics, wrote, "Reading on wise and virtuous subjects is, next to prayer, the best improvement of our hearts. It enlightens us, calms us, collects our thoughts, and prompts us to better efforts. We say a man is known by the friends he keeps, but a man is known even better by his books." Personally, I feel few things get me out of sluggishness than reading a good book. It gets my creative juices flowing. So the first thing I do is read for inspiration.

2. You must read to sharpen your skills. Aldous Huxley said, "Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting." Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Your mind is a muscle and just like any muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. You cannot wear out your mind. No one ever died of an overused mind.

Just like every other professional, you, as a minister, continually have to be upgrading your skills. The way you do that is through reading. Make a list of the skills that are needed for your facet of ministry and then read in those areas.

3. You must read to learn from others. It's wise to learn from experience, but it's even wiser to learn from the experience of others. All of us learn from the school of hard knocks—trial and error. But we don't have time to make all the mistakes ourselves. Socrates said, "Employ your time in improving yourselves by other men's documents; so shall you come easily by what others have labored hard for." Employ your time reading what other men have already learned and then you can learn more easily what others have labored hard for.

The fact is, you can learn from anybody. You don't have to agree with everything they do, but everybody has something to teach you. We have assimilated lots of good ideas from many different sources and put them together in a new format, and that's what creativity is. All truth has been around forever. There are no truly new ideas. Creativity is taking existing ideas and making them work in a new way.

4. You must read to stay current in a changing world. If books are any indication of personal growth of senior pastors, a lot of pastors in America stopped thinking when they got out of school. They're not reading anything new, yet they're trying to speak on a weekly basis. In today's society obsolescence comes very quickly. You can write a science textbook, and by the time it gets to press it's out of date. You cannot live out your entire ministry on what you learned in seminary. You have to keep growing and keep learning.

With that as a background, I want to share with you some tips about how to get more out of your reading:

  • Analyze your reading habits to see what you've read and what you really need to read next.
  • Be intentional about scheduling time for reading, then read snippets of books wherever you are.
  • Balance your reading. Read broadly. Include people with whom you don't agree. This is how we are stretched.
  • Mark up your books and take notes. If you use a reading app, make highlights and store them.
  • Know what not to read. Know your favorite authors, read the cover and table of contents and the bibliography to see if the book is worth your time.
  • Read book reviews and book summaries to process even more books in less time.
  • Build your library. Whether you prefer print or ebooks, collect a library to reference and to leave behind.
  • And above all, remember that the Bible is our number one priority in reading. You can get so caught up in reading other books that you don't read the Bible.

Make time for God's Word before reading anything else. It is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. We need to spend more time reading it than anything else.

If you want to be a growing leader of a healthy movement, keep reading. It's the only way to stay out front.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren) Education Tue, 28 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Greg Surratt: Why Multisite Churches Don’t Value Teaching Gifts http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20942-greg-surratt-why-mutli-site-churches-don-t-value-teaching-gifts http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20942-greg-surratt-why-mutli-site-churches-don-t-value-teaching-gifts

I thought it might be of interest to address some frequent criticisms of multisite churches. Questions are good because they force us to examine what we do in light of Scripture and culture. 

So, here's one concern we hear often: "Multisite churches don't produce preachers and teachers."  The concern stems from the concept that many multisite churches leverage the teaching gift of one gifted teacher across various geographic locations, thereby not providing opportunities for young or new, emerging teachers and preachers to develop their gifts.

Here are some ways we handle that at Seacoast Church:

1. We have a primary teaching team. Several years ago I decided that the only way for me to keep my sanity (the small portion that remains), stay healthy and keep the church from relying too heavily on one voice was to create a weekend teaching team. We currently have five active members of the team. The way it works for us is this: One person does the teaching at all the services on any given weekend at our Long Point location. That, in turn, is videoed and viewed at our off-site locations the next weekend. For us, this is one of the primary things that ties us together as a church—we are all hearing the same message, discussing it in groups, responding to what God is saying to us as a church. I do between 55-60 percent of the weekends.

2. We have secondary teaching teams. In addition to the weekends, we have secondary teaching opportunities that include student ministries, young adult ministries, retreats and special events. Each of these have teaching teams that function similar to our weekend experience.  A newer teacher can cut their teeth in an environment smaller than a weekend gathering.

3. We do initial message-planning together. For our weekend experience, we do initial message-planning together every Monday at 10 a.m. Some pastors are schedulers by nature and plan their messages out months in advance (Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, etc). Others are normal, like me, and have little of the organizational gift, work better on a tight deadline (a procrastinator's motivator!) and can only see what is coming in the current week. So I show up Monday morning with a clean sheet of paper, a preacher's hangover and a hope that the Holy Spirit will breathe on the assigned Scriptures that week—and with a faint (actually a very real) fear that I have exhausted all ability to say anything helpful the previous weekend.

We invite our primary teaching team, some of our secondary teams and selected others to the meeting to help whoever is "on" that weekend think through the passage. Occasionally, visiting pastors or interested churchgoers ask if they can be a part of the process—which ratchets up the pressure to produce, but we almost always open the meeting to people who ask, with the requirement that they contribute, not just watch. Actually, it's a lot of fun, and God usually gives us insight that we couldn't get on our own. Just the process helps speakers in training get the hang of how you put a message together.

4. We have our primary teachers do a practice run-through on Thursday afternoon. After the message-planning session, whoever is up to bat that week locks away to prepare the message. Our deadline is Thursday noon (so notes can be printed and bulletins stuffed, and there has to be a deadline, so it might as well be Thursday so we can at least have a couple of days of sanity before the weekend). On Thursday afternoon, the teacher of the week does a practice run-through for the teaching team. This is not fun, but it does make the message better. It's a tough crowd: "What am I supposed to do as a result of that?" "That wasn't funny" "I don't have a clue what you were talking about" "Does the Bible really say that?" Definitely makes you sharpen your delivery before the weekend.

5. We have Starbucks coaching sessions throughout the week. Several times, I have received calls on Saturday morning: "You got time for a coffee? I need help with an idea or two." I love it. I just wish we would have had this type of environment when I was learning to preach! My first attempts to speak were in youth services and nursing homes. The youth services didn't work out too well (I was fired from my first three youth pastor jobs). Nursing homes were great because most of the people couldn't hear, but they were happy I was there.

6. We have feedback sessions after our Saturday night service. Sometimes the Saturday night message is really, really good. Most of the time, not so much, so we gather in the "bullpen" immediately after the service and see what we can salvage. Usually it's just a touch up, sometimes a major overhaul, but it's great to know that the team is fully invested in making the message successful.

7. We intentionally teach prospective teachers weekly. Every week, Mac Lake, one of our guys who loves developing leaders, gathers some of the newer teachers and others that we think may have the gift in embryo form. They listen to and learn from some of the better preachers in the world. Recently, they have listened to and watched Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, Mark Driscoll and others. Then Mac leads them through a discussion on technique, structure, delivery and what made it work. I walked in recently, and they grilled me on one of my recent messages. (They'll learn over time not to question the supreme leader so harshly!)

8. We give new, emerging teachers an occasional swing at the plate. We have very few outside speakers at Seacoast. I don't know if that is good or bad, but it does allow more opportunities for upcoming, in-house speakers to learn their craft. Our campus pastors have quarterly turns at the plate as well.

I'm not sure multisite has anything to do with whether you do a good job of training teachers and preachers. It all depends on the vision of the house. 

What do you think?

Greg Surratt is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the early adopters of the multisite model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development.

For the original article, visit gregsurratt.org.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Surratt ) Education Wed, 21 May 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Greg Surratt: 5 Things I Read That Can Make Me a Better Leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20910-greg-surratt-5-things-i-read-that-can-make-me-a-better-leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20910-greg-surratt-5-things-i-read-that-can-make-me-a-better-leader

How do you grow in your leadership skills? By doing? By watching? By being stretched? By learning from others? Probably you grow by doing a combination of all of them.

One of the ways I grow best is by watching the example of the leaders around me. I love learning. I’ve always been a curious sort. Over the years, curiosity has gotten a bad rap. We all know about the cat. What you might not know is that St. Augustine wrote in Confessions in A.D. 397, in the time before creating heaven and earth, God “fashioned hell for the inquisitive.” Apparently one of his followers was asking a few too many questions. I hope he was wrong.

One of the ways I scratch the leadership curiosity itch is by reading as much as I can, as often as I can. The information age that we live in is like crack for a consummate learner like me. Earlier I wrote a post about some of the tools that I use to help me do my job. I use at least three of those every day to help me learn and to retain what I’m learning.

1. The first tool is Feedly, which is an RSS reader. For the nontechies – it’s an app that allows me to accumulate the blogs and news services I read into one place. I have it sectioned into the following headings: Christianity, news, leadership, social media, technology, photography, quotes and productivity. At least twice a day I check out what is new on Feedly.

2. The second tool is called Pocket. It is a “read it later” app that syncs with Feedly. As I’m scanning through Feedly I might land on an article that I may want to either read later, use in a blog post, send to a friend or use for message prep. A button on Feedly sends it immediately to Pocket for later reading and tagging.

3. The third tool is called Evernote. I use it as my long-term storage for everything. Think of it as an electronic file cabinet with some drawers with neatly organized folders and other drawers that are searchable catchall’s. Pocket has a button that sends things to Evernote for long-term storage.

So–as promised–here are five things in my pocket this week that are helping me become a better leader:

  1. Five key characteristics every entrepreneur should have. Just substitute “church planter”, “Pastor” or whatever you do, for “entrepreneur”, and it applies to you.
  2. Eight things truly outstanding leaders do without thinking. These are things great leaders do instinctively.
  3. A beginners guide to social media for small business. Just the basics for anyone interested in connecting your message through social media.
  4. They are your words, choose them. Before you put up a sign to correct someone’s behavior, read these words of wisdom by Seth.
  5. How to get 300% more people to read your content. Poor title but an awesome blog post on the power of story.

It’s always been my goal to learn something new on the last day of my life.Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s probably not a bad way to go.

Greg Surratt is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the early adopters of the multi-site model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development.

For the original article, visit gregsurratt.org.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Surratt) Education Fri, 02 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Be Careful How You Teach http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20800-be-careful-how-you-teach http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20800-be-careful-how-you-teach

I recently looked through some really excellent small-group curriculum. I loved the way it dug in to lead students in going deeper with their relationship with Christ.

However, it also held one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to prewritten curriculum:

It was really written for an adult, not a student.

The subject matter is excellent. However, the way it is written asks questions in a way that an adult who is a fully devoted follower of Christ would understand. Since this has annoyed me for years, I went through a period of time where I wrote my own stuff.

In my pride, I went back and looked to see if my stuff was any better. Truth is, I did the same thing.

We think adding in engagement, activities and perhaps a video or two solves the problem of drawing in teens. This isn’t it, either. If you merely hand off any curriculum to your team, they think the point is to get from the beginning to the end of the lesson. Therefore, they stop ask these “grown-up” questions, get blank stares they think is boredom, and move on.

If there are unchurched students in your group, these concepts are totally foreign to them. When students have grown up in the church they have been “told” but often are not “taught.” Just because they have heard about concepts doesn’t mean anyone has stopped and asked,  ”Do you know what any of it means?”

Recently, I was probing my own three middle-school-age kids as to what grace really is. The idea that it is Christ’s “free gift” that we “don’t deserve” and what that means eluded them. These are three kids who have grown up in Christian school, in youth group, in church, in Christian programming, with two believing parents who talk to them, and still they couldn’t explain this simple concept.

I don’t think the answer is writing our own stuff or adding any more hands-on games. The answer is in the way we teach and in teaching our teachers to teach. Connecting students to the truth is not intuitive for everyone. Knowing how to strategically pull apart a lesson and get to the heart of the issue does not make sense to all of us. We don’t always know how to keep bringing it all back to Jesus. It’s not about the lesson at all. It’s about asking, “How will this deepen their relationship with the Lord?”

So, stop!

As you go through your curriculum and look at questions, think before you ask, and spend the time training your team to do the same.

Look at the lesson with the following questions in mind:

1. If you think about it, can you easily understand and articulate every concept in front of you? Chances are if you have to think more than a moment or are pondering, “I know I just am not sure how to say it,” the teens in your group have no clue at all. They need you to let them ask more questions about the questions.

2. Could someone who doesn’t speak your language understand all of the words? A Dutch friend of mine pointed this idea out. If you were trying to teach this lesson to a person who had just entered the country, how would you break it down? You would use easy concepts and small words. Do the same with your teens.

3. Are you stopping along the way? Don’t go from start to finish of the curriculum just to get through. Go through it line by line. Make absolutely zero assumptions that they all get it. Our unchurched students are sometimes vulnerable enough to say, “I don’t know.”

Many times, though, they think everyone else knows when they don’t. Our “churched” kids think they are supposed to know this stuff. They aren’t going to stop you and say, “So, listen, I’ve heard about this armor of God thing a lot. As a matter of fact, when I was little, I even owned the play set from the Christian bookstore. I think I understand that armor is protective, but can you give me a clue as to why wearing my salvation like a hat really is helpful? And you know what? Salvation is also explained as something I only have to do once, so really I am not getting this. While we’re at it, can we talk about how we wear shoes of peace or what righteousness has to do with living my life today? Did I mention I have no clue what righteousness really is and how on earth to wear it like a breastplate? I mean, practically speaking. Can you tell me how this has anything to do with following Jesus?”

The discussion question read, “How can your helmet of salvation protect your thoughts?” Line by line, ask them, “Do you get this?” and “Does that make sense?”

Personally, I think maybe teens should be writing curriculum for other teens. Therefore, we are left with the adults trying to think like an adolescent. Maybe instead we need to ask, “If I’m honest, do I know what walking with Jesus means at all?”

How are you teaching your students? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Leneita Fix is the director of ministry development for Aslan Youth Ministries, a family-focused urban ministry serving Monmouth County in New Jersey and Haiti. She has been working in some form of youth and family ministry for almost 22 years.

For the original article, visit simplyyouthministry.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Leneita Fix) Education Tue, 25 Mar 2014 16:00:00 -0400
10 Areas Where Pastors Need Training for the 21st Century http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20775-10-areas-where-pastors-need-training-for-the-21st-century http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20775-10-areas-where-pastors-need-training-for-the-21st-century

Any pastor or other church staff member should be prepared in biblical truths. Theology is a key discipline as well. Indeed, none of the classical disciplines should be forsaken, nor any of the practical disciplines, such as missions, evangelism or church planting.

But the American culture has shifted dramatically in a relatively short period. The United States is becoming more like an international mission field. As a result, ministry training, whether formal or informal, should reflect this reality. Missionaries are typically required to receive intensive cultural and language training before they go overseas. Frankly, a similar need exists today for those in American congregations or those planning to go to these churches.

So, where are the greatest needs? My list is certainly not exhaustive, nor is it listed in any particular order. But I do see all of these areas as key to reaching our new and challenging culture:

1. A new language. If a pastor or church staff member does not “speak” social media, he or she is neglecting one of the fastest-growing trends in our nation, indeed in our world. It is no longer a fad; it is a primary means of communication.

2. A non-Christian culture. Our nation is fast becoming a non-Christian nation. While we lament the relative decline in the numbers who follow Christ, we must also accept the reality that those in our community cannot be assumed to be like us or to hold our values.

3. The decline of cultural Christians in churches. The Pew Research project confirmed the dramatic increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. For our churches, this development means that most people do not feel cultural pressure to attend churches. More and more, those who are there are convicted Christians and not Christians in name only.

4. A new work/life balance. Pastors and church staff members have always been on call 24/7. But now they are connected 24/7 as well with computers, smartphones and other technological advances. For better or worse, the world of work and personal life is becoming increasingly blurred.

5. Unregenerate church members. Cultural Christians are those who really know they are not believers but are affiliated with churches for cultural reasons. But another group includes those who may cognitively assert a belief in Christ but have really not had a conversion. For certain, this development is not new. But we are seeing the cumulative cost of weak discipleship and false conversions in our churches. How will we respond to the issue of numbers of members who are not truly believers?

6. The community as a mission field. Can we change our mindset and be better prepared? Our communities are not just changing because there are fewer Christians. They are changing with an influx of new ethnic groups and people of other religious beliefs.

7. Less automatic cultural respect of church leaders. In past years, those who held the title of “pastor” or some similar nomenclature were revered in the community just by the position they held. Such is not the case today. Respect must be earned one day at a time.

8. A more critical world. Many pastors and church staff members do not deal well with the more transparent and critical world in which we live. Some retreat to a form of passivity or paths of least resistance. And some quit altogether.

9. A greater need for leadership skills. The world in which we live is complex. We may long for simpler times, but that won’t change our realities. Church leaders must be better leaders in more challenging times.

10. More churches in need of revitalization. This last item may be last on the list, but the need is huge. As many as 9 out of 10 of our churches are in need of some level of major revitalization. There are tens of thousands of these churches, and the implications for equipping leaders for them are vast.

This list may be discouraging to you as you read the cumulative implications. I see it, however, from a different perspective. I see this new reality and this new mission field as a great opportunity. No, it’s not your father or mother’s church. It’s a new and challenging reality requiring a missional mindset. It requires total dependence on the One who sends us to the mission field. And that is exactly where God wants us.

What do you think about this mission field called America?

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Previously, he served the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 12 years, where he was a founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Education Thu, 13 Mar 2014 13:00:00 -0400