Ministry Leadership http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership Thu, 24 Apr 2014 15:15:56 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Discover the Power of Changing A Church Name http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20896-discover-the-power-of-changing-a-church-name http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20896-discover-the-power-of-changing-a-church-name

For three years, Bishop George L. Davis, pastor of Faith Christian Center in Jacksonville, Fla., has been frustrated. It was three years ago that name change stories in the Bible started to stand out to him: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah and Simon to Peter.

Each change reflected that God was giving them a different direction, and calling them to accomplish something new.

As Bishop Davis shared with his congregation: “Throughout the Bible, when God has a new purpose and plan, he would often change someone’s name.”

The name “Faith Christian Center” had been effective. But in his spirit, he felt it was time to accomplish something new. Plus, in today’s digital age, names matter more than ever. Some experts say that online, people take a second or less to read about you—based on how much the name attracts them. Type the name “Faith Christian Center” into Google, and page after page of churches show up—not exactly a unique identity.

Even more important, Bishop Davis felt like God was doing a new work in this growing church. So after working intensely over the last year with his creative team and pastoral staff, the decision was made:

Faith Christian Center would become Impact Church.

The official change happened this Easter Sunday, and the congregation was thrilled. He said after the service, “Certainly it takes time to grieve the loss of the old name—a name that we have loved for many years. But I can’t describe the excitement of our congregation over this new identity.”

As one long time church member put it: “The name Faith Christian Center has said, “Come to us and we will teach you faith.” The name Impact Church says, “We are coming to you to change your life wherever you are.”

Bishop Davis wants people in Jacksonville and beyond to know that Impact Church is a place where their lives will be impacted in an eternal way. It’s a place that will make a lasting and profound difference for the Kingdom. At the same time, they wanted to “impact” their 10 locations around the world. With a network of churches throughout Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and even Peru, changing the name would allow all those churches to be readily identified as a global family, so they become the Impact Church in their respective areas.  

How about your church? Could you take a lesson from these great name-change stories in the Bible, and consider the strategy of Bishop Davis? If your church name is tired, doesn’t reflect the identity, mission, or purpose of your congregation, or doesn’t connect with your community, here’s some principles to consider:


1. Never be flippant. Bishop Davis realized that names have meaning, and there’s an emotional relationship between a congregation and the name of the church.

2. Buy the URL. In a world with hundreds of thousands of churches, it can be difficult. But if possible, get the closest web address possible to your church name. Remember that virtually 100 percent of potential visitors will check your church out on the web before they attend, so a powerful and easy to find website is more important than ever.

3. A strong name can make a big difference in the community’s perception. Perception matters in a cluttered, distracted, and hyper-competitive world. A strong name cuts through the clutter and gets noticed.

4. Get your leadership team’s buy-in. They will help influence the congregation, and a name change should be a positive event—not a reason for criticism.

5. Get professionals in the room. The digital revolution has transformed how people find churches and shifted their expectations. Get advice from professional communicators or media consultants before you make a potential mistake.

6. Make sure the name change is birthed out of a new vision, not a novelty. Remember that Bishop Davis wasn’t looking for a new name. God was leading him over and over to stories of name changes in the scripture. In that process, God was revealing to him a vision and purpose for a new season in the life of the church. Don’t do it backwards, and look for a purpose that matches the new name. Make sure your new name comes out of a God given identity and mission.

There are thousands of churches today that may be great worship experiences, but a poorly chosen name keeps potential visitors from coming in the door. If that describes your church, then consider a change. Anything that keeps people away from hearing the gospel is a hindrance, so clear a path. If God is leading your church into a new purpose and season, don’t let a bad name hold you back.

Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is a filmmaker, media consultant, and co-founder of Cooke Pictures in Los Angeles. Find out more at philcooke.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Phil Cooke) Administration Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Fanning the Flames of Dying Churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/vision/20866-fanning-the-flames-of-dying-churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/vision/20866-fanning-the-flames-of-dying-churches

My parents’ efforts have given me an appreciation for people who pastor smaller churches. I know what it is like to struggle because I watched my parents struggle.

Smaller churches today are somewhat like the neighborhood grocery store when Wal-Mart comes to town. Smaller churches have to compete with larger churches that offer a full-service ministry to people. This is not an easy assignment.

With one-third of Assemblies of God churches are under 50, and one-third between 50 and 100, we have many unsung heroes who are faithfully doing the Lord’s work.

My mother would say, “Georgie, when we stand before God, He will not ask us if we have been successful, but if we have been faithful.”

The largest church my parents ever pastored may have had 130 people for a few Sundays. Most of their churches had 20, 30, and 40 people. But they served those people well. They loved them. They tried to disciple them.

Because of my history in and around small churches, I’m also aware that some struggle in ways that can be changed and lead to greater growth.

One of the core values I added to my list after elected general superintendent was to revitalize existing churches. It is often more difficult to revitalize a church than plant a new one — or as someone has put it, “It’s easier to birth a baby than raise the dead.”

Because a task is difficult, however, does not mean we should abandon it. The Holy Spirit has infinite capacity to renew a church. We have a legion of stories about churches that have made the recovery from smoldering ashes to glowing fires.

One of those is the story of New Community Church in Mesquite, Texas. Scott Wilson’s church, The Oaks, in Red Oak, Texas, adopted a dying church and tasked Chris Railey and his family with overseeing its transition from 40 members to just under 100. At that time, Scott appointed Chris as pastor and the church began a journey to autonomy.

Through community outreaches, Chris and the church ended up revitalizing their entire small urban Texas town. The congregation grew from about 80 people to nearly 700, with 1,200 decisions for Christ.

This success story is miraculous but it’s also within reach of most of our churches on the brink of extinction. Let’s all do what we can to fan the flames of churches dying in communities that desperately need the flame of the Holy Spirit active in their midst.

George O. Wood is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. For the original article, visit georgeowood.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (George O. Wood) Vision Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Are You Unhappy in Your Present Place of Ministry? http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/personal-character/20865-are-you-unhappy-in-your-present-place-of-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/personal-character/20865-are-you-unhappy-in-your-present-place-of-ministry

By my warped standards, it was not a good day. After nearly nine years serving as president and CEO of LifeWay, I have learned that criticisms are a part of the life and leadership I have. But the critics on this particular day seemed more numerous and more unrealistic in their expectations.

I’d had enough. I wasn’t sure I wanted another day of this job.

One of the members of my executive team came into my office. He, too, had had a rough day. I was no help to him. When he asked me if I thought it was all worth it, I cynically responded, “I’m not so sure.”

How stupid could I be? Thousands of people would trade places with me in a heartbeat. I am blessed beyond measure. Yet I was whining, complaining about something so relatively small. And even worse, I was offering no hope to one of my own leaders. My leadership stunk! I was ashamed of myself.

I have given myself these four reminders in the past, but I needed to rehearse them again:

1. We who are in ministry have been blessed by our calling. We have been called to serve Christ and His followers. God chose us for this calling not because we deserved it, but just because He chose to do so. He never promised us an easy path. But He did promise us He would never leave us alone in our calling. What an incredible blessing.

2. God loves those who sometimes make our ministries difficult. I don’t want to be Jonah in Nineveh. I don’t want to be angry at the world and the people I have been called to love and to serve. My Savior has put up with a lot more garbage from me. I want to learn how to love those who seem unloving. I want to learn to love unconditionally. That’s what Jesus does. That’s what I should do.

3. Those in ministry who dwell on the problems rather than count their blessings will always be miserable. I know. I have been that person too many times. I am asking God this day to give me the strength and priorities to focus on the incredible ways I am blessed. I plan truly to count my many blessings.

4. I must keep my eyes more firmly focused on the resurrected Lord. When I am more consistent in my prayer life, I am more focused on Him. When I am in the Word daily, I am more focused on Him. When I seek to put others before myself, I am more focused on Him. When I share the gospel with others, I am more focused on Him. When I seek to minister in His name, I am more focused on Him.

Yes, I may think I had a bad day. But the reality is that I am serving a great God in a great calling at a great time. I must learn to be a man of gratitude rather than a man of complaints and negativity.

Not too long ago, I heard from a man who was fired from his church. He was still unemployed. He stated simply that he longs to be back in a church with critics, messy ministry and 24/7 availability. But he didn’t know how good he had it until he lost it all.

May I offer I word of exhortation, a word of encouragement? Don’t be like me. Negative. Complaining. Ready to give it up over nothing.

Instead, be like those men and women who minister faithfully every day, who rejoice in their callings, who focus on the blessings God has given them, who long to serve others instead of whining about little problems here and there.

God called you. God blessed you. He will strengthen you. He will sustain you. He will give you great victories.

Focus on the resurrected Lord.

And the greatest days of your ministry will be just around the corner.

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.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Personal Character Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:00:00 -0400
10 Mistakes Pastors Make When Turning Sermons Into Books http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/personal-character/20864-10-mistakes-pastors-make-when-turning-sermons-into-books-writing http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/personal-character/20864-10-mistakes-pastors-make-when-turning-sermons-into-books-writing

Editor's Note: After ghostwriting and editing more than 300 Christian books, Neil Eskelin, president of LifeBridge Books, offers his advice to ministers who have a sermon series they want to see published as a book.

Here are 10 common mistakes for pastors when trying to get their material published:

1. Their writing lacks “you” power. Since the goal is to help readers, try to use the word you 10 times as often as I.


2. They forget they have a personality. To develop a relationship with the reader, sprinkle your manuscript with personal stories—at least one or two per chapter.


3. They fail to grab the reader's attention. After writing a chapter, pull out the best illustration and move it to the beginning. Start strong.


4. They need to use a thesaurus. If you are writing on faith, vision or any particular theme, don't use the same word over and over in successive sentences or paragraphs. Find synonyms to get your point across. Also, if you use an unusual word, once or twice in a book is enough.


5. They shout instead of speak. Only rarely should you use words or sentences with all capital letters—it’s like shouting at the reader. Instead, use italics for emphasis. Also, keep exclamation points to a minimum or they will lose their impact.


6. They need to give the reader a break. We see far too many long passages. Readers are easily bored, so keep sentences and paragraphs short. Also, we like to use a subheading on at least every other page.


7. They believe their words are chiseled in stone. God may tell you what to preach, but be open and flexible when it comes to recommended edits. Trust your editor to make wise decisions, even though you should always have the final word.


8. Their title lacks life. The book we produced for author Benny Hinn was originally to be titled The Person of the Holy Spirit. We changed it to Good Morning, Holy Spirit, and it sold several million copies. The new title had imagination and life!


9. They design their own book cover. Get a pro to produce two or three possible covers, and tweak the best one until it can compete with any best-seller. Research shows that the cover is 80 percent of the sale.


10. They fail to explore publishing options. Most of the books we produce for pastors are published by LifeBridge Books, which has national distribution, but several of our clients either self-publish or want a manuscript to present to other publishers.

“We prefer taking rough sermon transcripts and creating the first draft,” Eskelin says. "This saves the pastor untold hours of writing and shortens the production time from months to weeks.”

Neil Eskelin is the president of LifeBridge Books.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Neil Eskelin) Personal Character Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:00:00 -0400
3 Levels of Dynamic Preaching http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/preaching/20857-3-levels-of-dynamic-preaching http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/preaching/20857-3-levels-of-dynamic-preaching

Did you know that for musical arrangements, composers write more than just the notes to be played? They also write the strength with which each note should be performed.

These markings are referred to as the “dynamics” of music.

A composer might write pp, meaning pianissimo or “very soft,” or ff, meaning fortissimo or “very loud.” There are multiple marks, all meant to tell the musician roughly how strong or soft a note is meant to be played.

These dynamic markings make all the difference in a song. The best songs do not stay at the same level. The dynamics of all great songs rise and fall from the forcefulness of a shout to the gentleness of a whisper.

I believe that preaching is very similar. Great preaching doesn’t stay on one level. Great preaching is vocally dynamic.

I believe that every preacher should have three levels of vocal dynamics:

  • Normal
  • Quiet
  • Loud

This isn’t complicated, but it takes a lifetime to master.

Every preacher should work to get comfortable using each of these levels of vocal dynamics. Think of them as tools in your back pocket to pull out as needed for emphasis.

Normal is your base level. This is the level that you would normally talk in a room to ensure that someone sitting in the back row could still hear you.

Loud doesn’t exactly mean shouting. It is simply the loudest you are comfortable raising your voice to communicate power, passion or urgency.

Quiet doesn’t exactly mean whispering. It is simply the quietest you are comfortable lowering your voice to communicate control, sincerity or intimacy.

Both loud and quiet dynamics grab hold of the audience’s attention because of the contrast from your normal tone.

Think of these levels of dynamics as places you know you can go to stress or accentuate a critical point in your message. For example, most of your favorite preachers use these dynamics powerfully.

Imagine you are sitting in the audience of one of your favorite pastor’s church. The pastor takes the stage, the lights come up, and he begins speaking in a normal conversational voice.

As the message continues, he hits a powerful point in the sermon. His voice rises. Passion and a small sense of righteous anger bursts from his mouth.

Then, in a moment, he pauses. He leans forward. And in a gentle whisper, he reveals a profound truth.

Can you see it?

Vocally dynamic preaching is powerful. The volume of your voice makes all the difference in the power of your sermon.

A preacher who is only loud is a bully. A preacher who is only quiet is timid. And a preacher who is all normal is passionless. It takes a variation of all three levels to communicate the sense of urgency and passion the gospel demands.

How to Get Better at Dynamics

If you want to improve the vocal dynamics of your preaching, try this. Get on stage and practice with the microphone you normally use. Start from your normal volume level. Speak as if you are talking normally to the imaginary person in the back row. Play around with this if you want to until you find a comfortable range.

Now, start raising your voice slowly. Pretend you are trying to get the imaginary person in the back of the room who is hard of hearing to understand you. Practice speaking at different loud volumes until you feel that you are too loud. Settle on a volume level louder than your normal voice, but not too loud.

Finally, get really quiet. Lean forward. Pretend you are telling a secret to the imaginary person in the front row. Again, play around with your quiet tone until you find a level that is not too quiet to be understood clearly, but much softer than your normal volume.

This may feel a little forced, but until this comes naturally to you, you could even include marks like a composer on your sermon outline. Use pp for quiet or a ff for loud (or maybe a Q and L).

Be intentional with the dynamics of your voice to keep your audience engaged, and communicate with power and passion.

Brandon Hilgemann has been on a nine-year journey to become the best preacher he can possibly be. During this time, he has worked in churches of all sizes, from a church plant to some of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the United States. Brandon blogs his thoughts and ideas from his journey at ProPreacher.com.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brandon Hilgemann) Preaching Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
7 Warning Signs Before Leadership Failure http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/20854-7-warning-signs-before-leadership-failure http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/20854-7-warning-signs-before-leadership-failure

Unfortunately, in every level and realm of life, we have all witnessed serious leadership failure. It is no longer a surprise when we read about a high-level pastor, celebrity, sports figure or politician who is disgraced because of ethical or moral failure.

As one who has worked with many struggling church and marketplace leaders on a very personal level for the past 30-plus years, I have made the following observations regarding warning signs before a fall, which I teach younger leaders so they will avoid the mistakes of the present generation of many leaders.

All of us have fallen into the following in one way, shape or form. Hopefully we will have learned the hard leadership lessons of life so we can pass on wisdom to the next generation. Here are seven warning signs before leadership failure:

1. Often before falling, a leader will cram so much into his or her schedule for a prolonged amount of time that they don’t get enough time for personal renewal and rest. Much activity is not always kingdom productivity. When a person is constantly running around from meeting to meeting, from state to state, from event to event without seeking God and personal times for reflection, they do violence to their soul and will eventually be operating on willpower and fumes instead of the Spirit of God. This can lead to them being tempted to escaping from the pressure of life with adulterous relationships, pornography, excess entertainment and foolish endeavors.

Activity without clarity will also lead to making poor decisions. When we are always in a rush, we will not have the proper time to process things, which leads to a lack of discernment and disastrous leadership decisions. This will compound the pressure even more and create more work to get out of the mess they are in. Sometimes less is more!

I am not saying leaders shouldn’t be very busy or have a lot of responsibility. But what I am saying is there always has to be enough time in between events and days of meetings for daily reflection, prayer and seeking God so that our level of discernment is high and we are walking in the grace and power of God—instead of our own willpower and strength—to do His work.


2. Before falling, a leader avoids intimate contact with their peers or overseers who can speak into their life. They live a life of isolation, which is very dangerous.

As busy as I am, there are a number of mentors and spiritual sons that I open up to who give me input and prayer. I am always open to hearing God’s voice through their prayers or exhortations to me. The more responsibility I have, the more community I need to keep myself on track!

We also need intimate relationships to keep the human side of us active. It is very easy to go from one productive business meeting or anointed service to another and always be in front of strangers or crowds of people or with leaders who don’t know us well. There is no real community in those settings; even in the midst of a crowd, we can isolate ourselves because in a crowd a leader doesn’t have to be intimate or accountable, since they are the ones calling the shots, doing the leading and speaking instead of the other way around.


3. A leader is heading for a fall when he or she is not spending adequate time with their spouse and/or family. God told us that it is not good for man to be alone. I have seen many leaders, especially those who travel a lot, who are not in regular touch with their spouses and who rarely ever spend time at home.

Being with family helps keep a leader grounded. Without that, they will be surrounded by superficial relationships related only to their productivity as a minister or businessperson, where they are always receiving accolades (from sycophants) as opposed to being a father, mother, husband or wife who has to constantly strive to work hard at intimacy in their family relationships—which God intended for us to keep us humble and grounded. A leader may get praise from everyone around him, but the spouse really knows them and will tell them like it is and keep them in touch with reality!


4. Leaders are heading for trouble when they don’t exercise self-discipline in eating and indulging their pleasures. If a leader cannot control their eating patterns, then most likely that is a reflection of a larger issue—that is, they are medicating themselves with food and most likely are vulnerable to other lusts of the flesh that will enable them to escape from the pressures of reality. Obesity is a social sin that has become acceptable in the body of Christ even though Jesus warns against it (Luke 21:34).

Furthermore, when we as leaders have bad diets, it begins to affect our minds, emotions and spirits in negative ways because it creates sluggishness and fatigue and clouds our spirits with our carnality. Many leaders have died or have serious health issues once they hit their 40s and 50s because of a poor diet. God will judge us if we prematurely meet Him and miss half our lives because of our lack of discipline and obedience.


5. Leaders are heading for trouble when they don’t seek God for God and only pray and read the Bible when they have to preach a sermon or minister. Worse than our lack of intimacy with the Lord is the fact that we are only using Him to make a living or using His word to achieve certain outcomes.

However good they may be, our highest call in life is to know and love God. Matthew 7:22-23 teaches us that we can minister for God effectively and still fail if He doesn’t know us. Leaders who only seek God for a sermon have a professional relationship with the Lord and will eventually not have the grace and spiritual power to deal with all the pressures of marriage, life and ministry, which can lead to moral failure.


6. Leaders who love titles, positions and recognition and who constantly join boards and get involved in large events for public prominence are heading for a fall unless they repent. When we exalt ourselves, God says He will humble us (Luke 14:11), and he who seeks his own glory is not glory (Prov. 25:27).

We are not far from a fall when we try to lift ourselves up, promote ourselves or get involved in events without hearing from the Lord; we are like the Pharisees who loved titles, prominent positions, greetings in the marketplace and to be called leader or reverend or bishop or doctor (Matt. 23:6-7). Leaders who are broken have learned not to try to create names for themselves by marketing their accomplishments and hype; they have learned that only when God exalts a person does it really last (Ps. 75:6).


7. When leaders use people as objects for their businesses or ministries instead of having a motivation of empowering people to walk in their purpose—when leaders put programs over people and tasks ahead of relationships—eventually they will have no one around them who is loyal or who they can trust. They will have burned many bridges behind them because, eventually, their followers will become weary of them and leave them!

Leadership is a lonely road to walk. Leaders more than anyone else need to minister to people with a servant’s heart. When leaders come into the ministry with the attitude of being served instead of serving others, they develop an entitlement mentality that can lead them to pride, arrogance and eventually destruction.

May God help all of us who serve the kingdom as leaders to glory only in knowing Him (Phil. 3:7-11; Jer. 9:23-24)!

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Ministry Leadership Tue, 22 Apr 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Brad Lomenick: Great Leaders Are Committed to the Insignificant http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/personal-character/20852-brad-lomenick-great-leaders-are-committed-to-the-insignificant http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/personal-character/20852-brad-lomenick-great-leaders-are-committed-to-the-insignificant

As leaders, we live for the moment—the big moments that are memory makers, the home runs, the winning “touchdown,” the deal that launches our organization or business to the next level, the significant benchmarks in life that define us and shape us, the times that people will talk about for years to come, when the adrenaline is dialed up and we step in.

But ultimately, faithfulness looks most like being disciplined and faithful to the small things in life and leadership.

Great leaders are committed to the insignificant.

The making of a leader takes time and, I believe, is revealed and refined through continual steadfastness in the small things.

Our character, our sense of who we are, is defined by the insignificant points in life when no one is watching, when no one really cares, the times when it doesn’t seem to matter, the points where it is difficult to actually finish the project, the pain points when we wonder if this is what God has actually called us to do, the moments when it would be OK to cut corners but we stay committed to excellence.

This is where the foundation of faithfulness and our character as leaders is created and solidified. Jesus describes this in Luke 16:10: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (NASB). Be faithful to the small things.

Perseverance is crucial to being a disciplined leader. Staying true to the process. There is beauty in the process, and we are shaped by the journey.

The process defines us. There is no overnight transformation, no shortcuts. It takes years to be shaped into the leader God has called you to be. The nitty-gritty daily grind of walking steadfastly in the mundane and ordinary shapes the extraordinary.

Great leaders are always growing, learning and moving forward. It’s a journey, not a destination. Effective leaders never stop growing and getting better. They are curious, committed and coachable. They are always students and always desperate to learn.

And they are always committed to making the small things, the seemingly insignificant projects and assignments that no one seems to care about, the best they can possibly be.

Stay committed to the insignificant!

Brad Lomenick is president and key visionary of Catalyst—a movement purposed to equip and inspire young Christian leaders through events, resources, consulting and community. Follow him on Twitter @bradlomenick, or read his personal blog at bradlomenick.com.

For the original article, visit bradlomenick.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brad Lomenick) Personal Character Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Assemblies of God: A Centennial Pilgrimage to Hot Springs http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20861-assemblies-of-god-a-centennial-pilgrimage-to-hot-springs http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/administration/20861-assemblies-of-god-a-centennial-pilgrimage-to-hot-springs

Approximately 300 people gathered in Hot Springs, Ark., on April 10-11, 2014, to celebrate the centennial of the Assemblies of God. Echoes of the statements from the founding general council, where another 300 ministers gathered in the same place exactly 100 years earlier, could be heard throughout the two-day event.

The centennial celebration, sponsored by the AGTrust, featured seven speakers and a night of gospel music and worship. The celebration concluded with a pilgrimage to the site of the former Grand Opera House, where the first general council was held, to re-create the iconic photograph of the founders of the Assemblies of God.

One hundred years ago, Hot Springs had a reputation as a wild town, known for its alcohol, prostitution, gangs and drugs. When the founders of the Assemblies of God met at the Hot Springs Grand Opera House for the first general council, they had to pass by the saloon at the front of the building in order to attend the meetings in the auditorium. The centennial celebration was held in a more sanctified setting—the spacious First Assembly of God, Hot Springs, Ark.—pastored by Larry Burton.

The centennial celebration drew people from across the United States. Jean and Magalie Rebecca, a husband and wife who pastor Haitian Assembly of God, Dorchester, Mass., were excited to be able to participate.

"We grew up in the Assemblies of God in Haiti," Jean Rebecca said. "The Assemblies of God is a worldwide family, and we wanted to represent Haitians in Hot Springs.”

Attendees also included descendants of some of the participants in the first general council, held April 2-12, 1914. Bonnie Olsen, the granddaughter of founding Assemblies of God minister Oliver P. Brann, felt right at home.

“I experienced faith-filled services and the power of God this week. I wish I could experience this every day,” she said.

General Superintendent George O. Wood opened the celebration on Thursday by recounting the five reasons for the formation of the Assemblies of God, as enumerated in the century-old “Call to Hot Springs.” Each speaker continued in this vein, expounding on why the founding principles of the Assemblies of God remain compelling today.

Greg Mundis, executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions, shared about the heritage of missionaries who suffered, sometimes unto death, to bring the gospel around the world. Assistant General Superintendent Alton Garrison preached on the bedrock importance of the Word of God.

True to Pentecostal form, the afternoon service included an extended time at the altar. Hundreds of voices were raised in fervent prayer, and people flooded the altars and aisles in the church. Following a time of prayer for specific areas of ministry, Garrison asked those present in need of healing to come forward for prayer. Vocal spiritual gifts were manifested, and several people later testified of physical healings.

Wilfredo De Jesús, pastor of New Life Covenant Church, Chicago, Ill., encouraged those who are carrying on the Pentecostal legacy to fight complacency in their spiritual lives.

“It is essential to build a bridge,” De Jesús said, “so that the younger generation can learn about the power of the Holy Spirit from the older generation.”

He illustrated this principle with the biblical example of Elijah, the older prophet, who discipled Elisha, the younger prophet. “Elijah and Elisha were from different generations, but they walked together,” he said.

Thursday evening, gospel musicians Johnny Minick and Russ Taff led participants in three hours of rousing worship. The music included songs from each decade of the last 100 years. About 40 people—including Wood and Garrison—participated in a Jericho March, which is a spirited procession around the church in a single file during the worship service. The practice originated in Kentucky Presbyterian camp meetings during the Second Great Awakening and had been adopted by some early Pentecostals.

On Friday morning, three younger ministers spoke—Rod Loy, First Assembly, North Little Rock, Ark.; Rob Ketterling, River Valley Church, Apple Valley, Minn.; and Aaron Cole, Life Church, Milwaukee, Wis. They described how Assemblies of God founding ideals are being carried out today and also envisioned the future of the Fellowship.

The celebration culminated in a pilgrimage to the site where the Hot Springs Grand Opera House once stood. The 300 attendees viewed the new historic marker in honor of the Assemblies of God centennial, which was placed in the sidewalk near Mountain Valley Spring Company, located at 150 Central Avenue. They proceeded to climb the winding trail behind the site of the former Grand Opera House until they reached a small clearing where the iconic photograph from the first general council had been taken.

J. Don George, an Assemblies of God senior statesman and founding pastor of Calvary Church in Irving, Texas, called the centennial event in Hot Springs “a historic occasion that will be long remembered.” He noted that the event was relatively small in comparison to the larger centennial celebration slated to be held in Springfield, Mo., on August 5-10, 2014, in conjunction with the World Assemblies of God Congress.

“As a movement we are called to generational, gender, cultural and racial diversity,” George said. When thousands of visitors from across the United States and the world descend on Springfield in August, this diversity will be on full display.

The men and women who met in Hot Springs 100 years ago laid a foundation for a cooperative fellowship that would help Pentecostals to more effectively evangelize the world. One hundred years later, the Assemblies of God has more than 3.1 million adherents in the United States and more than 66 million worldwide.

The centennial gathering offered both a celebration of the past century and a vision for the future.

Assemblies of God Superintendent George O. Wood said, “The Assemblies of God has been marked by purpose and passion. Our purpose is embedded in our doctrine, mission, values and strategies. Our passion comes from the work of the Holy Spirit who continues to empower us to do the greatest work of evangelism the world has ever seen. The future for the Assemblies of God is truly as bright as the promises of God.”

Darrin J. Rodgers, M.A., J.D., is the director of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center and the editor of the Assemblies of God Heritage.

For the original article, visit ag.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Darrin J. Rodgers) Administration Mon, 21 Apr 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Do We Really Need More Churches in America? http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/culture/20856-do-we-really-need-more-churches-in-america http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/culture/20856-do-we-really-need-more-churches-in-america

Right now there are over 300,000 Protestant churches in America. Just do the division—300,000 divided by 50 states—and that equals 6,000 churches per state. Wow! That’s a lot of churches!

Think about it this way: There are just over 10,000 Starbucks stores in America and well over 300,000 churches. So Starbucks can saturate the United States with caffeinated drinks, but almost 30 times more churches can’t saturate the United States with the Living Water. Seriously?

According to church growth and discipleship multiplication expert Bill Hull, “It still takes 100 church attendees, a pastor and $100,000 a year to win a convert. Among evangelicals. ... This is an ugly fact that should grieve us all.”

So our solution is planting more and more churches so that we can reach America for Jesus? Is that really the best solution, or is a revitalization of current churches the best solution?

My answer is a resounding yes! We need more churches planted, and we need to revitalize the current ones.

When I was a 23-year-old part-time youth leader at a church in Arvada, Colo., I wanted to revitalize the congregation concerning evangelism and outreach. This very traditional church was solid theologically but not growing steadily with disciples being made and multiplied.

I’ll never forget presenting an 11-page document called “Operation Arvada” to the senior pastor and asking him to consider it. In those pages were ideas for infusing relational evangelism into the lifeblood of the church. He said, “Let me pray about it” (which is a pastor’s way of buying time so that he can think of a nice way to say no to your idea). Days turned to weeks and I finally realized that it wasn’t going to happen.

It was then that I remembered the words of a former pastor who gave up trying to revitalize that same church to plant a new one. He told me, “It’s easier to give birth than to resurrect the dead.”

That’s when my best friend and I decided to start a church ourselves, Grace Church, in Arvada. Through prayer, tons of mistakes and sheer perseverance, we were blessed to plant a church that grew deep and wide in some powerful ways.

Today, Grace Church is a thriving congregation with over 60 percent of the 3,000 or so who go there having come to Jesus as a result of the church’s focused outreach efforts. What about the other church I was involved in? The new pastor and youth pastor are working hard to revitalize it so it can be more effective in the community where it’s located.

Yes!

We need already existing churches to drop an evangelistic engine into their church chassis. We need new churches planted that grow primarily through new believers being added (as opposed to transfer growth).

So the real question is not how many churches do we have in North America, but how many gospel-advancing churches do we have? We need to revitalize current ones and plant new ones until we reach everyone.

If you are in an established church, work with all your heart to get the people there making and multiplying disciples. Start with those who are willing and build from there. Pray for your church. Challenge your church. Equip your church. By the way, we at Dare 2 Share can help with that. Start by downloading and using our free evangelism training app.

If you feel led to plant a church, determine to build one that grows primarily through relational evangelism and discipleship multiplication. Make intercessory prayer the engine and not the caboose of your efforts and, over time, you will succeed.

It’s time to revitalize current churches and plant new ones that bleed the Good News. Let’s give birth and raise the dead!

Greg Stier is a husband, a father, a preacher, an author, a twitchy revolutionary and a fanatic for Jesus. He’s the president of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which has led thousands of students to Jesus and equipped thousands more to reach their world with the gospel. He blogs at GregStier.org.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Stier) Culture Mon, 21 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
6 Leadership Tasks for Easter http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/vision/20858-6-leadership-tasks-for-easter http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/vision/20858-6-leadership-tasks-for-easter

This coming Sunday, Christians around the world will celebrate Easter—perhaps better understood as “Resurrection Sunday.”

Some believers will celebrate with meals and family get-togethers. Some will gather with the largest church crowds they’ve seen all year; others will join small groups to rejoice quietly in places where gathering is life threatening.

I wonder, though, if we sometimes celebrate the resurrection one Sunday a year and really don’t let its truth affect our lives. Here are six steps Christian leaders might take this week as we focus on Easter and live out its truths.

1. Spend one day in prayer meditating on what we do. I remember well the first time I watched a church member die. I sat by her bedside until her body relaxed after its final breath. I was just a 20-year-old pastor, and I wasn’t sure what to do next. What I did understand, though, was that something significant had just happened. A believer had entered heaven – and I realized then that ministry deals with the eternal. Take time this week to read the narratives of Jesus’ death and resurrection in the gospels. Meditate on them. Weep over them. Rejoice in the victory. Because of the resurrection, what we do really does matter.

2. Reach out to another church leader who has seemingly lost hope. They are all around us, frankly. Hurting, alone, wounded, hiding and hopeless. They are like the bewildered followers of Jesus post-crucifixion but pre-resurrection. Some will preach this coming Sunday about resurrection, but the story will mean little to them. Their present-tense pain overshadows any sense of future-tense hope. Find one of these leaders, and be a model of resurrection hope this week. Take somebody to lunch. Offer a prayer. Be a light to somebody wandering aimlessly in the darkness.

3. Give somebody a second chance. Most of us have a Simon in our life—someone who once loved us, but who hurt us deeply. Sometimes no repentance has taken place, and no reconciliation has occurred. At other times, though, our Simon has been broken over his/her wrong, but we remain angry and distant. Our own pain becomes an idol. If that’s where you are, take a page from the resurrection story. Simon Peter denied Jesus, but Jesus never took His eye off the disciple (Luke 22:61). The angel at the open tomb made certain Peter heard the truth of the resurrection (Mark 16:7). The fallen fisherman, still one of the family, had a second chance. Give somebody that same chance this Easter season.

4. Serve with renewed vigor, even if you seem to be serving among the dead. Many of us have been there. Nobody seems to be listening to your teaching. Months, or even years, have passed since someone showed significant life change through your ministry. Sunday is more a chore than a day of worship and celebration. If you’ve lost your passion for the people you serve, let the truths of the resurrection sink in. God is not dead. The days seemingly in the tomb only make the day of resurrection that much brighter – and that day will come. Even if you think you’re the only person in your congregation doing so this week, serve the Lord with resurrection steam. You might be pleasantly surprised by the response of your people.

5. Teach the Word clearly and concisely. This task might seem almost too simple, but here’s the point: we have an opportunity this week to preach the gospel to many who haven’t heard it in awhile (perhaps since last Easter) – so we simply must do it well. Our job is to communicate the Word, not impress with our knowledge or oratory skills. Just because we can preach an hour doesn’t mean we always should. So, study hard this week, but present the Word in a way that the smallest child or the oldest adult understands it. Our responsibility is to point all people of all ages to the resurrected Lord, not to us.

6. Let God surprise you. Sure, the disciples heard Jesus talk about His death and resurrection. They knew what He had said, but still they were surprised—and ultimately filled with wonder—when the resurrected One stood before them. The resurrection reminds us that God operates outside of our boxes. He is hardly limited to our boundaries. Frankly, it wouldn’t hurt most of us if God did something in our lives not already planned in our church bulletin.

Church leader, let the resurrected Lord surprise you with His glory this week. He is risen, indeed!

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Lawless) Vision Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:00:00 -0400
7 Easter Declarations People are Dying to Hear http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/preaching/20859-7-easter-declarations-people-are-dying-to-hear http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/preaching/20859-7-easter-declarations-people-are-dying-to-hear

It’s Easter, preacher. What are you preaching?

Don’t preach about springtime, as much as we all love it. This is not the day for that.

Don’t make the analogy about how Easter eggs speak to us about new birth and all that foolishness.

Stay on track. You have the greatest message on the planet; try not to weaken it with trivialities.

Tell your people—and all those whom the Holy Spirit will send this Sunday, not yet “your people,” but potentially so—that death could not hold Jesus Christ, that He is risen from the dead, and what that means to them.  (Never forget that every sermon has two parts: What? and So what? The “what” is the message of Easter; the “so what” is the application.)

So, what exactly does the Easter event mean? I’m glad you asked.

1. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means He is still alive and among us today.

“Lo, I am with you all the way” (Matthew 28:20).  “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

Pastor, let’s not encourage our people to think of Jesus’ resurrection as something that happened in the dusty realms of ancient civilization, as though Easter Sunday is a memorial day and we’re giving a history lesson.

When we say “Jesus is risen!” we must emphasize that “He is here among us today!” Question: Do your people believe Jesus Christ is in this place, among us today?

2. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that everything He said, every promise He gave, every claim He made, is good, stamped with Heaven’s verification. Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father!

Question: When are we going to get straight about Jesus being the only door to everything Heaven has to offer?

3. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means that death is defeated and we need never fear that faker again. Two huge scriptures …

“For this purpose Jesus partook of flesh and blood (like us), that ‘through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to bondage all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15). (He defeated the devil and delivered his captives!)

“ … who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). He literally “nullified” death, putting it out of business. So, when we die in Christ, we go straight to Him.  To the redeemed, there is no death, in any way that truly matters.

Question: When are we going to stop fearing death and start believing Jesus?

4. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means we may live boldly in this life since death has been defanged and demonsterfied! (If that’s not a word, it should be!) No fear of death means no hesitation about living!

Question: What’s holding you back from the bold things Christ wants from you?

5. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means we have a gospel, ladies and gentlemen, unlike any other message on the planet! And everyone needs to hear it. You and I are the messengers. We get to break the news to those still cowering in fear of death. We have the privilege of unlocking the chains holding them in darkness.

Question: Have we conned ourselves into thinking we can keep silent but live so wonderfully that the lost will see and believe?  Someone needs to tell them about Jesus.

6. For all who are in Christ, from here on in–into eternity!—the news is all good.  Any trouble along the way is just so many speed bumps. Keep in mind, the message of Jesus is not called “good news” for nothing! My sins are gone, the charges against me have been nailed to the cross, the blood of Jesus has washed me from all sin, and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

I am born again, adopted into the family of God, with my name written in the Book of Life. I am indwelled by the Holy Spirit, who also overshadows and undergirds me, goes before me and comes behind me.  I am saved, forgiven, called, sent, accompanied, commanded, instructed, blessed, filled, and used by the living God for His purposes.

Question: Yes, we do preach on sin, but have we allowed our message to emphasize the negativity?

7. Finally, I must not be upset if these lessons come slowly to me. Such truths are too wonderful for me. My carnal mind resists believing that death is defeated and that being absent from the body means being at home with our Lord, but my heart of hearts knows this is true. We daily give ourselves anew to Him, we surrender to His will for that day, and we dedicate ourselves to growing in Christ.

One of these days, we’ll get it right.  Until then, do not weaken.

Question:  Are we being too perfectionistic? Can we be more patient with ourselves and one another?

“O fools and slow of heart to believe … ” (Luke 24:25).

Help us, Lord.

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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever) Preaching Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Pastor, Do You Know What Your Future Looks Like? http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/vision/20851-pastor-do-you-know-what-your-future-looks-like http://ministrytodaymag.com/index.php/ministry-leadership/vision/20851-pastor-do-you-know-what-your-future-looks-like

Pastor, have you considered your future lately? What does God have for you? When is the last time you really prayed about God’s future for you and your family?

A Personal Testimony

I was raised in Texas. When I was a young pastor, I had no idea what my future would be. Quite honestly, I still do not.

When I surrendered to God’s calling to come to my church over 27 years ago, I would have never dreamed I would be here this long. Growing up, it seemed our small church had a new pastor every two or three years. Frequent transition was all I knew.

Therefore, it is quite amazing that I find myself at this point in life, having served the same church for 27 years. Years ago, when I surrendered to ministry, I did not imagine much at all about my future. All I knew was that I wanted to be where God wanted me.

A Basic Conviction

I have operated by a basic conviction throughout my ministry: I want to go wherever God wants me to go, anytime, anywhere and anyplace. After all of these years, I still live by this conviction. I am drawn to one basic thing: I want to be where God wants me to be.

I have told this to other pastors, and I mean this with all my heart: When you surrender to God’s calling to go to a certain place, always live like you are going to be there your entire life; at the same time, always have your bags packed, ready to follow God’s calling for your life. Jeana and I still live with this zealous desire to follow God and His calling for our lives. We truly believe we have, and that His calling has been, and is at this time, to Northwest Arkansas.

How a Pastor Should Navigate Toward His Future

I want to challenge each pastor and minister of the gospel to keep these things in mind as they navigate toward the future God has for them:

1. Be 100 percent willing to go anywhere at any time to do anything God calls you to do. Are you willing? When He calls, will you follow Him? Will you operate so much by this conviction that it does not matter if the geography is your preference, the timing is to your advantage, or the ministry is not what you have ever seen yourself in as a God-called minister?

I am reminded of my friend Dr. Jeff Crawford, president of our Cross Church School of Ministry and teaching pastor of Cross Church. Dr. Crawford is a man with an earned doctorate degree. He is gifted, articulate, educated and called. He could be in the academic realm elsewhere or be serving as a pastor of a large church, just like he was a little over one year ago. Yet God has called Jeff to be here.

It seems all of his gifts, training and passion merge in this position with us. Just think what it would be like if Jeff had held on to his position so closely that he would have refused the calling of God to come here. Thanks, Jeff and Julie, for following God’s callingThanks for being 100 percent willing to go anywhere, anytime, to do anything God calls you to do.

Will you, pastor?

2. Live with your “yes” on the altar. When is the last time you placed your “yes” on the altar? I mean, you said, “God, whatever it is you want me to do, my answer is yes. Whatever you are calling me to do, the answer is yes.”

There is something liberating about living with your “yes” on the altar. Oh yes, I have been somewhat sobered by this statement when there have been moments I sensed God was about to do something new with me. I mean, while exciting on one end, it is extremely sobering on the other end.

It may do you well again, pastor, whether you are 80 or 28, to kneel down one day this week and pray, “Lord, just one more time, I want to live with my 'yes' on the altar. If you ask me to do anything other than what I am doing, I yield willingly and my answer is yes.”

3. Be willing to stay as much as you are willing to leave. Pastoral ministry is hard. It is much easier, especially in today’s world, to leave after three or four years than it is to stay. People are hard to please. Many times, we are like football coaches: Not only are we judged by our wins and losses, but we are also judged and scrutinized by the way we win.

My point: It is easier for a pastor to leave than to stay. Pastor, some of you may need to stick it out where you are. God will use it all to work in your life powerfully. Sometimes God does something fresh in us not when we leave but when we once again realize that He wants us right where we are.

As you navigate toward your future: Pray, believe, and trust the Lord. As I have said many times through the years, I am so glad God loves me so much that He protects me from myself when I don’t know how to protect myself and my future. Yes, God is faithful. You can trust Him.

Dr. Ronnie Floyd has been a pastor for over 36 years. Since 1986, Pastor Floyd has served as the senior pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas, which has baptized over 17,000 people during his tenure. He has authored 20 books, including Our Last Great Hope: Awakening the Great Commission.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ronnie Floyd) Vision Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:54:50 -0400