Ministry Leadership Sat, 05 Sep 2015 01:41:27 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb As a Leader, What Are Your Expectations? Pastor Kevin Myers, founding and Senior Pastor of 12Stone® Church, taught a staff lesson on the topic of expectations. It was really good! It got me thinking about expectations and how significant they are in life and in leadership.

"Unmet expectations can be the source of the great disappointments in life." @KevinMyersPK

That is a true statement!

  • Unmet expectations in your marriage can be very frustrating.
  • Unmet expectations with your friends can be disappointing.
  • Unmet expectations financially can be a real source of conflict.

We are all managing unmet expectations. How you deal with that fact can make you or break you. It's true that disappointment and discouragement are near the top of the list among the things that church leaders struggle with. And the Enemy loves to use both of those to distract and derail leaders, and pastors in particular.

When it comes to your expectations as a leader, they have a profound impact on how you perceive life and how you lead. I'd like to begin with a few words of warning.

Be careful about your expectations:

1. What do you believe you deserve? It's easy to fall into this trap. For example, you work hard, and you deserve your paycheck, right? Perhaps. But that's not necessarily the best or wisest way to look at it. Here's a different perspective. You have earned your paycheck, but you don't necessarily deserve it. That's a hard statement to swallow for some, but if you can embrace it, life tastes so much sweeter. The less you feel you deserve in life the more content and fulfilled you will be. This is not about lowered expectations, it's about experiencing life from a framework of gratitude.

2. What do you feel is owed to you? This is a close cousin to the first caution. A mindset of entitlement sets up a non-stop and unquenchable stream of expectations. Some of the most unhappy people in the world are among those who feel something is owed to them. Pastors have confided in me, essentially, "After all these years of faithful service, God owes me." I understand the emotion, but the theology is off base. God nor the church owes us anything.

3. What do you want? This is one of my favorite questions to ask a Christian leader. In some ways it comes from an opposite direction compared to the first two cautions. Church leaders often feel uneasy expressing what they want, almost as if it's wrong to want something. Like wanting something is unspiritual. The truth is that everyone wants something from life, and it's healthy to express that desire! Perhaps you want to pastor a different church, or maybe you want a larger salary, or maybe you'd like to work a few less hours a week. Wanting something and being honest about it is normal and healthy.

Thinking you can have everything you want is not healthy or realistic. That's where you can get in trouble.

"Church leaders often feel uneasy expressing what they want, as if wanting something is unspiritual."

Leaders and Expectations

1. Expectations are part of the leadership process. Leaders believe in a vision not yet accomplished. They possess a certain expectation of success for the good of the people. They expect and possess a hope in a brighter future. This belief is part of what drives you forward. If there were no expectation for your church to grow, for people to change, for salvation to occur, it would be impossible to sustain authentic leadership. A clear and certain expectation will take you to places you have not been. Healthy expectations help shape what you believe for. In January of this year, we had a great expectation that the five new campuses we launched on one weekend would birth successfully. We believed that God would be in it! That expectation, combined with God's favor and lots of hard work proved out to be true.

2. Expectations can cause you to over-lead or under-lead. Aiming low (under-lead) to avoid disappointment, or in order to play it safe is not the behavior of a good leader. I love the cartoon of Charlie Brown shooting arrows into a big sheet of paper. He shoots the arrows then walks up and draws the target around the arrows! That makes us smile, but that's not a good picture of leadership expectations. We don't have to settle. God has the right size vision for your church.

Further, you don't want to set expectations based on comparison or competition. Your church has its own unique context, it's important to lead from that framework. You may not keep up with what the "big church" across town, so just tend to what God has in mind for you.

You can over-lead because of fear or ego. Fear and ego are different, but the result is often the same, leading too big.

"Desperation never leads well, and an arrogant spirit can't sustain long-term leadership."

Lead out of what you know to be real and true! Set your expectations from your best God lead, along with wise counsel that fits the context of your ministry. Trust your intuition when bathed in prayer. If your key leaders affirm what you believe God is saying, you are in good shape. This doesn't guarantee the vision, but it sets you on the right course.

3. Expectations require a strong grasp of reality in order to lead well. As a leader you have a certain and finite amount of energy. Use it wisely. Don't fret about the things you can't control. Focus on what you can control. For example, you can control how many times you share the gospel but you can't control how many people say yes. You can control how many invites you make for a person to attend church, but you can't control how many show up.

Too many church leaders get a spiritual hernia because they are trying to lift things they can't lift. Let God do His part. The essence of right-sized expectations is to know how to blend God's voice and yours. It is knowing how to integrate God's power and your performance. You are the leader and you are responsible, but when you expend energy trying to "make" something happen that is in God's hands, your expectations will get the best of you.

"The essence of right-sized expectations is to know how to blend God's voice and yours."

If you miss the mark, learn from it. Don't panic. In each leadership experience you have, (it's an ongoing process), learn how to better set and manage your expectations. This is best accomplished according to an honest and accurate assessment of your church reality, as it continually unfolds.

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Dan Reiland) Ministry Leadership Fri, 17 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
7 Contrasts Between Churchill and Chamberlain-Type Leaders Winston Churchill was British Prime Minister during WWII. His daily radio speeches and courageous leadership single-handedly led his nation to victory against Hitler and his superior army.

I have read books about him and read many of his speeches because he was perhaps the greatest secular prophet of the 20th century.

My friend, Jim Garlow, recently wrote an article regarding the contrasts between Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain. He says, "Christian leaders will be divided into two categories: Neville Chamberlains—that is, the compromisers—and Winston Churchills, the courageous champions.

For those whose World War II history is slipping, Neville Chamberlain compromised and set up Hitler to kill tens of millions of people. Winston Churchill knew what had to be done against Hitler, and did it." Read more here.

In these perilous times for being a biblical Christ follower, understanding Churchillian leadership is essential!

Taking my cue from Jim Garlow, I want to elaborate some more:

The following are 7 contrasts between Churchill and Chamberlain type leaders:

1. Churchill was a prophet who confronted reality. Chamberlain was a diplomat who denied reality. Churchill started warning the world and British parliament about Hitler and his Nazi Fascist movement many years before they attacked nations. Conversely, Chamberlain met with Hitler and declared "peace for our time" right before Hitler started invading nations.

2. Churchill acted with courage. Chamberlain acted in compromise. Churchill was known for having great courage in spite of the odds against his nation. Chamberlain's MO with Hitler was compromise and dialogue—something eerily similar to the way the U.S. is presently dealing with Iran.  

3. Churchill defeated his enemies. Chamberlain empowered his enemies. Churchill led Britain to victory over superior German Army—Chamberlain's passivity and naivety gave Hitler more time and courage to attack and expand his evil empire.

4. Churchill spoke what was prophetic. Chamberlain spoke what was popular. When Churchill started warning British parliament about Hitler in the early 1930s. He was mocked and viewed as a warmonger by British politicians and the general public. Chamberlain demonstrated no foresight or courage and spoke only what the people wanted to hear—Peace, peace! In this anti-Christian climate, it will take no courage for leaders to betray biblical values and affirm what the people want to hear regarding the redefinition of marriage and family.

5. Churchill motivated greatness in England. Chamberlain projected discouragement and defeat. During the incessant German airstrikes over London, Churchill had to go on national radio every day and tell the British people to never give in and never give up—his prophetic words and profound speeches inspired his nation to hang on until Hitler was defeated.

6. Churchill was born for war. Chamberlain was born for peace and safety. During the days of peace and safety—the people ignored and mocked Churchill and embraced Chamberlain's policies. During war Chamberlain was rejected and replaced with Churchill because his prescience was proven true. The political policies of leaders like Chamberlain are based on ideological conjecture and do not hold up under a severe crisis or war.

7. Churchill was at his best in crisis. Chamberlain was at his worst in crisis. Leaders like Churchill do not shine until there is a crisis—nowadays both the church and our nation need Churchillian leaders to rise up. When a nation's administration attempts to pacify instead of confront their enemies—they give them more time and empower them. In reality, as a nation, we can only have true peace through strength (in other words, passive diplomacy and dialogue can result in nations like Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, as well as ISIS flexing their muscles and expanding their reach). Peace that comes through compromising core values will never last and will surely come back to bite us.

May God give both the church and our nation leaders in the line of Churchill and may the leaders in the line of Chamberlain be exposed and removed.

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including "The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (" He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera ) Ministry Leadership Tue, 14 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
5 Things NOT To Do In a Time of Crisis In my profession, I encounter a lot of people in crisis. Since this is mostly a leadership blog, I tend to think of leaders I know who are currently or have been in crisis. They may be a personal crisis or within a group or organization in which you lead, but the way you respond will almost always determine the quality of recovery from the crisis.

For the next few posts, I want to address this issue with some thoughts on how to respond during these times of crisis in life.

If you don't need them now, store them away for future reference. In a fallen world, working with people, times of crisis are sure to come.

I will start with the negative, because typically we begin there when crisis comes. This post will be followed by some ideas of what you should do and then finally, I'll share some thoughts on what to do after the crisis period has subsided.

Here are 5 things NOT to do in times of crisis:

1. Panic. The word panic means "a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior" ( If you panic when crisis occurs you'll almost always make bad decisions and cause yourself more pain. Calm down, come to your senses, and think and pray so you can make wise decisions.

2. Quit. When I was in a business that was struggling the worst reaction to my situation, which was the one I chose most often, was to run from the problem. I would disappear for hours. Looking back, it never solved anything. Reflecting on those days I wish I had stayed the course, because when I gave up, so did those I was supposed to be leading.

3. Blame. This includes kicking yourself for being in the crisis. Figuring out who is at fault when you are in crisis-mode is probably not as important as figuring out what to do next. There will be time to analyze later—and that should happen — but don't become paralyzed with it now.

4. Refuse Help. I have learned by experience—sometimes when God is allowing a crisis to occur He is also stirring people to intercede on behalf of the suffering. It's amazing how it happens. He may have prepared someone else, through their own season of crisis, intentionally so they can help others—people like you. Don't deny someone their opportunity to be obedient to what God calls them to do, even if it means swallowing your pride, raising the white flag of surrender and letting them help.

5. Deny God. People (including pastors and leaders) either run towards God or away from God in times of crisis. You can probably figure out which option works best. This is a time to pray like never before and learn to fully rely on God. He's never taken off guard or by surprise. He always has a plan. It's always good. Lean into Him.

In my next post I'll share 5 things TO DO in times of crisis.

Ron Edmondson is the lead pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Ministry Leadership Tue, 30 Jun 2015 18:00:00 -0400
7 Characteristics of the Back Side of Good Leadership One critical part of leadership is what I like to call the "backside of leadership."

It's the part that is unseen. Or unknown at the time. It's the unspoken, unclear, has-to-be-tested side of leadership.

It is so critical.

Years ago I had a leader I could never predict. One day everything was wonderful and the next day nothing was right. It was frustrating. I could never read this leader and whether or not he was happy.

Some have probably accused me of this at times. Probably all of us can be.

Leading well means sometimes what a leader does when the team's back is turned is more important than what they do in the team's presence. When they don't know what the leader is thinking or how he or she will respond—they can still trust the leader.

The backside of good leadership means a leader does what is best for the team and the organization—not for his or her personal gain—regardless of who gets credit. 

Even if no one saw it coming.

That's the backside of leadership.

Are you still trying to understand what I mean?

Here are 7 characteristics of the backside of good leadership:

1. Protects you. When critics rise against you or your work a great leader stands behind you. Better yet, they stand in front of you to take the first bullet. They are predictable and consistent with their support. 

2. Won't back you in a corner. Good leaders don't hold you accountable for unreasonable expectations, especially when you didn't know what the expectations were. They make sure you have the resources you need. They never put you on the spot. They make sure the team operates with a plan.

3. Forgives easily. You gain good favor quickly after you make a mistake under a good leader. They extend grace knowing the greatest lessons in life are learned through failure. And, the investment made in people when they fall often yields the greatest return.

4. Empowers you. The leader doesn't have to know everything you do and every decision you make—before you make it. They are okay with the unknown. They invest trust in you. They empower you to make decisions without their direct oversight.

5. Invests in others. The team receives more from the leader than the leader takes. No one feels used or like they're building an empire for the leader. Rewards are shared and celebrated together.

6. Never stabs you in the back. People don't feel threatened in their position. They know the leader can hold a confidence and will never say one thing to one person and something else to another.

7. Responsiveness. Everyone has been in a situation waiting for a leader to make a decision. It can be a frustrating experience. Impatience can rise. Good leaders are responsive. They don't make people come to their own conclusions. They communicate in a timely manner. 

The backside of leadership. Have you thought about how you lead on the backside — when no one knows what to expect? 

Ron Edmondson is the lead pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Ministry Leadership Fri, 03 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
7 Ways to Lead Younger People in Christ If you want to reach the next generation then you have recruit and develop the next generation. They need your wisdom, knowledge and experience.

How you lead them, however, may challenge how you've led before.

Here are seven ways to lead younger people:

1. Give them the freedom to experiment. Even when you may not agree with the idea—let them try. They may need to experience failure in order to experience their next success. That's likely how you learned. 

2. Give them opportunities to grow. And help them see how they see fit in the organization's continued growth. They want upward mobility. 

3. Realize the generational differences. Don't pretend they don't exist. They affect how we relate to people, change and technology. Be honest when you don't understand something they do. Ask questions. Learn from them. 

4. Allow flexibility. Don't let structure control how people complete their work—allow individuality. Newer generations, for example, aren't as tied to an office as other generations. Let them figure out their how—and often where—of work progress.

5. Limit generational stereotypes. The younger generation does value your wisdom. They want it. But they are less likely to be excited about gleaning from us if we always start with "When I was your age ... ." In fact, avoid continually reminding them how young they are or appear.

6. Value their opinions. The most successful changes being made today come from this generation. Don't dismiss their input because you don't feel they have enough experience. They aren't limited usually to all the reasons you think something won't work. And it just might this time. 

7. Give them a seat at the table of leadership. This is difficult for some older leaders, because you often gained your position through years of hard work. You may not feel they've completely "earned" it. But younger generations want leadership opportunities now. 

To lead younger generations, the bottom line is to help them achieve their goals and ideas far more than you put a damper on them. Be a people builder.

Is there anything you would add?

Ron Edmondson is the lead pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson ) Ministry Leadership Thu, 04 Jun 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Steve Greene: Busy Is a State of Mind Busy people seem to have low clarity. The brag of busy is really not a badge of honor. People with extremely high focus will not allow themselves to become busy.

Even an ant can scurry about. It's hard to discern their clarity, but it seems the little crawlers change directions often. There's even a type of ant frequently called the "crazy ant." The ants earned the label because they seem to be swarming about for no apparent reason.

Have you ever labeled your day as "crazy busy?" At day's end, did you consider it highly focused or just too busy? Thankfully, we have executive assistants to blame for crazy days. Notice that the word "assistant" ends with an ant.

Busy people have difficulties developing powerful platforms. Without clarity, a platform becomes like a carousel. There's a new horse facing the waving crowd every few seconds. The platform continues to circle until the audience becomes bored and moves on to something with more clarity of purpose. A rapidly changing platform usually produces a revolving front door.

The serious issue with clarity is that many leaders who lack it strongly believe and teach the importance of focus. It is much easier for a leader to diagnose missing clarity in others than it is to realize the lack of focus within his own work. It is very difficult to share a focus pie with a busy leader.

Yet, that must be where the critical work begins. The work to develop meaningful clarity is usually a long process. A busy leader wants the process to happen quickly. Read a book, have a meeting and declare thyself focused.

The process begins with one fundamental question, "What isn't clear?" and is followed by answering five "whys."


Mentor: What isn't clear?

Leader: Our growth is stagnate. I don't understand what we're missing.

Mentor: (Why No. 1) Why do you think something is missing?

Leader: It seems like other ministries are growing by adding new programs or activities.

Mentor: (Why No. 2) Why do you think a comparison with other ministries is the right metric to determine growth?

Leader: Well, we have empty seats. Our product is good. Our child care is excellent. We just think the answer is that we need to keep trying new things.

Mentor: (Why No. 3) Why are you trying new things? Are you throwing mud against the wall, hoping something sticks?

Leader: I suppose we could be doing too much. Our team seems tired. I'm tired.

Mentor: (Why No. 4) Why is everyone tired if you aren't growing?

Leader: Maybe we are spread too thin?

Mentor: (Why No. 5) Why don't you focus on just one thing this year? Go deep. Consider not adding anything new for one full year.

Effective leaders ask, "What's holding us back?" A better question to ask is, "How can we use our platform to attract other people in need of our help?" Instead of asking about what is going wrong, ask what can be done to broaden our platform. Perhaps your ministry is missing an important audience because the ministry platform doesn't reach the desired audience.

Broaden your platform:

1) Enhance your visibility in your marketplace—God's anointing will follow you there. Find three new places to go to lunch next week. Intentionally meet new people every day.

2) Don't depend upon your business card as a crutch. Business cards don't attract. How can you extend your platform by what you give away? How about a one-page flyer with the headline "5 Reasons Why Children Have Become Enabled and 3 Ways We Can Help"? Design the brochure to deliver the answer on a splash page with a link to your website. Replace this simple suggestion with your own ministry focus (The focus in Sunday school and from the pulpit will be the cure for enabled kids).

3) Write your message with frequency. Blog your message. Guest-blog your message. Do interviews with multimedia every week. Update your message every day on your website. Keep talking about what you talk about. Obviously, find new ways to say it, but say it every day.

Mission clarity begets message clarity. Become the most-sought-after voice of your message. It's likely that no one else has your message. The Holy Spirit called you and deposited clarity of purpose and will open doors as you broaden your platform.

And you won't be so busy.  

Dr. Steve Greene is executive vice president of the Media Group at Charisma Media. Follow his daily, practical Greenlines blog at

]]> (Dr. Steve Greene) Ministry Leadership Fri, 03 Jul 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Thom Rainer: Ashley Madison, Adultery and the Church It was just yesterday that I began to hear the stories. As the list of names on the Ashley Madison list began to unfold, pastors and other church leaders received word that some of their own members were on the list. Some of the names included elders, deacons, pastors, church staff and laypersons in the church.

The pastors with whom I spoke weren't on the list, but they had church members who were. These pastors were struggling with how they were going to respond to the families impacted, other church leaders and the congregation as a whole.

Adultery is not new in the Christian world. The Bible itself is filled with accounts of believers who committed such sexual sin. No church has been immune from this issue. But this time it seemed to be more problematic. Those who committed adultery had their names on the Internet for the world to see.

Though we are only at the early stages of names being revealed, it is not too early to suggest some ways church leaders and members can deal with the Ashley Madison scandal if it comes to your church.

1. We must lead. We can't act like this event never took place. We can't wish it away. Now is the time for church leaders to truly lead. This occasion is one where our leadership will likely be tested. We must seek God and His wisdom and strength to be the type of leaders for such a time as this.

2. We must exhibit grace. To be grace-filled does not mean we minimize the sins of adultery, lying, and betrayal. But it is incredibly sad and tragic when Christians on the list have more to fear and less hope than non-believers on the list. I fear that some Christians will retreat into a mode of legalism and judgment when grace should be pervasive.

3. We must remember the goal is to restore sinners. Truly repentant believers on this list should not only receive grace; they should be given the opportunity to be restored to the church. The ultimate goal of church discipline is restoration to the body.

4. We must respond pastorally and with great compassion. We are already hearing stories of families torn apart, of children terrified about what is happening to their dad, and of the tragedy of suicide. Church leaders cannot respond in their own power. God, however, can provide them all they need to respond in such a time of tragedy and hurt.

5. We must understand the extensive nature of this issue. It is highly public involving countless Christians. While immediate families are the most directly impacted, entire congregations will likely go through stages of grief as they hear the news.

6. We must understand that this issue will have a long-term effect. It will take months, even years, for healing to take place fully. Pastors and other church leaders must be prepared to deal with this matter for the long haul. Such leadership will require exceptional endurance and God-given stamina to minister to many people for a long time.

I am no less a sinner than anyone on the Ashley Madison list. It is only by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ that I have been forgiven and given new hope and life. May we remember the Christ-given grace given to us as we deal with the sins and tragedy of adultery and betrayal that will continue to become even more evident in the days ahead. And may we be bearers of hope and love to the families reeling from these discoveries.

You church leaders who are dealing with this tragedy have my prayers. You families impacted by this tragedy have my prayers. And you who are on the list have my prayers as well. Now is the time for the body of Christ to be one of grace, healing, and restoration.

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer ) A Pastor's Heart Tue, 01 Sep 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Unintended Consequences Our actions and policies may have deliberate purposes, but they can have unintended consequences which mitigate their fulfillment. To save gasoline, laws are passed which increase fuel efficiency.

But because the new requirements can be partially met by making smaller cars, highway deaths could rise. To reduce pollution, the government requires that new cars have additional pollution devices. Because the technology increases the price of new cars, consumers may decide to drive their older cars longer, which would increase pollution.

Other examples exist. To raise the living standards of workers, higher minimum wage laws are passed. But because of lower profits, jobs are lost and consumer prices rise. To encourage home ownership, mortgage-lending standards are eased, resulting in higher home prices and more foreclosures.

Central banks increase the money supply to improve the economy but can cause a lower valued currency and asset price bubbles. To protect domestic jobs, tariffs are imposed which cause trade wars, a depressed economy and fewer jobs. The list is not complete.

Unintended consequences can also play havoc in the kingdom. We may shorten our praise and worship time to increase attendance, but end up having fewer people come because they do not  encounter His presence as often.

We may decide to dilute our message so fewer people feel threatened. But we could see dedicated followers of Christ leave because they are not hearing the whole Word of God. Or conversely, attendance may increase but few come to to a saving knowledge of Christ or experience the abundant life He promises.

We may welcome all into membership who believe in Jesus regardless of any core theological errors they may possess. We trust their beliefs will be more biblical after they have been members for awhile. However, the new members may instead lead others into error. Or to be inclusive, we may be tempted to ignore blatant sin in the church while praying that they will see the light. Instead, other sheep are enticed into similar or other sins.

Because many people have strong beliefs about the Holy Spirit and His gifts, some churches and ministries have decided to downplay the Holy Spirit. They might not talk against Him, but they do not actively seek, demonstrate or teach about the Spirit. The unintended result is that their families, church and communities do not experience the full power, compassion and guidance of the Spirit which Jesus died to send us. They have thrown away the key to revival.

Unintended negative consequences can be minimized. We will always have some surprises in this life. But a prayerful and thoughtful process to decision-making will reveal many of these consequences before the decision is made. The following principles should help:

  • Ensure that all decisions align with your organizational mission and vision.
  • Make sure all decisions do not violate biblical principles and injunctions.
  • Get as much counsel and as many perspectives as possible.
  • Seek the guidance of the Spirit before making a decision.
  • List all intended and unintended consequences that you expect to see as a result of the decision.
  • Involve others when implementing the decision.
  • Seek excellence during the execution phase.

As members of the kingdom, we should expect to see positive and surprising unintended consequences.

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us ..." (Eph. 3:20).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James R. Russell) A Pastor's Heart Wed, 26 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Learning to Chase the Creator and Not the Calling I had breakfast this week with an amazing young woman who feels the call to ministry.

"Melissa" works for a major Christian university. As she serves with her whole heart in the place that God has her for now, she still feels the call and the anointing to speak to young women and to write books for her generation.

We had planned to meet for the purpose of dreaming together about a launch for my new book in the city in which she lives. However, in the middle of this business meeting, Melissa said something so profound and so life-changing that I have not been able to get it off my heart and mind.

"I am learning to chase the Creator and the not the calling."

What a great reminder and principle for women like me, and like you, and like Melissa, whose lives are about calling, about anointing, about praying for open doors, and about making a lasting impact in our generation.

" ... Chase the Creator and not the calling ..."

As I beg God for more open doors, I must remind myself that He Who opens the doors is worthy of my highest praise.

As I endeavor to discern the "what" of His calling, I must remember that He is the great Who.

I am in awe of Him and His great love for me.

I worship a God Who is good all the time.

I chase Him with a relentless passion that has nothing to do with my significance, my gifts or my calling.

My primary calling in life is to be undone in His presence.

For type-A leaders, the simple truth is this ... nothing is more important than just enjoying Jesus and basking in all that He is.

Serving the Lord has little to do with performance or with significance in the world's eyes, but it has everything to do with simply knowing Him.

And so, I lay down my "to-do list" and refuse the temptation of comparing my life with others of those in the ministry, and I choose to focus on Jesus.  My heart is no

longer consumed with big audiences, large honorariums, publishing contracts and prime spots on radio networks.  My heart is set on Him.

Paul learned this truth 2,000 years before my young friend spoke into my life this week.  His perspective is found in these stirring words from the Book of Philippians:

"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ ...

"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ ...

"And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith ...

"That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings ...

"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of my Christ Jesus ...

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead ...

"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." – Philippians 3:7-14 (selected).

The prize is found in knowing Him.  The reward is discovered in laying hold of His heart.

Thank you, dear Melissa, for the powerful reminder.  Thank you, Paul, for calling me back to that which I was made for ... simply knowing Him.

Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books: No More OrdinaryHoly Estrogen!The Rooms of a Woman's Heart and Defiant Joy! Her most recent book, Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire, will be released on Aug. 1. Her teaching DVD The Rooms of a Woman's Heart won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. 

]]> (Carol McLeod) A Pastor's Heart Fri, 14 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Where Is Our Confidence? For those interested in the economy, "consumer confidence" is closely followed. If consumers are optimistic about the economy, they tend to  purchase more frequently, in greater quantities, and at higher prices.

In contrast, if consumers do not have confidence or are anxious about the economy, they tend to spend less, save more, and purchase fewer luxuries. Total consumption expenditures can be 65-70 percent of the entire output of an economy.

Last week, the Conference Board released its July Consumer Confidence Index (CCI). The July Index was reported to be 90.9. Analysts were expecting it to be 99.5 with forecasts ranging from 96 to 102. The report was much worst than both the average estimate and the lowest projection of any reported analyst. Ouch. The markets were concerned.

Consumer confidence can be fact, fear, or fantasy based. It can be fickle. Reported consumer confidence can sometimes be a poor predictor of purchases. For example, a consumer may think they are going to lose their job (low confidence), so they decide to buy a new car now while they still qualify for credit (consumers sometimes make unwise decisions).

But generally, behavior follows confidence. If people have more confidence in the economy, their employer, or their political leader, they tend to purchase more. If they have less confidence, they tend to buy less.

For those in the Kingdom, confidence is an important concept. Where is our confidence?  In whom do we have our confidence? In what does our confidence reside? How did we arrive at the confidence we have? Is our confidence Biblically based or on less solid ground? If our confidence is misplaced, how do we change it? If our confidence is based on the Word of God, do our actions match our words? 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had confidence in the Lord's power to deliver them from the fiery furnace, but trusted His wisdom and goodness if He did not. They had decided to worship and obey the Lord because of the confidence they had in Him. They were saved from a fiery furnace and saw the King of the most powerful nation in the world acknowledge God (Daniel 3).

When David faced Goliath, he had confidence in the name of the Lord of Hosts, his skills as a shepherd, and and in his ultimate victory. He was triumphant.  Israel won a great military victory and  placed David in a position where he could later be king (Samuel 17).

Gideon had confidence that with the Lord his army of 300 men could defeat an army of 135,000 professional soldiers. He was victorious and Israel enjoyed 40 years of peace (Judges 6-7).

We have the same promises today. Jesus has already won all of the battles. All authority has been given Him. We have been given the right to use His Name, the promises of the Word of God, and  empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

"Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, then we have confidence before God. And whatever we ask, we will receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:21-22).

"Let us then come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James R. Russell) A Pastor's Heart Wed, 05 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: End-Time Economics Interest is high in the Shemitah, blood moons and varied prophecies concerning judgment and economic collapse. Speculation is heightened regarding what will happen in the economy during September and October of this year. The Lord is sovereign. No one knows with certainty what the economy will be like in a few months. But we can look at danger signs in the U.S. and global economy. We can take actions in the natural when justified, and we can seek the Lord more.

There are signs of life in parts of the domestic and global economies, but there are also many concerns. Collapsing oil prices, falling gold prices, dropping copper prices and the increasing value of the dollar against most foreign currencies pose risks. The amount of domestic and global debt are worrisome. Stock and bond prices appear to be overvalued. Liquidity in the bond market is becoming more of an issue. The Chinese economy is weakening. Much of southern Europe has debt and fiscal issues. Many developing and emerging countries are facing increased economic struggles. Central banks are running out of options to address significant challenges. Economies are fragile on many different fronts.

Regardless of what happens in September or October, the last days will be filled with trials, difficulties and the greatest move of God in history. Many of the trials and perils will directly or indirectly involve money, markets, wealth and economics. It will be a time of judgment and separation where all of mankind will be able to choose and demonstrate whether we will follow the Lord or other fleshly and worldly desires.

"Know this: In the last days perilous times will come. Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money" (2 Tim. 3:1-2).

But as born-again, on-fire, Spirit-filled Christians, we have been promised victory. We have been promised an abundant life. We are not at the mercy of the plans and attacks of the enemy. We follow the King and He is in control.

"The thief does not come, except to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

We have the Word of God, the companionship of the Lord Jesus, and are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Victory is assured.

"If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7).

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us" (Eph. 3:20).

The end times will be a time of peril, but also a time of great opportunity and witnessing. As the world struggles, the light of the kingdom will shine brighter. The righteousness, peace and joy of citizens of the kingdom will stand in stark contrast to the lawless, anxious and saddened world. The wisdom of the sons and daughters of the King will be obvious when compared to the confusion of the world. Citizens of the kingdom will be known for their power, compared to the world's weakness. There will be more opportunities to witness. Let us be strong and courageous and take advantage of the opportunities ahead.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James R. Russell) A Pastor's Heart Wed, 29 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Why Is Biblical Illiteracy Prevalent in Our Churches? When was the last time you read a book? For almost 1 in 4 of us, it was more than a year ago, according to Pew Research. That's three times the number who didn't read a book in 1978.

In America, we have a literacy problem. But more concerning to me, we have a biblical literacy problem. Americans, including churchgoers, aren't reading much of any book, including the Good Book.

The Sad Statistics

Christians claim to believe the Bible is God's Word. We claim it's God's divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren't reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.

Small groups are key to combating and changing the epidemic of biblical illiteracy.

Because we don't read God's Word, it follows that we don't know it. To understand the effects, we can look to statistics of another Western country: the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom Bible Society surveyed British children and found many could not identify common Bible stories. When given a list of stories, almost 1 in 3 didn't choose the Nativity as part of the Bible and over half (59 percent) didn't know that Jonah being swallowed by the great fish is in the Bible.

British parents didn't do much better. Around 30 percent of parents don't know that Adam and Eve, David and Goliath or the Good Samaritan are in the Bible. To make matters worse, 27 percent think Superman is or might be a biblical story. More than 1 in 3 believes the same about Harry Potter. And more than half (54 percent) believe The Hunger Games is or might be a story from the Bible.

But it's more than simply not knowing stories from Scripture. Our lack of biblical literacy has led to a lack of biblical doctrine. LifeWay Research found that while 67 percent of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45 percent believe there are many ways to get there—including 1 in 5 evangelical Christians.

More than half of evangelicals (59 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being—in contrast to the orthodox biblical teaching of the Trinity being three Persons in one God. As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity and the Bible itself.

There is little excuse for anyone living in Western civilization, particularly Christians, to not know or read the Bible. Nine out of 10 American homes have at least one Bible. The average American—Christian or not—owns at least three Bibles. And technology has put Bibles at our fingertips wherever we are—you can download the Bible for free on your smartphone.

In contrast, most Christians desire to become more mature followers of Christ. LifeWay Research found 90 percent of churchgoers "desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do." Almost 60 percent agree with the statement, "Throughout the day, I find myself thinking about biblical truths." It's striking that while most of us desire to please Jesus, few of us take the time to check the Bible to find out if we are actually doing it. Clearly, there is a disconnect.

 How to Combat This Negative Trend

So how do we get people to pull the Bible off their bookshelves and put it into their lives? The research we've done indicates that several factors lead to a higher likelihood of someone engaging the Bible. In this case, we mean they will allow God, through his Word, to lead and change their life. Here are the eight predictors of biblical engagement:

  • Confessing sins and wrongdoings to God and asking for forgiveness
  • Following Jesus Christ for years
  • Being willing to obey God, no matter the cost
  • Praying for the spiritual status of unbelievers
  • Reading a book about increasing spiritual growth
  • Being discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian
  • Memorizing Bible verses
  • Attending a small group focused on Bible study

Notice the last factor: Small groups are key to combating and changing the epidemic of biblical illiteracy. Our research shows that as Christians increase their participation in small groups, their Bible engagement scores go up.

As part of the research for Transformational Groups, which I co-authored with Eric Geiger, we surveyed regular group attenders and non-group attenders about their daily spiritual lives—specifically the time they spend outside of church and church-related activities. We found that group attenders were much more likely than non-group members to read their Bible regularly—67 percent compared to only 27 percent. Being involved in a small group made it more than twice as likely a Christian would be regularly reading God's Word.

On top of that, we found involvement in small groups made Christians more likely to pray for others and confess sins to God—both of which are predictors of biblical engagement. It's no wonder we concluded quite simply: Groups matter.

For growth to occur in the church, people groups must continuously grow and multiply.

As we wrote in the book: "God has supernaturally ordained community to sanctify His people to grow in Christ. A call to discipleship and spiritual maturity is a call to biblical community." It doesn't matter what you call small groups within your church community—life groups, Sunday school, discipleship classes, Bible study fellowships—the importance of them remains the same. It's impossible to make disciples apart from community. Groups might not be the only place transformation happens, but I'm convinced they're the primary place.

Most pastors agree groups are important to the life of their church, but there's a disconnect between the stated importance and the reality of what's happening in most churches. Our research found 92 percent of Protestant pastors believe their people are making significant progress in their spiritual development, but more than half (56 percent) admit they don't regularly assess their personal growth. In addition, less than half (42 percent) say their churches have a "well-defined" approach to group ministry.

Without a clear plan for small groups, your congregation is missing out on God's tool for transformation and growth.

Transformational Groups

So what types of small groups do you need in place at your church? While a wide variety of group settings can work, there are particular aspects that lead to life change. Here are four important facets of small groups:

1. Connect. Small groups connect people in relationships. According to William Hendricks in Exit Interviews, one common reason given by people who leave churches is a failure to connect in relationship. In addition, LifeWay Research found 1 in 5 young adults who left church said they did not feel connected to the people at their church. Small groups must provide a comfortable environment for people to connect.

2. Reproduce. In human growth, multiplication allows a cell to become multiple cells, which allows change and growth to occur. Similarly, for growth to occur in the church, people groups must continuously grow and multiply. Small groups must multiply and reproduce so more and more people can experience one.

3. Assimilate. Small groups assimilate members to ministry through service. As people in small groups grow in relationship together, they will readily serve alongside others and integrate into ministry opportunities. Whether the small group serves together or helps group members find ways to serve on their own, small groups should launch people into ministry in and outside the church.

4. Transform. Small groups allow individuals to experience faster and deeper personal transformation through authentic community. With a focus on Bible study and applying God's truth to life, small groups help group members experience real life change. For seekers, small groups provide a safe setting to ask questions in a community of people who also wrestle and struggle. They also provide a safe place for Christians to wrestle with faith issues and apply God's Word.

Small groups with these four characteristics connect people in genuine relationships in an environment where the Bible is taught, discussed, valued and practiced. Having people in a large church gathering is great, but having them also involved in an intimate group setting is better.

We must move people beyond merely sitting in rows in pews to sitting in circles in groups. It's there that people mature in their faith as they respect, appreciate and hear those in community alongside them. Biblical illiteracy is best combated in those small group circles—whether they meet on Sunday morning in a church classroom or Tuesday night in a living room.

Through groups, people are inspired to read the Bible more, not necessarily because it's an expected duty, but because they know the joy that comes from connecting personally with God through His Word. Groups matter—especially when it comes to how well we read, know and live the Bible.

Ed Stetzer is the executive director of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ed Stetzer ) A Pastor's Heart Mon, 27 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
6 Ways to Make the Transition From Student Pastor to Senior Pastor Easier Far too many gifted student pastors flame out in their transition to senior pastor. They were superstar student pastors then struggling senior pastors. Why does this happen?

It's rarely a shortage of talent, energy or vision, and the church is usually very supportive. We could state the obvious and say that the role of senior pastor is so much larger in scope, but then that doesn't explain the many student pastors who successfully make this transition. I believe the answer lies more in leadership nuance than anything else.

After comparing successful and unsuccessful transitions, let me offer a few thoughts that may make your transition better. It is easier to make this transition in a different church than where you were student pastor, but it's very doable either way. Here are six ways to make the transition easier:

1. It's essential for you to see yourself differently. At the earliest point you know that you'll be senior pastor, you need to no longer view yourself as a student pastor. It's not because that experience isn't valuable. It is, but I've watched too many guys fail to make this inner transition. It's like the day before you have your first child and the day after. Are you really different? Yes! You are now a parent and you weren't before. You are different.

2. It's vital that the congregation see you differently. When you see yourself differently, the congregation will see you differently. You will carry yourself differently, make decisions differently and communicate differently because you view the church differently. Some student pastors would continue to literally say: "I'm just a student pastor learning my new role as a senior pastor." Nope. You are a senior pastor learning your new role. Then the congregation will believe it.

3. Learn the culture before you cast vision. Vision is extremely important, but the right vision in the wrong culture won't work. Make sure you understand the culture and whether or not cultural changes are needed before you publicly launch your new vision. You can plant seeds for your vision, for example, with the board and staff, but get the culture right first.

4. Practice the 2X principle. This is simple to understand and challenging to do. The 2X principle is: Invest twice as much into your people as you expect back out. As you practice this principle of 2X leadership development, I recommend starting primarily with your staff and key volunteer leaders.

5. Understand that good preaching won't save you. No matter how good a communicator you are, your teaching alone will not insulate you from relational mistakes. Without investing in relationships, no amount of talent will keep you out of hot water if the people don't feel loved by you. The good news is the opposite is also true. If you invest deeply in relationships, the people will forgive much in the pulpit because they like you.

6. Hearing God's voice is your first and top priority. Your skills, relationships and resources are so important, but the significance of hearing God's voice as a leader is huge. Ask Him what He wants you to do! Ask for wisdom! Ask for clarity! Ask God to tell you what He has planned for your church. I mean, His church.

And of course, if you are young, remember 1 Timothy 4:12: "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity."

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Dan Reiland) Administration Wed, 02 Sep 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Do Churches Practice Age Discrimination in Hiring Pastors and Staff? It's a simple question with profound implications. Do churches seek to hire pastors and/or staff who fall within a tightly defined age range?

Please understand that this article is about general trends. There are certainly many exceptions to each point I make. But these are the major issues I see related to age discrimination in hiring.

  • Age discrimination is common in many churches. Though my information is anecdotal, it spans over 20 years and thousands of churches. Age discrimination in hiring pastors and church staff is pervasive.
  • Churches do not discriminate maliciously. You will rarely hear church members and leaders talk about their refusal to consider candidates of certain ages. It is more the intentional way they seek candidates. For example, a church may determine their ideal candidate to be in his or her 40s. That obviously minimizes the chances they will hire persons in their 30s or 50s.
  • Many churches determine candidate profiles by surveying church members. A common question on these surveys is to state a preferred age range for the candidate. The surveys then are tabulated with predictable responses. That issue leads into my next point.
  • Those excluded from consideration are on both ends of the age spectrum: the younger and the older. Churches are often determined to find someone who has plenty of experience and, at the same time, is not too old. Sometimes that's a tough combination to find.
  • Many members use the "+15" mental calculation to determine if a candidate is too old. The church member often has an idealistic expectation, not always grounded in reality, that the candidate will be at the church for 15 years. They therefore add 15 years to the candidates' current age to determine the suitability of them for the church. Such is the reason many persons 55 years and older have great difficulty finding a position.
  • Churches are missing some great opportunities narrowing their focus to a certain age. It is cliché, but age is as much mental as it is physical. While the age of a candidate can certainly be one factor for consideration, I would hope it's not always the eliminating factor.

I am seeing many churches experiencing difficulty finding pastors and other staff that meet their criteria. The solution could be in looking at candidates who just might be younger or older than they originally anticipated. Don't be surprised if you find some outstanding candidates either younger or older than you expected.

Age is important. But it should not be everything.

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom Rainer ) Administration Tue, 25 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
5 Qualitative Numbers That Can Help Your Church Get Better When you visit a doctor, he determines your health by two methods. First, he collects the numbers. Then, he asks you the questions.

The first step is quantitative. These 18 important numerical measures for your church give you the numbers side of evaluating your church's health.

The second measure is qualitative. Qualitative insight comes from asking questions. Dig in by asking questions about these five areas of your church:

1. Your weekend services. Your church's most important event is its weekend service. You have fifty-two of them, and they come with striking regularity. If you're not careful, you can put these on automatic or maintenance mode. When you do that, your services start to flatline. A worship service is supposed to be a corporate encounter with the living God. We never want to assume we've developed the perfect formula for making that happen, or take for granted that showing up each week will produce a dynamic experience. Good churches think of their central worship service as their lamb sacrifice to God. They want to present a lamb with as few spots or blemishes as possible. This requires constant evaluation.

Here are four key questions to ask after every service:

a. What went better than expected? (We want to celebrate these things and do more of them.)

b. Where did God show up? (We want to identify those moments and see if we can create more opportunities for God's power and presence). What did we do to allow him to work the way he did?

c. What would we do differently if we repeated this service? (Artists tend to be sensitive types. This is a much nicer question than, "What went wrong?" Or, "Where did we fail?")

d. What did we learn that we can use in future services? (Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.)

When should we evaluate the service?

If you have multiple services, try to find five minutes to evaluate immediately following the first service so that you can make mid-morning improvements before the second one starts. This can be tricky, since a good evaluation includes just about everyone involved in making decisions on the service, and many of those people will need to be out connecting with the congregation. To ensure brevity, ask everyone who attends to bring notes.

Who should evaluate the service?

The ideal evaluation team is three to seven people, so ask yourself, "Who must be there in order for the evaluation to be effective?" For New Song, our ideal group is the worship leader, tech director, and one other discerning member who was not so busy being involved in the service, but had a chance to view the service. Sometimes I, or another preaching pastor is involved, but more often we're in the lobby meeting people and leave this to the service specialists.

Mid-morning huddles are good for minor service changes. A better and more thorough evaluation should happen on Tuesday or Wednesday. A few days' distance brings perspective and diminishes emotional sensitivity. If you have a service planning team, part of this team can get evaluate 20 minutes before the full group assembles.

Once in a while, invite two or three new faces to sit in on this weekly session to help your team with any blind spots.

2. Your small groups.  The second most important meeting of your church is its small groups.

At the end of every quarter or session, two or three leaders ought to evaluate how your small groups are doing. Don't try to cover too much. Talk through a few global questions, then drill down on their specifics.

Here are questions you might want to address:

a. What went better than expected?

b. Where did God show up? What did we do to allow him to work that way?

c. What should we do different next term?

d. What did we learn that we can use in future terms?

e. Which groups are working well?

f. Which leaders are doing really well? What can we learn from them?

g. How did this session's registration go? How can we improve that?

h. Can we and should we add more groups?

i. Who is ready to lead a group?

j. Do we need to do anything more or better about providing child care?

k. What topics or studies do we want to make sure are offered next term?

3. Other ongoing programs. If each of your ministries is done to honor the Lord, each should have a regular evaluation. This could be quarterly, semi-annually, or after the completion of its ministry season. I call these evaluation sessions, "Lamb Jams," because I want each of our ministry teams to work towards presenting evermore spotless lambs to the Lord.

A simple format for a Lamb Jamb is to take 15 to 20 minutes to share what went well and where the Lord showed up, fifteen to 20 minutes on what could have gone better and what we want to do differently next time, and 15 to 20 minutes in prayer for God's blessing on the ministry and its leaders.

4. Annual events. Annual events can be easy to overlook because, after all, we did the thing and we won't be coming back to it again for a long time. That's just the problem: by the time you get back to planning next year, you'll have forgotten a lot of what went right and wrong this year. I like to schedule evaluations for annual events ten days to two weeks after the event. The person who led the event should lead the evaluation.

Everything pertinent should be written in a carefully preserved notebook. Record your observations, then review them just before you begin planning the following year.

Here are our key questions for annual events:

a. What went well?

b. What went better than expected?

c. What could have gone better?

d. What was our goal, and did we accomplish it?

e. If we repeat this event, what must we be sure to repeat?

f. If we repeat this event, what must we change and/or add?

g. If we repeat this event, when will we start work on it next year? (Put this in the calendar now.)

h. Looking at next year's calendar, when, exactly should we hold this event? (Put this on the calendar now.)

5. Your overall church health. Have you ever noticed that when you get out of town for a few days, you come home with a fresh perspective? There's something about a change of scenery that helps you gain a clearer perspective.

For that reason, I recommend you take your staff and Board away once or twice a year.

Before long I'll post what we do to evaluate the church's health while on retreats.

Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. This post is an excerpt from his latest ebook, Evaluating Your Church to Make It Better.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Hal Seed) Administration Tue, 25 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
5 Problems With Church Committees At some point in my ministry, I became allergic to committee meetings. I realized I was spending a lot of time in those meetings that could be used for productive ministry.

To be sure, not all committees are bad, and not all committee meetings are unnecessary. Unfortunately, I have seen too many committees become the "tail wagging the dog" in churches. Here are five of the most prominent problems:

1. The committee has forgotten its purpose. I served as a pastor in a church where the church council monthly meeting was interminably long. I would discover that the stated and founding purpose of this group was to coordinate strategically the ministries of the church. Over time, it became nothing more than a calendar committee with people fighting for time and rooms.

2. Some committees meet even if they don't have a reason to meet. As a consultant in a church, I was asked to meet with different committees. I met with one committee where I learned they had seven consecutive months of meetings without an agenda and with nothing accomplished. I asked the chairman why they had the meetings. His response? "Because the meeting was on the church calendar."

3. Some committees attract control freaks. These control freaks tend to gravitate toward committees that deal with either money or personnel or both. And if the wrong people control the funds and personnel matters, problems can multiply.

4. It's hard to kill a committee. Committees can live beyond their usefulness and intended purpose. Oftentimes, it's easier to kill an elephant with a BB gun than to kill a committee. There can be emotional attachment to it. There can be the pervasive sentiment of: "We've always done it that way." I recently was in a church that had 17 committees. Only three of them were really necessary.

5. Unnecessary committees and committee meetings replace ministry. Every minute spent in a committee meeting is a minute that could be spent doing ministry. Our churches have become notorious for keeping our members too busy to do ministry.

Church leaders should evaluate ruthlessly all of their committees and ask several questions. Is this committee necessary? Would this committee serve better as a temporary task force? Are all the committee meetings necessary? What would we do about our committees if we started with a blank slate?

I know many of you have some great perspectives on committees and their usefulness. Let me hear from you.

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer ) Administration Wed, 19 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
How to Deliver the Answer No One Wants to Hear It's not fun to tell someone no, even when you know it's best.

If you are like most of us in ministry, you love people. You want to help and empower, but leadership requires a lot of unpopular answers. In fact, much of leadership is learning and practicing the art of saying no in a way that encourages and inspires.

Requests come in weekly such as:

  • Can I start this new ministry?
  • Can I get personal financial assistance?
  • Will you promote my cause on stage?
  • Will you make this change in the worship services?
  • Would you endorse this political candidate?
  • Would you financially support this ministry I care about?

I have often responded in these conversations by saying: "If we said yes to all the requests we receive, we'd no longer be the church you love to come to."

It is not only possible, but it's our responsibility to learn how to deliver the undesired response, and still leave the person encouraged and hopefully inspired.

Here are a few practical suggestions on how to do that.

It's important to know why you want to say yes:

  • What is your motive to say yes?
  • Do you want to avoid disappointing someone?
  • Are you out of time and this is how you move on?
  • Is this the rare situation that needs an exception?

It's important to know when the request is not up for negotiation and when it's open for consideration. If you don't know where you stand, what you believe and what would best reflect the church's culture, you can't lead. When you can't lead, you will be led. That causes insecurity in you and you try to feel better by saying yes. That never works well in the long run, especially if your yes is misaligned with the church as a whole.

You must believe your answer is in the best interest of the person and the organization. You can't make the right decision every time. No leader can. But you can believe the answer is in the best interest of the person and the church. This requires thoughtful preparation and prayer.

Never merely say no. It's important to listen. It's essential that you genuinely engage in the conversation. Don't get defensive. Relax, this is not a battle; it's a conversation. If you lead it that way, that's how it will go. Seek to understand the person's point of view, not convince them you are right. Then be honest and direct. Explain why you think the way you do. The answer no one wants to hear is "no," but you have honored the person, communicated respect and likely strengthened a relationship.

Don't apologize for the no. If you say, "I'm sorry I have to say no," that sends a confusing message. It's better to say something like: "I'm sorry this disappoints you, but it's the right thing for now." Don't confuse compassion for good leadership. Do, however, be a compassionate leader. Care enough to deliver the right decision in a loving way.

Say yes as often as you can. It's always great to say yes when you can. For example, many times someone has approached me about the church starting a ministry. We can't take ownership of every ministry people want to start. But I say, YES, YOU can start the ministry. You can do it. You are very capable and if God has put this on your heart, don't hand it off to the church to do; you go for it. I usually offer to meet with them to brainstorm and get them started, but they own it, not the church.

It's never easy to say no, but as leaders it is often our responsibility to be courageous, direct and deliver the answer no one wants to hear.

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.

]]> (Dan Reiland) Administration Mon, 17 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
7 Questions Leaders Should Use Often Questions are a powerful tool for every leader. The greatest leaders I know ask lots of questions.

Whenever I consult with leaders, one of the first things I do is analyze what questions the leader is asking. You only get answers to questions you ask. The better the questions, the better the answers.

Questions can challenge. They encourage discussion. They can open the process towards discovery of solutions and better ways of doing things. Plus, questions allow other people to have an opinion other than the leader—adding huge value to organizational health.

I've learned over the years people often have opinions they won't share until they are given a direct invitation to share them. I keep my door open all the time. I take pride in not being a "controlling leader." But it doesn't guarantee people will share what's on their mind. The forum has to be created for them most of the time.

Here are seven examples of questions leaders should memorize and use often:

1. How can we improve as a team? This is a practical question which, in my experience, people will enjoy answering. It can make their life better. They may have thoughts on needing more meetings—or less meetings—or better meetings. That could be valuable insight you don't see. Even if they've never thought about this question, it opens their mind to ways to improve. Who doesn't need that?


2. Will you help me? Everyone wants to be wanted. They want their input to be needed. I'm not talking about dumping on people, but when a leader asks this question and genuinely invites the team into the decision-making process they feel empowered.


3. How can I help you? Knowing a leader is willing to help is huge. Even if they don't need your help they appreciate knowing they are truly part of a team. And, the leader is a team player.


4. Do you understand what I'm saying? This is a valuable question to follow up with after you've said anything, but especially when you've delegated a task or given someone a responsibility. Because, again, they may not ask if you don't. Not asking this question can lead to unnecessary confusion, miscommunication and frustration.


5. Do you have what you need? Giving any assignment without asking this question leaves many people unprepared and doomed for failure. Good leaders make sure the team has adequate resources to do their work.


6. What do you think we should do? This question is helpful, for example, whenever there is a problem to be solved which has never been addressed before. Most likely, when the question is answered it will impact others on the team. Inviting people to help solve the issue or come to a conclusion about it gives them ownership in the solution.


7. What's next for us? This is a great brainstorming question. It forces people to dialogue about creating something new or developing something existing. It fuels momentum.

It should be noted—these questions are most helpful on healthy teams and with healthy team members. If you have an overly negative team member, for example, I wouldn't recommend asking these questions. Or, maybe ask the "How can I help you?" one. (Even if that needs to be transitioning to another place where they can be happy.)

What I would say, however, is that questions can be a way to improve the health on a team. And sometimes even improve an unhealthy team member. It's all in picking the right questions and asking them.

Ron Edmondson is the lead pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Administration Thu, 23 Jul 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: How Should We React to Surprise? Last week, China devalued its currency (the Yuan) by a total of more than 4 percent against the U.S. dollar. Last Tuesday's drop alone of 1.9 percent was the largest daily decline since 1993 (22 years).

The move immediately made U.S. exports to China more expensive, and Chinese imports to the U.S. less expensive. The U.S./China trade deficit will worsen. Since many global currencies are either tied or correlated with the U.S. dollar, world impacts are similar.

China was desperate. Weaker exports, an economy that has slowed significantly, perilous drops in their stock market and related political risks encouraged the governing party to try a weaker Yuan. But global impacts are large and could be huge. 

The Chinese devaluation caught everyone by surprise and could begin a currency war and global economic slowdown. Other countries may react by devaluing their currencies or enacting new tariffs. Any reduction in world trade slows the world economy.

The policy will cause some deflation and could even cause deflationary spirals. If buyers expect lower prices in the future, purchases are postponed, resulting in a drop in demand, which causes lower prices and profits, which cause lowered employment, investment and prices, which continues the cycle.

Hopefully, national and global economic policy-makers will act and react in a well-reasoned, intelligent and statesman-like manner to the surprise move by the Chinese government.

This world, including the economy, is filled with surprises. Some will be positive. Some will be negative. Some will present an unexpected joy. Some will be inconvenient or annoying.

Some surprises will be life changing. Others will be devastating. As citizens of the kingdom of God, how do we react to the unexpected? How should we react to surprise?

Many times when we get surprised with bad news, we do not know the reason. Job was blameless, upright, God fearing and avoided evil. The Lord had prospered him to the point he was the greatest of all the people of the East.

But suddenly, four messengers arrived with bad news. Before one had finished the next arrived. They told of the total loss of Job's oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants and his 10 children due to four different causes.

Job had every opportunity to blame God. But his relationship was greater. He knew God.

"Then Job stood up, tore his robe, and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshipped. He said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked will I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' In all this Job did not sin, and he did not accuse God of wrongdoing" (Job 1:20-22).

Job's first reaction to devastating news was to mourn, worship and bless the Lord. If faced with bad news, we should do likewise.

Surprises can also be positive; life-changing positive. They can be an answer to years of hope, faith and prayer. Our gratitude and thankfulness to the Lord should be unbridled in words and actions. We should remember and acknowledge the source. We should be joyful, worship and bless the Lord.

Surprises did not rattle Paul or reduce his focus. Paul learned to be content in both abundance and need because he knew that regardless of the circumstance he could do all things through Christ. Our faith, confidence, hope and gratitude should be in Christ. Our outcomes do not depend on our circumstances.

"I do not speak because I have need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content. I know both how to face humble circumstances and how to have abundance. Everywhere and in all things I have learned the secret, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things because of Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:11-13).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James R. Russell ) Adversity Wed, 19 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Will History Repeat? Current economic conditions have similarities to 2008 before the financial crisis. Will history repeat?

Commodity prices fell sharply then. Today prices of oil, gasoline, copper, zinc and other commodities are slumping. World trade fell sharply before the last recession and it has been plunging recently. Stock market chart patterns today are similar to 2008 for this time of year. Liquidity was a concern then and is a concern now. Real estate prices were in a bubble then and many believe that bond and possibly stock prices are in a bubble now.

In addition, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) recently announced that Greece is ineligible to receive new funds from them without some debt relief by others. The others (primarily Germany) are adamantly opposed to debt relief. The Chinese stock market has weakened; the Venezuelan, Brazilian, and Argentinian economies have severe economic challenges. Puerto Rico has debt challenges. Many southern European countries have unsustainable debt.

Will history repeat? No one knows for sure when the next financial crisis will occur. But, current economic factors raise concerns.

The economy is like a house of cards where a gust of wind from any direction could cause the house to collapse. We do not know whether the gust will occur this year, next year, or in the distant future. But central banks and governments which had many tools to fight the financial collapse of 2008 have far fewer tools and less flexibility today.

The scriptures tell us that rampant, unrepentant sin will result in judgment. The sin in the world today, without a great move of the Holy Spirit resulting in revival, will result in judgment.  But regardless of any economic, political or societal environment. citizens in the Kingdom have security. We know how to build a house on a good foundation that will stand the winds of adversity.

"Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I say? Whoever comes to Me and hears My words and does them, I will show whom he is like: He is like a man who built a house, and dug deep, and laid the foundation on rock. When the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, but could not shake it, for it was founded on rock" (Luke 6:46-48).

The strategy is to seek the Lord, know His Word, and be obedient.

In bad times, fear, anxiety and stress will attempt to capture our attention. If resources are scarce and uncertain, we may be tempted to withhold our tithes, offerings, evangelistic donations, and alms to the poor. We may doubt the promises of God. In good times, self-sufficiency and pride could try to derail us. The solution is to seek the Kingdom first and His righteousness.

"Therefore, take no thought, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' (For the Gentiles seek after all these things) For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you" (Matthew 6:31-33).

We are blessed. The Lord has paid the price. All good things come from the Father of lights.  We have been given dominion over the earth to build His Kingdom.

"The Lord shall increase you more and more, you and your children. You are blessed of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to the children of men" (Psalms 115:14-16).

]]> (James R. Russell) Adversity Thu, 13 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
5 Practical Tips on Leading Difficult People If you've been leading for longer than a week or two, you know what it means to interact with difficult people.

A friend of mine called last week to ask advice about how to better lead one of his board members for a small nonprofit. My friend, let's call him Jeremy, is the director (and founder) of the nonprofit.

In the middle of one of the meetings, the board member started a non-agenda discussion regarding his belief that the board members should have more decision-making authority in the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit's endeavors. This was obviously a big surprise and felt like an ambush.

Jeremy asked if there was a specific agenda or issue that the board member wanted to talk about, and the response was no, we just need more authority in general. Jeremy asked if he was unhappy with the ministry or his performance. The same response was given:

"Everything is fine, we just need to have more say in how things are done." This went on for over an hour getting nowhere. Finally, Jeremy asked: "What would you change if you had more authority?" The response was, "Well, we can talk about that later. But let's figure out the authority thing first."

OK, that is a difficult situation with a difficult person leading the charge. The outcome is still undetermined! Difficult people are difficult, and nothing can move forward for the nonprofit ministry until this is resolved.

Before we tackle the practical ideas, I want to suggest that it's important to determine the difference between a difficult person and an unreasonable person.

One of the barista's in our café at 12Stone® Church told me about a person who brought in their coffee cup from a local coffee franchise and asked for a free refill at 12Stone. The barista graciously explained that we don't do free refills and the person became extremely upset, raised their voice saying: "Well you are a church, it should be free!" Our barista calmly told them that we do have free coffee stations conveniently located in four areas of the church for anyone who does not wish to purchase coffee in the café. The person then exclaimed, "I don't want free coffee, I want a refill, no charge!"

This person was simply unreasonable. You can't help an unreasonable person. Not in the moment anyway. It's best to say: "I'm sorry, I can't help you" and move on. In the moment, that is the most loving thing to do.

Here are 5 practical tips on leading difficult people:

Leading difficult people begins with loving them. It's not always easy, but with that in mind, let's take a look at some principles and practices.

1. Difficult isn't a disease. It is natural to recoil from difficult people but it isn't beneficial. While it may be counterintuitive to move toward difficult people, we know that's part of the responsibility of a good leader. It's easy to love our friends and followers, but the real test of our leadership is how we influence those who test us. Your friends and followers may tell you what you want to hear, and they can make life too comfortable. Being stretched by a "difficult" person is a healthy part of a leader's life.

2. Difficult may be a helpful voice in disguise. It takes time to learn this, but it's often the "different (difficult) voice" that brings new ideas. What seems difficult and challenging is often a gift in disguise. I love having tough conversations with staff and volunteer leaders who disagree with me. When I was younger I would quickly try to win them to my way of thinking, I charged forward for the "win" without listening like I should have. And in doing that, any new perspective is lost. It's often true that what appears to be a difficult person, is someone who isn't so difficult at all. They just see things a little differently, and that is often very helpful to see and understand.

3. Find out what is underneath. If "difficult" seems to persist and it becomes apparent it's more than a new and challenging idea, try setting the actual topic aside and take the conversation to a more personal level. Ask if you are doing something that is bothering them. Ask if there is something difficult in their personal life. It's not uncommon that there is financial pressure, or something with their kids, or perhaps their marriage.

When you connect with the real issue it's much easier to love and care for someone. And when they know you care, it's much easier to deal with the original issue. Do whatever you can to add value to their life!

4. Look for the hidden gold. The conflict may be an issue of chemistry. Part of what makes human beings so delightful can also drive us crazy. We are all different, not everyone gets along naturally. Chemistry can't be forced, but as leaders we can rise to maturity and find the best of what otherwise would be a connection between two people that feels like sandpaper. One of the best ways to do this is to look for the best in the other person. If I focus on what makes them difficult, nothing improves. And I must remember, they most likely find something difficult about me! When I find the hidden gold, their talents and gifts, I begin to appreciate them. When I appreciate something about them, even though they may not have changed, I have changed in how I see them and that improves the interaction.

5. Set boundaries and focus on common ground. So far, I've been writing with a bias toward you and changing your perspective about "difficult." But I must admit that some people, not many, but some, are just plain difficult nearly all the time. Jesus still calls us to love them! That doesn't mean, however, that we should place them in leadership or give them significant amounts of our time. Boundaries are healthy and necessary.

My first boundary is to make sure we are headed in the same direction. It's OK to disagree with me, or express dissatisfaction with my leadership, or try to convince me to do something in a different way. But if the person has an agenda that essentially opposes the mission of the church then a boundary must be set in place.

Essentially this boundary means that the "conflict" must cease until we establish common ground that we can stand on together. From there we can make productive progress.

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Dan Reiland ) Adversity Wed, 29 Jul 2015 21:00:00 -0400
How to Combat Betrayal in the Church Betrayal—we've all been hurt in the church and among the body of Christ. Betrayal comes in several forms like people abandoning us, not believing in us, hurting us, speaking behind our backs and not valuing what we have to bring to the Kingdom.

Betrayal originates from both others' and our inner hurts and wounds. Inner hurts and wounds from past experiences and relationships left unhealed can and do affect the church, the body of Christ.

Psalm 51:10 says, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." When we are hurt or wounded, we need to look inside ourselves and discover where healing needs to take place. There is a saying: "Hurting people hurt people." Hurting people do hurt people inside and outside the church.

It seems as though church betrayal is all around. People come in and try to take control, prompting some to leave the church. Many feel they have so much to offer the church, but when things don't go their way they start causing trouble for the pastor and the congregation.

Conflict arises among leaders when this happens and people begin to argue, disagree and get offended. When offense sets in it leads the way to betrayal and division and people in the church get upset, quit committees and commitments and start leaving the church.

What is the answer to hurt and betrayal in the church and how do we get it to stop? I believe it first starts with prayer and discernment about who should be in church leadership. In the body of Christ in general, 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. This puts pressure on the volunteers and leaders to do more, work harder and pick up the slack of those who don't want to volunteer.

Due to the limited amount of volunteers when a new person comes into the church a pastor is seldom left options than to hurry and put them in a leadership position or a main volunteer role. The pastor sees good qualities in the person and implements them without the proper amount of prayer and discernment out of desperation.

The person volunteers, gets involved and soon when their character is revealed, we discover that there are emotional and spiritual issues that need healing. This often causes more harm than help to the church in the long run.

Waiting to implement people in certain positions until relationships have been formed and characters have been revealed would be an asset to the church that would bring unity and cooperation instead of division and dissension.

The next thing we need to do is properly train our volunteers, leaders and people in our church and ministry. Proper training comes from leadership having a set action in plan ahead of time and being on the offense and not the defense. What is required to volunteer in your church or ministry?

We have two mandatory resources that help fight against church division and disunity and are required reading for our ministry volunteers. 

The Bait of Satan by John Bevere is a great book on the spirit of offense. It identifies offense and helps you heal from offense. I can still remember a time someone suggested it to us while we were in a church conflict. We had never heard of the book or study that comes with it, and my husband's small group did a study on it that changed our lives.

We now recommend it to everyone as preventative measures and not defensive measures. It is required reading within the first three months of being in our ministry having a desire to serve.

I have found that Perry Stone's book The Judas Goat is another great book and a must-have for all ministries. This book on betrayal exposes the enemy's tactics of how people can come in and destroy the church. It makes the reader aware and educated on relationships and how to protect what God has given you.

I strongly suggest again that all leaders read this as preventative measures to church conflict. There are also benefits in this book for people who have been hurt from the church in discovering what went wrong and how to prevent such things from happening again.

As leaders of the church we need to be responsible for the hurt that is going on in our churches. If we can provide our congregation and volunteers with reasonable guidelines and suggestions on how to prevent hurt, than it certainly is our responsibility.

Ultimately, we need to teach forgiveness and we need to model love. The latter truly covers a multitude of sins. When we extend love to each other, healing begins.

Kathy DeGraw is the founder of DeGraw Ministries a ministry releasing the love and power of God. She is a prophetic deliverance minister who travels hosting conferences, teaching schools and evangelistic love tours. Kathy enjoys writing and is the author of several books that educate, empower and equip people. For more information visit

]]> (Kathy DeGraw) Adversity Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
5 Roadblocks of Good Leadership I was in a hurry to get to a meeting across town and the traffic was horrible. I decided to take a shortcut.

I had been the new way only one other time, but remembered it well enough to believe it would be faster. I turned down several streets to navigate through a subdivision, back on to a main road, and then through another subdivision. Just as I was about to get to the road I needed to be on the road was permanently closed to through traffic. It had apparently been closed for some time.

Had I checked before attempting to go this direction, I would been delayed probably long enough for Google maps to pick up on it. Now I essentially had to completely backtrack and get into the same traffic jam again. Only this time I was twenty minutes later.

So much for my shortcut.

It reminded me, however, of something I've observed in leadership. There are roadblocks in good leadership too.

I've witnessed many leaders, including myself at times, become distracted from leading as well as we should.

Many times it's a natural occurrence. We aren't feeling well physically or emotionally. Life struggles distract us and our attention to our work isn't what we would want it to be. There is a problem with someone else on the team that must be dealt with before you can move forward. They are usually seasonal and mostly unavoidable distractions—roadblocks—every leader faces.

Everyone faces roadblocks.

It's the roadblocks in leadership which we can avoid that tend to be most damaging. They detract from growth and destroy organizational health. If they aren't addressed, it can set a leader back months, years, even an entire career.

As leaders, we must avoid these roadblocks as much as possible.

Here are 5 roadblocks to good leadership:

1. Abusing power rather than extending power. Some leaders try to control every outcome, but end up wasting the valuable talent of others on the team. They limit the team's possibilities to those the leader is capable of personally producing. As long as a leader refuses to release authority to others there will be a roadblock in the way of the ultimate potential of the organization.

2. Making excuses for a weakness. These leaders never admit a fault or mistake—for themselves or the organization—even though everyone around them sees it. They hide flaws, pretend everything is "awesome", and try to make you believe life couldn't be better. The underlying problems of the team are never addressed or corrected. Strengths aren't fully maximized because more energy goes to covering up places which aren't wonderful.

3. Favoring popularity over progress. I've seen leaders who care more about people liking them than about achieving the goals of the organization. When this is the roadblock complacency and mediocrity become standards instead of excellence. Compromise is chosen over collaboration. Conflict is avoided and people will hear what they want to hear—but everyone is disappointed with the results.

4. Holding grudges instead of building bridges. I once worked with a leader who would never accept a challenge. Whenever he felt threatened, he "blackballed" you into compliance or worked to get rid of you. These type leaders are diligent about protecting their image or reputation, so if you appear to question them they pit others on the team against you. They make it very difficult for people to know whether the leader is pleased with their efforts. Their style creates turf wars among team members as people scramble to meet the leader's approval. Sides are chosen and the team's abilities to effectively work together is limited.

5. Waiting for the perfect conditions rather than taking a risk. These leaders refuse to take steps of faith. They demand every detail be answered before a project is launched. They seldom place faith in other people because it's too risky. This roadblock results in bored cultures and teams, slow or no growth, and eventual declines. The opportunity cost with this distraction is exponential.

I'm certain there are others. This list is only intended to get you thinking. Be honest, have you been a leader with one of these roadblocks? Again, we all throw up roadblocks at times in our leadership. We must attempt to eliminate those that cause the greatest disruption to progress. Discovering them and tearing them down may be a key to providing good leadership.

What roadblock would you add to my list?

Ron Edmondson is the lead pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson ) Adversity Mon, 20 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Who Ministers to the Minister? What do you do when yours is the life that needs ministry? What do you do when yours is the family that is falling apart?

What do you do when you are the one that is grieving?

Who ministers to the minister? Who takes care of a pastor and his or her family when their world is caving in?

Pastors, women's ministry leaders, worship leaders and pastoral team members are all weary pilgrims from time to time and need the support system and encouragement that the Body of Christ is well able to offer. Unfortunately, often the church has been guilty of leaving bleeding ministers on the battlefield of life without regard to the gaping wounds they have suffered.

So what does a pastor, evangelist or church staff member do when they find themselves in need of pastoral care?

First of all, during the days of peace and stability, it is vitally important to establish a team of trusted friends who have your best interest at heart. This group of understanding friends, who are truly more like family, are able to circle the wagons around a ministry family when they are in need of counsel and emotional support. This team of devoted friends will not only be able to encourage you but they also will be able to protect you. 

The leadership team of one's home church or the board of directors of one's ministry should also offer support, prayer and spiritual wisdom to a hurting family or pastor. Kindness and understanding are among the most integral gifts that other leaders can offer to a ministry family in crisis.

If you have not found this loving care and gentle support from your church leadership team or board of directors, there are other leaders in the Body of Christ who are able to nurture a hurting family and guide them back to health.

Go to another church in your vicinity and ask for counsel from someone on the church staff.  How blessed it is when churches ignore the breeches that denominations have created and just simply say, "Let me help.  I care about you."

Perhaps you could ask your church's leadership if they would be willing to pay for Christian counseling. Oftentimes a pastor and his family need the confidentiality that only professional counselors are able to offer.

When my husband, who is a pastor, and I were in need of some encouragement due to repeated miscarriages and the emotional trauma that followed, we called "Focus on the Family" and talked to one of their pastoral counselors. It was life changing! The staff at "Focus on the Family" followed up with us for many years and was a shining light in an otherwise very dark time in our lives.

Whatever you are going through ... don't go through it alone!  If one group of leaders or members of the Body of Christ aren't able or are unwilling to give you the support that you need ... be relentless in your pursuit of finding someone who simply cares about you and what you and your family are going through.

Shame, regret or embarrassment should never paralyze a person in ministry from finding the help needed during a personal storm in life.  Ministers need ministry ... counselors need counsel ... and caregivers need to be taken care of.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Cor. 1:3 & 4).

Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books, No More OrdinaryHoly Estrogen!The Rooms of a Woman's Heart and Defiant Joy! Her most recent book, Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire, will be released on Aug. 1. Her teaching DVD The Rooms of a Woman's Heart won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. 

]]> (Carol McLeod ) Adversity Fri, 26 Jun 2015 12:00:00 -0400
How God Grows You Through the 6 Phases of Faith Did you know that God uses a very predictable process to build your character? I call it the Six Phases of Faith. If you don't understand the process, you'll get discouraged when problems arise. You'll wonder, "Why is this happening to me?"

But if you understand and cooperate with what God is doing—in your life and with your faith—you'll develop great strength. It's like stretching a muscle to make it stronger.

Phase 1: A Dream
God gives you a dream: an idea, goal, or ambition. Every great accomplishment first begins as a God-given dream in someone's mind. "God is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes" (Eph. 3:20, LB).

Phase 2: Decision
A dream is worthless until you decide to do something about it. For every 10 dreamers, there's only one decision-maker. This is the moment of truth where you decide to invest your time, money, energy, and reputation—and to let go of security. If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out of the boat! "You must believe and not doubt ... a double-minded man is unstable in all he does" (James 1:6, 8, GN).

Phase 3: Delay
There is ALWAYS a time lapse before your dream becomes reality. God uses this waiting period to teach you to trust Him. Remember: a delay is not a denial. Maturity is understanding the difference between "no" and "not yet."

God says, "These things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!" (Hab. 2:3, LB).

Phase 4: Difficulty
Now the problems start popping up. The two most common types: critics and circumstances. Don't worry! It's all a part of God's plan. "At the present you may be temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials. This is no accident—it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold" (1 Pet. 1:6-7, Phi).

Phase 5: Dead End
Your situation will deteriorate from difficult to IMPOSSIBLE! You'll find yourself backed into a corner; you reach the end of your rope. The situation looks hopeless. Congratulations! You're on the edge of a miracle. Trust God.

"At that time we were completely overwhelmed ... in fact we told ourselves that this was the end. Yet, we now believe we had this sense of impending disaster so that we might learn to trust—not in ourselves—but in God who can raise the dead" (2 Cor. 1:8-9, Phi).

Phase 6: Deliverance
God provides a supernatural answer. Miraculously, things fall into place! God loves to turn crucifixions into resurrections so you can see His greatness. "I expect the Lord to deliver me once again so I will see his goodness to me ..." (Ps. 27:13).

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, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren) Counseling Fri, 04 Sep 2015 18:00:00 -0400
'There Is Nothing Like a Good Rain to Make a Smart Farmer' Many years ago when I heard the phrase, "There is nothing like a good rain to make a smart farmer," it referenced the financial industry within which I was working. Interest rates had undergone a slow steady decline for nearly a decade.

There were businesses that made a lot of money due to the decline in those rates and, quite frankly, not everyone had to be a good businessperson to be successful.

Although there is still some truth around the fact that outside influences can result in significant company success no matter its leadership, I now understand that, even in such circumstances, keen leadership must be the role we seek.

Top leaders in an ever-increasing environment can allow themselves to become complacent and miss the opportunity to pursue something much greater. (See Luke 9:12). This can be an opportunity to aggressively pursue excellence with a forward-looking frame of mind that can result in achievements never thought possible in the outset. (See Luke 9:16-17).

As top leaders, we must plan and pursue the company's written goals and objectives. However, as the market adjusts and those goals are either met or varied, we must positively react in real time. The nimble and well-positioned company can be a leading example in the industry and act under the influence of stewardship and purpose. This is done not by some fortunate "rainfall," but instead by solid preparation of the leader(s) and the team.

The description of "success," of course, differs with as many leaders as may try to define it. Some describe a successful company as simply being profitable, or if not profitable, meeting this quarter's expectations and putting the company in a position to advance toward its goals.

I would suggest that we, as market leaders, take a different approach to the "good rain" as stated in the title phrase. ... Might we consider developing ourselves into the "smart farmer" first, then praying for rain.

Join me next week, when I share some insight into: "How to develop ourselves into the mindset of a 'smart farmer.'"


"He who had received five talents came and brought the other five talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted to me five talents. Look, I have gained five talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, you good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things. I will make you ruler over many things. Enter the joy of your master.'" (Matt. 25:20-21).

Jeffrey Smith, a business consultant, is a national speaker and writes on the topic of leadership. His experience as president & CEO of a publicly-traded financial company has given him a strong foundation from which to share. 

]]> (Jeff Smith ) Counseling Mon, 31 Aug 2015 21:00:00 -0400
How to Help People Answer Questions About the Bible Almost every Christian—and some non-Christians—has questions about the Bible.

One of our regular responsibilities as church leaders is to answer those questions.

But where can you go for answers?

Two Types of Questions

I've discovered that people usually have one of two types of questions.

1. The first has to do with what you find in Scripture. Open Genesis 6 and you encounter The Nephilim. Who were these people? Where did they come from? Peruse 2 Corinthians 12 and you find Paul's thorn in the flesh. What was that? Read Hebrews 6 and you find people who seem to be losing their salvation. Is that even possible? If so, what hope is there for these people?

To help people with these questions, I refer to two books. The first is Gleason Archer's New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Dr. Archer was a professor at Trinity Seminary. For 30 years he answered people's Bible questions for Decision magazine. By the time he was done, he found he has answered questions on most of the questionable passages in Scripture. So he put them all into this wonderful volume.

The second one I recommend is Norm Geisler's The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. As far as I can tell, Dr. Geisler (a professor at Dallas Seminary) looked at Archer's book and decided he could add a few things to it. Both books have similar formats. They answer questions chapter by chapter and verse by verse. In my opinion, every Christian pastor and leader ought to have a copy of each of these in their libraries.

2. The second type of question has to do with what you don't find in Scripture. This second type of question is a little trickier. Certain questions are too long or too broad to be included in an encyclopedia or compendium, but too short to warrant a whole book. As you may know, I've spent the past 20 years surveying people about their questions about God, Christianity and the Bible. (That's why I wrote The God Questions.)

When it comes to the Bible, I've discovered that there are about five major questions most people (both Christian and non-Christian) have:

1. Why are there so many translations?

2. Why was God so violent in the Old Testament?

3. Why is there only one way to heaven?

4. When will Jesus return?

5. Where is the Trinity found in Scripture?

Each of these requires a little context and a longer explanation. I devoted a chapter to each in The Bible Questions.

The encouraging thing is: God has provided answers to every question! He didn't leave us hanging. A little exploration, a little scholarship, and just about all curiosities and concerns get satisfied.

Certain ministry moments are significant to people. The deepest ones, of course, are weddings and funerals. But I have found that answering someone's concerns about losing their salvation, or reconciling a loving God with the God of the Old Testament can be deeply meaningful as well.

If you've got questions, I recommend these three books!

Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Hal Seed) Counseling Wed, 22 Apr 2015 21:00:00 -0400
How to Empower Lay Counselors to Reach the Broken Some of the spiritually healthiest people I know are in counseling. There seems to be some stigma around it, but getting help with our mental and emotional issues is really a matter of choosing to grow with the help of others. And the New Testament reveals a pretty neat idea in the mind of God ... the church can be a growing body of compassionate counselors. If you're a Christian, you need counseling from other Christians, and you need to offer counseling to others too.

I believe there is a huge need for professional counseling in the culture in which we live, and there are times for all of us when the the healthiest thing we can do is pay to see a clinician trained in the art of coaching us toward healthier thinking and relationships. But there is also a vast army of counselors within the membership of the church.

Paul challenged Christians to "teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives" (Col. 3:16 NLT). He challenged us to admonish and to encourage, to hold others accountable, to help apply biblical truth and to make each other healthier, mutually.

When I was a pastor at Saddleback Church, I was amazed at the number of people who had gone through extensive training under Pastor Bob Baker to become lay counselors. One of those trainees even wound up living in northwest Arkansas and joined my church. Saddleback's website describes the approach this way:

We produce trained counselors who facilitate a free service for individuals seeking guidance for a variety of issues including marital and family relationships, communication and intimacy, parenting, grief and loss, anger and bitterness, inner personal struggles and spiritual discouragement. Our volunteers receive extensive training, ongoing supervision and continuing education. The ministry helps fulfill Pastor Rick's vision for Saddleback Church: "It is the dream of a place where the hurting, the depressed, the frustrated and the confused can find love, acceptance, help, hope, forgiveness, guidance and encouragement."

It's an incredible approach that meets real needs for thousands. My wife, Angie, leads our church's counseling efforts. She's a trained clinician (LCSW) with a background in offering professional therapy. But she also believes strongly in the power of releasing non-professional lay counselors to walk alongside the broken.

And I would get even more ground level in my assessment of the church's need to counsel and to be counseled. We also need an informal atmosphere where people connect with others in small groups, and in one-on-one or two-or-three-sized groups to talk about life, to heal from brokenness and to deepen one another's walk.

God has certainly equipped us for this.

  • He's given us His Word, the Bible, which is His verbally inspired truth for life, infallible and unable to fail as it works its way through our lives.
  • He's given us His Spirit, to lead us in the moment, to feed us life-giving words to share with others, on the spot.
  • He's allowed us to walk our own broken roads while learning to draw closer to Him so that we can speak out of our own pain into the lives of others.

So, you need counseling. Professionally? During certain seasons of life, yes! But even more, you need friends. You need a church body, a small group of fellow believers, who can link arms with you to help you heal.

And you need to be counseling others. This doesn't mean offering unsolicited criticism in the name of prophetic insight. It means that regardless of your level of training, if you know Jesus and you read His Word regularly, you are equipped to encourage, to exhort and even to correct in gentle ways those who are hurting around you.

Church leaders, if you don't already, it's time now to encourage people to counsel and to seek counseling. Yes, preaching is primary to your responsibility to shepherd the flock, but a half hour on Sunday of speaking as one to the masses will never afford you enough opportunity to dive into the specific issues and problems that individuals face on a daily basis. You need to empower and release people to go be the church for one another.

Brandon Cox is lead pastor of Grace Hills Church, a new church plant in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as Editor and Community Facilitator for and Rick Warren's Pastor's Toolbox and was formerly a pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Brandon A .Cox) Counseling Mon, 08 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
How to Use Your God-Given Influence as a Kingdom Builder Everyone has influence. We all influence someone. And God expects us to be good stewards of that influence for His kingdom's sake.

He didn't give us our influence for selfish purposes on our part, but so that we might share the good news about him—so that we could be kingdom builders. But what exactly is a "kingdom builder?" It's someone who has ...

  • A great purpose to live for. And for the Christian, we have the greatest purpose of all—to rescue people for eternity through Jesus. Kingdom builders demonstrate a great commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
  • Great principles to live by. A kingdom builder is one who has a different source from which to draw wisdom—God's eternal truth revealed in the Bible.
  • Great power to live on. A kingdom builder operates in a different power that the rest of the world—the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who offers guidance every step of the way.
  • Great people to live with. A kingdom builder gathers with God's people and joins up with a small group for encouragement and accountability.

There are at least a dozen principles we learn from Scripture about how to use our influence as a kingdom builder. I'm going to share six this week and six next week. Here are the first six:

1. Everybody has influence. What you do with the influence you currently have will determine whether or not your influence grows more. And you have far more influence than you realize. You influence people everyday through your smile, conversation, email, voting, etc. In order to understand what influence is, it's helpful to understand what influence is NOT.

  • Influence is not a position.
  • Influence is not authority.
  • Influence is not fame.
  • Influence is not wealth.

You can have any one of those and not actually have influence.

2. God expects me to use the influence he's given to me. Influence is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more it grows. It takes courage. You'll have to get out of your comfort zone, speak up when you're intimidated and serve others when you don't feel like it. Jesus challenged us to let our light shine and to be like salt that preserves and flavors the world around us. In other words, you have to decide to put your influence to use.

3. My influence is for the benefit of others. When God gives you influence, it isn't for the purpose of making you rich or famous, especially for your own pleasure. He gives you influence because He uses people to help other people. It's about others. And the blessings of your influence are not for you to consume but for you to share.

4. If I'm not influencing them, they're influencing me. This is one of those truths naive leaders miss. Not only do we all influence others, but we're all influenced by others as well. And when we're unaware of the power that others have to influence us, we'll allow our hearts to compromise. Just as Lot failed to influence the cities of the plain in Genesis, we too can become attached to the values of the culture we're hoping to change.

5. The purpose of influence is to speak up for those that have no influence. Psalm 72 is a prayer for leaders, and it says, "Please stand up for the poor, help the children of the needy, come down hard on the cruel tyrants." In other words, God, please help leaders to use their influence on behalf of those who have little voice or platform of their own—the poor, the fatherless, the diseased and isolated, the slave and the oppressed.

6. I will answer to God for how I used my influence. I am eternally accountable for how I used the influence God gave me in this life. What I do with my influence in the temporary world matters forever, and the Bible is filled with proof of this. The question God will ask every human being in His judgment is, "What did you do with my Son, Jesus?" And the question He will ask everyone who is a member of His family is, "What did you do with the time and the resources and the influence I gave you?"

I want to influence this world in light of the next. That's our calling as kingdom builders!

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, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren) Counseling Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Some Can’t-Miss Books for Family Ministry Leaders When I’m talking with potential leaders, I’m usually investigating how much knowledge they have and how they learn. One great question is “What are you reading right now, and what books have impacted you the most?”

I love the responses to this question and thought I’d answer it myself here. Here is my list of books that have impacted me the most as a family ministry leader. Please add your own impactful books in the comments section.

Think Orange by Reggie Joiner

Honestly, it’s a bit much because it’s the manifesto on all things family ministry. Lots of things to disagree with and agree with all in the same book. There is also the Orange Leader Handbook, which is much more digestible to go through with a team of leaders.

Lead Small by Reggie Joiner and Tom Shefchunas

This is a fantastic book written for leaders that lead kids/students in small groups. I’m real excited about what could come from this little book, because it is stuffed to the brim with ideas for the small-group leader. I’ve always got this book available to give away. I take it to lunch when I’m meeting with small-group leaders and have even highlighted sections in advance for people!

Dreaming of More for the Next Generation by Michelle Anthony

I recommend this book to anyone working with kids and students. It’s a great thesis on the “how” of leading kids/students. I love the thoughts on how to teach the Holy Spirit to kids.

Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna

A slightly controversial book on what research says about adult Christ-following kids. It’s great if you want to connect parents to what matters. I’ve given this away to parents for years.

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley

I really believe that as you talk to churches, you are going to find more and more that have been through this book. At least in the interviews I’ve done in the past month, this has proven true.

Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley

Intentional apprenticing is vital to how we do ministry at Athens Church. This book is a great guide to take a young person through, or anyone in whom you see potential leadership.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath

This little book is the easiest way to discover what makes you the leader you are, and when used on an entire team, it will give you a glimpse into how to lead those around you as well as how to follow your own leader well. I’ve got a stack of these in my office at all times to give to leaders I’m talking to.

Sticky Faith by Kara Powell

This book takes a look at the attempt of churches and parents to develop deep, profound, sticky faith in their children. I’m not sure it has all the answers, but it’s impactful nonetheless.

Jonathan Cliff is director of family ministries at Athens Church in Athens, Ga. He is a huge advocate for the family and believes the family is God’s primary way of reaching the world. Cliff has been named one of the Top 20 kids’ ministry leaders to watch by Children’s Ministry Magazine and serves on the board of directors for the International Children’s Ministry Network.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Jonathan Cliff) Counseling Mon, 07 Apr 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Questions You Should Consider Before Pastoring a Church As a new, growing church plant with a 4 ½-year history, I am often asked about planting churches, pastoring, and choosing leaders. Among these questions, choosing the lead pastor often arises.

This will be the focus of the article. In general, those considering the pastorate must:

... have a working knowledge of the truth. "He should be sure of what he means to say ... and be ready to stake body and soul, goods and reputation, on its truth" (Martin Luther). In addition to studying the Word and exegetical disciplines, one should read the Bible through once a year. I cannot emphasize this enough. The "primary" calling of a pastor is preaching and teaching. We must have a working knowledge of the Scriptures.

... have a desire to read. Many entering the ministry fail to cultivate a consistent devotional life. Lead pastors should be well versed in church history and all aspects of theology. Motivation to read should come from a desire to learn, not to impress.

... be people of prayer. "The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher" (E.M. Bounds). Who a pastor is in the prayer closet is who he is in the pulpit—the passion and conviction of his message is only as strong as the passion and conviction within him. Prayer matters! "Preaching, in one sense, merely discharges the firearm that God has loaded in the silent place" (Calvin Miller).

... evaluate motives. Many want the recognition but not the brokenness, the honor but not the humility, the limelight but not the loneliness. It can be wrongly assumed that the pastorate is an easy, somewhat carefree vocation. Nothing could be farther from the truth: "Life-giving preaching costs the preacher much—death to self, crucifixion to the world, the travail of his own soul. Crucified preaching only can give life. Crucified preaching can come only from a crucified man" (E.M. Bounds). Pastors know that leading is anything but easy. 

It was Spurgeon who said, "If you can do anything else do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry." He understood the cost. Additionally, most church planters struggle with pride ... they're going to do things better than the church they left. Blinded by pride and convinced that God has called us to "do things right," we might think that we're more knowledgeable and in tune with the Spirit! Be careful here—it can be a prideful attitude—not God—that is leading.

... ask others for feedback. Don't ask those who will tell you what you want to hear, ask those who know you best—your church family. This is a vital step that cannot be overlooked. I will go as far as to say that a man should not consider the pastorate without the support of mature Christians. They should identify the calling as well. Derek Prime and Alistair Begg add, "No church is better able to confirm a call to the ministry than a man's home church—it is the natural and appropriate proving ground ..."

... make it so hard that God has to open the doors. Most church plants fail because men, not God, force doors open. If it's God's will, He will open the doors in His time. Pastoring isn't like a business venture where we can say, "Let me try this out and see if it works." It won't work without God's clear calling. With God's call comes a tremendous resistance in the spiritual realm. The enemy wants us to quit. This spiritual battle can also manifest itself within the church body as jealousy, envy, backbiting, gossip, slander, and so on seek to come against the lead pastor. The one certainty that holds us in place is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have been called.

... be gifted with communication skills. Although Paul was not an eloquent speaker, he was extremely gifted in preaching, teaching, and communicating. In Spurgeon's words, "A man must not consider that he is called to preach until he has proved that he can speak." Countless "good" people want to pastor without the gifts of preaching and teaching. Communication is a must. After all, we are "communicating" God's truth to others.

... be certain that he is called. "Preaching is God's great institution for the planting and maturing of spiritual life. When properly executed, its benefits are untold; when wrongly executed, no evil can exceed its damaging results" (E.M. Bounds). Some are gifted to lead, others are gifted to serve; it's always best to determine your primary gifting before venturing out. Additionally, spouses complement this role; their disposition and personality are vital to success. Spouses can't qualify us for the pastorate, but they can disqualify. Another aspect of this calling involves what I call "pastoral temperaments." In general, lead pastors should be bold, assertive, committed, and disciplined. After all, they are protecting, guarding, and leading. If one does not possess these traits, God may have gifted them more toward helping and serving. It is a noble calling, according to Jesus.

Theological and expositional teachings are essential to Christian living, but how often are theology students encouraged to fast and pray as well as study? How often are they taught brokenness and repentance in addition to translating the Greek language? We can sometimes be more concerned about a Master's Degree than a degree from the Master.

... move slowly. In keeping with the need for humility in leadership, "A man who feels he is competent, and that he can do this easily, and so rushes to preach without any sense of fear or trembling, or any hesitation whatsoever, is a man who is proclaiming that he has never been 'called' to be a preacher" (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones). If God has truly called you, He will promote you.

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. He recently released his 7th book, Desperate for More of God, which can be found at Shane's sermons, articles, books, and radio program can all be found at Follow him on Facebook at:

]]> (Shane Idleman) Calling Wed, 22 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
7 of the Most Dangerous Church Cultures Out There I was talking with a couple of pastors recently about leading in church revitalization and growth. Both of these pastors are seasoned church leaders—having far more experience in total than I have in vocational ministry.

Mostly I listened to their stories. Both are currently in difficult pastorates. One of them serves in a church that has a history of very short-term pastorates. The other is in a church that has seen a rollercoaster trend in church attendance—every time they get in a season of growth, it's followed by a season of decline—sometimes rapid decline.

Frankly, I prefer to have conversations about opportunities and possibilities than about challenges and frustrations. But get a few pastors in the room and there will be some war stories. Leading toward health in a church can be a battle sometimes.

Just like it's been said numerous times—leading people is easy if it wasn't for the people.

I tried to encourage them in their call and offered a few suggestions for them in their current situations. But the conversation stayed on my mind for days afterwards.

A few days after this conversation, I was talking with another pastor friend reflecting on what I had heard in the previous conversation. I didn't share names or specific situations, but it led us to a discussion about church cultures.

Unique Culture

Both of the pastors in the original conversation just seemed to find themselves in some very bad church cultures. I've seen lots of different cultures while consulting and working with churches for over a decade.

Regardless of what some believe—there are some healthy churches.

And there are some who are not so healthy.

It always breaks my heart to encounter a church that is ready to implode. Frankly, some churches live in that tension continually. Some cultures are dangerous—toxic even.

  • Why do some churches seem to have such a hard time keeping church staff for any significant length of time? It usually has something to do with the culture of the church.
  • Why are some churches more resistant to change than others? It will almost always reflect back to the culture of the church.
  • Why do some churches have a history of church splits? Culture.

This friend in the second conversation said to me, "There's a blog post for you. You need to talk about some of those dangerous cultures."

Sadly, according to numerous statistics, more churches are in decline or have plateaued than are growing. Certainly not all growing churches are healthy. I would never define a "healthy" church exclusively as growing church. I do believe, however, most healthy churches will eventually grow.

Some of that health in a church depends on the culture of the church. How do people respond to church leadership? How do they respond to each other? How do they react to change? How are decisions made? What upsets people most? What is the atmosphere—the mood—of the church during the week and on Sunday? How does the church treat vocational staff?

All those are usually relative to and indicative of church culture.

So, I decided to post about some of the more dangerous church cultures I have observed. Most likely you'll have some of your own to share.

Here are seven of the most dangerous church cultures:

1. Selfish. Some churches are filled with people who just think they have to have it their way. And they fold her hands—and sometimes hold their money—until they get it.

2. Prideful. This is a culture that is proud of their heritage—which is a good thing—but is resting on their laurels. They refuse to realize it's no longer the "good ole days." Their pride keeps in the past keeps them from embracing the future. They resist any ideas that are different from the way things have always been done.

3. Rigid. A rigid culture would never kill something—even if it isn't working. These churches do tradition well. They don't do change well. Try to change—and it'll be the death of you.

4. Cliquish. I've heard this from so many people who felt they just couldn't break into the already established groups within the church. In this culture, it takes years for people to feel included, find a place of service or begin to lose the "new person" label.

5. Bullying. Sometimes this is disguised and called church discipline, but in some of the stories I've heard I would tend to call it legalistic. If it's a "one strike you're out" culture or people are made to feel they can't be real about their struggles for fear of retribution—the picture of grace that Christ died on the cross to provide is diminished. People are encouraged to put on masks to hide their struggles.

6. Stingy—In this culture, there is a greater concern that the balance sheet look attractive than meeting the needs that God brings their way. This church rarely walks by faith because that seems too irresponsible.

7. Depraved—This one may in some ways be a summary of the previous six—because there is sin in all of these cultures—but I wanted to expose it on its own. If the Bible is left in the rack attached to the pew and is no longer the foundation guide for the church—the culture will obviously suffer. Church culture can begin to decay whenever the focus is more on things like money, programs, buildings, even worship style—as good as all of those can be—rather than on living our lives as children of God for the glory of God.

Whatever distracts us from the very core of the church—our gospel mission and calling—will injure our church culture.

What dangerous cultures have you seen?

I should mention again—especially to those outside the church, those who have experienced pain from these type churches, or those entering into the ministry in whom I may have raised caution—there are healthy churches. There are healthy church cultures.

There are no perfect churches, but there are some who have staff with long tenures, where change is manageable and where people truly live out the biblical model of church.

Ron Edmondson is the lead pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Calling Mon, 22 Jun 2015 21:00:00 -0400
7 Signs You Are Suffering From Mission Drift One of the biggest challenges everyone in life has is to stay focused upon the assignment the Lord has appointed them.

In life, there are many adversaries and distractions that can take you off track so that your life misses the mark. This is called Mission Drift.

Perhaps most people in this world have drifted from their primary purpose and mission in life. The following are signs you are also drifting away from—instead of moving toward—your primary calling:

1. Continual frustration shows you are not walking in your calling. One of the most obvious signs you are not walking towards what God has internally wired you to pursue is continual frustration. Frustration may be a God-given sign to awaken you to the real passion and purpose He has assigned for you. A person suffering from mission drift will be going against the internal impulses from God that give you delight while being engaged in it.

Going against these internal impulses means that you are also doing things that do not match your gifts, passion and grace which will also give you much frustration. Those in continual frustration need take much time reflecting so as to detect the source of their frustration. Merely continuing in life in frustration is foolish because you may look back at the end of your years and realize you wasted your whole life working in the wrong vocation.

2. Burnout shows you are not walking in grace. Another telltale sign you are suffering from mission drift is that you have to work hard at accomplishing things with very little fruit to show for it. Jesus has called us to enter His rest (Matt. 11:28-30) and cease from our own labors (Heb. 4:9-11) When in mission drift, we are not walking in obedience to the Lord; hence, we are not being sustained by His grace and working merely with fleshly strength. This can soon lead to emotional/spiritual burnout if we don't re-adjust.

3. You show a lack of fruit. When you are hitting your sweet spot regarding your calling, you are doing things that few can match. Every person is unique and has a calling unlike any other. When you are hitting the mark in your purpose you will bear a lot of fruit just the way Jesus called us to (John 15:8) When you are in mission drift you do not maximize your effectiveness which results in a lack of fruit.

4. Your not following your original vocational purpose. When in mission drift you have strayed away from the original calling God has given to you. Every once in a while I review my prophetic journal to make sure I am still pursuing the original calling God gave me when I first started serving Him more then thirty years ago. The methods may change as I mature—but the mission remains the same since He chose us before the foundation of the world and gave us a purpose before we were even born (2 Tim. 1:9).

5. Not focused but scattered with too many objectives and activities. Activity does not necessarily result in productivity. Many people are very busy running around focused on minor things and neglect the primary things God has called them to. I am not saying we should neglect the mundane and ordinary routines of life—but that we make sure within those routines we prioritize and manage our time in such a way that the most important things are taken care of first. When we don't prioritize, our activities will not match our purpose.

6. You have no time to invest in key relationships. The kingdom of God is built upon relationships, not ministry or work. Everyone is called to invest in key relationships—whether it be their immediate family, spiritual, children, mentors, and key people you are called to "do life" with. The enemy would love for all of us to put programs before people because, at the end of the day, the only thing we will take with us into eternity are people –not programs, real estate, money or the material things in life. When we have no quality time for those key relationships—then most likely you are suffering from mission drift. We need to proactively pursue those people who are the most important to us in life

7. You are doing good things but not what you do best. The enemy of the best is usually something good. The enemy does not come in a red suit and a pitchfork—he comes as an angel of light. Hence, one of his greatest strategies is to get you so focused on doing something good for God or your family that it blinds you to what is best. To avoid mission drift we always have to keep first things first and keep the main thing the main thing.

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition in Brooklyn, New York. Visit him at

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Calling Tue, 03 Mar 2015 19:00:00 -0500
Bi-Vocational Pastors: Facing the Wall of Guilt Kim Martinez photoI was talking to a friend the other day about some of the stresses bi-vocational pastors face that are unique. During our brainstorming session, we hit upon one that struck a chord—guilt.

You might recognize some of these thoughts:

1. I must be doing something wrong because ...

2. I have to work a second job.

3. My church isn’t growing.

4. I can’t afford to pay my staff a full salary.

5. Even I get bored during my sermons.

6. We haven’t had a baptism in a year.

7. I can’t get enough workers to …

Moses knew he was special. His entire story said that he was chosen by God for a purpose. Then he messed up. His life didn’t go according to his plan, and he ended up on the backside of nowhere for 40 years. Yup. He probably thought he had his chance and it was gone. Now he just had to do his best to face today.

Then God showed up. If you take time to read Moses' interactions with God in Exodus 3-7 and 14, you will find how Moses dealt with guilt and lack to be the person God called him to be.

1. He was honest with God. Moses didn’t think a lot of himself, and he didn’t pretend. He brought his doubts to God and let God address them.

2. He did what God said. After God addressed his fears and concerns, Moses moved forward.

3. He came back to God with more doubts. Seriously—Moses didn’t just hear what God said and did it. Every little wrinkle brought him back to God: “They won’t listen ... ; he won’t listen ... ”

4. He expected God to fix the problems. Once he brought things to God, problems didn’t hit Moses the same way. When things went wrong, he returned to God with the problem. It is almost like he kept coming back, saying, “I told you this wouldn’t work. What’s next?”

5. He let God be his strength. Moses took hit after hit. People didn’t listen, then they did and later deserted. Pharaoh kept promising compliance and reneging. Instead of feeling there must be something wrong with him, Moses did his part and brought it all back to God.

If you are walking around under a load of guilt, is it possible God isn’t the one doing all the work? He called you. He put you in this impossible situation—not so that you could feel the pain or win the war, but so that He would be glorified and His kingdom would grow.

As a coach, I talk to pastors who have hit the wall a lot. One of the best things you can do when you hit the wall of guilt is to remember how you got here. It is entirely possible that, like Moses and the 10 plagues, you are supposed to go through a time when you discover what doesn’t work before you find what does. It is also possible that God is doing work you haven’t seen yet.

Now it is your turn. In the comments below, please help us answer this question: How would you know if your frustration is God’s opportunity or just a mistake?

Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach and can be found online at She writes a weekly column for

]]> (Kim Martinez) Calling Thu, 27 Jun 2013 20:00:00 -0400
When a Pastor Is Called to an ‘Ignorant’ Church Pastor-ignorant-churchThe pastor had been called from his rural church to another part of the country. He was excited about the new challenge, as he well should have been. In a parting comment to a friend, he assessed the state of spirituality of the church members he was leaving behind:

“There is enough ignorance in this county to ignorantize the whole country.”

What happens when a pastor gets called to a church like that? A church where the members and leaders alike do not know the Word of God and have no idea of how things should be done (what Paul called “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God,” 1 Tim. 3:15) or why it all matters?

]]> (Joe McKeever) Calling Tue, 28 May 2013 16:00:00 -0400
Francis Frangipane: What It Means to Be Seated With Christ holy-spirit-and-you-istock-petewillbigPsalm 2, perhaps more then any other Bible text, accurately portrays the spirit of our time. Indeed, it also proclaims our correct response to Satan’s bold advance. Although it was quoted by the early church (Acts 4:25-26), God has set its full realization for the end of this age.

"Why are the nations in an uproar, And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand, And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 'Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!'" (Psalm 2:1-3, NASB)

]]> (Francis Frangipane) Calling Wed, 17 Apr 2013 13:00:00 -0400
8 Signs You Are Gathering a Crowd Instead of Building a Church In the past several decades we have seen massive church growth. Church attendance in the world is at an all-time high. Yet, in most places of the world, cultural decline keeps accelerating at an alarming rate.

For example, in spite of now having numerous megachurches with over 20,000 attendees, social issues that undermine Judeo-Christian values like abortion, same-sex marriage and threats to religious liberty continue to be on the rise. This has often troubled many people who wonder why a nation like the United States could have so many people who claim to be evangelical, born-again believers (some estimate as many as 45 million, not including Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal and mainline Protestant churches) and yet far-left political leaders continue to be elected by people of faith.

This is because many believers view entitlement programs, access to political power, skin color and economics (the Keynesian view) as higher priorities than public policy issues grounded in God's nature, character and law (for example, the Ten Commandments). This includes sanctity of life issues.

What is the reason for this? For the most part, many pastors do not train and equip their leaders with a biblical worldview as related to public policy. Much of the preaching and teaching today is bereft of sound doctrine and amounts to nothing more than self-help messages, free (cheap) grace and great rhetoric without doctrinal substance. Many churches have no real process of theologically grounding believers to make them disciples of Christ.

In essence, church growth, the raising of tithes and offerings, and making people happy enough to want to keep coming back to church are more important to many pastors than preaching the whole counsel of God and turning wimpy, whiny saints into the army of the living God, who goes forth to withstand the hosts of hell by bringing the power and truth of the kingdom to every realm of society! The church Jesus said He would build would assail the gates of hell, not succumb and make peace with them (Matt. 16:18-19).

In reality, many of the attendees of our churches have made a truce with the world and adopt worldly values because they deem it easier than being counter-cultural and not fitting in with their ungodly friends. This is in spite of the apostle James telling us that friendship with the world is to be an enemy of God (James 4:7).

The following are signs a pastor is merely gathering a crowd and not building a church.

1. Their preaching is meant to make people happy, not holy. I learned a long time ago that God doesn't really care if I am happy! His goal for me is maturity into sonship so I can be led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14) rather than merely remaining a child (Rom. 8:17). When training our children often they cry because we don't always give them what they want. Any pastor whose main goal is to make people feel good with his or her preaching cannot possibly stand in the pulpit as a prophet speaking the very oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11) because sometimes God's Word is meant to correct, adjust and rebuke us so we will repent.

2. Their goal is to fill church seats, not make disciples. In my over 30 years of ministry I have noticed that many local churches don't have a goal of processing new believers through a rigorous, hands-on grid of discipleship. Consequently, they are churning out flibbity-jibbity church attendees who constantly drink the milk of the Word—depending on the hype, excitement and emotion of the worship experience to carry them through till next week—rather than God-fearing mature believers whom God can place in positions of influence to bring cultural transformation. If a pastor's only goal in preaching is to be seeker sensitive to fill up every seat, then his or her preaching will be a mile wide and an inch deep resulting in church attendees who will be a mile wide and an inch deep!

3. They would rather offend God than men. Some preachers intentionally avoid using biblical words such as repentance, hell, sin, the cross, judgment and other words that evoke a negative emotive response in the crowd. Consequently, they are more concerned with offending the people than they are concerned with pleasing God!

4. They gauge their success by cultural acceptance and large crowds. Pastors building a crowd rather than a biblical church often gauge their success by things like having a good relationship with the mayor; having every political and community leader liking them; having large gatherings on Sundays and special events; and by having large amounts of money collected in the weekly offerings. I have a hard time seeing these issues as the primary biblical gauge for success.

When a large crowd was following Jesus He didn't give them a seeker-sensitive message that appealed and appeased them so they would continue to follow Him. He spoke bluntly and boldly to them to make sure they counted the cost of discipleship and knew what they were getting into before committing to following Him (Luke 14:25-33)!

5. There is no process in the church for biblical discipleship. Churches that are merely gathering crowds don't care about making disciples. This is opposed to Scripture because Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not merely bring in new converts (Matt. 28:19).

6. They allow people to become members without vetting them. Pastors merely concerned with gathering a crowd will allow any and all attendees to become official members. Those pastors who are building a biblical church will have a godly standard of membership so that those unwilling to repent will not dare join themselves to the church (Acts 5:13), and those who do become members have proven their repentance with good works (Matt. 3:8; Acts 26:20).

7. Their focus is on the Sunday service more than releasing people to their vocation in the world. Pastors merely building a crowd care more about filling every seat to show their influence and popularity than about equipping and sending church attendees into the world as missionaries and ministers of the kingdom. To them, it is more important to get their community into the church building for Sunday services than it is to send the church attendees into the community to serve according to their vocation.

8. The worship service is meant to entertain the flesh instead of convert the sinner. Pastors merely building a crowd put much time, money and technological effort into making each Sunday service an existential experience that entertains and touches the emotive part of each person more than believing for the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit to come through the worship and preaching to bring brokenness, repentance and transformation to both sinner and saint alike. I have heard some worship teams with excellent musicians, sound and incredible polish who only touched my intellect or emotions because they were entertaining man instead of ministering to the Lord!

In closing, although I believe very strongly in evangelism, church growth and having a spirit of excellence in worship, media, technology and the arts in regards to worshipping God and preaching, our goals must be to please God, convert sinners and equip the saints to change the world and manifest kingdom power and influence on the earth.

We cannot tolerate anything less than this to merely attract a crowd rather than allow Jesus to build His church! Only a church He builds can withstand the gates of hell!

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including "The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (" He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to

]]> (Joseph Mattera ) Culture Tue, 21 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
5 Things Churches Should Do Immediately to Protect Themselves The Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage the law of the land likely means eventual legal issues for bible confessing churches. This is because it is only a matter of time before activist judges, politicians and the like, attempt to legally force all pastors and churches to perform gay weddings.

This is because refusing to perform SSM ceremonies is now officially considered discrimination—on a level equal to other human rights violations such as racism (a comparison many African-Americans do not agree with).

The following are some things pastors and leaders of biblically based-churches should immediately do to protect themselves:

1. Have something in the church bylaws that state that your church will not perform same-sex weddings for members and non-members but will conduct wedding ceremonies for one man and one woman as biologically designed by birth (to protect against having to perform  "transgender weddings" between those identifying themselves as a man and a woman).

2, Have a stipulation in your church bylaws that say something like " if their congregation is ever legally forced to perform same sex weddings, all clergy in their congregation will opt out of performing civil ceremonies and will only perform biblically based "covenant ceremonies" that bless the union between one man and one woman as biologically defined by their natural birth.

3. Every church needs to have clear criteria regarding who qualifies to be a church member–based on the biblical standards of morality and ethics as well as a process for membership termination. Once written, this section of the bylaws should be given and signed off by each person before they are accepted as official church members.

4. The church should have a written policy that disallows non-members and non-attendees and or outsiders to rent and or use any of their facilities for same-sex weddings and or any civil ceremonies related to marriage.

5. If all else fails, and the courts eventually override church bylaws—then the only alternative left will be for biblically based clergy to engage in civil disobedience and refuse to comply with the law—irrespective of the penalties, consequences and cultural stigma they will receive.

This law certainly has the potential of separating the "chaff from the wheat" related to revealing which churches and clergy will stand up for biblical ethics and which ones will capitulate to culture more then to Christ.

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including "The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (" He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to josephmattera.orgYou can connect with him via Facebook ( Twitter (

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera ) Culture Fri, 26 Jun 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Navigating Same-Sex Ministry in an Age of Gay Marriage As the nation awaits a Supreme Court decision on marriage this month, many churches are re-thinking their ministry to those with same-sex attraction.

What they're finding is it's not enough to merely support biblical views on sexuality. They must also develop practical ways to minister to those in the midst of long-term battles around sexuality and orientation.

Cynthia's Story

Cynthia Austin says her struggle with same-sex attraction began in sixth grade. The feelings, she says, caught her by surprise as she had accepted Christ and attended church regularly.

"It was very confusing when these feelings started happening and I was like, 'Wait a minute. I love the Lord; this shouldn't be happening,'" she told CBN News.

She kept her thoughts to herself.

"I was afraid to tell anybody because in the Christian circles, I had heard people say, 'Those people are sick.' And I was a little girl struggling with those feelings," she explained.

The desires, unfortunately, did not go away.

"Lots of tears were shed, asking the Lord to take this away from me," she said. "As I got older, they, the feelings, got stronger."

Sexuality and the Church

Across the country church leaders are waking up to the reality that millions struggle with feelings like Austin's.

This awakening has many leaders asking for help. Southern Baptists say they receive the most requests for resources on sexuality and racial reconciliation right now, compared to any other issue.

The Southern Baptist Convention recently received a $250,000 gift from The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to train SBC churches specifically in ministry to those with same-sex attraction and to strengthen marriages.

The SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has also developed a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources to provide training videos in sexual ethics for pastors and lay leaders.

What many pastors realize is that fresh approaches are needed to work through this cultural flashpoint.

Pastor Dan Backens leads New Life Church in Virginia Beach, which has grappled with the issue for years.

"I think we're in a prophetic moment. The strategy of the church in 1950 does not work today," he told CBN News. "We're not in Mayberry, and walking around with placards screaming on a television program, talking over each other on a news program—those days are gone."

"We have to have a strategy, a prophetic strategy as a church that listens," he said. "And we lead with love and then follow with the law."

Sinners and Saints?

Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said he's glad that pastors are asking for help.

"If a church isn't asking those questions, it means the church is not on mission in its community," he told CBN News.

Moore said a good starting point is to not segregate those dealing with sexual sin or look down on their struggle.

"If we act as if there are some sins that are especially repulsive, some sins that are especially outside the reach of Christ, even implicitly. That's really a message of human pride," he explained.

"'It didn't take as much gospel to save me as it did to save you,'" he added. "That's just not wrong-headed. It's blasphemy."

Sharman Bradshaw would know. Ten years ago her son wrote her a letter telling her that he was gay. In addition to working through her own sorrow and confusion, she felt shamed at times by fellow believers.

"You know, sin is sin. God doesn't see it as different. But somehow, there is this feeling that this is like the worst, the most awful," Bradshaw said.

Respecting the Struggle

Bradshaw now leads a support group for parents of gay children at her church. It's part of a growing recognition that the body of Christ can help those struggling, as well as their families.

For Austin as an adult, the church eventually became her lifeline.

"What I found with the church is safe people within the church, a community within the church," she said.

She said her small group members shared their struggles and showed respect for hers.

"They loved me with the truth of God," she said. "They didn't water down truth; they loved me and just kept saying, 'There's a better way, there's a better way.'"

Creating hope and a vision for that better way is key, Moore says. For many gays, there's no guarantee that their sexual feelings will go away so the question becomes how to pursue Christ in the midst of their battle.

"I think the most important question that any of us have to answer in our churches is what vision of the future are we giving to that gay or lesbian or transgender person who comes into the church and says, 'I really want to live in submission to Jesus. I want to repent of my sin. But what does it look like for me to follow Jesus? What is my future?" Moore said.

Right versus Wrong?

Church leaders must also face questions such as what does it mean to respect those who identify as gay or same-sex attracted? Can they teach or become church leaders? What about those already in gay marriages?

Backens begins with a simple answer—do well in loving them.

"God isn't just interested in what's right and wrong," he said. "God is interested in are we presenting right and wrong in a loving way?"

That way has made all the difference for Austin, and church leaders hope it will for many others with similar journeys.

"I am not the same person. I cannot explain the difference," Austin said of her life today. "I—my anger, my rage—it is like night and day. I, my identity is not in who I am with and who I love here. My identity is in Jesus Christ. My identity is what He has done for me."  

]]> (Heather Sells/CBN News) Culture Wed, 17 Jun 2015 18:00:00 -0400
5 Types of Change-Resistant Churches One of the more frequent questions I get is somewhat related to leading change in the church. The expressions of frustrations are often the result of different expectations.

For example, a pastor search committee may tell a pastoral candidate they want to see change in the church. But their understanding of the level of change is far different than the perception of the candidate.

In this post, I look at five types, or levels, of change receptivity in the church. Church leaders should attempt to understand where their church fits on this scale. The level of receptivity to change is directly related to the type of leadership needed to lead change best.

Change Resistance Scale

  • R1. Fiercely resistant. These churches typically resist almost any noticeable change. An example might be a slight modification in the order of worship services. These churches need long-term leaders with the patience of Job and the skin of a rhinoceros.
  • R2. Steadily incremental. For the most part, R2 churches are change-resistant. Members of these churches, however, will accept change if it is slow in developing and methodical. For example, they may be willing to add a second worship service if the leader prepares the church for around a year in advance.
  • R3. Significant improvement. An R3 church will likely accept change readily if it is an extension or improvement of an existing ministry, program, or facility. Worship times, new small groups, and building programs do not meet resistance because they simply reflect improvement upon that which already is in place.
  • R4. Substantive change. Members in an R4 church understand that much needs to change in order for the congregation to have an impact in their community and in the world. Though multi-campus models may seem strange to them, for example, they are willing and desirous to move forward if leaders explain to them the benefit of the change.
  • R5. Leading edge. Members in an R5 church typically are moving faster than the leaders. They don't understand why change is not happening at more vigorous pace. They have a firm grasp of cultural realities. Though they would not compromise biblical truth, anything else is up for change or replacing.

If you are a leader in a church, you must discern where your church is on the change-resistance scale. Many leaders lose their jobs because they lead the church like it's a R5 church when, in reality, it's an R2 church.

Though I am reticent to provide estimates, here is my best guess of the percentage of churches in each category.

  • R1: 50%
  • R2: 25%
  • R3: 15%
  • R4: 9%
  • R5: 1%

Where is your church on the change-resistance scale? R1? R2? R3? R4? or R5? What do you think of my categorizations? Let me hear from you.

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer ) Culture Wed, 10 Jun 2015 21:00:00 -0400
What Sets the Gathered Church Apart From the World? What makes the gathered church different? Unique? What are our distinctives?

From the outside, many of our modern churches don't look too different than the nightclub down the street. So, what sets us apart?

It can't be our musical quality. The world has plenty of that.

It can't be our production. The world has plenty of that.

It can't be how much fun we have. The world has more than enough of that.

That's not to say quality, production, and fun is wrong or unimportant. But it's not enough to justify church. If all we're doing is entertaining people with amazing music, flashy production, and good times, we're not fulfilling our mission as the church. That's the hard truth.

The argument has been made that the church should be the most creative place on the planet. On one hand, I agree with this. We as Christians should have a massive imagination because of the God we serve. He is beyond glorious. But at the same time it's not enough.

Is there a way to combine crazy creativity and yet still maintain who we are as the gathered church? It is an important question to answer.

I was recently having a conversation with someone about using secular songs in church. The church he was talking about literally used a secular song in worship. I know of plenty others that do so as an opener or means of illustrating the message. I don't have a problem with this, per se, but think we need to be careful.

It begs for a deeper question:

Why do we do church? We don't need a lower quality version of what the world offers. Sinners who are coming to church aren't coming because of the cool music, production, or to hear music they hear on the radio. They were either dragged to church by a family member or they are in desperate need of change. They have a vague sense that they "need God" in their lives.

The Power of Habits

Let's get real. Humans are shaped by habits. Aristotle told us, "We are what we repeatedly do." Our lives aren't defined by the big moments. They are defined by small decisions we make every day.

If you think about it, corporate worship is a habit. It's something we do week in and week out. It's a routine. And routines shape how we think, what we do, who we are. If that doesn't strike some holy fear in your worship set planning I don't know what will. It is a huge responsibility.

As worship teams we are helping shape people's lives. We are providing them context to see their true identity. We are helping people find their place in the story God is writing. So everything we do is intentional. I appreciate the bold, blunt way Mike Cosper puts it in his book Rhythms of Grace:

"A church that gathers each week with cold seriousness, lofty architecture, dense language, and grumpy upper-middle-class white people is making a statement about the kingdom. Those who congregate there weekly are being formed into a kind of community. Likewise, a church with smoke, lights, rock-star worship leaders, and celebrity pastors is forming a particular kind of community. How we gather shapes who we are and what we believe, both explicitly (through the actual content of the songs, prayers, and sermons) and implicitly (through the culture ethos and personas)."

We can't just have church. We can't just entertain God's people. We can't just create a safe, social alternative to the bar down the street. We need to craft services and experiences that hit the target of who we are as the people of God.

5 Distinctives of the Gathered Church

So who are we? What makes us different? Why would people want to come to your church?

1. The gospel. The gospel isn't something you hear once and move on to "greater things." The gospel should be the center of every gathering and the centerpiece of our every day. We are prone to wander, prone to forget. We need to be reminded continually that Jesus came, Jesus died, and Jesus rose again. This is what defines us as the people of God. This is the good news that never grows old. If it ever feels like old news, it's not the gospel's fault. It's our own hearts.

2. The Holy Spirit. What happens when the people of God come together? The Holy Spirit is there. The Holy Spirit is moving, awakening, drawing hearts. He's healing, speaking, working wonders. This is what sets our gatherings apart. We aren't just gathering to remember but to experience a fresh outpouring of God's love and grace through power of the Holy Spirit. Worship Leaders, this is the biggest game changer for you. Stop taking yourself so seriously and get to know the Holy Spirit more.

3. Communion. There's something about the habit of gathering around the cross and partaking of the Lord's Supper together as the body of Christ. It may be the most powerful habit in the life of a Christian. This is a distinctive of our gatherings—we're remembering our true identity. We're remembering that apart from the cross we have no hope.

4. Participation. What sets church services apart from concerts is that everyone has a responsibility. Sure, at a rock show people sing and go crazy, but it's not their responsibility to. As the church, we are all called to bring something. It's not simply a place to watch the professionals do their thing and be inspired.

Let's go a little deeper. Where else in the world do people gather for the purpose of singing together? The church is a gathering of people from all walks of life who come together to sing. We gather to participate.

5. Mission. It's not our calling to simply have great meetings or to love the message. Or to love the worship. The church gathers so that we can be reminded of our mission. We are called to be sent. We can't just appreciate the gospel, we need to share it. If our gatherings lose this sense of mission and "going", we've missed the point.

What would you add to this list? What makes us unique and how do we hit that target each week in our services?

David Santistevan is the worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh. For the original article, visit

]]> (David Santistevan) Culture Fri, 05 Jun 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Ed Stetzer: Evangelicals, Culture and Post-Christian America Whether we admit it or not, many evangelicals in America believe, deep down, that the church in America is the hope for Christianity and the spread of the gospel worldwide.

In some ways that's an unhelpful impulse, particularly when you consider how well the Global South church is doing compared to the church in the Western world. Yet, when you look at our actions, we seem to think we've got it all figured out, when that clearly is not the case.

For a number of reasons, I believe that there are actually a few countries not normally considered "evangelical powerhouses" from which Christian movements may be sparked that could affect the global spread of the gospel.

I can't point to the particular place it might occur, but I believe I could point to the type of church culture in which revival could easily break out. I could also point to where, at least for a while, it's probably not going to happen—American church culture.

American evangelicals are facing important decisions as to who we are going to be and how we are going to address the constantly changing culture around us. However, I think that movements are more likely to happen in places where Christian faith is more marginalized, rather than battling for the center.

The Church and Culture

Culture and religion in the United States has morphed in a way that will cause our churches to wander with uncertainty for decades, unsure of what it is they're supposed to do to engage their culture. We have already begun the journey, and churches don't know if they're supposed to battle the culture, defeat it, slay it, withdraw from it, or embrace it.

It is a tricky time.

Movements come for many reasons—and they are deterred by many other reasons.

Yet, one of those reasons has to be the uncertainty with which we are engaging culture around us.

For example, how can we expect people to be open to the gospel we preach when we've just called them bad names on Facebook for their political views? I've written on this before, in what became a controversial and well-read article, but it is part of the issue.

Engaging from the Edge and not the Center

American evangelicalism must learn how to engage culture from the edges instead of the center. Why? The church is no longer the epicenter of political and social circles.

I'm not saying that this is all a good thing. I don't think, for example, that we should celebrate the decline in self-identified Christians in recent surveys.

Yet, the fact is that we increasingly are at the margins, and that also provides an opportunity.

But for the most part, our churches are still poised for ministry in the old cultural mindset. They expect to be heard and respected. They expect to have the power. They expect culture to fall in line under the leadership of the church, but culture is just not listening.

Until American churches understand how to live and work in our specific version of an increasingly post-Christian culture, they will struggle with effectiveness for the gospel.

I say our specific culture because we also need to realize that we are not other countries or continents. I hear it said all the time that Europe is the future of the United States. I get the sentiment that Europe is post-Christian, but it is not post-Christian America.

It is a completely different social and religious history (think religious wars) than the United States. So, the edge is different, but it is still present.

Learning to Engage Missionally

Sadly, it will take some time for our churches to learn and implement new thought processes that lead to a different type of missional engagement within our culture. There is a tough road ahead, as American evangelicalism will likely spend the next couple of decades fighting with the very people we are trying to reach in the process of changing our subculture.

That's not all the fault of the Christians, but it still is real and needs to be acknowledged.

Conversely, there are evangelical churches around the world that have been on mission in post-Christian cultures for some time. They've already been through the process that America now faces, and some of them are poised to see effective transmission of the gospel—and maybe even a great revival spark within their cities and towns.

Learning from Other Countries

I recently spoke to the Evangelical Free Church of Canada (EFCC) regarding this issue. I told them I believe Canada to be one of the places where the church has engaged better within a post-Christian context and has great potential. The cultural reality in Canada, the winsome spirit of the church, and their passion for the gospel could very well break forth and make a significant impact on the English-speaking Western World.

That is my prayer.

I believe that American evangelicalism could learn a great deal from its Canadian counterparts, and I told my Canadian brothers and sisters to stop looking to us to learn, but instead, to teach us. (I should add that we can learn much from the Global South, but for this moment, I am talking about the English-speaking Western world.)

It is my prayer that evangelicals in America would wake up to the cultural reality in which we live and reshape our approach to missional engagement accordingly. I believe we will, but I think it is going to take time. Yet, we can see the future, in some ways, already—just look north.

Bill Taylor, the EFCC national leader, shared a bit about this at my blog recently, when he wrote on "Mission and Ministry after Losing the Culture Wars." In that article, he explained:

"Since we at EFCC began to act more like first-century Christians in Canada, we have planted more churches and shared the gospel with more regularity. We have a long way to go, but maybe, just maybe, our new disenfranchised status will move us to focus on what is most important, and to rely on the Spirit's power for life and ministry. When we do, He will help us learn to speak the truth in love. May we embrace our weakness, may we ask our God for His strength, may our attitude, beliefs and center lead us to share good news once again with people who desperately need to hear it."

Now, engaging from the edge is not all that I believe on the issue—and I don't think it answers every need. We will need culture engagers, defenders, and creators in the years to come. But, we also will need to rethink ministry and mission in a world where convictional Christians have lost the home field advantage.

There is much that we can learn from our brothers and sisters around the world who have walked the road we are just now beginning to traverse. I pray that we would be humble enough to listen and learn from them, and maybe we could bypass some of the struggle that seems to be headed our way.

Ed Stetzer is the executive director of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ed Stetzer) Culture Fri, 29 May 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Don't Let Circumstances Steal Your Peace Anxiety about the economy can cause stress. Economic uncertainty increases volatility.

Last week on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average opened more than 1,000 points down. The Dow saw huge declines early in the week, huge rallies in the middle of the week, and ended up closing the week little changed. Oil fell dramatically early in the week, and rallied sharply the later part of the week. U.S. second quarter inflation adjusted GDP came in at a strong 3.7 percent. Consumer sentiment fell and home prices were disappointing.

The Chinese stock market is now negative for the year after increasing nearly 70 percent earlier in 2015. The Chinese economy has slowed, but no one is sure of how much. Emerging economies are struggling. Upcoming Greek elections create uncertainty. Europe has the greatest refugee challenges since World War II.

Societal, political, and spiritual changes will also attempt to rob us of our peace. We see a beautiful young reporter and her cameraman murdered on live TV. Our Supreme Court redefined the definition of marriage which has existed for thousands of years. ISIS regularly releases graphic videos of new ways of horrifically killing innocent people. Other videos are released which show the marketing of the body parts of newly aborted babies. Recently discovered secret side agreements to the proposed Iranian agreement, make nuclear verification even more problematic.

While specifics may surprise us, general trends should not. The last days will be filled with turmoil; never-ending turmoil. But we are not of this world. The enemy would like nothing better than to get us to be anxious and fearful. He would like us to be distracted. Satan will attempt to keep us from focusing on the kingdom and to doubt the Lord's faithfulness. 

Paul cautioned the Thessalonians not to let their minds be shaken or troubled concerning events of the last days.

"Now, brothers, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and concerning our gathering together unto Him, we ask you not to let your mind be quickly shaken or be troubled ..." (2 Thess. 2:1-2).

Specifically, we should:

  • Decide to focus on the Lord regardless of circumstances. When circumstances attempt to distract us we should redouble our efforts to focus on the Lord and to remember his faithfulness.
  • Decide to be ruled by peace, to be thankful and to abide in the Word in spite of any conditions.
  • Seek and allow the Holy Spirit to give us peace and joy. Peace and joy are a fruit of the Spirit. The fruit is not dependent on the state of the world or any real or perceived threats we may face. Paul told us to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh, which implies a choice. 

"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord we have an everlasting rock" (Is. 26:3-4).

"Let the peace of God, to which also you are called in one body, rule in your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly ..." (Col. 3:15-16).

In Romans we are told the elements of the kingdom in the Holy Spirit. We are empowered by the Holy Spirt. Seek His fellowship and power.

"For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17).

We are more than conquerors. Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.  We have the infallible Word of God, the Spirit of the living God inside of us, and the right to use the name that is above all names. We have no reason to allow the devil to steal our peace.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James R. Russell) Culture Wed, 02 Sep 2015 12:00:00 -0400
5 Characteristics of ‘Country Club' Christians Sometimes we meet people in our churches who love attending Sunday morning services and weekly events but who are not trusting in Christ. They may see the fellowship as networking and the sermon as good advice for self-improvement.

They don't attend to worship God, encourage other believers in the faith or learn how God's Word says they should change their lives. They treat church as they would a country club—a place and group of people they find interesting.

The prophet Ezekiel ran into the same problem with some of the Israelites more than 2,500 years ago, when they were in exile in Babylon. They came to hear his message from God as if he were a novelty or an interesting speaker, but they failed to take action or personal responsibility.

The problem in Ezekiel's day is similar to the problem in our day: Many people have not trusted Christ for salvation. They are relying on their good works and religious efforts to give them acceptance with God.

Being able to distinguish between those who attend church for country club reasons and those who know God can be helpful in determining the direction of your conversations with them.

Here are five characteristics to help you recognize those who may attend church but not know the Lord. Caution! People will vary, so some of these may apply to a particular person while others do not.

1. They are more apt to talk about their relationship with their church than their relationship with Christ. The reason is obvious—their relationship with Christ may be nonexistent while their relationship with the church is something that they act upon weekly.

2. When they talk about the Lord, they use the generic term "God" more than referring to Jesus personally.

3. They are more comfortable speaking about spiritual things at an abstract level than at a practical level. They may talk about how Christian morals affect their thinking but not how Christ affects their daily behavior.

4. If you ask them, "Have you trusted Christ as your only way to heaven?" or "Do you know that if you were to die, you'd go to heaven?" they become intimidated and defensive.

5. They mention what they've done for the church more often than they mention what they are learning from Scripture. More than likely they are not studying the Word on a daily basis.

Part of reaching someone is knowing who they are. Many may think they are spiritual or good people based on their morals or church attendance, but these five points will help you determine what their relationship with Christ truly is.

If you sense you are talking to a person who is not actually saved, ask God for an open door to lovingly explain how he or she can be certain of eternal life. Then clearly explain that eternal life is a free gift that comes through a personal relationship with Christ, trusting him alone to save us.

This article is adapted from The Evangelism Study Bible, a product of EvanTell, a ministry that trains and equips Christians to share the gospel clearly and simply. Dr. Larry Moyer is the founder and CEO. For more information about EvanTell, please visit

]]> (Larry Moyer ) Culture Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
3 Things That Make Introverted Guests Nervous About Your Church I have a confession to make.

I have spent my life in church. A preacher's kid, then a seminary grad. Now, after seven years of house church ministry, my wife and I are embarking on a new chapter. We don't even know what the chapter is.

There is no invitation to another church, no greener pasture that we are making a break for. We have done this thing longer than the average pastor stays at a full-time church ministry.

What we do know is that making a transition, finding a new place, is going to be hard. We both feel like we have some odd angles, some characteristics that make it challenging for us to settle into a new place. She is a raving introvert, while I am an introvert who can act like an extrovert ... sort of.

And what we find to be the case is that church is a decidedly extroverted place. A bunch of extroverts usually stand up front. By and large, modern worship, church life and leadership values extrovertism over characteristics such as contemplativeness.

And so, as we prepare to embark on a transition we are both kind of dreading, it makes me think of all of the churches I have visited, all of the places I have worshipped (or at least tried to worship). It makes me think of all the reasons that two pretty introverted people have kind of a tough time with church, even though we love it.

Here are 3 things that make me excessively nervous in church (in order of how nervous they make me):

1. Raising my hands. This sounds so innocuous, perhaps it even sounds absurd to you, and yes, there are plenty of hand-raisers and many non-hand-raisers. But the gold standard of interactive Christian worship, the "hand raise," is something that has never come easily to me. Now, I raised my hands thousands of times in school, often with passion and pleading for the teacher's attention. But raising my hands in front of a group of adults at church still feels hard. I don't want to draw that kind of attention to myself. But then, who is looking my way, wondering why I'm not raising my hands like everyone else.

I've got to be really relaxed to put my hand up for a couple of minutes during a song, so please don't think I'm being a party pooper. Little social cues like hand raising make worship really hard for introverts like me. I probably will not do it if I'm a first-time visitor.

2. Praying aloud. Raising hands during singing is not that big a deal, but this is where the cold sweat starts to break out on my neck. And I know if an aversion to hand raising is odd, then this is anathema. How can a pastor be uncomfortable praying out loud?

The thing is, I have no problem praying when I am supposed to pray, when I am expected to pray, when I am the designated prayer leader. When I am supposed to pray, I can do so on the spot, the only problem being that I have probably been running one or two really good prayer lines through my head beforehand so I can sound good for everyone else, but then that begs the question: Did I already pray in my head, and if so, what am I saying out loud?

Yes, I can pray on cue. But when you put me in a group and we pray "as the Spirit leads," suddenly I tense up. I wait for the Spirit to move someone else. I pray that someone will go ahead and pray and break this dreadful silence. (Silence is the most socially awkward form of prayer, isn't it?) And the longer I wait, the harder it is to go ahead and speak up.

Oh, and forget the small group intercessory prayer. I dropped in on a church one Sunday night where, unbeknownst to me, they break into twos and threes and pray for each other. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I avoided eye contact and quietly made my way to the door.

3. "Doing life together. " Didn't we used to call "doing life together" just "being friends"? I cannot think of a more obtuse or grammatically dumb-sounding church phrase that is in greater need of being stricken from our vocabulary.

For one thing, what does this even mean? It conjures up in my mind thoughts of people living in a commune. At the very least, it gives me visions of never having quiet time or privacy because we have to "do life" with other people. At the very least, it insinuates that life is some kind of task that must be done or an expectation that must be met. I thought life was something that was lived.

I do sincerely understand that we Americans are socially deprived compared to other cultures where 50 people might live in a couple of huts. But there is one person whom I have committed to "doing life" with, and that's my wife.

The problem with modern church life is that so much stuff, so many of the social cues and values, are external. We judge people's souls by their social involvement. We judge the sincerity of their worship by what their bodies are doing. We live in a show-off generation of church going. And until we change that, introverts like me are going to continue to get really nervous on Sunday mornings.

Matt Appling is a teacher, pastor and author of and the book Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room, released by Moody Publishers. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Matt Appling) Culture Mon, 22 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
8 Contrasts Between the Confessing Church and the Compromising Church During the days of Nazi Germany there arose a Confessing Church movement that rose against the German Church movement, which became the religious arm of the Fascist Nazi Socialist movement.

Of the 18,000 pastors in Germany during that time (from 1933 to 1945), less than 5,000 were aligned with the Confessing Church. Hence, only a remnant held fast to the biblical position, with about half of the churches conforming due to political and societal pressure. Unfortunately, this demonstrates that when push comes to shove, a large percentage of pastors, churches and so-called Christians will probably bow to pressure and allow the norms of culture to become their credo for Christianity.

We see the same thing today in churches in the USA and beyond. With the accelerated pace of the attack on religious liberty today, there could develop a great divide in the church between confessing churches and compromising churches similar to what happened in Nazi Germany. This will not be a divide based on denominational affiliation but based on the degree of loyalty to biblical fidelity. It is sad but true that more and more believers will be compromising core biblical values and standards rather than be stigmatized or persecuted and lose influence in society.

In John 12:42-43, we see that many contemporaries of Jesus believed in Him but would not confess Him because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

The following are contrasts between the "confessing church" and the "compromising church" throughout the ages:

1. In the confessing church Christ is over culture. The compromising church accommodates Christ to culture. The confessing church believes Jesus is Lord over all creation. Hence, they attempt to reflect Christ in every area of culture. The compromising church has a posture of accommodation. Hence, the Christ they believe in and preach is shaped by the culture they live in.

2. The confessing church holds fast to the Word of God in spite of opposition. The compromising church alters the Word of God because of opposition. In America it is quite possible that it will soon be illegal to preach from certain passages of the Bible dealing with human sexuality. Because of this, many will alter their theology to fit the culture while the confessing church will preach the Word of God in spite of governmental fines, penalties, lawsuits and even serving time in jail.

3. The confessing church puts the kingdom of God above their culture and ethnicity. The compromising church puts their ethnicity before the kingdom of God. The German Church during the Nazi era put nationalism and their Aryan heritage above the Word of God. Many pastors and believers today view the Scriptures more through the lens of their ethnicity and national heritage than through a proper exegesis of Scripture. When and if our nation officially makes biblical Christianity illegal, we will soon see who will be the confessors and who will be the compromisers. In many ways, practicing biblical Christianity is already illegal when it comes to believers attempting to walk out their faith in the marketplace because private, Christian-owned businesses do not have the same level of protection today as do local churches.

4. The confessing church alters their methods of preaching. The compromising church alters the message they preach. While it is wise and biblical for the body of Christ to be relevant to culture regarding the preaching of the gospel, it should never put being relevant above being faithful. The compromising church puts being relevant before biblical faithfulness. Hence, they not only change the method of preaching but also the message they preach.

5. The confessing church is a remnant in the minority of church and state. The compromising church wants to be in the mainstream of both church and state. The confessing church endures long seasons of feeling like aliens and strangers in their own communities. The compromising church wants to be in the mainstream of culture more than living in the divine flow of God's favor and presence.

6. The confessing church is penalized by the state government. The compromising church is applauded by the state government. While the confessing church is hunted down and ostracized by the humanistic state, the compromising church is celebrated by the far-left radicals and used as a model of how church and state should function together.

7. The confessing church prophetically speaks truth to power. The compromising church conforms to those in power. The confessing church knows that at various seasons in their existence they will not gain a lot of converts or experience societal transformation. The best they can do is to maintain a prophetic witness to the cultural elites and surrounding communities. Since the compromising church enjoys the power and prestige the elites grant them, they always conform rather than confront.

8. The confessing church desires the praise of God. The compromising church desires the praise of men. Ultimately, at the end of the day it boils down to this: Are we living for the praise of men or the praise of God? If things don't change in the coming days, we will be shocked at how many megachurches, mid-size churches and smaller churches compromise the Word of God so they could continue to keep their doors open.

At some point, we will all have to stand the ultimate test, which is whether we desire God more than we love our lives, or whether we love our pleasures, conveniences and material goods more than God. Truly, if we confess Christ before men He will confess us before His Father in heaven. But if we deny Him before men He will deny us before His Father in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33).

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition in Brooklyn, New York. Visit him at

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Culture Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
4 Tipping Points That Could Result in Societal Chaos The sentiment in the United States recently has been so fragile and fraught with anger and fear that it could perhaps take only one major event to result in a tipping point towards societal chaos.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 taught us that not even the great United States is immune to confusion and mass chaos.

The following four tipping points could result in societal chaos in the USA:

1. Race riots. The riots that took place recently in Ferguson, Missouri, demonstrate there is still much distrust among people of color when it comes to social justice issues. A similar outbreak could have easily taken place in New York City several months ago when Eric Garner died after receiving a choke hold during an arrest.

Whether the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson was justified or the choke hold of Eric Garner was necessary is beside the point. A society in which there is abundant trust between divergent ethnic groups as well as between minority communities and the police (and the judicial system) could handle a controversial shooting or unintended death during an arrest.

However, the O.J. Simpson trial 20 years ago demonstrated there is still a huge racial divide when it comes to perception. The whites largely thought O.J. was guilty and people of color largely believed he was innocent. The Ferguson issue could become a huge tipping point that could trigger unrest beyond that region because, if riots were to erupt if the police officer who shot Michael Brown was exonerated by a grand jury, then it could potentially lead to a collapse of the judicial system in that region and beyond. This could indeed become a huge tipping point across the nation because of the unresolved seething issues of perceived racism, which evidently trumps the judicial system, which is one of our major pillars for peace and civility.

2. A viral pandemic. The response of the present administration to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa demonstrates that the United States is ill-prepared to deal with a potential pandemic.

Furthermore, we have been hearing for years that the frequent (and often unnecessary) use of antibiotics among the population as well as the ability of super-bugs to mutate and adapt make a huge pandemic in the United States more likely as time goes on.

I doubt Ebola will ever spread in our nation. However, there are far more dangerous strains of viruses that could eventually cause a tipping point towards societal chaos and confusion.

3. A terrorist attack. It has been a major miracle that the United States has not experienced another terrorist attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001. It is not only due to the great job of the FBI, police and CIA but, in my opinion, due to the grace and mercy of God. With the advent of weaponized drones (that can spew dangerous chemicals or ignite a nuclear weapon), and the proliferation of groups like ISIS that now have access to raw materials that can produce weapons of mass destruction (that were seized in Iraq), it will be far easier in the future for radical jihadis to wreak havoc across our nation.

This could be a tipping point that could cause mass hysteria and unrest across our nation.

4. An economic meltdown. Although many think the economy is doing well today, there are a number of events that could immediately trigger a collapse of the stock market: a terrorist attack, an Ebola-like pandemic, mass rioting resulting in mass unrest and more. All of these fall under the black swan theory that concerns an unpredictable event that could catalyze a tipping point towards economic chaos.

As we have seen, people are volatile and mercurial, and so is the stock market. Any of the above tipping points could result in a huge economic crash.

Furthermore, some believe that if the U.S. dollar is ever replaced with other national currencies (something I do not think will happen soon), then the U.S. federal government would not be able to continue to print money to bring down the national debt. This would cause a huge financial implosion in our nation.

In conclusion, only God can protect our nation. It is up to the church to be vigilant in prayer, since the enemy who wants to destroy our souls also wants to destroy our nation. Ultimately, if the Lord doesn't protect our nation, then no political leader, military leader or church leader will be able to prevent an event that could tip over our nation into chaos.

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Culture Fri, 14 Nov 2014 17:00:00 -0500
10 Ways Millennials Are Shaping the Local Church They are the largest generation in history. In the United States alone, they number more than 78 million, even larger than the seemingly ubiquitous Boomers.

They are the Millennials. They are changing our nation, our world and our churches.

For the purpose of this post, I want to focus on changes they are already bringing to our local churches. I have the benefit of a large research project on the Millennials, plus the ongoing conversations I have with members of this generation. And I have spoken with countless leaders in churches about their experiences with Millennials.

Keep in mind that the birth years of the Millennials are from 1980 to 2000. So the oldest member of this generation is 34, while the youngest is only 14. But their impact is already noticeable, and it will be for years to come. Here are 10 ways they are shaping local congregations today:

1. More of them are attracted to smaller venues. They are thus one of the reasons for the incredible growth in the multi-venue model of churches and the growth of new churches. Leaders of smaller churches should be encouraged by this trend as well.

2. They see culture as something to influence, rather than an enemy to denounce. Many Millennials truly have a missionary mindset. They are turned off by those who constantly rail against people.

3. They like to cooperate with others. They do not view other churches and Christian organizations as competitors. They are attracted to congregations that are working with other congregations.

4. They abhor worship wars. I have a previous post on this topic called "What Worship Style Attracts the Millennials?"

5. They love churches that love their communities. One of the first questions a Millennial will ask a church leader is, "What is the church doing to influence, impact and minister to the community?"

6. They are attracted to churches that emphasize groups. The Millennials want to be a part of a congregation that has healthy small groups, Sunday school classes, home groups or other groups.

7. They want to be trained on their schedule. The Millennials truly desire training. But they are accustomed to having that training available when they are able to hear it or view it. Such is the reason that many churches are going to video training while having "live" worship services and small groups.

8. They will question almost everything. This generation will want to know why a church does what it does. The most unacceptable answer is, "We have always done it this way."

9. They are slow to join and slow to leave. Church leaders are often frustrated that a Millennial takes so long to commit to a local congregation. But they are intentional and thorough. Once they commit to a church, they are less likely to leave, especially over petty issues.

10. They want to be involved. If a church does not have an intentional plan to get Millennials involved in ministry quickly, they will not reach this key group.

I love this generation. I love their enthusiasm, their commitment, and even their questions. They are one of the reasons I remain an obnoxious optimist about the revitalization of local congregations.

I would love to hear from some of you Millennials. And I would love to hear from some of the older folks like me who are interacting with this generation. Your comments are always more valuable than my posts.

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Culture Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Self-Control A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls. — Proverbs 25:28

In ancient times, cities were often surrounded by walls for their protection. If those walls were breached in any way, the city became vulnerable to attack from a wide variety of enemies. The maintenance of city walls, therefore, was of constant concern.

Proverbs 25:28 likens self-control to a city wall. When we maintain self-control, we keep ourselves safe from forces that would wear us down, attack our weaknesses, and prey on our failures. Scripture warns us that losing our self-control can lead to disastrous results. We may have tendencies to lose our tempers easily, gossip about neighbors or coworkers, or criticize those in authority. We may have an unhealthy desire to own many possessions, an addiction toward food, or an obsession with television. A careless word, a broken promise, or a disrespectful action is an outward sign that our inner wall of self-control has collapsed. Weak self-control makes us vulnerable to living a life of hypocrisy, and then we lose all credibility as a witness to the freedom and joy of the Christian life.

But developing self-control is not just a matter of willing right behavior. We all have experienced the "just do it" break-down. We decide that we will finally regain control of a certain personal weakness only to find a few days later that we have succumbed once again to temptation. Self-control is not as simple as just "doing it" or "not doing it."

Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit desires to guide our lives. Only he can overcome our sinful cravings and build self-control with staying power. As we turn our moments over to the direction of the Holy Spirit, we will find that we are more often able to resist those things that used to prey on our weaknesses. It is with the power of the Holy Spirit alone that our walls of self-control can be securely maintained.

]]> (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 21:24:35 -0500
Not Persuaded Jesus' brothers said to him, "Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can't become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!" — John 7:3-4

The pressure was on. Michelle was really being pushed to launch the new product in the spring and get a jump on the competition. Everything was ready--almost, but not quite. It was the "not quite" that caused Michelle to hold back and reexamine the data. By the time the product was ready to be launched in the fall, the product had required critical changes. In the end, Michelle's ability to stand firm against outside pressures ensured the viability of the product and preserved the integrity of the company.

Jesus faced similar pressures in John 7. His brothers were pushing him to go to the Feast of Tabernacles early and show off his miracle-performing abilities. Like many Jews, these brothers were looking for someone to "wow" the crowds and eventually lead the people in a rebellion against the Romans. The Feast would have been an ideal platform for launching Jesus' political career.

But Jesus could not be persuaded to become a crowd (or brother) pleaser. Jesus knew that his mission on earth was not to win fans, but to redeem people from their sin. Keeping his ultimate purpose in mind, Jesus chose to go to the festival, but in secret. In his wisdom, Jesus could not be persuaded to veer from his purpose, not even for one day of earthly glory. His choice to enter the festival quietly, instead of with a fanfare, led to a day of heated debates with his enemies and intense discussions with the crowd but no flashy miracles. By the end of the day, "many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him" (v. 31).

Regardless of the agenda others have, a leader needs to stand firm and keep her goal in focus. Leaders with integrity know that they cannot allow themselves to be persuaded to cave in to people-pleasing or glory-grabbing decisions. Pursuing integrity may not always be the popular or easy path, but it usually proves to be the wiser path.

]]> (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 21:23:13 -0500
Spell It Out Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand. In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them. — Mark 4:33-34

The fine, the deep mid, the silly, the short square, the leg slip, the gully . . . If one is not familiar with these terms, he will find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and will certainly lose the game of cricket for his team. Where would one learn the terminology for the game? It is readily available in the encyclopedia. But learning the terminology and actually playing the game are two different things entirely. Playing the positions well can only come from experience on the cricket field.

Jesus was a master at speaking in riddles for the public while at the same time teaching his disciples valuable lessons. He spoke with words that both taught and challenged. He taught those who could hear with faith and challenged those who were trying to trap him.

There were times, however, when even the disciples were unable to understand Jesus. Then Jesus would patiently explain everything to them in detail. Jesus knew that as the disciples gained experience in the mission field, their understanding of his parables would grow. Meanwhile, Jesus took the time to spell parables out for the disciples by defining terms or by retelling the stories more simply.

Sometimes it may seem that things would go faster if we just used shortcuts to get the task at hand over and done with. However, in the long run, spelling things out and bringing new people along can be more efficient than doing it all on our own. Growing people into their positions takes patience and diligence. It requires commitment to the betterment of that other person. It requires the ability to see beyond the task at hand to the value of the person at hand.

Are we as patient as Jesus was with new Christians at church, or even new people at our workplace? The patience we show to our teammates can make the difference between a weak team and a strong, maturing, effective team.

]]> (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 21:22:19 -0500
What Kind of Fishermen? One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers--Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew--throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, "Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!" And they left their nets at once and followed him. — Matthew 4:18-20

A good leader looks for undiscovered qualities in people and provides opportunities for those qualities to become assets. The ability to nurture talent and encourage growth in others can also create deep loyalty.

One of the tasks Jesus had to accomplish in his three years of ministry was to put an effective team together that could follow through with his mission after he had ascended to heaven. One problem was that no one had ever been trained in the field of church planting. Jesus had to pick people for his team who could grow into their jobs. His ability to see potential in people brought twelve very different men together.

How did Jesus persuade the disciples to join him? No begging, no buttering up. Jesus did not give the disciples false hope or exaggerate their potential. He simply told them that they would remain fishermen but that the bait and the catch would be much more significant.

Scripture tells us that Andrew and Peter responded immediately to the offer Jesus made. They faltered and fell along the way but always got back up and continued to follow Jesus. History records that they were loyal to Jesus unto death. Jesus called them away from an unexciting, common existence to a compelling and challenging career. The disciples could not have envisioned themselves as part of future earth-changing events, but Jesus knew exactly how they would be used to further his kingdom. Jesus had a vision and he invited simple men to step out of the common and into something completely new. That invitation made all the difference for the disciples and for the world.

]]> (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 21:21:13 -0500
Synchronized Harmony When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. — John 16:13

While hiking in the lower elevations of the Alps, I saw small white clumps of sheep darting back and forth in the distance. Suddenly, among all the white spots I noticed a black border collie tenaciously herding the sheep. At first glance it appeared that the border collie was running randomly, chasing the flock around. It appeared that he was simply wearing the sheep to exhaustion. Upon closer examination, I noticed a man with a walking stick perhaps as far as half a mile away paying close attention to the collie. How was the collie receiving its directives from this shepherd? I stood very still and listened. Soon I heard a faint whistle: sometimes short, sometimes long, one high tone, one low tone. With every tone the collie changed his tack. I thought, He hears the whistle and knows it is his master's call. He has learned what each tone means and what his next move should be. He is completely synchronized with his master. The master and the collie worked in perfect harmony to lead and protect the shepherd's flock.

Unless we have our ears pricked high, we may very well be simply running our people and ourselves to a frazzle. Listening for the faint voice that directs our tactics and guides our words is absolutely essential. We may think that just plowing through will get things done more efficiently, but we are called to be in synchronized harmony with the Spirit. He will relay to us all we need to direct his people. Though there may be times when we aren't certain of the path, we can be certain that the Spirit is with us and directing us. We need only listen and obey when we hear. How well do you recognize the Shepherd's voice? How closely do you listen for the Master's whistle?

]]> (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 21:20:14 -0500
A Credible Identity For I know where I came from and where I am going . . . I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. — John 8:14, 16

There is nothing more attractive than a confident leader. "I know who I am, I know where I'm going, and I know how to get there," are statements that exude certainty and vision. But the most critical issue for confident leaders is whether or not they have the right to be confident. Do they have credibility? Credibility is related not to the amount of confidence one exudes but to one's past résumé of achievements. Credibility answers the question, "What is the caliber of the people who have already placed their trust in you?"

By the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus had fed thousands, healed multitudes, taught the scholars, and forgiven sinners. Still the Pharisees were compelled to challenge the credibility of Jesus. Fully aware of the agenda of the lawyers he was facing, Jesus nevertheless stated that he was sent by the Father and that the Father stood with him in his claims. He used language that forced them to make a choice about him.

The words Jesus spoke resonated with some and offended others. But they all understood him. Jesus knew that regardless of his resume, regardless of his Father's support, some would be dead set on opposing him.

Interestingly, Jesus did not focus long on those who rejected his call to redemption. Instead, he turned to those who did believe and encouraged them: "Jesus said to the people who believed in him, 'You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'" (v. 31).

Jesus' dialogue with the Pharisees served not simply to defend his credibility, though he was impressively successful in doing so. His statements primarily called some to saving faith. He then encouraged them to press on toward the freedom that comes from being pulled out from under the condemnation of the law that they knew so well. Jesus never allowed personal pride to interfere with the redemption of one heart. He never allowed the defense of his reputation to take precedence over his overall purpose: to bring sinners home.

Confidence and credibility are useful tools to have in carrying out leadership functions. They certainly affect our effectiveness in guiding people to Jesus. But they must be driven by a passion for others to experience spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ. Jesus calls us to be completely available for his service in this grand purpose.

]]> (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 21:17:20 -0500
NICL: The 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 A. Akers) Education Mon, 08 Jun 2015 21:00:00 -0400
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.

]]> (Christine D. Johnson) Education Fri, 20 Mar 2015 21:22:00 -0400
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

]]> (Kelsey Potter ) Education Fri, 20 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
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.

]]> (Ministry Today Staff) Education Fri, 12 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
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

]]> (Joe McKeever ) Education Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
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, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren) Education Tue, 28 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
The Crucial Difference Between Managing and Leading It's been said many times by many different people that everything rises or falls on leadership. I don't think that's ever truer than in ministry. Charles McKay, a former professor at California Baptist College, used to tell us if you want to know the temperature of your church, put the thermometer in your mouth. That's a good statement. You can't ever take people farther than you are yourself, spiritually or any other way.

I remember when I was interviewed on the Acts television network by Jimmy Allen, and he asked me about starting new churches. He said, "How important is location?" I said it's very important, the second most important thing. But the most important thing is not location, but leadership in a church. I see churches in great locations that aren't doing anything and I see churches with good leadership in poor locations doing great things.

Leadership is the key.

You don't have to be a charismatic leader (in the emotional sense) to be a great leader. Some of the greatest charismatic leaders of this century were also the worst — Stalin, Mao, Hitler. They were all very charismatic people, so personality has nothing to do with dynamic leadership.

Leadership and vision

It's not the charisma of the leader that matters; but the vision of the leader. Whatever your assignment may be in your church, no matter what your ministry concentration may be, your number one responsibility of leadership in that area is to continually clarify and communicate the vision of that particular ministry. You must constantly answer the question: Why are we here? If you don't know the answer, you can't lead.

As a senior pastor, my job is to keep us on track with the original New Testament purpose of the church. That gets much more difficult as the church grows larger and larger. When we were very small, the only people who wanted to come were non-Christians. We didn't have a lot of programs. We didn't have a children's ministry or a music ministry or a youth ministry. The people who wanted all those things went to churches that had them. Now I meet people coming over from other churches every week. This new dynamic presents an acute problem. Every one of these people carries in a load of cultural baggage. They expect Saddleback to be like the church they left. The first words off their lips can be, "At our old church, we did it like this..."

How can I politely say, "We don't care how you did it at some other church."?  I don't mean to be rude, but the vision of the church someone just left isn't the key issue. Our vision in this church is the key issue. Therefore, I must continually clarify and communicate Saddleback's vision to everyone who walks through our doors. I must make clear what we are doing and why we are doing it. No one can be left in the dark to the question of vision. At Saddleback, we constantly communicate our vision through the membership class, through social media, and in any way we possibly can. Our purpose for being is always out front where everyone can see it. Everyone needs to know why we are here and catch our vision.

Leader or manager

Vision is the main difference between leadership and management. Management consists primarily of three things: analysis, problem solving, and planning. If you go to any management course they'll be composed of those three things. But leadership consists of vision and values and the communication of those things. If you don't clarify the purposes as the leader, who's going to?

Most churches are over-managed and under-led. Your church needs to be managed, but it also needs to be led. You have to have both. When you only have management in the church, you get the problem of paralysis of analysis. It's like "Ready... Aim ... Aim ... Aim ..." And they never fire. Management without leadership results in constantly analyzing and looking, but never actually doing anything. Don't get me wrong. You need managers within the church as well. Without them you end up with a church that says, "Ready.... Fire!" without ever taking the time to aim. You need both.

The power of vision

Some people have dreams, but not vision. There is a difference. A vision is a pragmatic dream. Lots of people have great dreams. They have grand ideas of all they would like to accomplish, but they can never get their dreams in a concrete form where they can do something about it. A vision is a dream that can be implemented. It's specific. Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific.

Every Easter Sunday I stand back and marvel at all God has done in our church. We started on an Easter with a handful of people.  Now, every Easter we have even more than the year before as thousands upon thousands gather together. That's incredible to me when I think how it all just started with a little vision.  And from that we've watched a movement happen. That's the power of a vision.

]]> (Rick Warren) Ethics Tue, 04 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
How to Bring Down a Church Bully Church bullies have always been part of the ecclesiastical landscape. They had them in the first century, as evidenced by the tiny epistle of Third John.

A brute named Diotrephes was ruling his congregation with a strong hand. The Evangelist John turned the spotlight on what the man was doing, which ordinarily is sufficient to arouse the congregation to unseat the man. John ended with a promise: "If I come, I will call attention to what he is doing."

Don't miss the understatement of that: "I will call attention to what he is doing."

That will be quite enough. When the beloved apostle (for so was John known in the early church) stands before an adoring congregation and informs the membership what their so-called leader has been doing behind their backs, they will deal with him.

That has always been the Lord's plan: Tell the church, expose the brute, expect God's people to do the right thing.

We're not talking about taking matters into our own hands or doing anything heavy-handed.

Even though the flesh wants to drag the church boss out back and give him "what for," that is never the right approach. Nor should we plot and maneuver and scheme behind closed doors. The Lord's people must never adopt the deceitful tactics of the tyrants. We are to be "as shrewd as snakes and as gentle as doves" (Matt. 10:16).

American history provides a near-perfect example of how to bring down a bully. It's not a simple story, but I'll do my best.

The tyrant throwing his weight around without a thought as to who got hurt in the process was Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. Google his name and pull up a chair, because the information on this brute will keep you occupied for days. Entire libraries have been written on what this man did in the first half of the decade of the 1950s. A shorter version can be seen on Wikipedia.

Senator Joe McCarthy was riding the wave of the Communist scare and accusing various governmental agencies of harboring Reds, being directed by Reds, or outright cooperating with the Kremlin. In his speeches, he would wave papers that he said contained the names of 250 or 125 or 306 known Communists working for this or that agency. When he or his staff found that some prominent person really had belonged to an organization that was a Communist front during the Great Depression, McCarthy was off and running. He would hound that guy into an early grave, then move right along to his next victim.

The public did not know what to think.

The American people rightly feared Communism, seeing it on display in Asia with all its fierceness and cruelty. The last thing they wanted was for the U.S. to fall under its power. The question was how to stand against it. McCarthy, we were to learn in time, was primarily interested in becoming a hero and would do anything to achieve it. After World War II, he lied about his war record in order to receive distinguished recognition, which would enhance his political career, and bitterly attacked anyone who dared oppose him. More than one person with a questionable affiliation in his past committed suicide rather than endure a public lynching at the hands of McCarthy's team.

When the U.S. Army refused to give special treatment to a McCarthy aide who had been drafted, the senator turned his guns on the military. He accused the Army of harboring Communists, and the fight was on. As the name-calling and mudslinging intensified, the Senate decided to hold hearings and settle the matter. McCarthy chaired the committee that would inherit this assignment; so another senator was chosen to lead the hearings that would last over a month.

America was transfixed.

ABC-TV decided to do something unheard of in 1954. They aired the senate hearing from gavel to gavel. (Bear in mind, television was still in its infancy, there was no C-Span, and most network news programs at the supper hour ran for 15 minutes).

This is how the American people got to see Senator McCarthy exposed as the bully and tyrant that he was. The programs were live and unedited, meaning the tactics of the senator were on public view for all to see.

Boston lawyer Joseph Welch was hired to represent the Army in the hearings. He was a class act, a distinguished man, in high contrast with the flabby McCarthy, who always looked like he needed to shave last week and was often under the influence of alcohol.

Had Hollywood been casting this scene, it could not have picked two more likely actors for these roles.

McCarthy's approach was always to "attack, attack, and then attack again." He rarely explained what he did and almost never gave a satisfactory answer to questions. He simply kept the opponent on the defensive. And on this day, he accused Attorney Welch of having a young lawyer with ties to a Communist organization working for his firm back in Boston.

Welch had an answer.

Welch explained that when he was first asked to represent the Army in these hearings, he wanted to bring two young attorneys from Boston with him to Washington. He asked if either had anything in his past that McCarthy could use against him. One of the two admitted that when he was in law school, he belonged to a young attorney's group that was later found to be controlled by the Communists. Welch sent him back to Boston, because he knew McCarthy would turn that against the Army, as he did. Even though the young attorney was not on Welch's team in Washington, but merely with his firm in Boston, McCarthy exposed this "grave wrong," and implied that Mr. Welch was thus untrustworthy.

That's when Mr. Welch said what he did. Right there on national television, with millions of Americans watching, Welch spoke the immortal lines that would ultimately end McCarthy's career.

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness."

Welch was soft-spoken and gracious. His words were like knives.

When McCarthy tried to interrupt and continue the attack, Welch softly but angrily continued:

"Let us not assassinate the lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Historians tell us that overnight McCarthy's popularity plummeted. Not long after, the Senate voted to censure McCarthy and strip him of his chairmanship.

Ostracized by his party, ignored by the press and abandoned by his supporters, McCarthy died three years later, a broken man, only 48 years old.

Brought down by public exposure and relentless, though gentle, questioning. That's how church bullies are to be dealt with.

(Question: Why not bullies of all kinds, in the workplace or playground or political arena? Answer: Church bullies are a breed apart, having the same self-centered, run-roughshod goals as all other tyrants, but they tend to be subtler and work behind the scenes. Exposure is the last thing in the world church bullies want).

Consider these suggestions:

1. Church bullies need to be exposed in a public forum. The tactic of modern-day Diotrephes is almost always to work off-radar, sending their lackeys to do their bidding.

2. The best public forum to expose the bully would be a church business meeting. Woe to the church which, under the leadership of a pastor who dislikes being held accountable, has canceled regular times of reporting to the congregation.

3. The questioner needs to be someone Christlike, mature and gracious. If he/she is pugilistic (i.e., they love a good fight), the congregation will see this as two fighters going at each other, and nothing will come from it.

4. The questioner makes no charges, but merely raises questions, letting the congregation think for themselves. And some will.

5. Some questions that will often expose a bully include: "Who decided that this would be done?" or "How was the decision made to do this?"  "Moderator, could we ask the chair of that committee to explain this action?"

6. Once the appropriate person has been made to tell the congregation what was done and why it was done, if this is unsatisfactory or if it is obvious that important pieces of information are missing, follow-up questions are in order. These are of the same kind and gracious manner: "I don't understand, Brother Chairman. You say (such and such), and yet the congregation had specifically said (thus and so). Help me out here." Or "You said (such and such), but the church constitution specifically says we are to do (thus and so). I don't understand."

7. The questioner makes no charges, accuses no one of deceit or underhandedness.

8. When it becomes obvious that no more information will be forthcoming, the questioner may do one of two things: sit down silently, leaving the clear impression that he/she is not satisfied with what has been said, or make a gentle statement in the manner of Robert Welch at the McCarthy hearings. Perhaps nothing more than, "Well, then, we are not the church I thought we were." Or "Mr. Bully, did you not pray about this? Did you not ask the Lord what He wanted done?"

9. Silence should follow. When the gentle (persistent, gracious but devout) questioner sits down, there will be a stillness as the congregation absorbs what they have just heard.  And, then, it should happen ...

10. Some strong, faithful leader who has followed all this, now senses that the congregation is ready to do something that should have been done long ago: Deal with the bully. So, he/she rises and makes a motion to the moderator concerning action to be taken. What that action is, I have no clue. It depends on what's going on.  It may be something as benign as rescinding the action of the committee run by the bully. Or it may be a motion to "vacate" that committee (unseat all the members of the committee) or to ask Chairman Bully to step down. Perhaps the leader who rises to make a motion simply wants the pastor to appoint a committee of three or four who will study this matter and bring a report back to the church. If this is done, the person who did the questioning (above) should be the first one appointed.

Harmless as doves, wise as serpents.

That says it all.

Post Script: A few questions arise ...

1. Some will always ask, "What if the pastor is the bully?" Answer: Deal with him the same way, in an open forum where the congregation is present.

2. What if the pastor has been so sufficiently buffaloed by the bully that he does not want anyone to "stir up" the congregation by publicly exposing the tyrant? Answer: This is not about the pastor. The goal is to have a healthy church, and the Diotrephes is interfering with that. So stand up in the business meeting anyway. I can guarantee that after the bully has been de-clawed, any pastor will be eternally grateful.

3. Speaking of declawing Diotrephes, what if the church action following the questioning did not unseat him and he's still around? In most cases, the public embarrassment he experienced was sufficient to issue a wakeup call to him and to send his lackeys scurrying.

The opening statement of this article is an eternal verity, I'm afraid. The bullies will always be around. Therefore, the Lord's faithful children must never drop their guard, never agree to cancel regular church business meetings, and always encourage questioning from the congregation. Exposure carries no threat to the godly.

After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Joe McKeever) Ethics Mon, 02 Feb 2015 20:00:00 -0500
Dr. Bill Hamon: ‘How Can These Things Be?’ Dr. Bill Hamon's latest book answers a question that lingers in the hearts of many, particularly with regard to ministers committing major sin in their personal lives. Yet these leaders pastor major churches, healing the sick and ministering to the congregation.

Dr. Hamon reminds us of Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name? And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"

He notes that when a sinful preacher prospers, "God is not confirming their ministries at all." Instead, "He is confirming His word." God allows the ministry to be successful because He cares about the people who are listening and wants them to be saved and healed.

Dr. Hamon also answers other important questions like, "Are these ministers still guaranteed Heaven since they were saved once? Dr. Hamon says, "No." Can their names be erased from the book of life? Dr. Hamon says, "Yes."

What are some ways that a spirit of deception is active in the church? (False doctrine and false teaching, which he likens to rat poison, which is 99 percent good for you, but 1 percent fatal.)

The 10 M's

Dr. Hamon outlines 10 M's that help us discern a true from a false minister. They are:

1. Manhood (or Womanhood): The man (or woman) comes before the ministry. "God wants to make us like Jesus before we can minister fully as Jesus did."

2. Ministry: Does our ministry manifest the anointing of God—that is the divine enablement of grace to accomplish God's intended results? Or is there more talk than true power?  Dr. Hamon says, "Is our preaching or prophesying productive? Has our ministry produced fruit?"

3. Message: Ministers are to speak the truth in love. Dr. Hamon says, "It should present the word of God in a way that is thoroughly scriptural, doctrinally sound, and well–balanced in the light of the full testimony of the Bible."

4. Maturity: "The Bible wisely warns us not to place new Christians in places of leadership, but to wait until they have had a chance to be proven and to mature," says Dr. Hamon.  This maturity should include personal, emotional, and spiritual maturity.

5. Marriage: A minister's marriage should reflect the relationship that exists between Christ and the Church. Dr. Hamon says, "Ministry must not compete with family. Meanwhile, we must not allow the ministry to deny us adequate time and energy to build a healthy relationship with our children, as is all too often the case with ministers."

6. Methods: In our ministry methods, we must be what Dr. Hamon calls "rigidly righteous." A minister should be honest in all areas.

7. Manners: Dr. Hamon believes that ministers "should be different from the world in their manners. Love is a principle we practice, a way of life."  

8. Money: A minister should always be a good steward over his or her finances. Dr. Hamon says, "The Christian can have money, but money must not have the Christian. It's a matter of heart attitude, motive, and biblically ordered priorities."

9. Morality: "Sexual immorality has no place in the life of a Christian minister ... our firm standard must be purity," says Dr. Hamon.

10. Motive: "In short, do we minister out of a heart full of God's love? If not, the the Scripture says our ministry is nothing."

What Are We Here For?

Dr. Hamon says there are eight reasons God created man. They are:

1. To fill the earth with the likeness of Himself.

2. To reveal His own heart and nature as love.

3. For man to be a free moral agent so he could be tested, tried, purified and conformed to the image of Christ.

4. For God to have the power of procreation so He could father a biological Son (Jesus) and not a created son like Adam.

5. To provide a many-membered bride for His Son.

6. To bring the Church as the body of Christ to co-labor with Him as joint-heirs in carrying out God's purpose.

7. To offer up praise and worship to God.

8. For fellowship with Him.

Bishop Bill Hamon is known around the world as the pioneer and father of the prophetic movement. He is the founder of the Christian International Apostolic Network.

]]> (Bill Hamon) Ethics Wed, 25 Feb 2015 13:00:00 -0500
7 Significant Lessons Churches Can Learn From Mars Hill Implosion According to some reports, the aftermath of the resignation of Pastor Mark Driscoll as the lead pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle has resulted in losing about half of their 14,000 attendees. This will not only result in closing church campuses and laying off much of the staff, but (in the opinion of some) could also result in the church declaring bankruptcy (I pray and hope not).

There are not only lessons we can all learn as individuals, but more importantly, churches should take heed to how a church can implode so easily based on the behavior of a key leader.

The following are seven lessons all churches can learn from this (Note: Two of the following points are ideas I received from a conversation with a pastor friend of mine whom I will leave nameless):

1. Every lead pastor needs both internal and external accountability. It seems there was a lack of real accountability, both from the church board of elders and from the outside. This is the reason why Dr. Paul Tripp, one of the key outside accountability leaders for the church, resigned.

In my opinion, every lead pastor needs to be accountable internally to the board of elders for both the spiritual and financial issues of the church. Also, a lead pastor should always attempt to function with the consensus of the elders and trustees, especially when it comes to major financial decisions. Furthermore, every lead pastor needs to have at least one extra-local leader to be their overseer to hold them accountable for matters regarding their personal life and family.

It is very difficult, awkward and often not practical for internal leaders to serve in that role in most cases (It is hard for leaders whom the lead pastor has nurtured into eldership to be able to speak into the personal life of their overseer and shepherd. Thus, every shepherd needs an outside voice to be their shepherd).

2. Church elders need an apostolic overseer to appeal to in case of an impasse. Often church elders have no one to look to when they reach an impasse with the lead pastor. This is why they vote with their feet, resign and/or cause division and attempt to start another church. Every church eldership needs to have a person they can appeal to if the elders and lead pastor hit a major wall regarding the governance of the church or personal issues with the lead pastor.

This is why I am a major proponent of having an "apostolic church" template in which every local church is overseen by a lead pastor who is also submitted to an apostolic leader or bishop who oversees other associated congregations. This is the New Testament pattern and is much better than leaving congregations and leaders all by themselves. 

3. Satellite churches need their own pastor/preacher. The satellite model structure usually simulcasts the lead pastor's message to all the other campuses. Thus, while the church is expanding in numbers, it is not always developing leaders commensurate with their expansion. This is dissimilar to church planting in which every congregation has its own lead pastor, preacher and leadership team. Consequently, every campus is being built around the preaching, leadership and vision casting of one man, which leaves them vulnerable to the kind of implosion we have seen at Mars Hill.

4. The "one-man brand" of the church leaves the church vulnerable. Most of the time, the charismatic leader knows evangelical churches more than their congregation or vision. At Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll was their "brand." Not only that, but evangelical churches too often perpetuate a personality cult in which folks say something like, "I am going to Joe Mattera's church" rather than "I am going to Resurrection Church." You get the picture? Many people can't even remember the name of the church they visited; they only know the church by the name of the lead pastor.

This is nothing new. It's the same thing that Paul the Apostle had to address with the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 3:4). Although this is common with evangelical churches, it doesn't mean it is healthy, and it is something in our present global church culture that must change. One of the things we have done in our church the past decade is have a team of leaders who rotate and share the responsibility of delivering the word on Sunday mornings. This was so that people don't just hear the word from one person.

Also, for the past few years, we have gone from topical to exegetical teaching on Sundays so that the focus is on understanding the Scriptures rather than on the skilled presentation of the lead pastor. 

5. The essence of the church needs to be based upon the centrality of Christ. Along the lines of point four, there needs to be a drastic shift away from a congregation that comes to be entertained by a great worship leader and/or preacher, to a congregation that comes primarily to worship Jesus.

Every church has to base its vision, mission, preaching, ministry and worship on the centrality of Christ. This is one of the advantages some of the historic mainline denominational churches have over the typical evangelical church. In spite of the fact that Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and other denominational churches transfer their priests every few years to different parishes, faithful people still attend their churches by the millions all over the world.

Why? Because their congregations are committed to their parish, and to their expression of the universal church more than they are to the charismatic leadership of their lead pastor.

For example, in my neighborhood in New York City, a Roman Catholic might say "I am attending Saint Francis church in Brooklyn Heights." They rarely—if ever—say, "I am attending Father Frank Mascara's church."

One of the reasons why I instituted weekly communion in our church years ago was because I wanted the center of the service to be about the gospel, not about my preaching. When people judge a church merely by good sermons and/or a worship experience, they are acting carnal. Their focus should be on worshipping Jesus, ministering to the saints and being empowered for the work of the kingdom in the context of the corporate vision of their local congregation.

6. Every lead pastor needs an equally competent understudy who can step in. After Mark Driscoll resigned, there was no understudy with capacity to come in and preach (and lead?) equal to him. In my opinion, the greatest responsibility of every lead pastor is to nurture leaders who can potentially step into their role and do a better job than them.

7. The congregation has to be more committed to their corporate vision then to the lead pastor or to their social networks. Most people attend a church because a friend attends or because they like the lead pastor. We have to structure our churches so that we develop a discipleship culture in which believers are assimilated to serve their church and community. Folks have to discover their individual gifts and have their purpose ignited with a passion inspired by a compelling corporate vision to transform their city—the kind of vision that transcends their social networking needs. 

In closing, those of us in the evangelical church will miss an opportunity for growth unless we admit that much of the leadership and character issues that led to Pastor Mark Driscoll's resignation are common issues with a large percentage of lead pastors globally.

Also, many of the flaws in the structure of Mars Hill Church are also fatal flaws in a large percentage of all evangelical churches worldwide. We should allow the Lord to redeem the experience of Mars Hill as a teaching moment for us all.

May the Lord minister grace, mercy and restoration to Pastor Mark Driscoll, and may the Mars Hill congregation not only survive, but also thrive in the years ahead for the glory of God.  

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

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera ) Ethics Tue, 04 Nov 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Should You Attend a Friend’s Same-Sex Wedding? Occasionally I receive emails from church members asking for my opinion on various personal or church problems. With this week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for same-sex marriage in 30 states, an inquiry I received recently is relevant to all Christians—particularly pastors.

Since many church leaders will inevitably receive this kind of question, they must decide now whether they will advise their members to choose a biblical stance or "go along" with our society's ever-lowering standards.

The Letter

"I am a follower of God wanting to walk in His truth," this person wrote. "I have been invited to a same-sex celebration of marriage by two, longtime Christian friends.

"I could attend because I love both of them and could celebrate their happiness, but I could not celebrate their union as a marriage. If I go I feel like a hypocrite, and if I don't go I feel like a hypocrite. I am seeking counsel."

My Answer

I told this individual it was easy to understand his dilemma. He doesn't want to alienate those he loves, but he doesn't want to leave the impression he is endorsing immoral behavior. Most importantly, he doesn't want to displease his Heavenly Father.

However, I told the letter writer this would not pose a difficult decision for me: I would not attend. He is being invited to participate in a ceremony that mocks God's intent for marriage.

"The Scripture teaches that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman and God," I said. "Marriage was not man's idea. It was instituted by God in the Garden of Eden and (to paraphrase Matthew 19:6): 'What God joins together, man is not to separate.' If I were invited to a polygamists' ceremony of a man marrying four women, I wouldn't attend because that ceremony would desecrate the sacred covenant that God ordained."

While one can rationalize, "I'm not endorsing their behavior, I'm just being a friend," his presence says to his children and others that gay marriage is OK. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for this kind of behavior. And, Hebrews 13:8 states that Christ "is the same yesterday and today and forever." James 1:17 teaches that God "does not change like shifting shadows" (NIV).

Paul's Words

In the first chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul documents the immoral behavior that characterized the world in his time. The list included same-sex relationships. He concludes with these words: "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them" (Rom. 1:32, emphasis added). I counseled this person that we must be careful not to leave the impression that we have caved in to the world's pressure and approve of what God's Word clearly prohibits.

"There's one other factor," I said. "Your attendance not only puts you in an uncomfortable position, but an untenable one. You will be expected to respond to favorable comments like, 'Isn't this exciting?' or 'I'm happy for them, aren't you?' That setting would not be an appropriate environment for you to voice your convictions.

"That's probably why you state that you would feel like a hypocrite if you went. Unless you are prepared to create a scene or get into arguments, it doesn't seem wise to attend. You speak more eloquently by your absence than you could by your presence."

Violating One's Conscience

The same is true for all church leaders reading these words. When you talk to members fretting over alienating their friends, tell them to remember their friends' decision to have a public ceremony has deliberately put them on the defensive. They could choose to continue their relationship without flaunting it or requesting their Christian friends' approval. They are asking the member to violate his or her conscience.

Instead of attending, leaders can suggest the member write a note saying, "Thanks for inviting me to your ceremony. I really appreciate you thinking of me. However, as a follower of Jesus Christ I cannot endorse same-sex marriage, so I will not be attending. As your friend, I want you to know that I love you and want God's best for you and your partner in the future. Again, thanks for thinking of me."

If a gay couple distances themselves from a person because of their stand, that is the couple's choice. While a member may not desire that, neither should he or she be devastated. Remind them they may never know what taking a biblical stand will do to influence others, but it will. And regardless, aligning themselves with God's view of marriage will always be the right choice.

At only 22 years of age, Bob Russell became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches and conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Bob Russell) Ethics Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
10 Dangerous Distractions for a Pastor I encounter so many struggling pastors. And unfortunately, I know so many who used to be pastors but no longer hold the position.

It may be through a blatant sin or a casual drifting from doing what they knew to be right, but it landed them in disaster. A pastor friend of mine said recently, "We need healthy churches, and we need healthy pastors."

Amen. Agreed. We must stand guard.

What are we guarding against?

No single post would be perfect. Obviously sin, but I can't address everything that gets in the way of a healthy pastor. I can only list some that are more common in my experience.

Here are 10 dangerous distractions for a pastor:

1. Neglecting your soul. One of my mentors reminded me recently. "Ron, don't forget to feed your own soul." It was subtle. Almost given as a sidebar to our discussion. But it was gold. One of the biggest dangers for a pastor is when we begin to operate out of stored-up knowledge of and experience with God. We need fresh encounters with truth and His glory.

2. Sacrificing family. Families learn to resent the ministry when it always trumps the family. Ministry families get accustomed to interruptions. They are part of the job, as they are part of many vocations. But the family will hopefully be there when no one else is around. Ministry locations change, but the family does not—so we must not neglect them. I've sat with men who lost the respect of their family. I know countless pastors whose adult children no longer want anything to do with the church. Apparently, there's not much that hurts any more than that.

3. Playing the numbers game. Whenever we put the emphasis on numbers, we are always disappointed. They will never be high enough. God is in charge of the numbers. We are in charge of what He has put us in charge of—but it's not the numbers. We must be careful to concentrate on making disciples, and the numbers will take care of themselves.

4. Comparing ministries. There will always be a "bigger" ministry. Someone will always write a better tweet—or a better book—or a better blog post—or preach a better sermon. When we begin to compare, it distracts us from the ministry we've been God-appointed to lead.

5. Finding affirmation among the rebels. This is the one that gets me in trouble among the rebels when I point it out to pastors. But we must be careful not to get distracted by people who would complain regardless of the decision we make. Yes, it stings the way some people talk to a pastor. And, it's certainly not always godly how some people express themselves in the church. But what if Joshua had listened to the naysayers? What if Nehemiah had? What if Moses had given up every time the complainers were louder than the people who were willing to follow? OK, he probably was willing to give up a couple of times, but he held the course. If you are leading, there will always be someone who is not happy with the decisions you made. People bent on pleasing others—more even than pleasing God—have a very hard time finding peace and joy in ministry.

6. Sacrificing truth for popularity. It's easy to preach the easy stuff. Grace messages are pleasant to share and popular to receive. And we need them. Where sin increases, grace should increase all the more. But we need truth—even when it is unpopular. Making disciples becomes impossible when we sacrifice either one—truth or grace.

7. Stealing glory. My mama used to say "that boy got too big for his britches." Sadly that can happen in ministry. Many pastors struggle with ego problems. God is never honored in that. Pastors are in a God-glorifying position. Actually, everyone is, but it is written into our job description.

8. Poor boundaries. In an effort to "minister" to people, I know too many pastors who fell into a trap because they didn't have proper boundaries in place. The enemy enjoys a door of opportunity.

9. Neglecting friendships. Most pastors struggle to know whom to trust; but because of that, few people really get to know them. Therefore they often have no one who can speak into the dark places of their life. And pastors have them too. So, they put on a good front—but inside, they struggle alone. It's dangerous.

10. Abusing power. The pastor holds a certain amount of power just because of his or her position. It has been said, "Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it." One of the more dangerous things I see churches doing these days is giving a pastor too much power, without enough built-in personal accountability. (That's coming from a church planter's heart—and one who is prone to lead strong.) BTW, I'm not for controlling the pastor or forced relational accountability—and I haven't discovered the perfect system here—but there needs to be one that balances truth and grace equally. Again, I don't know how to systematize that, but it is a dangerous distraction. My challenge would be to the pastor or ministry leader to build this system into his or her own life absent a system within the ministry.

These are some that I have seen. These distractions are displayed in a number of ways—and all of them are not fatal, thankfully. But all of them are real. And all of them are dangerous.

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Ethics Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
7 Reasons Why Church Leaders Should Practice Fasting Fasting—not our favorite topic. We don't usually like to talk about not eating.

In fact, nobody talked to me about fasting when I was a young believer. I didn't learn about this spiritual discipline until I was already a local church pastor.

I've since learned that my experience is not unusual among evangelicals. The fact that many of us have never emphasized fasting, though, is not positive. Here are some reasons why church leaders ought to be fasting:

1. The Bible assumes believers will fast. The early church fasted before sending out missionaries (Acts 13:1-3) and before appointing elders (Acts 14:23). Jesus expected His disciples to fast after He returned to the Father (Matt. 9:14-17), just as much as He expected them to give and pray (Matt. 6:2-7, 16-17). Leaders must lead the way in being obedient in this discipline.

2. Fasting requires us to focus on God's kingdom. The kingdom of God is already here (Luke 11:20), but also yet to come (Luke 22:18). We fast while we wait for the bridegroom to return for His bride, and doing so requires us to focus on His kingdom—not ours. Fasting might well show us that we are building our own kingdom.

3. Fasting leads to us to slow down and reflect. Leadership usually means activity and busyness. Always there is something else to complete, somebody to visit, the next meeting to conduct, another book to read. Often left behind is our private, personal, intimate walk with God. Fasting is one means to redirect our attention to Him.

4. Fasting calls us to consider our deepest longings. We do not fast to "get stuff" from God; we fast because we want God Himself more than anything else. Fasting exposes whether we truly believe encountering the eternal One is more significant than the temporary satisfaction of food (and sin, for that matter). It forces us to determine what we really live for.

5. Fasting reveals who we really are. It was John Piper who taught me this truth. When hunger consumes us during fasting, we sometimes find ourselves grumpy, short-tempered, anxious or faithless. To state it a better way, fasting brings to light our true self. Most of the time, repentance becomes the next necessary step.

6. Fasting reminds us that we are not simply spiritual beings. God created us as spiritual and physical beings, but we tend to focus on caring for our spiritual side. We often ignore our physical well being, thus also ignoring the truth that we are wholly created in the image of God. Fasting calls us to a faith that affects our entire being.

7. Fasting is a reminder we are not as strong as we think we are. Leaders are often by nature tough, persistent and resilient. Fasting, however, quickly reveals our limitations. Even a short fast uncovers our struggle to deny self; a longer fast reminds us we are finite beings who die without nourishment. All our knowledge training, and experience mean nothing when the body has no sustenance.

If you're a church leader who has not fasted for some time, consider these questions:

  • If the Bible assumes our fasting, should I at least pray about it?
  • Do I need private, focused time with God?
  • Am I willing to examine what I'm really living for?
  • Am I open to bringing to light my true self—and then repenting as needed—through fasting?
  • Do I emphasize my spiritual being to the neglect of my physical being?
  • Do I consider myself strong?

Here's the bottom line: fasting is a spiritual discipline that calls us to slow down, seek God, confess sin, deny self and embrace weakness. It reveals whether the kingdom we are living for—and longing for—is God's or ours. Any Christian leader must answer this question.

What lessons have you learned about fasting? What suggestions do you have for leaders who have not fasted regularly?

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

]]> (Chuck Lawless ) Fasting Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Economic Drama The last few days have been filled with economic drama that is is likely to continue and even intensify.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has called for a referendum on July 5.  Greek voters will  decide whether to accept creditors' offers of continued austerity as a condition for more aid. In response the European Central Bank froze emergency funds at last Friday's levels. Mr. Tsipras closed Greek banks and issued capital controls for at least a week.

Greece missed its required June payments to the IMF and will be declared in formal default 30 days later unless funds are found. Greeks will experience economic turmoil over the coming days. The coming days will decide whether Greece will remain in the Euro.

Most European stocks were down sharply, while Asian and U.S. stocks were also down.  The Euro was down against the U.S. dollar. Interest rates for U.S. treasuries were down while European interest rates were up. Expect the uncertainty to continue. Current trends could accelerate, or even reverse if resolution is obtained. 

Risks of contagion of the crisis to the European Union or the United States are minimal short term. The world has had five years to prepare for a potential Greek exit. However, if Greece were to default, leave the Euro, and improve their economic well-being (a possibility), long term risks to the European Union are significant. Countries such as Italy, Portugal and Spain could be enticed to follow a similar strategy.

Even if the Greek situation is resolved, expect a lot of  economic drama over the coming months. The Chinese stock market is falling sharply. U.S. stocks are likely overvalued. Increasing numbers of investors, analysts and economists are concerned that U.S. and global bonds are in a bubble. Liquidity in some bond markets is problematic. The hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivatives outstanding increase risk.     

For those in the Kingdom, we should remember that God is in control. Economic events do not surprise Him. His provision is not dependent on the economy. As citizens in the Kingdom,  our source is the King of Kings.

Isaac planted in a drought and reaped a hundred fold return. Joseph prospered as a slave, a prisoner, and as second to Pharaoh because God was with him. Daniel was promoted to a position of great influence because others recognized that he had the wisdom of God.

We serve a supernatural God, who owns everything, and has promised to provide all that we need and ask in faith. In times of economic (political, social, or spiritual) turmoil we need even more to seek His presence, direction and favor. Specifically, we should

be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6); seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33);  give (Luke 6:38);  abide in Jesus, let His word abide in us, and ask (Matthew 15:7); keep our confidence, endure, and expect (Hebrews 19:35-36).

We should also focus on the goodness, power, and faithfulness of God.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no change or shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James Russell) Finance Wed, 01 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
What Is the True Meaning of Stewardship? When you think of stewardship, what comes to mind?

Maybe fundraising or a capital campaign. Possibly taking care of the environment. Or, maybe you think it's just a stale old word you've seen in history books. Maybe, if you're being honest, you're not really sure what it means.

The reality is that many people today, including lots of Christians, don't understand the true meaning of stewardship. And that's a tragedy. Why? Because stewardship is our ultimate calling as Christ followers.

It's the first assignment God gave the human race in Genesis 1:28. That's when God told Adam and Eve to "have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (NKJV).

Stewardship is managing God's blessings God's ways for God's glory. The Bible tells us in Psalm 24:1 that He owns it all: "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof" (KJV).

And if He's the owner, that means we're not. Instead, we're His stewards—His managers. God commands us to be stewards over everything He blesses us with. Everything. That means our time, talents, treasure, relationships, jobs and, yes, stuff. It's all God's, and He trusts us with it.

Did you catch that? We get to manage all of the Creator's stuff. How awesome is that? It's both an honor and a serious responsibility! When we get that in our spirit, well, it changes things. It changes our perspective on our family budgets, our daily decisions, even our purpose in life. When we understand true, biblical stewardship, the trajectories of our lives change with every decision we make.

We begin to build a legacy of stewardship in our families. We treat our spouses and kids differently. We approach our work with a new sense of purpose. We become grateful for everything we have. We live within our means. We have more money to give. And we have hope for the future.

I'm here to tell you that I want to reclaim the word stewardship in the church today. But it's up to all of us to make sure every believer understands God's role as owner and our role as stewards. When we get to heaven and have to give an account of how we managed God's resources (1 Corinthians 4:2), I hope God will reply to all of us, "Well done, good and faithful servant."


Chris Brown is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, pastor, and dynamic speaker carrying the message of stewardship and intentional living nationwide. Available on radio stations across the country, Chris Brown's True Stewardship provides biblical solutions and sound advice for questions on life and money. You can follow Chris online at, on Twitter at @ChrisBrownOnAir, or at

]]> (Chris Brown) Finance Tue, 30 Jun 2015 12:00:00 -0400
8 Thoughts About Hiring Church Staff When You Have No Money One of the more common concerns I hear from church leaders is the lack of funds to do ministry or to hire staff. The concern is often expressed as, "Our church is small; we can't afford to do that."

But that sense of scarcity is not limited to small churches; I have heard the similar concerns from leaders of large churches.

Many church leaders would love the ability to hire more staff, but their perception of limited resources hinders them from doing so. Do alternatives exist? I believe so. Let's look at eight thoughts about this issue.

1. Church leaders should adopt an attitude of abundance instead of scarcity. Do we really believe God will provide all the resources we need? If the answer is yes, we need to act from a posture of abundance instead of scarcity. That does not mean we make foolish decisions; it does mean we look at ways to make it work rather than give up.

2. Churches have more funds than most leaders realize. On a trip to Uganda, I spoke with a pastor in Kampala whose church was doing an incredible work in the community. He spoke with joy about the abundant resources his church had. The best I could discern the church had a budget of less than $500 U. S. dollars a year. I rarely see a church budget that can't find some funds for new initiatives. The problem in many churches is the unwillingness of leaders and members to change current spending patterns.

3. Many people will gladly work as a non-paid church staff person. You can probably find some persons in your church or community who would be delighted to do so. In my first two churches, our worship leader was not paid. The student pastor made $25 a week in the second church.

4. Consider some small level of compensation. I recommend churches find at least a small amount of funding for staff persons. Even a small stipend engenders accountability and demonstrates tangibly that a person is indeed part of the church staff leadership.

5. Consider a one-year trial. One luxury you have with an unpaid (or modestly paid) staff person is that he or she does not depend on the pay for livelihood. You can thus offer a one-year trial to see how the ministry situation works for both parties. Neither party feels like they are making an irrevocable decision.

6. Look to local Bible colleges and seminaries for staff. Many churches are located within an hour or so of a Bible college or seminary. Those schools typically have required internships as part of their training. And a number of the students would be willing to serve in a volunteer position for the experience.

7. A good staff person will pay his or her own way. Forgive the economic crassness of this point. But the topic is about affording to pay staff. And the reality is a good staff person will create efficiencies and/or attract others to the church. It is not a stretch to believe the net effect of their ministry can be financially positive.

8. Bi-vocational ministry is a growing reality for the future. For many reasons, there will be more bi-vocational ministers in the future. The supply will be plentiful for those churches that cannot afford a full-time minister. Watch this trend closely, and seize the opportunities it affords.

I have no doubt budgets are tight in many churches. Indeed, I understand clearly when a pastor or other church leaders lament their inability to hire new staff. There are, however, ways to make it happen. Focus on the possibilities instead of the excuses. You might be amazed what God can do through you and your church.

Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Finance Wed, 01 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Inflation and the Kingdom Inflation is a sustained rise in the general level of prices.

Purchasing power falls. The cost of living increases. The country's currency depreciates.  Interest rates rise. High inflation increases homelessness, hunger, and economic hardship.  In extreme cases, inflation can cause economic and political systems to fail.

Inflation occurs when too much money chases too few goods. Crop failures, wars, natural disasters and other events cause fewer goods and higher prices. At other times central banks increase the money supply and higher prices ensue. When inflation begins, expectations of higher prices cause inflation to increase. If consumers expect higher prices tomorrow, they buy today, thus adding to an upward inflationary spiral.

Inflation can destroy monetary wealth quickly. Zimbabwe recently decided to retire the Zimbabwe dollar (Z$). The Z$ had become worthless due to the hyperinflation of 2008-09. Zimbabwe had experienced drought, decreases in agricultural output due to land redistribution policies, uninhibited government spending, dramatic increases in the money supply, and too much debt.

The IMF estimated the annual inflation rate in September 2008 to be 489 billion percent. In retiring the Z$, the government will credit bank accounts 5 US dollars for every 175 quadrillion Zimbabwe dollars.  In 1980, 1 US dollar was worth 2/3 of a Zimbabwe dollar.  Inflation destroys monetary wealth.

As members of the kingdom, we are not left alone in any economic environment. We have the Word of God with its promises. We have the Spirit of God to guide, direct and empower us at all times. We have the authority to use the name that is above all.  Biblical examples abound.

After this, Ben-Hadad king of Aram gathered all his army, went up, and besieged Samaria. There was a great famine in Samaria, and they besieged it until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove droppings for five shekels of silver. (2 Kings 6:24-25)

Elisha prophesied that the next day grain would be cheap. In fulfillment, within one day the Lord had moved Samaria from famine and inflation to abundance. Four lepers went into the camp of the Arameans and found the camp deserted with all of the bounty remaining. The Lord had scattered the army. The only Samaritan that didn't participate in the new found abundance was the officer that didn't believe Elisha.

Elijah prophesied drought which would have included inflation. During the drought, the Lord directed Elijah where to go to get food. The drought was broken when Elijah prayed on Mount Carmel after the people had fell on their faces and said "The Lord, He is God!  The Lord, He is God!"

Joseph heard from God. The Lord was with him. He ran from temptation. He prospered in all circumstances. He was promoted to second under Pharaoh. His supernatural wisdom and insight caused the wealth of Egypt to be transferred to Pharaoh as food became scarce and valuable. His favor allowed him to save and bring prosperity to the entire tribe of Israel.  

Isaac experienced a famine (and probably inflation). He heard the Lord tell him to not go to Egypt and he would prosper. Isaac believed. He planted in a drought and reaped a hundredfold return.

The Lord will lead, guide, and empower us through inflationary and other times of economic stress. We need to be faithful, give into the kingdom, step up our prayer life, and push in for more of His presence. All is well.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James R. Russell) Finance Wed, 17 Jun 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Worldly Systems and the Kingdom The world's economic systems include traditional, market, command and mixed models. For traditional systems, new generations inherit the economic position of parents and family.

Market economies allow supply and demand to determine the allocation of resources via price and income. In command economies, the government decides what, when, how and how many products or services will be produced. And mixed economies combine various elements of other systems.

For example, a command economy may allow the resources in certain sectors to be determined by market incentives. China experienced an economic turnaround when it first allowed market incentives in its agricultural sector.

Political systems can be defined as democracies, republics, monarchies, communists or dictatorships. In democracies, each individual has an opportunity to participate either directly or through representatives. A republic form of government is legitimized and controlled, in large part, by the governed. A monarchy is governed by a monarch with powers ranging from absolute control to constitutional control of some of government's functions. Communism is an authoritarian type of government characterized by a single party, and centrally planned economy, often with significant control over individual decisions. A dictatorship is controlled by a single individual or very small group of people. Dictators often often have military backgrounds and are sometimes installed by the military.

Jesus preached the gospel (good news) of the kingdom, which is unlike any worldly economic or political system. We need to understand His kingdom message. For clarity, we will define the kingdom to be the areas in which the Lord has dominion.

The kingdom of Heaven is a place. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom now, will be a physical kingdom in the future, and will be presented to the Father where the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Heaven will merge. The Bible will sometimes transpose the definitions we are using, especially in Matthew which was written for a Jewish audience.

God's kingdom is vastly different and superior than our experiences with worldly economic or political systems may lead us to believe. Unless we understand these differences, we can reach wrong conclusions about the kingdom. The following characteristics should illuminate some of these differences:

  • When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we were given kingdom-of-God citizenship. But unlike worldly citizenships, we were also adopted as sons and daughters of the King. We are royalty and have been chosen as the King's representatives and ambassadors on earth.
  • As ambassadors we have the full authority, power and resources necessary to fulfill the King's business which He has entrusted to us. Our King has unlimited resources. He will guide, comfort and empower us with the Holy Spirit to accomplish kingdom business.
  • Our King loves us with an eternal love. He will never leave or forsake us.
  • Our King expects complete obedience but is quick to forgive when we sincerely ask and repent. He is known for His mercy and grace.
  • Our King is perfectly faithful, trustworthy, knowledgeable and powerful.
  • Our King's promises are completely reliable.
  • God's kingdom is eternal.

Every day we have the opportunity to glorify our King with our love, compassion, obedience and power of the Holy Spirit. Let us be His ambassadors in word and deed. Let us be used as His willing and consecrated instruments to bring His will on earth as it is in heaven. To Him be the power and the glory forever.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James R. Russell) Finance Wed, 06 May 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Study: Churches Lag Behind in Facilitating Online Giving Only 42 percent of U.S churches provide an opportunity for online giving by members of their congregations, according to a recent Dunham+Company/Campbell Rinker study. 

In contrast, 70 percent of non-church non-profits enable online giving from donors, according to another Campbell Rinker study conducted in March 2015 for The NonProfit Times

The proportion of churches allowing online giving plummets to 29 percent of churches with less than 200 in attendance, yet jumps to 7 out of 10 churches with weekly attendance of 200 or more.

Online giving still represents a small percentage of total charitable giving in the U.S., but research shows that it is a rapidly growing giving channel being adopted by all age demographics, based on the July 2014 Dunham+Company/Campbell Rinker national study of online giving.

Of the churches that allow online giving, the larger ones take a more proactive approach than the smaller ones in encouraging it. Forty-seven percent of the larger churches encourage online giving through email, 73 percent promote online giving in a printed newsletter or bulletin, and 58 percent do so during the service. Sixty percent of the smaller churches use their bulletin or newsletter to promote giving through the church's website.  And only 34 percent of these churches promote online giving by email, with less than half (47 percent) encouraging online giving during services. 

However, the percentage of online revenue did not increase dramatically based on the size of the church.  Churches that offer online giving with less than 200 weekly attendance received 11 percent of revenue from online, compared to just 13 percent of revenue given online for churches with more than 200 weekly attendance.

According to Blackbaud data, just more than 6 percent of donated revenue in America comes from online giving, so the church sector is outperforming the overall trend in online giving. 

"The fact that the percentage of giving doesn't vary dramatically based on size of church and the level of promotional activity indicates that this type of giving is consumer-driven, which lines up with our other studies," says Rick Dunham, president and CEO of Dunham+Company. "Yet we have found in our Online Scorecard study of 151 charities that the organizations that scored in the top 10 had 161 percent more online income than those in the bottom 10.  And those top 10 charities have websites optimized for giving and fundraising."

This Dunham+Company study was part of an online survey of church staff and lay leaders conducted by research firm Campbell Rinker in January and February 2015 among 655 church representatives. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.83 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

]]> (Steve Yount ) Finance Thu, 30 Apr 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: No Recession in the Kingdom Traditionally, recessions have been defined as the occurrence of two consecutive quarters of decline in national output (Real GDP). The economic contraction of a recession can manifest through higher unemployment, decreased real incomes, less investment, lower consumption, lower industrial production and other factors.

The NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) officially determines the beginning and ending of recessions and does not have to wait for a two-quarter decline in real GDP to call a recession if other factors are present. Typically recessions are officially announced as beginning and ending months after the fact. Recessions are less severe than depressions but can run the risk of turning into a depression.

Most economists do not see the risk of recession as imminent. However, an increasing number of economic indicators are worrisome. The U.S. bond and possibly the stock market appear to be overvalued by more investors and analysts. The latest estimate of first quarter GDP was 0.2 percent and would have been negative if it were not for an unusually large increase in inventories.

The next revision could push it even lower. The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank recently estimated second quarter GDP at 0.7 percent; well below most private expectations. Industrial production is dropping, retail sales are weak, consumer confidence is suspect, net exports are feeble, and many state and municipal finances are strained. It would not take many surprises to push this economy into a recession.

Economic strains can be painful to both citizens of the world and citizens of the kingdom. But our attitude, outlook and future prospects should be different. 

First, income and wealth are not our primary objectives. Our primary objective is to love, honor, trust and obey our King. We are told: 

  • "For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17).

Second, we are sons and daughters of the King of kings. The economy is not our source; the most high God is our source. We are promised:

  • "If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7).
  • "The thief does not come, except to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
  • "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you" (Matt. 6:33).

Third, economic recessions and other challenges can give us an opportunity to witness more effectively. The greatest church growth has tended to come during the most challenging times. We can more meaningfully model peace, joy, hope, courage, compassion and love.

Hurting people look for answers. We can point them to the ultimate answer in the person of Jesus, the promises in His Word, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We do not know whether recession is imminent. We do not know what other challenges we may face in the future, their severity or their timing. But we have assurance that as citizens of the kingdom of God we can be victorious in all. Kingdom citizens are blessed regardless of the circumstances.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James R. Russell ) Money Wed, 20 May 2015 18:00:00 -0400
5 Ways Church Members Hold the Church as a Financial Hostage Do you know any church members who have made demands based upon their financial giving to the church?

Okay, that's probably a rhetorical question because most of you readers certainly have experienced that discomfort. I asked a number of church leaders to share with me how this "hostage taking" usually takes place.

Here are the five most common responses:

1. "If you don't do what I want, I will stop giving." In reality, this quote was not often verbalized. Members just stopped giving when things did not go their way. After I left a church, I found out that the chairman of the finance committee did not give a penny the entire time I was pastor. I don't think he liked me.

2. "You better be careful; I do pay your salary." I've heard this one a few times. And the leaders with whom I spoke heard it many times.

3. "I am going to give all my money to ____________." The blank is a designated fund in the church. The member does not want his or her funds to go the general budget needs, so the check is written with stipulations.

4. "Build what I want or you're not getting my money." One pastor shared the story of his church who was in dire need of more parking spaces. He attempted to lead the church to acquire adjacent land, but the biggest giver in the church led a counter move. She wanted a new worship center that the church did not need. She was willing to give significant dollars to the building fund, but only if it included her pet (and expensive) project.

5. "I am starting a designated fund for my project." This hostage attempt is similar to number three but, in this case, the member starts a new designated fund. One example shared with me was "The Caribbean Mission Fund." Basically, this fund paid for a trip to an exotic island where the group sang one time in a local church on the island. The other 10 days were spent on fun and touristy events. The members of the group gave their money to the designated fund. It became a tax-deductible vacation, not to mention it was both unethical and illegal.

Hear me clearly. Most church members give to their local churches freely, joyously and without stipulations. But almost every church has one or more members who attempt to use "their" funds for their own needs and preferences.

The biblical reality is that we do not possess these funds; we are stewards of what God has given us. They are never "our" funds.

How would you add to my list of five items above? What are your perspectives on this topic? Let me hear from you.

Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Money Thu, 09 Apr 2015 12:00:00 -0400
The Good News and Bad News of Kingdom Economics The more than 50 percent drop in oil prices in recent months is good news for consumers. But it is bad news for energy producers.

It is good for transportation companies, but bad for energy companies. Lower energy prices are great for oil importing countries, but difficult for oil exporting countries. In today's economic environment, prices will invariably move in dramatic and often unexpected directions.

Current supply and demand fundamentals suggest a greater chance that oil prices could move from around $30 a barrel to around $70 a barrel. But the Middle East is volatile. Europe has significant economic and political uncertainty. China, Japan, Russia and/or the United States could change the price outlook for oil quickly.

The future is uncertain and is almost guaranteed to be volatile. But we in the kingdom have a source of stability, strength, guidance, hope and supernatural help.

The kingdom-minded who happen to invest in oil companies will take advantage of the opportunities afforded by low oil prices. They will use this time to grow closer to the Lord by digging deeper into the Word, by fasting and prayer, and by following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Who knows, but the Lord may use the opportunity to expand oil capacity at bargain rates or allow us to hire additional highly talented oil personnel who were previously unavailable, or to move us to another industry or career to which we were truly called.

The kingdom-minded are not controlled by the environment. God is their source and He is in control.

"We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

When sold as a slave, Joseph received a position of trust with Potiphar. When falsely accused and put in jail, Joseph received a position of trust with the jailer until God's timing for promotion arrived.

Our relationship with the King of kings determines our future. Use trials to move closer to the Lord. Victory is assured. After all, we are sons and daughters of the Most High God. We have the Holy Spirit of the living God within us. All things are possible.

As ministers, let us ensure that our flocks are equipped to survive, prosper and honor the King in the current economic environment. We should ensure our flock is knowledgeable regarding:

1. The principles of the kingdom;

2. The duties, responsibilities and rights of citizens of the kingdom

3. Faith, repentance and the power of the Holy Spirit

4. The necessity of a vibrant and growing relationship with the King

5. The promises of God; and

6. The privilege of being the King's representative

"My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith develops patience. But let patience perfect its work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James Russell) Money Wed, 04 Mar 2015 22:00:00 -0500
How Your Church Can Survive a Financial Crisis I asked a distinguished panel of donor development and fundraising experts about the advice they would give churches and ministries during a financial crisis. The panel included Mary Hutchinson, Mark Dreistadt, Dale Berkey and David Holland.

I asked them to send me a couple of suggestions that could help a church or ministry get through a tough financial time. Here’s their suggestions:

Mary Hutchinson
1. Know who your donors are—and target appeals to them that is within their own personal interests and within their means. Blanket appeals with high-reaching ask amounts will fail—especially now—and drive them away from your church/ministry forever. The right database is key to making these appeals targeted and the ask amount within reason for each donor.

2. Keep focused on the Lord being the source–not the people. He is not in a financial depression; the gas prices are no issue to Him. He can and will bless us according to His Word when we do as He calls us to do.

David Holland
1. Don’t panic and slash budgets. Things like personalization, along with special “high touch” modes of communication are often the first expenses laid on the altar of sacrifice when income starts to dip. But in times of uncertainty, these highly personal touches become more important than ever.

2. Point donors heavenward. When things get weird, people tend to get much more spiritually focused and mindful of what God thinks about their lives and priorities. Handled tastefully and sensitively, it is possible to actually get some people more involved in your cause than in times in which they feel secure and complacent.

3. Ask for less, but more often. When discretionary dollars are shrinking in a household, it is natural to consider cutting back on giving. An individual who has been routinely making a quarterly $100 donation might look at that three-figure gift amount and decide she can no longer afford it. But if encouraged to become a monthly $35 giver with an automatic payment arrangement in place, she might find that workable (at no net annual loss to the organization). Even getting a commitment for a $15 per month gift is better than losing this donor altogether.

Mark Dreistadt
1. Realize that the current economic situation affects different people in different ways. Lower-income households may be challenged just to keep up with bills; large-income individuals may have a significant portion of their resources tied up in stocks that are currently depressed; middle-income households may feel the pressure but be able to adjust.  This is certainly a time when giving patterns may change and a time to be sensitive to individual challenges, but not a time to assume people will not give.

2. Recognize that God’s principles of stewardship and giving still apply. We must never lose sight of the fact that everything we have is on loan from our heavenly Father. We have a responsibility to honor Him with our giving, despite how things may appear. The tithe is not ours to keep but seed we sow.

3. Encourage people to recognize that God’s economy is different than man’s economy. The Bible is replete with examples of God’s provision in difficult times. He can make less accomplish more when His people respond in obedience to His Word.

Dale Berkey
1. Acknowledge the challenging and somewhat confusing times we all live in right now from a  financial standpoint. Don’t ignore it.

2. Be grateful and express that well for the gifts received.

3. Demonstrate value and impact to your supporters and donors.

How can you put these suggestions into action with your donors and supporters?

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

For the original article, visit

]]> (Phil Cooke) Money Fri, 09 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
13 Things to Do When Your Church Is Hurting Financially A lot of things can happen when a church experiences a money crunch, most of them bad.

The finance committee can get upset, deacons can get angry, church members become scared, and staff members start honing their resumes and looking for a safe place to jump. Nothing about this is good.

Can anything good come from a financial crisis? It depends on how you handle it. Read on.

Keep in mind that sometimes a financial crunch results from a too-aggressive program outstripping the resources. Perhaps the church has become too invested in a project and the crisis sounds a wake-up call.

In most cases, the causes for the crisis are familiar to every church leader. You have been there before and will be here again:

  • Emergency expenses may have drained the bank account.
  • Some problem within the congregation is driving people away.
  • There’s no problem at all. You’re reaching a lot of people who have not been taught to give to the Lord’s work.

Whatever the cause, the church is in a financial bind. Something has to be done.

Here are 13 suggestions on what that “something” is:

1. Do not panic. This is not the end of the world. It happens in every church, even the great ones.

2. Give thanks. God can use this for your good and His glory if your team handles it well.

3. Pray. Seek the Lord. It’s His church, and He is the operator (Matt. 16:18). Ask what He wants you to do.

4. Investigate. See if you can find out the problem. If your community is on the decline and the economy is headed south or people are upset at something and are dropping out, then at least you know what you’re dealing with.

The tough part is when you cannot find a reason.

5. Ask around. Find out if other churches in your community are hurting financially also.

I recall being surprised that the church two miles up our street was going through the same hardships we were. When I made a few calls, other pastors in the area voiced the same concern. That told me it was not something unique to our fellowship but more than likely that some economic thing was occurring in the community. (At this point, my problem became how to get certain people off my back and convince them this financial crisis was not the judgment of God!)

6. Pray more. Keep this on the front burner with the Lord. None of this has caught Him by surprise. He knows the problems, loves the people, possesses the answers and has seen it all from the beginning. When we bring Him our problems, we go to the all-seeing, all-knowing Source of all wisdom.

7. Teach your people. Every church needs a strong stewardship emphasis at least annually. Each new generation must be taught to give generously.

We pastors tend to think because we had such an emphasis five years ago, the congregation is well taught and up to date. However, typically, nearly half the membership has turned over in that time. Your college students have graduated and taken jobs and are earning incomes. Newlyweds are now having children and buying homes. Everything has changed.

8. Call the staff in. If your church has a paid staff (or a strong team of great volunteers), start here. Meet with them and seek their input. They see things the pastor will not be aware of. Be prepared, preacher, to learn something about yourself you may not like—that people are withholding their offerings because of something you did or did not do, that your pet mission project is draining resources, that you are not asking the people to give, that sort of thing.

If programs must be cut or salaries and expenses pared, better the recommendations be initiated by the ones leading those programs rather than a committee announcing whose programs will be canceled.

9.  Should you enlarge the team? At some point, you may consider inviting several of your godliest and most spiritual members—no more than half a dozen—to join the discussion. Emphasize the need to respond to this crisis in a healthy, Christ-honoring way that will bless the church and not weaken it. The goal is to build the church, not to gut it.

The pastor should make clear up front that no decision will be made in this meeting. He will take very seriously everything said there (someone should take notes) and lay it before the Lord as he seeks direction.

10. Stand together. When (and if) the pastor-led team has a recommendation to bring to the church, make sure everyone who has had input knows the details and, as far as possible, is on board. Ideally, the pastor and staff and lay leadership will bring this to the church as a unified team. Their sweet unity will calm the congregation’s fears and help the church take a giant step toward solving the crisis.

However, in many cases, no action from the church is required. If the solution is a stewardship education program or a series of sermons on faithfulness in giving or such, the leadership simply does it without publicity.

11. Stay focused. Keep in mind one great truth: We do not teach stewardship principles to our people in order to meet the budget.

God’s work is far greater than what we are doing in this one congregation. (I’ve known of pastors saying there is no need to preach tithing because, they say, “We’re meeting the budget.” That is extremely short-sighted.)

Churches must teach an ongoing program of financial guidelines in order to grow God’s children, help them break the bondage of materialism, and invest in heaven (Matt. 6:20). By our faithful and sacrificial giving, we honor God, fund the work of the kingdom and set an example for the outside (and watching) world.

The pastor not teaching sound principles of kingdom giving to his people on an ongoing basis is failing his people at their deepest level.

12. Privately, ask your staff and lay leadership of the church to set a good example in their own giving. We have no right to ask others to do what we ourselves are not doing.

I’ve told before of the time our deacons were constantly on my case about the lagging finances. So one day I had the bookkeeper print out the record of each deacon’s contributions year-to-date and put in a sealed envelope with his name on it. No one else saw the figures. That night in the monthly meeting, I emphasized the need for leaders to set the example for the congregation. I told them we had to earn the right to gripe. Then we passed out the envelopes.

“Open yours and see how you are doing," I said. "Then, you decide if you have a right to complain. If you do, let me have it with both barrels!”

The rest of the meeting was unusually quiet, and two or three of them never forgave me. Personally, I love it.

(Note to pastors: It might be just as effective to tell your leaders what I did instead of actually doing it yourself. But do as the Lord leads.)

13. Do nothing in the flesh. Wait on the Lord. A wise shepherd of God’s flock will seek God’s will and study the Word and wait on the Lord. He will seek the counsel of the Lord’s most faithful servants and stand with the leadership of the congregation. He will bless those doing well and be courageous toward the ones who are not.

Remember to love the church. When we honor the Lord’s people, we honor Him.

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

]]> (Joe McKeever) Money Tue, 29 Apr 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Why Year-End Giving Is a Good Thing Last week, a development leader of a $100-million-a-year ministry shared with me that 60 percent of their annual budget would be received in the last three months of the year, and much of that in December!

Some say it’s a shame Christian giving is influenced by the year-end tax calendar. In my opinion, this is not all bad. Our lives orbit around dates on the calendar. But what if God is actually OK with it?

We push hard Monday through Friday, and then we get a weekend rest and earn occasional breaks (Memorial Day, July 4, etc.). As we round out the year, we have more extended breaks—Thanksgiving, then Christmas.

The year-end holidays are favorites. For many families they bring extra days to hang out, feast on an abundance of food, watch some football and play corny board games with the kids.

And yes, people think about giving too. Before it’s all over and we toast into the New Year, we make sure we give our gifts.

Some church and ministry leaders are mindful to make sure the office is open on Dec. 31. They know this is the day some givers might be driving around to get their last-minute giving on the books.

Gift Calendar

One of the first things God did for the Israelites (while working out a jailbreak from Egypt) was to give them a calendar. He filled it with three special holidays, each with periods of feasting—and giving.

The Passover kicked off the beginning of the year with a nice seven-day vacation. It was early spring, when all the new momma sheep had birthed their lambs. The Israelites were careful to set aside the firstborn for sacrifice, along with every 10th sheep for the tithes. And as daddy was thumbing through the files (or knife notches on the barn stalls), he would note any vows they committed during the winter and set aside those gifts as well.

After gathering the gifts, the children strapped their portable video players to the camel humps, and the family set off for their pilgrimage to the temple to feast, celebrate, give thanks—and give gifts too.

Seven weeks later, Pentecost arrived. This was when the early crop began to show in the fields, when it was their chance to gather a firstfruits offering and thank God for the coming fall harvest.

And in the fall, landowners would bring in the full harvest, taking inventory along the way. After shutting down their fields for winter, they gathered their gifts and set off for the year’s final festival, the Feast of Tabernacles. This one lasted 21 days! (Enough time to capture each of the 35 bowl games on TV.)

God staggered the Israelite calendar with gift seasons, each in sync with the livestock and harvest seasons. Folks worked hard during the year with periodic breaks to pause, assess God’s blessings, set aside gifts—and offer them to God.

Holidays Are for You

Just as Jesus reminded us the Sabbath was for us and not the other way around, remember the holiday calendar is for you. It’s your opportunity to celebrate with family and friends, count your blessings from God—and give your gifts.

Year-end giving can be a beautiful part of our life rhythm. God enjoys giving us these breaks, celebrations and seasons of gifts. As you approach the year-end holidays, take the time to:

  • Assess your harvest. Look over your wage statements and other incomes sources. And while you’re at it, take note of your non-financial blessings as well.
  • Thank God for your blessings. He enjoys knowing you recognize these things are from Him.
  • Review your gifts throughout the year. Life gets busy. Sometimes we lose track.
  • Pray about how God would have you finish out your gift year.

And if you find yourself driving across town on Dec. 31 to drop off a check or getting online just before midnight to process one final gift transaction—don’t feel bad.

Instead, look up to the heavens, close your eyes, smile ... and then click.

Jeff Anderson has worked with churches for nearly two decades, as elder in his own church, as vice president of generosity initiatives with Crown Financial Ministries and currently as leader of

For the original article, visit

]]> (Jeff Anderson) Money Tue, 03 Dec 2013 20:00:00 -0500
Pastors, Your Physical Health Matters Too As pastors, we tend to like to focus on spiritual things. But God is the Creator of our physical bodies, and it’s in our physical bodies that we live our spiritual lives out before others.

We pastors have a tendency to let our physical health go unchecked, and we have plenty of excuses, such as our busy schedules, our calendar being heavy with meal-centered meetings, and our need to be behind a desk a lot to feed people spiritually.

For every excuse we can come up with to ignore our physical health, there are other pressing reasons to consider it:

  • Our longevity in ministry can be cut short by poor health.
  • Our sharpness of mind is affected by what we eat and our activity level.
  • We challenge others to live healthy lives, so we should set the example.
  • Our physical energy level rises to the demands of ministry if we’re in shape.
  • Our bodies are temples too, created by the Master Craftsman and placed under our stewardship.

The Bible is full of health rules and guidelines. I want to remind leaders of just six principles from God’s Word about building a healthy body. When you feel bad physically, it affects everything else. Shakespeare said it’s hard to be a philosopher with a toothache. I’d say it’s hard to be spiritually alert when you’re physically dull, when you’re tired, fatigued or out of shape.

1. Maintain your ideal weight. Scientists know that you have an ideal weight based on your bone structure and your height. First Thessalonians 4:4 says, “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” I realize there are many medical and glandular reasons for being overweight and for having weight problems, but the fact is that for many of us, we simply eat too much. You cannot eat everything you want to eat and still maintain your weight. Ecclesiastes 6:7 says, “All the labor of man is for the mouth and yet the appetite is never filled.”

2. Balance your eiet. You need to focus on controlling both the quality and the quantity of what you eat. Do you eat a balanced diet? A hamburger in both hands? I was on a seafood diet—if I see it, I get to eat it. First Corinthians 6:12-13 says, “Everything is permissible for me but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will eventually destroy them both.” The point that Paul’s making is that eating is not an end in itself. We eat to live; we don’t live to eat. It’s a means, not an end in itself. And if we get those reversed, food becomes our master.

3. Commit yourself to a regular exercise program. Most of us are convinced but not committed. You know that exercise would be good for you, but committing to it seems hard. First Timothy 4:8 says, “Physical exercise has some value.” In Paul’s day, people were very active. If Paul wrote that verse today, he’d probably change it to say that it has great value. In the New Testament times, people walked everywhere, engaged in a lot more manual labor and ate natural foods. Today, we drive everywhere, live sedentary lives and eat processed junk foods.

How do you know when you’re out of shape? You know you’re out of shape when you feel like the morning after and you didn’t go anywhere the night before. You know your body is in trouble when your knees buckle and your belt won’t. You know you’re in trouble when you see your friends running and you hope they twist an ankle. You know you’re in trouble when you breathe harder walking up a set of stairs than you do when you hold your sweetheart’s hand.

The key is training, not straining. If you want to get in shape fast, then exercise longer, not harder. Commit yourself to a regular exercise program. The fact is, your body was not designed for inactivity. You were made to be active. Even a daily walk will make a difference.

4. Get enough sleep and rest. Psalm 127:2 says, “In vain you rise up early and stay up late.” The Living Bible says, “God wants His loved ones to get their rest.” Rest is so important that God put it in the Ten Commandments. He said every seventh day, you should rest. Jesus, in Mark 6:30-32, insisted that His disciples take a vacation. Make sure you’re budgeting your time wisely. Make sure you get enough rest and sleep.

5. Reduce or avoid drinking alcohol. Ephesians 5:18 says, “Don’t get drunk with wine, which will ruin you. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” Health-conscious consumers are sobering up America. There’s been a dramatic change in America’s drinking habits. A growing number of Americans are beginning to view alcohol as unhealthy or downright dangerous. It’s not surprising industry-wide sales are dropping. These are not religious people. These are just people who are concerned about their health. And for some surprising statistics about alcohol, see this infographic.

6. Live in harmony with God. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace is life to the body.” Our emotions have a tremendous effect on our physical health, just like our physical health has a tremendous effect on our emotions. You cannot fill your life with guilt and worry and bitterness and anger and fear and expect to be in optimum health. A heart at peace gives life to the body. If you feel bad, it affects every area of your life. It’s a part of stewardship. Your body is a gift from God. What are you going to do with it?

Note: As I write this, my 10th book has just hit the shelves today, The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life, and it’s a book about what changed my life. In addition to the book, there’s an interactive website where you can track your own health progress and find small group studies and other resources to help you get healthy.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller 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, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren) Pastoral Care Thu, 05 Dec 2013 17:00:00 -0500
Thom Rainer: Pastors and Christmas Gifts I am always grateful when pastors and church members share with me topics of interest to them. Those suggestions tend to be viewed by more readers than my own ideas. I guess that says something about my creativity!

A reader recently indicated his curiosity and perhaps concern about how pastors are treated at Christmastime. In the course of posts similar to this one, I typically hear from one or two persons who are eager to point to pastors who feel entitled or who are treated too lavishly.

Please hear me clearly: Those pastors are the clear exceptions. Most pastors receive little and expect little. They see their clear call to serve and to care for the congregation.

The Question and the Concern

So I asked a simple question on Twitter: "What do you do for your pastor at Christmastime?"

For pastors, I asked what their congregations gave them at Christmas. Though my survey was not scientific, it was nevertheless revealing. I am truly concerned about how congregations treat pastors. I thought the issue of the Christmas gift would at least be an indicator of such concern.

The Responses and the Heartbreak

There were two dominant responses, each at about 40 percent of the total. One of those came from pastors or church members who shared with me they indeed did give a gift to their pastor during the Christmas season.

The most common gift noted was a cash gift equivalent to one week of salary. The pastors who received such a gift expressed deep appreciation for the thought. I sensed no attitudes of entitlement in their responses.

A second dominant response, from both pastors and church members alike, was that the pastor received nothing at Christmastime. Church members were more likely to comment on this attitude than pastors. One person said, “If it’s anything like pastor appreciation month, they won’t even know it’s Christmas.”

My heart broke as I read many of those type of responses. My pain is not so much related to the failure of a church to give a monetary or material gift; rather, it’s the failure of a church to acknowledge the gift that a pastor is during this season.

The Exhortation and the Inquiry

There are a few hundred thousand pastors in America. The vast majority of them sacrifice and give for the sake of their congregations and for the glory of God. Many of them struggle financially and, often, emotionally. A gift of some sort would do wonders for the pastor and the pastor’s family. The amount or cost of the gift is not the issue here; it is the encouragement the pastor receives when he knows he is loved and appreciated.

As we approach the season of Christmas, please remember your pastors and staff. Please let them know in some tangible way how much you truly value them.

And I would also appreciate your help informing this issue. What does your church do for the pastor and staff? What do you think your church should do for these servants of Christ?

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Pastoral Care Tue, 03 Dec 2013 14:00:00 -0500
Judge Declares Clergy Housing Exclusion Unconstitutional For more than two years, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has been closely tracking a federal court challenge brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to declare the clergy housing exclusion of Section 107 of the tax code unconstitutional.

In a decision that is sending shock waves across the religious community, a federal district court judge has declared a portion of the statute unconstitutional, leaving many ministers wondering what the impact of this case will be.

Click here to read today’s ECFA news release, “Federal District Court Rules Clergy Housing Exclusion Unconstitutional.”

While it is still too early to know all the potential ramifications of this decision, here is some of what we know up to this point and what to be looking forward to in the coming days:

  • The court’s decision applies only to ministers who receive a cash housing allowance from their employers to provide housing. Ministers who live in employer-provided housing (such as church-owned parsonages) are not affected.
  • Even ministers who receive a cash housing allowance will not be immediately impacted by the ruling. The district court’s decision on the clergy housing exclusion may be appealedby the government’s attorneys to the Seventh Circuit, where it could be overturned. Since the case was filed, attorneys for the federal government have defended the constitutionality of the clergy housing exclusion and have argued that FFRF lacked legal standing to bring the challenge in the first place.

If allowed to stand, what effect would this ruling have on clergy and their families?

  • For the most part, pastors across the country are compensated modestly for very demanding work. The history of the clergy housing allowance provided parity to pastors who did not live in church-owned parsonages.
  • Many members of the clergy have relied on this exclusion for decades. This ruling, in effect, would force clergy of nearly every religion across America to pay additional taxes, regardless of faith or creed.
  • This will either force congregations to increase clergy compensation to offset these taxes or require pastors to dig deep to see if they are able to absorb these taxes.
  • In most cases, this will lead to several thousands of dollars in additional taxes each year for clergy.
  • Retired clergy, in particular, would be impacted by this ruling, given their more limited sources of income to help offset the loss of the income tax exclusion.

Stay tuned to ECFA’s “In the News” page for future developments in these cases and for other legal, tax and finance updates affecting Christ-centered churches and nonprofit organizations.

]]> (ECFA Staff) Pastoral Care Tue, 26 Nov 2013 17:00:00 -0500
When Mental Health Issues Aren’t Sin We love to live in a black and white world. We tend to think of those who are doing well as “winning,” and those who aren’t doing well as “losing.” When things go wrong, we need to think there is a cause that could have been avoided.

Unfortunately, even with the Spirit breathing life into our souls, we live in bodies that are part of our fallen nature.

The endocrine system reacts to stress, affecting both our physical and emotional situation. Sometimes, our system gets so overloaded that our regular helps don’t work.

Then there are times that our body just goes haywire. We tend to feel alone, isolated and empty.

Someone Does Understand

I thought I had God over a barrel once, shortly after the birth of my fourth child. As I stormed around the house in a hormonal fit, I informed God, “You were not a female, you can’t possibly know what it is like to have your body go haywire like me.”

With great patience and love, God showed me a picture (in my mind) of Jesus, beaten and bleeding, carrying his cross on the road to Golgotha. In this picture, I could see the response of Jesus’ entire body to the stress he faced—both emotionally and physically. He didn’t skip up the hill, but he did manage not to give into his errant emotions. Then I heard God’s whisper “and the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives in you.”

If you are in a lonely, empty spot, be encouraged. We do not serve a God who sits far off, waiting for us to make it up the hill. We serve a risen Savior who understands what it is like to walk in the crazy space. He knows what it is like to have your emotions and entire intuitive system screaming for relief. He understands.

Others Have Walked This Road

Elijah ended up on the edge of the desert, alone, tired and unfocused. He prayed that God would just let him die.

The interesting thing is that the activities that landed Elijah in that difficult space were not sin, but fantastic, necessary ministry.

When we feel as if our life should be over, when paranoia and panic define our inner thought life, we can learn from Elijah.

Honesty. Elijah was honest with himself and God. He didn’t try to sugarcoat his situation. In fact, if he had, he would have pushed the emotions down and tried to fake it, only making the situation worse. Instead, he chose blatant honesty.

Run to the mountain. There are days where the best response to life seems to be escapism. If we could ignore our situation long enough, or push the bad feelings aside (usually through dependencies), life would get better. Yet, history and experience tells us that escapism only delays and compounds the results. In desperate need, Elijah ran to God. He didn’t try to fix his situation, or self-talk himself into his next ministry venture. He ran to God.

Expect an answer. Elijah didn’t just run to God; he expected an answer. He didn’t blame himself for his emotional situation; he knew that the only way out of this difficult position was to be infused again with the strength that only comes from knowing that God has given you a direction and purpose.

Don’t do it alone. Elijah thought he was alone. God let him know that there were plenty of people to walk with him. God even told him to go appoint Elisha as an apprentice of sorts—someone that would know Elijah from the inside out. God has put people in your life that will walk with you. You might have to reach outside your current circle, but they are around. These might be in the form of a mentor, mentee, doctor, colleague or coach. As you pray, follow up on any connections that God seems to send your way. He is directing your step, and as you walk in honesty with yourself and God, He will bring people around you who won’t judge, but will walk with you, helping you keep your eyes on Him.

When the black starts to descend, our first inclination is to work harder. This usually is the wrong response. Instead, take the opportunity to delegate. After all, if you knew you were going to get a heart transplant, you wouldn’t plan to work harder during your recovery.

When your body is in crisis, no matter whether the indication is physical or emotion, you will need recovery time. Sometimes, God provides times like this just so that we will delegate—as we give ministry away, we open up the possibility that God will expand our influence. When Elijah came down off the mountain, his influence didn’t shrink. Instead, it was multiplied through the lives of others.

Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach and can be found online at She writes a regular column for

]]> (Kim Martinez) Pastoral Care Mon, 25 Nov 2013 17:00:00 -0500
18 Ways to Motivate Yourself in Ministry When it comes to ministry leadership, I don’t focus on trying to motivate other people. I worry about motivating me, and if I’m motivated, it will be contagious.

This is true in any area of ministry. Your duty is not necessarily to motivate others. But if you stay motivated, people will catch your enthusiasm. They will catch your vision.

1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (NIV). I spend most of the weeks of the year preparing to preach multiple services on the weekend, plus writing and all of the other speaking opportunities that come along. I have to continually come up with material that is fresh and powerful and practical and witty and useful in people’s lives—and that’s a burden, but I manage to stay motivated.

This list isn’t deeply theological—it’s just practical, usable advice.

1.  Put your plans on paper (or on screen). Dawson Trotman said, ”Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” If I can say it and I can write it down, then it’s clear. If I haven’t written it down, then it’s vague. A lot of us go around with anxiety that is this free-floating, vague fear that I’m not getting it all accomplished. Just the very fact of putting it down, a lot of times, gives credence and relief to your mind and you’re able to focus on it.

2. Break big tasks into smaller tasks to remove excuses for not starting. Some tasks are way too big to be chewed on all at once, but you can tackle them like you would eat an elephant—one bite at a time. When you have a big goal, a big event or some big project going, break it down into smaller tasks, and take them one at a time.

3. Decide how you want to start. Ask yourself what needs to be done first. If your goal is to make more phone calls and personally invite more people to your church, you probably need to start by writing down the names of people you will contact. Decide what your first simple step will be.

4. Establish checkpoints in your progress. Tasks are best accomplished when they have a date attached to them. And today, there are plenty of mobile apps for making lists with reminders built in.

5. Know the difference between “I can’t” and “I don’t want to.” Be honest with yourself. Sometimes that means you’ve got to get tough. It was Ben Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac who first said, “There is no gain without pain.” Most of what’s done in the world is done by people who don’t feel like doing what they’re doing, but they do it anyway. Successful people have developed the habit of doing things unsuccessful people don’t feel like doing.

6. Remind yourself of the benefits of completing the job. Often in ministry, things become routine and repetitious. In a given week, you may be doing 20 significant tasks that you repeat every week, only to start over again. How do you prevent the feeling of mundane from setting in? You remind yourself of how it’s going to feel when you’re done.

7. Do a small part of it right now. When I have a big topic or task I need to accomplish, I just say, “I don’t want to do this, but I’ll give it five minutes.” I sit down, and after I get going in it, it’s not as intimidating. Once you’ve gotten the rocket off the launch pad, it gets so much easier. I’ve written some books. Books are overwhelming, but I give it five minutes. Every book that I’ve ever written, I sat down and wrote, “My next Book, by Rick Warren.” Sometimes you just have to start.

8. Be optimistic. I have found this to be so important in accomplishing large amounts of activities and projects and programs. Optimism creates energy. The person who says “I can” and the person who says “I can’t” are both right.

9. Establish an action environment. When you prepare messages, you need an environment where you can focus on the task at hand. I have my own study area both at home and church. Kay has her own study area too, so we don’t fight over them any more. We have two desks in one room. I clear everything off the desk when I’m going to study because I don’t want to focus on anything else. Success comes from focusing on one thing at a time.

10. Avoid places where distractions occur. I don’t do any of my sermon study at the office. The walls are thin there, and I can hear everybody having a good time outside, and I’m a party animal. I want to have fun! I don’t want to be sitting studying. I want to be out there with people. So I have to study at home to keep myself from having a great time with all these people I love at the office. And they appreciate it too! Then they get their work done.

11. Know your energy patterns and take advantage of peak times. Some of you are morning people. Some of you are night people. Have you learned that at some points in the day, you are brighter than at other times? There are times when you’re habitually at your best. The only people who are at their best all the time are mediocre people. You need to know when your body clock is geared toward maximum performance so you don’t waste maximum performance on secondary tasks. If your peak time is 10 to 12 in the morning, don’t read your mail from 10 to 12. Save those kinds of tasks for other times, like at the end of the day. Or if you’re not good in the morning, read it then. When you are good, make that your time for your ministry time and your preparation.

12. Use the stimulation of good news to do extra work. Somebody will tell me something great that happened, and it’s like God shoots another shot of adrenaline in me. All of a sudden, I’ve got a little extra bounce in my step, and I try to channel that into ministry.

13. Recognize when indecision is causing inertia. A lot of procrastination is not really procrastination; it’s indecision. For a lot of pastors, their weekly struggle is, “What am I going to preach on this next week?” which is one of the reasons I preach in series. I only have to make that decision six or seven times a year. “For the next six weeks, we’re going to talk about culture.” Try to lengthen those decision-making periods out. Identify your choices, and choose one. Don’t let it sit around.

14. Use visible reminders. Use Post-it notes or the lock screen on your phone to remind you of the big things.

15. Give yourself room to make mistakes. I give myself the right to make mistakes on any project that I’m doing. Perfectionism produces procrastination. Perfectionism paralyzes us. If it’s worth doing, do it—whether you do it perfectly or not. There are very few things in this world that are perfect.

16. Don’t set goals you don’t expect to reach. That’s because there’s no motivation in them.

17. Enlist a partner. If you’ve got a big task to do, always get a partner. Get somebody else to help you out in your ministry. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes, “Two are better than one, and a threefold cord is not easily broken.” If you’ve got a big task and it’s up to you, you’ll probably procrastinate. But if you’ve got somebody else and can say, “We’re going to meet and get this thing going,” you’re more likely to get it done.

18. Keep reading to increase your skill. If I find myself having a hard time being motivated in some area of ministry that I’m called to do, I get a book or magazine that covers that area. If you have a hard time recruiting people to your ministry, go get a book on recruitment and read it. If you’re having a hard time delegating responsibility, get a book. Remember that leaders are readers and leaders are learners. There are no great leaders who refuse to learn. And learning sharpens and motivate you to accomplish your next goals.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller 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, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren) Pastoral Care Tue, 26 Nov 2013 14:00:00 -0500
10 Reasons Leaders Need a Confidant Leaders are called to be courageous and confident yet constantly humble.

Being confident is important. But change out the e for an a in confident, and this is also a huge need for leaders: a confidant. defines confidant as “a close friend or associate to whom secrets are confided or with whom private matters and problems are discussed.”

Every leader I know needs a confidant. Here are a few thoughts on leaders having one:

1. This is not someone on your team who reports to you or is a peer.

2. This is not your boss. And for nonprofit and church leaders, this is probably not someone on your board.

3. This is probably not a family member, since family members seem to only see one side and not the whole picture.

4. Make sure it’s someone with honesty and integrity whom you are 100 percent sure won’t talk to anyone else about what you are sharing. Loose lips sink ships.

5. It is someone you can rely on, share with, lean into for tough decisions, gripe about things and receive counsel from.

6. There are lots of executive coaches out there. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea for your executive coach or life coach to potentially be a confidant. But ideally, your confidant is not someone you pay to help you.

7. A confidant doesn’t make decisions for you; they advise you. Don’t allow your confidant to be your final decision maker.

8. They have nothing to gain. Make sure your confidant is not motivated one way or the other by the outcome of your decisions. For example, as a professional athlete, many look to their agents as their confidants—but ultimately that can be a bit risky, since the agent’s job is to get more money for the athlete, thus gaining more money themselves.

9. Confidants are more for listening than they are for talking. Advice and counsel many times can be best given through a sounding board than a clanging gong.

10. Start early in your career. You don’t need to be a CEO or president to have a confidant. As a leader, having an outside voice to give advice to you at any level in the organization is helpful.

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

For the original article, visit

]]> (Brad Lomenick) Pastoral Care Wed, 20 Nov 2013 17:00:00 -0500
Nine Questions Every Pastor Should Ask Pastor, when someone asks, "How are things going at the church?" you almost always answer, "Good!" "Fine." Or "Great!"

But how do you know? How do you actually gauge how things are going?

Here are nine questions to ask yourself regularly that will help you know how it's really going, and how to make it go better:

1. What is going better than expected? (And how can we produce more of it?)

2. What could be going better? (And how will we make it better?)

3. What's the 20% we're doing that's producing 80% our results?

4. What's the 20% we're doing that is producing no results? (Can we drop this, or is it
so important that we need to redouble our efforts?)

5. What are our goals for the year?

6. What are our goals for this quarter that will enable us to accomplish our goals for
the year?

7. What key initiatives do we need to start or give more energy to this quarter?

8. Where do we need help?

9. What help can I offer to others?

Writing out your answers will increase your clarity. Once you've started answering these questions, you'll feel motivated to answer them all within the next few days. So take five minutes right now to answer question #1. What does God bring to mind and what does he want you to do about it?

Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, CA. This post is an excerpt from his latest ebook, Evaluating Your Church to Make It Better.

For the original article, view

]]> (Hal Seed) Pastoring Fri, 31 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Stick to What Works Since 2008, the world has been experimenting with a vast array of economic policies.

Some policies have never been tried before. Others have been tried before, but never on such a grand scale. Many of these creative policies have been undertaken as a result of economic and political desperation. China has been in the headlines recently.

The Shanghai composite stock market index increased more than 100 percent from June 2014 to the middle of June 2015. The Chinese government had encouraged the public to invest in stocks. Increased demand caused stock prices to explode. The stock market was adding more than one million new investors per week. Many used credit, at high interest rates, to buy stocks. From mid-June until May 8 the Shanghai index lost nearly one third of its value.

To maintain their political reputation and prevent possible social unrest, the Chinese government took action. In addition to traditional policies, experimental economic policies were also used. These policies included prohibiting major share holders from selling their stock for six months, suspending IPOs, allowing more than half of the companies on the exchange to suspend trading and lending selected brokerage houses $42 billion to buy stock. The Shanghai market was up sharply May 9 and May 10. Short-term success is not assured. Long-term costs from these actions will be significant.

In the kingdom, churches and individuals should never experiment outside the Word of God. In our 21st-century culture, too many are experimenting with alcohol, drugs, sex outside of marriage, pornography, the occult, and even their own sexuality. Pastors are experimenting with permitting or even condoning sin, not helping the poor, ignoring evangelical and missions work, selectively preaching only part of the gospel, not equipping disciples of Jesus and downplaying the Word. Experiments outside the Word always result in disappointment, frustration and despair.

But experiments within the Word are encouraged. Elijah challenged the Israelites to a grand experiment (1 Kings 18:20-39). He told them, "you set up an altar to Baal, and I will set up an altar to the Lord. We will put wood under the altar, but no fire. You call on the name of your god and I will call upon the Name of my God.  Let Him who answers by fire be God."  Note the results of the experiment:

"Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice and the wood and the stones and the dust and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!'" (1 Kings 18:38-39, MEV).

Elijah had faith, audacity, and boldness. The Lord used him to glorify His name and bring a great revival.

Perhaps we need to experiment and trust the Lord's Word. 

  •        If there are sick among us, we could experiment and publicly declare them healed in the Name of Jesus.
  •        If we are facing financial struggles, we could experiment and give more at His direction.
  •        If there is sin in the house, we could experiment and preach and model holiness and give a call for repentance.
  •        If we have been selectively preaching or living the gospel, we could experiment and preach and live all of the gospel.
  •        If we want others to understand the power of the Holy Spirit, we could experiment and publicly demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit.

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us" (Eph. 3:20, MEV).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James R. Russell ) Pastoring Wed, 15 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
13 Realities of Angry Pastors This is a very important post because the content below is going to save someone's job and ministry. For others, it will be a sad reminder of a lost opportunity.

For another group, the information will be laughed off and ignored to their own peril.

The only difference between anger and danger is the letter "D." This is especially true for pastors. Over the past three decades, I have encountered several pastors with anger issues.  The stories never ended well.

The following are 13 realities of angry pastors:

1. Angry pastors have experienced significant pain and disappointment. Hurt people hurt people, even when they are pastors.

2. Angry pastors have control issues. They get angry when they cannot control others and/or situations.  This often reveals itself when they are questioned.  Angry pastors frequently confuse questions with questioning.

3. Angry pastors have short tenures. Because they lack emotional intelligence and needlessly burn so many bridges, attendance and giving decline. The people have voted with their feet and wallets. The pastor is ultimately removed.

4. Angry pastors lead smaller and smaller congregations. Interestingly, anger limits the size of churches you can be entrusted with. I know of one pastor who pastored a historically strong church averaging 800 in attendance. Upon his self-destruction, the only church he could now get was less than 100 in attendance.

5. Angry pastors offend leaders. Leaders WANT to help you and just as importantly, CAN help you.  But angry pastors poorly steward these relationships.  Board meetings are filled with tenseness, lack of forgiveness, unhealthy conflict, walls being built and finally broken relationships.

6. Angry pastors have short fuses. Bursts of anger are commonplace with staff and leadership.  People begin to walk on eggshells and merely keep their heads down.

7. Angry pastors lose top staff. Quality staff members leave churches with angry pastors.  Life is too short and they have other options.

8. Angry pastors like to fight. The sad reality is angry pastors are more comfortable in unhealthy environments than healthy environments.  So even if a culture is healthy, they self-destruct it because they cannot function where there is peace.

9. Angry pastors become merely positional leaders. If a pastor proclaims, "I am the pastor", he/she is no longer the leader.  If a leader has to tell you they are the leader, they are not.  They are now leading by position rather than influence.

10. Angry pastors do lasting harm to churches. Every church I know formerly led by an angry pastor declined in attendance and rarely returned to its previous level of impact.  Also, future leadership teams begin making decisions in light of "not wanting to go down that road again."  Ironically, the previous angry pastor is still impacting decisions being made.

11. Angry pastors lack self awareness.  They have a perverted sense of being right and everyone else is wrong.  Here is a tip to know if you are preaching in an angry manner—watch your sermons with the volume down.  What are your mannerisms and facial expressions communicating?

12. Angry pastors need a counselor. They have personal issues they need to deal with.

13. Angry pastors may need a new profession. I have heard pastors state their primary calling is to break the legs of the sheep, place the sheep over their shoulders and carry them back to the herd.  No compassion.  No empathy.  No mercy.  Well, no problem because you will ultimately have no job.

If you are an angry pastor, here are five steps you need to take today:

1. Repent of your sin.

2. Apologize to all those you have offended.  You will need to this in each of the following—one-on-one conversations, to staff and leadership teams, and most likely to the congregation during a Sunday sermon.

2. Seek professional assistance. Contact a Christian counselor and work through your issues.

4. Become a learner. Get some leadership training, particularly in the areas of emotional intelligence and people skills.

5. Bring accountability into your life. Have the leaders in your church partner with you on a solution to this issue.

You most likely still have time to repair your ministry because your congregation does not want to fire you. But if you stay angry, they will.

Brian Dodd's daytime job is as a Generosity Architect and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. During the last 10+ years, he has spent each day having one-on-one conversations with many of the greatest church leaders in America. He also has over 25 years of church volunteer and staff experience. Check out his blog: Brian Dodd on Leadership.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Brian K. Dodd) Pastoring Thu, 09 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
13 Truths About Spiritual Warfare for Leaders Over the past 20 years, I have studied, written, and taught about spiritual warfare. Based on that work, here are some warfare reminders for church leaders:

1. The Bible is not a book about the devil. The Bible is about God. This truth matters, as many people interested in spiritual warfare give the devil more attention than the Bible does. That approach simply distorts the biblical picture of warfare.

2. The enemy is real. Paul was clear that we wrestle against principalities and powers (Eph. 6:12). Peter knew an enemy seeks to devour us like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8). No hermeneutical gymnastics can legitimately erase this spiritual reality.

3. The battle is not ours. David recognized that when he fought Goliath (1 Sam. 17:47). Jehaziel reminded Jehoshaphat of that truth (2 Chron. 20:15). God is our warrior (Exo. 15:3). He always has been and always will be.

4. People are not the enemy. Paul was equally clear that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. Even when people frustrate and anger us, they are not the enemy. When we remember this truth, we will love, shepherd, and pray for people differently.

5. Leaders are a primary target for the enemy. That truth shouldn't surprise us. The enemy knows that when leaders fall, followers are wounded in the process. I doubt I need to spend time listing the prominent Christian leaders who have fallen in the last few years.

6. The enemy strikes at marriages. Satan sought to divide Adam and Eve (Adam turned on Eve and blamed her after their sin in Gen. 3), and he has attacked marriages since then. When marriages are destroyed, their witness to the gospel (Eph. 5:25) gets distorted – and, future generations are harmed in the process.

7. Self-dependence is evidence of the enemy's work. Satan is not alarmed by church leaders who operate in their own ability. All of our training and experience is no match for the subtle schemes of the enemy.

8. Hiddenness is a warning signal. The enemy often operates in the darkness. He delights when we sin and choose to keep our sin in the secret places of our lives. In no way does he want us to confess our sin.

9. Leaders often fight their battles alone. Sometimes leaders must stand alone, but too often they have no close team around them to help them win spiritual battles. Loners are by nature vulnerable to attack and defeat.

10. Sometimes leaders take on the enemy with too little prayer. Self-confident leaders are like Jesus' disciples who tried to cast out a demon without praying (Mark 9:14-29). They do not pray, pray only superficially, or pray only after the battle has been lost.

11. Even the best leaders may find themselves in non-stop warfare by God's design. The Apostle Paul was God's uniquely called apostle, but still he dealt with an ongoing thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-10). God left Paul in the battle so he would always recognize God as his strength.

12. Spiritual defeat need not be final. Simon Peter failed miserably when he denied knowing Jesus (Luke 22:54-61), but the story was not over. Jesus welcomed him back into His band of disciples and then used him to preach the gospel to Jerusalem (Acts 2).

13. The enemy will not ultimately win. He will spend eternity in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10). Whether planting churches or revitalizing established congregations, church leaders can know they are ultimately on the winning side. Hell will not defeat the church.

Take time now to thank the Lord for victory in the battle.

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

]]> (Chuck Lawless ) Pastoring Fri, 03 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
3 Reasons Why Student Pastors Make Great Senior Pastors First Baptist Church in West Monroe (First West) is a great church that has served North Louisiana well for a long time. A year ago they asked their student pastor, Michael Wood, to serve as their senior pastor.

Not only were the people convinced of his character, as they watched his life for several years, but Michael is a great teacher and a strong leader with a passion for the Lord and people. (Full disclosure: My niece served on his team in the student ministry and still serves on staff there. She and others rave about his leadership in both contexts). Michael is just one example of a student pastor transitioning to a senior pastor.

When leaders or search teams have asked me if a student ministry pastor can transition to a senior pastor role, I always respond with, "Absolutely."

My response is predicated on the understanding that the person is already a qualified pastor (1 Timothy 3) and that pastoring in student ministry is not a mere stepping stone to being a "real pastor." Student pastors are real pastors.

My response is not to diminish the challenges of the transition or to lower the expectations of the senior pastor role but to highlight the transferrable parts of being an effective student pastor with being an effective senior pastor. And a lot transfers. Much carries over.

1. Communication. Student pastors are already in a regular rhythm of communication, of preparing messages, and of teaching and preaching the Scripture. They not only organize the student ministry, but they regularly stand in front of teenagers to preach and teach. Some of our generation's most effective preachers began their ministries preaching to teenagers.

Practically, if you can hold the attention of a teenager, you can hold anyone's attention, so student ministry makes you a better communicator. The teaching rhythm of a senior pastor is relentless. Sundays keep coming at a steady pace. And student ministry leaders have experience in that rhythm.

2. Incarnation. Student ministry is highly relational. Student ministry forces leaders to learn how students think, the challenges they are facing, and their fears and struggles. Effective student ministry leaders love students, step into their world and think missionally about how to engage surrounding campuses with the gospel.

Effective student pastors learn about and love students, and the discipline of accessing the culture and loving people in it is highly transferrable to the senior pastor role. A senior pastor who was once a student pastor is likely a relationally driven senior pastor, someone who loves people well.

3. Administration. By administration, I don't mean being excellent in details or overly operational. I am referring to leading a ministry through other people. Effective student pastors don't attempt to shepherd all the students alone; they build a community of adult leaders who shepherd students. They view their leaders as a volunteer army to serve the students.

In other words, because student ministry requires an army of leaders, student pastors learn leadership. Thus, an effective student ministry pastor is a proven leader of leaders, and this transfers immediately to being a senior pastor.

So can this person, who is currently a student pastor, really be an option for our senior pastor position? Absolutely. 

Eric Geiger serves as the vice president of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, Eric served local churches, most recently investing eight years as the executive pastor of Christ Fellowship Miami. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church

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]]> (Eric Geiger ) Pastoring Tue, 16 Jun 2015 21:00:00 -0400
16 Often Unknown Roles of a Pastor "What is it you have to do when you're not preaching?"

"Must be nice to only work one day a week."

"I'd like to come see you this afternoon. Since it's not Sunday I'm assuming you're free."

Believe it or not, I've heard all of those. Most are simple misunderstandings. Sometimes people are just trying to be funny.

I must admit. It's not always funny—not laugh out loud funny at least, because the jokes have grown stale by now. They are still new to someone I suppose.

But, especially when it's said as an indictment that pastors have it "easy" it can even hurt. That's probably true even more for my pastor friends in smaller churches where they carry the weight of multiple staff positions.

So, what does a pastor do when not preaching?

That is a valid question. This is not meant to seem as a complaining post, but an informational post. You only know what you know. I don't know what the doctor does when not seeing patients or all the things that teacher does when not in the classroom. Every job has its own responsibilities that are clearly known until you do the job.

The answer for pastors is—lots of things. Lots. A day is seldom the same.

The pastor wears many hats. Some of them of which you may not even be aware.

Here are 16 often unknown roles of a pastor:

1. Counselor. All pastors do some counseling. Many pastors—I might add most pastors—are not qualified to do extensive counseling. They can't commit the required time, nor do they have the expertise. Still, some counseling is a part of nearly every pastor job.

2. Career coach. One of the most frequent requests for my ministry help has to do with people's career steps—from school to employment. And, I've heard similar from other pastors. Because work—or lack of work—greatly impacts a person's life it is a huge part of the pastor's life. In fact, I keep a file of people in our church who are looking for work or looking for someone to hire.

3. Business advisor. It may be because I have a business background, but I think it also comes with the role. Business leaders—especially self-employed business owners—want help discerning the right decisions. (I admire that about them.) One place they consistently seeking input from is the pastor.

4. Custodian. I can't stand a piece of paper on the floor. If I see a trashcan overflowing—I don't call someone—I do something about it. Most pastors I know want the facility ready when people arrive. So, they do what they have to do. In fairness, I don't do much of this. Mine is a more supervisory role. We have a large facility and an excellent team. I do know pastors, however, that have to help on a larger role in facility maintenance or custodial care.

5. Arbitrator. I've stood between a few people before trying to work through division and build cooperation. It could be in a marriage or I have even been between business partners in the church. People often want a third-party objective and many times they look to the pastor for that role.

6. Social worker. I read a definition of social worker recently. Seeks to improve the quality of life and subjective well-being of individuals, families, couples, groups, and communities through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, crisis intervention, and teaching. Yea. That.

7. Volunteer coordinator. Every pastor must learn how to coordinate the efforts of different people, who communicate uniquely, and have their expectations of volunteer leadership.

8. Events manager. I need to be honest. I don't fill this one often, although I do have some responsibilities with events. I am no good at the details of it and thankfully there are people in our church who can fulfill this role better than me. But, most pastors, including me, have responsibility for events at some level.

9. CEO. Let me be very clear that Jesus is the CEO of the church. (Some may argue Jesus is the owner and He left us to provide everyday leadership—under His direction.) If I get critics on this one criticism it will be because they misunderstand what I'm saying or maybe on my ability to say it where they can interpret it accurately. But make no mistake about it—the pastor is expected to lead so many aspects of the church. On every major decision of the church most churches want the input of the pastor. Regardless of the structure of the church it can feel very much like a CEO position. (And, I've been one in my previous business career.) This is one of the larger uses of my "non-preaching" time. By the way, I have talked with dozens of pastors who don't feel prepared for this role.

10. Fundraiser. Ministry takes money. And, most of the church looks to the pastor to be the primary solicitor of contributions. (Honestly, it's a huge burden to most pastors and one they don't feel comfortable doing.)

11. Recruiter. No church can function without volunteers or leaders. Most pastors are consistently looking for new people to get involved and lead ministries of the church. And the search for volunteers is a continuous effort.

12. Trainer. Pastors consistently help people learn how to do something. Whether it involves life skills or how to function within a ministry of the church, one of a pastor's primary goals is to help people improve in areas of their life.

13. Scholar. I'm not the smartest person in our church. But, at the same time, the church has a certain level of expectation regarding my understanding of history, the Bible, and current events—locally and around the world. Most expect the pastor is to be well spoken and well read.

14. Writer. I estimate I average five to seven writing assignments a week beside my message and my blog. Bulletin articles. Church-wide emails. Letters of recommendations.

15. Manager. Every pastor manages someone—even if they are volunteers. In fact, volunteer management may actually be more difficult.

16. Public relations. This part of a pastor's role is increasing daily. The days when a Sunday announcement or bulletin announcement would get the word out to the church are gone. With so many mediums to communicate and people's divided attention among them—not to mention the frequency of attendance for many in the church—communicating to people has become a huge challenge for pastors.

There's my list. I'm sure there are others. And, it's a labor of love—certainly of calling—for most pastors I know, but it requires more than preaching.

And, I didn't even mention politician. 

Granted, the size of the church will often determine the amount of time spent on anyone of these. But, except in exceptionally larger churches, the pastor wears multiple hats. It's certainly more than a Sunday job. And, many pastors, myself for one, spend up to half or two-thirds of our week preparing for Sunday.

It should also be noted (and this is an edited addition resulting from a comment) —the pastor shouldn't do ALL of this. I spend much of my energies helping pastors learn to be better leaders that ultimately means learning to delegate. I believe in the Acts 6 and Jethro models of pastoral leadership. 

Thankfully, I serve in a church where most of these tasks are primarily assigned to other staff members for direct oversight. I actually had other pastors in mind when I wrote this more than myself. But, in all of these roles, at some level, in most churches they are under the pastor's purview. If there is a need for or problem with one of them the pastor will be looked to ensure it is addressed. Therefore, whether or not the pastor does all of these personally, there is a level of responsibility. To ignore this and point to an "ideal" job description of a pastor would be naive, in my opinion. 

One final thought, considering these roles, imagine how that plays out for bi-vocational pastors. Say an extra prayer for those pastors.

Pastors, are there any other roles we serve?

Ron Edmondson is the lead pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Pastoring Tue, 16 Jun 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Many Pastors and Leaders Silently Regret This I recently quoted Dr. John Maxwell in my post "24 Things Successful Leaders Are Thinking" when he said, "Ninety-nine percent of great ideas never become a reality. They just stay in the mind. It's not the thought you have in the shower. It's what you do with it after you dry off."

Sadly, many leaders have an inability to effectively follow through. We will never know how many dreams God placed in leaders' hearts that went unfulfilled.

One of the primary reasons leaders do not act is fear. This may surprise you but recently, Bryan Miles, co-founder of MAG Bookkeeping, discussed this topic in detail. The following are his thoughts:

Feeling great about a new idea is awesome. Dealing with the feeling of impossibility about your new idea ... well, that isn't so great. And that is where a lot of great people with great ideas get hung up and never jump (aka take the leap).

If you've ever balked at an idea that you felt passionate about ... you won't like what I am about to tell you.

Your next big thing in life is simply a decision to do it.

That's it. A decision. A decision to act. To take a step. Move forward. I beg you, please don't throw away any ideas because you think they are impossible. Just make a decision to achieve it, and do it.

Yes, there will be plenty of days ahead where you must critically think through your next steps, get funding, find people, sell and grind it out. But, for now ... let those things wait. They'll come soon enough. I'll never forget when I made my decision to jump. It was in a marina in Seattle. That moment in time changed me.

I talk with a lot of people with "silent regret" because at the moment they had a great idea ... they paused too long, felt it impossible, too daunting ... and fear pulled them back from the edge and regret anchored in their soul. It's a shame because the world needs talented minds connected to great ideas to solve social problems, disrupt old-thinking industries, challenge models, and create good.

Be brave. Make a decision to act. Your next big thing in life is truly, simply just a decision to do it.

As an entrepreneur, Bryan and his wife Shannon know a lot about taking risks and moving forward on good ideas. One of their organizations, MAG Bookkeeping, has become the gold standard of virtual bookkeepers. This would have never happened if they would not have thought outside the box and then had the courage to launch this organization.

What idea do you need to "jump" or "launch"?  I pray you have the courage to do so today.

Brian Dodd's daytime job is as a Generosity Architect and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. During the last 10-plus years, he has spent each day having one-on-one conversations with many of the greatest church leaders in America. He also also has over 25 years of church volunteer and staff experience. Check out his blog: Brian Dodd on Leadership.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Brian K. Dodd) Personal Character Thu, 20 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
The Value of Leading From One Place of Ministry Long Term I recently had the privilege of honoring one of America's great pastors—a wonderful co-worker in ministry, a powerful force for good in the city of Los Angeles and dear friend of mine. Bishop Charles Blake has pastored West Angeles Church in the heart of L.A. for 46 years.

That's what you call "putting down roots" in a congregation and city. There aren't many pastors who've cared for one congregation for that long. (One of my six mentors served his church in Dallas for 50 years.)

A big reason why many churches are plateaued and declining is they change leaders every few years. There's no way a church can grow healthy and strong if the office of the pastor has a revolving door. What would happen to a family that got a new daddy every three or four years? The children would have massive trust issues from not knowing whom they can count on, and all kinds of emotional wounds, including a fear of abandonment, poor self-esteem and a suspicious attitude in every relationship. When so many pastors move around every few years (or they are forced to move by their denomination), it's no wonder many churches are weakened by conflict, cliques, gossip and distrust.

Usually in a church, the first year for a new pastor is the "honeymoon"—everybody tries to get along and be happy. (Actually it's not really a honeymoon, just suspended judgment). The second year for new pastor, he starts to be criticized by people who don't like his new direction for the church. The seven last words of the church are "We've never done it that way before!"

By the third or fourth year, somebody has to leave ... either the pastor leaves, or those who are dissatisfied leave. From 35 years of coaching pastors and mediating church conflicts between members and their pastors, I've seen this over and over: When the pastor leaves, the problems stay. (They're left for the next poor pastor to deal with.) But if the pastor stays, the problems leave. Either the problem is eventually solved, or the problem-creators move to another church. It's sad that one study showed that the average pastor gives up and leaves because of seven vocal critics.

When I planted Saddleback Church 35 years ago, I made a public commitment to our first members to stay as their pastor—through thick and thin—for 40 years. God willing, I intend to keep that commitment. It has not always been easy. I've wanted to resign on many Monday mornings. But like my marriage vow, I made a commitment to God that I do not take lightly.

Looking back, and then looking at all the good Saddleback has accomplished around the world, I'm grateful that I never gave up on my calling or the vision God gave me, or the precious people He placed under my care and leadership (1 Pet. 5:1-3; Heb. 13:17). But I'm even more grateful that God never gave up on me, because I'm not the same man I was when Kay and I started the church 35 years ago. While the church was growing, God was growing me.

God is a systematic God. He created the solar system. The animal kingdom and plant kingdom are systems in a finely balanced environment. Your body is a collection of systems—digestive, respiratory, nervous, skeletal, circulatory and other systems. Just as God designed your body to function around nine systems, the body of Christ, the church, is designed to function around five biblical systems.

While pastoring Saddleback, it's also been my privilege to assist and train other pastors in setting up the biblical systems of fellowship, worship, discipleship, service and evangelism. At last count, I've served over 440,000 pastors from 164 countries. In every training program, I've told pastors the same thing: I can teach you the personal character (Ps. 78:72), the biblical purposes (Matt. 22:37-40, 28:19-20), the New Testament structure (Acts 5:42) and the necessary skills (Eccl. 10:10) that will grow a congregation, but I cannot teach you how to do it quickly!

To grow something strong and healthy takes time. When God wants to make a mushroom, He takes six hours but when he wants to make an oak tree, He takes 60 years. So here's the question: Do you want your church to be a mushroom or an oak tree? If you want it to last, you can't grow it fast. True discipleship takes time.

One thing that I'm not a fan of are published lists of the "fastest-growing churches." They reinforce short-term thinking. But strength, not speed, is what matters. No one cares how long it took Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. What matters is its lasting beauty. Fast-growing churches don't impress me. I could teach you a dozen ways to attract a crowd fast, but a crowd is not a church!

What impresses me are the number of disciples in small group fellowship, active with the spiritual habits, serving in ministry and being sent out on mission. You judge the strength of a church not by its seating capacity but by its sending capacity. Yes, we've baptized over 42,000 adult believers, but just as importantly, Saddleback Church has over 40,000 studying the Bible each week in small groups, over 27,000 members serving in what we call bivocational ministries, and has sent 24,869 of our member to serve overseas in 197 countries. You can't do any of that quickly!

You have to stay put and be patient. There are instant crowds, but no instant churches, and attendance is only one of a dozen vital signs of a healthy congregation.

There are too many advantages and benefits of staying in one place for ministry than I have space to mention in this post. But here's one benefit I've witnessed over and over: When you lead with love and integrity, your ministry gets better every year. But if you don't lead with love and integrity, it gets worse and more difficult every year. You can pretend to love people for a few years, but you can't fake love for 35 years! The people figure out if you are legit, because there is never a moment when they aren't watching you, and testing your credibility.

If you are a leader, people are constantly doing a "credit check" on you before they invest themselves. People want to know 1. Does my pastor love me? 2. Does he practice what he preaches? and 3. Does he lead by example, making the first sacrifice? The Good Shepherd lays down His life for his sheep. And if a pastor does that humbly and consistently year after year after year, the people will follow you anywhere ... even if it means charging hell with squirt guns!

I don't have space to explain the background and reasons, but one time the members of Saddleback church voted unanimously by anonymous ballot to purchase a $13 million dollar piece of property—without knowing the purchase price, because I had said two words: "Trust me." Of course I would not have even attempted to suggest that in the early years of Saddleback. But after a 20-year track record of love, sacrifice, wise decisions and a willingness to own up to my mistakes and weaknesses, I had earned their trust.

Bishop Charles Blake is that kind of leader. For 48 years he has been able to impact Los Angeles in ways no other pastor I know has because he stayed put! In 1 Timothy 1:12, Paul said, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful and appointed me to the ministry." Ministry is received, not achieved. It is a gift of God's grace. And if God puts you into ministry, then you must stay put until He announces other plans for you!

And if you're a pastor who could use some fresh perspective and encouraging coaching for your church, this Nov. 10–13, I'm going to teach an invitation-only, four-day intensive conference called New Hope For Your Church. I'm going to share everything I've learned about pastoring since I wrote The Purpose Driven Church 20 years ago. I'll share the mistakes I made (so you can avoid them), the lessons I've learned the hard way, and most important of all, the biblical steps to revitalizing a plateaued or declining church.

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 best-seller 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, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren ) Personal Character Thu, 20 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
12 Questions For a Sixth-Month Spiritual Checkup At this time last year, I wrote a post on "10 Questions for a Six-Month Spiritual Checkup." If you haven't done a spiritual self-reflection yet this year, I encourage you to take time to read those previous questions and analyze your spiritual life today. Then, review the questions in this post to look at your life at an even deeper level.

1. Do you need to forgive someone? Jesus is clear that if we don't forgive others, the Father does not forgive us (Matt. 6:14-15). So, while we may think our anger is justified, it only hurts us to stay bitter. The cost, in fact, is serious as it harms our relationship with God.

2. Does your daily talk reflect godliness? It's hard to read Ephesians 5:4 ("Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving") without evaluating our daily conversations. If other believers heard everything you said last week, would your witness be strengthened or harmed?

3. Does your budget reflect a commitment to God's work? I know it sounds trite, but what we give toward God's work really does have eternal dividends. Any sacrifice so others may know Jesus is no sacrifice at all. Would your checkbook show you prioritize God's kingdom?

4. Do you know your neighbors and co-workers? It's easy to be so "on the go" that we know our neighbors and co-workers on only a superficial basis, if we know them at all – which makes it difficult to share Christ with them. Even our prayer for them is surface-level if we don't know them.

5. Do you pray regularly for leaders? Regardless of our political positions, we are mandated to pray for those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Think about those for whom you might pray: school officials, bosses, mayors, governors, the president. Obedience here is especially important in this election season.

6. Do you read more blog posts than you do the Bible? Obviously, I tread softly here, as I'm deeply grateful you're reading this post. On the other hand, what bloggers have to say is nothing compared to the Word of God.

7. Do you pray only when you have to? Many of us pray more reactively than proactively. Prayer is not in our DNA; it is only our response when we face something we can't handle. That kind of praying misses the point of being in a relationship with God.

8. If you're married, does your marriage reflect the love of Jesus for His church? Do you love your spouse sacrificially (Eph. 5:25), to the point of being willing to die? Would your spouse agree with your response to that question?

9. Are you hiding anything? Hiddenness is usually a sign the enemy is winning in one's life. Then, the anguish of such sin is only deepened by the efforts we expend trying to keep it covered up.

10. Do you really love God's church? Paul thanked God for the Corinthians at the beginning of his letter to them (1 Cor. 1:4-9) and expressed his love for them in his closing (1 Cor. 16:24). In between, though, he described them as a mess. Only God can give us this kind of love for His bride, especially when the church is problematic.

11. Are you ready to quit? Maybe your church role has drained you to the point you wonder if it's worth the effort. If your faith is being stretched to its limit, I encourage you to gather prayer partners and talk with friends before giving up.

12. Where do you most need to strengthen your walk with God for the rest of this year? Reading this post will make no difference unless you make an intentional plan to change. Tell us what commitments you are making, and give us the privilege of praying for you.

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

]]> (Chuck Lawless) Personal Character Thu, 13 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
5 Wrong Ways to Respond to Criticism Criticism accompanies leadership.

Every leader knows this. Make any decision and some will agree and some won't.

The only way to avoid criticism as a leader is to do nothing.

If a leader is taking an organization somewhere, and really even if he or she isn't, someone will criticize his or her efforts.

That said, the way a leader responds to criticism says much about the maturity of the leader and the quality of his or her leadership.

Here are five wrong ways to respond to criticism:

Finding Fault With the Critic

Instead of admitting there might be validity to the criticism, many leaders immediately attempt to discredit the person offering it. Granted, there may be fault—and some people are terrible complainers (some are just mean), but it's never helpful to start there.

Blaming Others

Many leaders realize the criticism may be valid, but they aren't willing to accept personal responsibility, so they pass it along to others. This is dangerous on so many levels and is truly poor leadership.

Returning Criticism

Often a leader will receive criticism, and instead of analyzing whether there is validity or not, the leader begins to criticize other organizations or leaders. It's a very immature response. In elementary school it went like this—"I know you are, but what am I?"

Ignoring an Opportunity to Learn

This is a big one, because criticism can be a great teaching tool. It needs a filter. The person and circumstances need to be taken into consideration, but with every criticism rests an opportunity to learn something positive for the organization or about the leader.


Many leaders are so fearful of conflict they attempt to satisfy all critics, even if they never intend to follow through or make changes because of the criticism. They say what the critic wants to hear. If there is no merit to criticism then don't act like there is merit. Be kind, but not accommodating.

I've been guilty of all of these at one time or another. Awareness is half the battle. Identifying the wrong ways to respond to criticism and working to correct this in your leadership is part of growing as a leader.

In my next post I'll share some right ways to respond to criticism.

What else would you add as a wrong way to respond to criticism?

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.

]]> (Ron Edmondson) Personal Character Mon, 03 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Ten Habits Great Leaders Should Never Have What habits are keeping you from getting your work done?

Bad habits equal bad leadership.

Here are 10 Habits you must break to be more productive:

1. Overloading

Have you ever been in the middle of one task and then started another, only later to realize that you didn't finish either? Multitasking seems like a good idea at the time, but often leads to nothing. Concentrate on the important task until it is finished, before starting something else.

2. Making Excuses

We have become desensitized to accountability. When something doesn't get it done, we immediately look for something or someone else to blame. As the cliche goes, "Life isn't always fair." Get it done anyway.

3. Email Obsession

How many times do you check email in a day? 10, 20, 50, 100? Stop checking your email. Instead, do your work.

4. Focus on the negative

The news is best consumed in small doses. If you read the news these days there is simply too much. Too much negativity. Too much inaccuracy. Too much wasted time. Don't endlessly surf the news websites, and instead let the news come to you. Get a few RSS feeds. Read the news once a day.

5. Being Unorganized

You may be telling yourself (and others) that you know exactly where everything is on your desk. However, a messy desk impedes your ability to efficiently do work. Piles are not organization, so clean them up today.

6. Complaining

Don't be one of those people who goes through life complaining instead of doing. If you aren't happy about something, then do something about it. You can leave your job. You can start new relationships. You can even change things about yourself if you try hard enough.

7. Unhealthy Eating

Eating junk food on a regular basis is a sure road trip to an unhealthy lifestyle. However, it is also responsible for derailing your energy level in the afternoon. Instead of being a post-lunch zombie, eat a healthy meal that will actually fuel your body.

8. Skipping Exercise

When things get hectic, one of the first things to go is exercise. Don't use "I don't have time to workout," as an excuse. (See #2) You do have time to work out. Don't underestimate exercise's ability to power your motivation and energy level.

9. Being Chained to your phone

Who is in charge, you or your smartphone? Don't answer it just because it rings. Don't jump at every beep, chirp, and vibration. Remember, it is there for your convenience, not the other way around.

10. Doing it just "Good Enough"

When you don't give something your all, you end up with a half-done job. As Jeffrey Mayer said, If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it again? Always bring your A-game, and do it right the first time and do it with class.

It may be time you replaced a few of those bad habits with a better ones.

Question: What bad habits do you have that impact your productivity?

Artie Davis is the pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Orangeburg, S.C. He heads the Comb Network and the Sticks Conference. He speaks and writes about leadership, ministry, church planting and cultural diversity in the church. You can find his blog at or catch him on Twitter @artiedavis.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Artie Davis) Personal Character Fri, 31 Jul 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Occupational Hazard: A Pastor's Natural Disposition Toward This "I was born with a natural disposition toward shallowness. I now work as a pundit and columnist. I'm paid to be a narcissistic blowhard, to volley my opinions, to appear more confident about them than I really am, to appear smarter than I really am, to appear better and more authoritative than I really am. I have to work harder than most people to avoid a life of smug superficiality. – David Brooks, "The Road to Character"

We preachers have a great deal in common with "pundits and columnists."

We are constantly driving ourselves to produce the next sermon, the next church program, the next article, no matter whether we are clear on the subject or not. We work to appear confident even if we have not worked out the details.

We gravitate toward superficiality and shallowness.

It goes with the job, I suppose. Is it an occupational hazard?

I said many of us, not all.

Once in a while there comes along a Clive Staples Lewis with deeper insights into the Scripture, better understanding of Christian principles, and a clearer handle on the facts of life, and we line up to drink at his fountain.

I suspect one reason we love C. S. Lewis is he does the hard thinking for us, and saves us the trouble. I have found myself quoting him, not only because he produces great sound bytes, but because he is clear on a matter that I've not thought through. So, it's easier just to quote him.

Shallowness: A way of life for many of us in the ministry.

There is a reason for this sad condition: When you are under the gun to turn out three sermons a week–some do more, others less–in addition to all the other tasks pastors must attend to, you simply do not have the time to pursue most subjects to the depth you should and would like.

I criticize pastors who plagiarize, but I understand how it happens.

Our people are not unlike the Athenians of old, who "spent their time in nothing else, but either telling or hearing something new" (Acts 17:21).

The typical congregation resembles a ravenous animal that must be fed relentlessly, voluminously, Scripturally.

Pastors must be the model of self-discipline. Unless we can make ourselves get up early, leave the phone on the charger, and turn our attention to the Lord and His Word—and then, to do the hard work of thinking about the Lord and His Word—we will feed our people on "the milk of the word" for our entire ministry.

Unless we make ourselves say 'no' to a hundred lesser calls for our time and energy in order to do the harder work of listening to the Lord, we will remain spiritual dwarfs ourselves and fail to grow disciples.

Self-discipline is the key to everything, I suspect.

I think of a farmer going into his field and snipping off runners of a watermelon vine in order to allow the plant to channel its resources for greater production.

In a similar metaphor, our Lord said the farmer "prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit" (John 15:2, HCSB).

Pruning away the unnecessary, the lesser important, the outdated—that is the work of self-discipline.

We make ourselves do the harder thing for the greater good.

It's why seminary students should take Hebrew and Greek and work at learning to read their Bibles in the original languages.

It's why seminarians should take systematic theology whether their particular degree requires it or not. They need to think about these matters and consider how they fit together, and whether what they preach is biblical.

It's why seminarians must study church history. So many modern detours and diversions opening before God's people have historical precedents in heresies that the church has suffered from, faced up to, and dealt with.

It's why we must become students first, and then thinkers.

A thinker is not necessarily a deep thinker. This is not a plea for everyone to become particularly profound, but rather especially thorough. And nothing accomplishes this like simply thinking these matters through.

Studying takes isolation and focus. Thinking takes time and quietness.

I've sometimes wondered about Abraham Lincoln. Here was a man whose reading material for much of his life would occupy only a few shelves in my library. And yet, reading his speeches, one comes away knowing here is a learned man, an educated one.

How did this happen? And why did it not happen to me?

My answer, for what it's worth, is that he lived in a quiet world and had much time to himself. He had none of the modern diversions that simultaneously attract us and destroy us: television, computers, phones, automobiles, and such.

So, while Lincoln worked and walked, he thought about what he read.

"in His law he meditates day and night" (Ps. 1:2, MEV).

Meditation: What a novel concept.

Often, I will read a great article or inspiring book, but when it's over, I walk away and retain very little of it. Lincoln read and thought about it, then read more. And thus he retained it, and it shaped his character.

I suggest to pastors they take long walks and reflect on their texts. On long drives in the automobile, they should turn off the audio system and talk to the Lord and to themselves about the Scriptures they are planning to preach, the stories they plan to tell, the points they need to make. Talk, then pray, and then be quiet and listen. Then, repeat the process.

One reason Winston Churchill appeared so eloquent in his off-the-cuff remarks, we're told, is that they were not impromptu. He had rehearsed his ad-libs time and again. Pastors would do well to imitate that practice.

After all, even if on the surface it appears the congregation wants something new all the time, pastors do well to get clear on the proper nutrients to enable God's people to live healthy and effective lives of faithful discipleship, and then feed the flock accordingly.

Those "proper nutrients" will turn out to be the essence of the Scripture's message, and the basics that the Holy Spirit has taught this pastor.

There is no shortcut to arriving at one's own understanding of that. We must "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).

After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Joe McKeever) Personal Character Fri, 24 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Pastor, Would You Follow This Prayer Plan? As goes the pastor, so goes the church. As goes the church, so goes the nation—and the world. Church revitalization begins with pastoral revitalization. Our spiritual health will directly affect the health of our ministries.

There is no historic record of revival or revitalization apart from intentional prayer. Jesus modeled for us how church leaders can and should pray in John 17. He starts off praying for Himself, then for His disciples, then future believers and leaders like us. This is a simple and effective model that we can use in our own prayer lives, especially if we are hoping for revival in our own lives and churches.

1. Jesus prayed for Himself first. Praying for ourselves may seem counterintuitive, like putting the oxygen mask over your own face before you share it with a passenger in greater need. We all know that there is no such thing as a healthy church without a healthy pastor. Neglecting your own spiritual, physical and emotional needs will end up robbing your own family and church in the long run.

Jesus prayed for strength to finish the work God had called Him to do (John 17: 1-5). That was a smart thing to do because Jesus didn't want to blow His assignment. Nor do we. The success of His mission, and ours, is to bring glory to the Father and grace to our brothers and neighbors.

In Matthew 6 Jesus also encouraged us to pray for our practical needs, such as direction (God's will), resources (bread), forgiveness, and strength to fight temptation and evil. Don't let the prosperity-gospel weirdos completely turn you off from praying for yourself. Jesus started with His own needs, but the direction soon turned outward in the primary part of His prayer.

2. Jesus prayed for His leaders. The largest part of Jesus' prayer (v. 6-19) is spent interceding for His disciples. Jesus had an inner circle for whom He was responsible. So do you and I. Of course, the closest in your inner circle is your family, so I would encourage you to start with them and work out from there.

Whether paid or volunteers, and regardless of titles, we all have a leadership circle that we need to be praying for and with regularity.

Your leaders are targets! Pray daily that your leaders "[do] not fall into disgrace and the Devil's trap" (1 Tim. 3:7, HCSB). Pastors, elders, deacons, teachers, committees and teams—all form a front line with you in an invisible war. Jesus prayed for the Father to "protect them by Your name" (v. 11) from the world who hates them (v. 14) and the Devil who plots against them (v. 15).

When I pray, my own family and life come first, then my staff and then other leaders. Jesus modeled this stewardship of His prayer time for us well.

3. Jesus prayed for future church leaders. In John 17:20-26 Jesus changes the direction of His prayer from an exclusive small group of leaders to an inclusive group of future followers. This paradigm shift is an intentional prayer shift that I am convinced very few Christians make.

"I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message" (John 17:20).

"But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16).

LifeWay leader David Francis writes in Missionary Small Groups that healthy Christians think beyond their class to the community and (great) commission. For the individual, that means changing your focus from "me" to "us" to "them." Imagine what our church would look like if we prayed and acted more like missionaries.

I find it very interesting that Jesus was praying for His disciples' disciples. Their spiritual children and grandchildren would at first deal with horrendous persecution, so Jesus prays, "protect them."

Then they would face a more subtle enemy—disunity, so Jesus prays, "unite them." "One" equals unity. It is very important to our Father that His children get along. Not only are fighting children annoying, they are a distraction from the mission of reaching a lost world.

"May they be completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me" (John 17:23).

Formerly churched people have not so much lost interest in Jesus as they have given up on His bride. Every time believers backbite, our message takes a hit. Eighty percent of Americans will not be in any church this Sunday, and only a third of church members will even show up.

"By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

Pray On!

Jesus showed us how to live in a constant state of dependence on the Father: through intimate prayer. Jesus is still praying for His beautiful, dysfunctional bride: us. Will you join Him in praying for our family's and church leadership's protection, provision and unity?

Mark Dance serves as associate vice president for pastoral leadership at LifeWay Christian Resources. A native Texan, Mark pastored churches in Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas before joining LifeWay.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Mark Dance ) Prayer Mon, 10 Nov 2014 20:00:00 -0500
Why Aren’t We Seeing Miraculous Healing in the US? With all the traveling I do these days with Impact Nations, I get asked a lot of questions about a lot of issues. However, there is one question that I am asked more often—by far—than any other. In fact, in the past two weeks, I have been asked it in England, New Jersey and Canada: “Why don’t we see the same kind of healing here (in England, the U.S., Canada) as you do in Africa and India?”

I usually respond to this in several ways. First of all, I do see God heal in the same way in the West as in the developing world. I have watched in North America, Europe and Australia as deaf ears were opened, cataracts dissolved, cancer instantly disappeared (verified by doctors), and paralysis and pain have gone. In my living room, the Lord healed a woman who had been totally blind in one eye for 20 years. He is the same God in Canada as Kenya, in the U.S. as Uganda, in England as India.

Although I have seen the Lord open the ears of nine deaf people—one after another—in North America, in fairness, I would say that although the quality of healing that I see is the same everywhere, the quantity seems higher in the developing world. However, I need to clarify this statement. It is not that I see more people not being healed when prayed for; it seems to me there are fewer people looking to be healed in the West. (To clarify once again, I am not saying the people on the streets of our cities do not want to be healed; it is just that they are not being asked and therefore do not think of healing as an option in their lives.)

This leads to what may be the biggest single issue: expectation. Jesus always looked for faith in people. This is why He sometimes asked, “Do you want to get well?” or “What do you want?” Jesus expected people to be healed, and they in turn expected the same thing.

When I am asked “the question,” I usually answer with a question of my own: “Do you expect people to be healed?” One of the ways we can discover how we really feel about this question is to examine how often we step out and ask others if we may pray for their healing.

After all, more people are healed if we pray for them than if we don’t. In many cases, we simply don’t have a real expectation that God will move, so we stay in the safe zone of keeping quiet when presented with the opportunity to pray for healing.

One of the reasons I take people from the Western world to the developing world to do the gospel is to change their expectations. Again and again I watch as they discover a whole new level of truth about the power and compassion of Jesus and of who they really are because they live in Christ. How can anyone experience being used by the Lord to heal the sick day after day on a Journey of Compassion and then go home unchanged? Back home, as these men and women continue to pray and expect, God continues to heal.

]]> (Steve Stewart/Impact Nations) Prayer Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Thinking About the Lost Art of Honor Honor is a character value that attracts the presence of God in our lives. Malachi 1:6 says we are to honor God because He is our Father. Exodus 20:12 tells us to honor our parents so we will have long life.

When it comes to releasing a multigenerational anointing, honor is key. Just as God is calling the older generations to believe in, inspire and empower the younger, He is calling the younger to honor the older. In God’s plan, honor releases blessing. 

Honor Guards for God                                                         

Recently we hosted a meeting in Washington D.C. for our Disaster Response and Preparedness Network. One of the speakers was pastor Charles Burchett of Somebody Cares Southeast Texas. He had preached a sermon based on the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier prior to this at his church. Seeing the changing of the guard in person, he was deeply impacted by the display of honor at the Arlington National Cemetery. Pastor Burchett shared:

“The tomb is guarded 24 hours per day and 365 days per year by specially trained members of the 3rd United States Infantry. This select group of sentinels is called the Honor Guard. Being selected to stand watch over the Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers is one of the highest honors a soldier in the United States Army can be granted. ...

“Day or night, and regardless of the elements, the tomb is guarded, and has been guarded, every minute of every day since 1937. The sentinels never allow any feeling of cold or heat to be seen by anyone, and they never change the way they guard the tomb, even at night when there is no one watching. The sentinels do what they do for the ones they are honoring, not for spectators or for their own personal advancement. They genuinely believe that the Unknown Soldiers deserve the very best they have to give.”

Pastor Burchett challenges us to apply the Honor Guard’s dedication to our own dedication to God the Father.

“Twenty-four hours a day and 365 days a year, the Lord God Almighty sits in the center of heaven,” he said. “He invites men and women to receive the highest of all honors in the kingdom of God, that of coming into His presence to minister to Him. The disciplines of holiness and honor require wholeheartedness, dignity, perseverance, diligence, praise, humility, reverence, respect and vigilance. Without these characteristics, no one can stand before and minister to the Lord.”

Doug Stringer is an internationally known conference speaker, the founder of Somebody Cares and Turning Point Ministries International, and the author of several books, including Somebody Cares: A Guide to Living Out Your Faith.

]]> (Doug Stringer ) Prayer Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:00:00 -0400
9 Reasons Church Leaders Struggle With Prayer preacherJohn, a leader in a church I assisted as a consultant, admitted to me what I’d heard before from seminary students and church leaders alike: “Dr. Lawless, I don’t always pray like I should. I know better, but prayer isn’t easy.”

I’ve heard something similar so many times that I’ve begun asking for more details. These findings are anecdotal, but here are my general conclusions about why church leaders struggle with prayer.

]]> (Chuck Lawless) Prayer Tue, 30 Jul 2013 16:00:00 -0400
Hal Seed: A Dangerous Prayer Praying-man-standingMany years ago I prayed a prayer that has changed me more than any other. It changed my vocation, location, orientation and just about every other “ation” in my life. What was the prayer?

“God, I don’t ask you for much today. I just ask that You give me Your heart for lost people.”

Twenty words. Twenty-one syllables. Seventy letters. One request.

]]> (Hal Seed) Prayer Tue, 09 Jul 2013 20:00:00 -0400
Praying AG Church Reports Signs, Wonders and Miracles agape-ag-signIt's not a big church. It's not a new church. It's not a really old church, either. But Agape Assembly of God (AG) in Waterloo, Ind., has become a praying church--with signs and wonders following.

Pastor Tom "Nedd" Neddersen with his wife, Kim, both retirees, have pastored Agape Assembly of God in Waterloo for more than seven years. The Neddersens had spent the previous 10 years as bivocational ministers in California.

Recently, a hospital stay spurred the Neddersen's to lead their small church of about 40 members into spiritual battle through prayer and fasting.

"Back in August, we as a church started praying for the sick and our nation," Neddersen says. "I had just come out of the hospital and decided that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Neddersen contacted a local AG evangelist, Tyron Moore, to come and help him to pray over the church. He also called the church to prayer and fasting starting Sept. 1 to Jan. 1. Since Sept. 1, the power of the Holy Spirit has been more than evident.

]]> (Dan VanVeen/AG News) Prayer Tue, 30 Oct 2012 20:00:00 -0400
Joe McKeever: How to Avoid Sermon Killers My friend Dave, who pastors a church in my neighborhood, reminded me of a story that used to show up in sermons from time to time.

After the war, a soldier who was severely wounded was returning home. As soon as he entered the states, he phoned his parents to say he was bringing with him a buddy who had lost (fill in the blank–an eye, a leg, both legs, etc.) and was confined to a wheelchair. He wanted the guy to live with the family and promised that he would take care of him.

The mother said, "Now, honey, we appreciate your compassion and your dedication to your friend. But this would be too heavy a burden on your family. This is not a good idea."

A few days later, the family got word that their son, the one just home from the war, had ended his own life in a hotel in a distant city. When the remains were shipped home, the family discovered he had one eye, one leg (or no legs), etc. He had been telling his parents about himself.

Dave and I agreed that such a story, whether true or untrue—it's impossible to know—is a showstopper; a sermon killer.

Let the preacher tell such a story and no one will hear a word he says afterwards. The congregation will be sitting there reflecting on that story, grieving and imagining and reflecting.

The wise preacher will never tell a story that clobbers his sermon and destroys the point he was trying to make.

I reminded Dave of another one which thankfully I never used, not even once, but which fits this sad category. A father took his young son and another boy on a fishing trip. A storm comes up, the boat swamps, and they are all dumped into the lake. Since the boys cannot swim and the father cannot save both, he has to make a quick decision. According to the story, his son is saved and the friend is unsaved. So, Dad abandons his son to drown knowing he will go to Heaven, and rescues the other kid.

That tragic story is supposed to make the point that we must do all we can to reach the lost, and that the saved person goes to Heaven. However ...

The message actually received by the congregation is more along the lines of "the preacher just told a weird story of a father who abandoned his son to drown in order to save a kid he barely knows."

Such an emotionally packed story destroys a sermon. No one ever hears another word the preacher has to say.

Now, it's possible to take one sermon and build the entire sermon around it, the way our Lord did with the Prodigal Son story in Luke 15. But, man, that takes skill most of us do not have. I sure don't.

Better to prayerfully build your sermon first, then, looking at the various points you are making, find appropriate illustrations. Not too many or their effect will be lost. And, don't use anything distracting or "attracting," because the illustration is not the point. The point is the point, if you will.

A fail-safe method for determining whether a story is a sermon-killer is this: try it on your wife.

You will know in a heartbeat. She will tell you one way or the other. You may not like her reaction, but you'll not be in the dark.

If she reacts negatively at all, friend, you have your answer. Do not use the story. Her instincts tend to be more sensitive than yours in these matters. (I recognize that's a broad generality, and like most generalities, it has its exceptions. But not many, I submit.)

The sermon is the thing, not the story. Never let the story hijack the sermon.

Preach the Word.

After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way.

]]> (Joe McKeever ) Preaching Wed, 26 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Greg Stier: A Case For Public Baptisms "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day" (Acts 2:41).

Last April as I stood on the southern steps to the Temple in Jerusalem I wondered to myself if the ritualistic baths that had been chiseled into the stone were the same ones used on the Day of Pentecost to baptize 3,000 new believers.

If so, the site of their baptism was a hustling, bustling place. After all Jews and God-fearing Gentiles came from all over to celebrate this ancient Jewish festival. These steps were most-likely full of spectators coming back and forth from offering sacrifices at the Temple as they witnessed thousands of new believers declaring, "Jesus is Lord!" (the original baptism declaration) before or after they got plunged into the water.

Sure, it could have been a river or stream where they were baptized but whatever or wherever it was baptism in the book of Acts tended to be a very public event. Think about the power of that for a moment. You just put your faith in Jesus and make that "public declaration of your inward transformation" in front of believers and unbelievers alike. You were identifying with this new tribe of people nicknamed by Jesus as "my church" in Matthew 16:18.

I've recently witnessed the power of this with my 10-year-old daughter. We decided to baptize her on our recent cruise to Alaska. While we didn't want to immerse her into the frigid waters of Glacier Bay (hypothermia!), we decided we could do the baptism in the swimming pool on the deck of the cruise ship (heated!). Other than maybe getting baptized in the Jordan river, it's hard to beat the setting. But baptism on a cruise ship in front of kids, teenagers, family, which led to an interesting questions like:

"Shouldn't baptisms be done in a church?"

"Aren't baptisms to be done by the pastor?"

"Isn't a baptism for the believers to witness, not as much for non-Christians?"

All of these questions and then some rattled around in our minds before the baptism. We wrestled with it as a family and were finally convinced it was something we should do.

After all, there were no church buildings in the book of Acts. With the exception of the Ethiopian Eunuch, all baptisms that are described seem to have some sort of public in-front-of-God-and-everyone element to them.

The Great Commission, (which includes baptizing new disciples) is directed to all believers. My deduction from this is if all Christians can do the greater (lead someone to Jesus), then they can do the lesser (baptize that new believer.)

As for the audience, of course believers in Jesus can and should be witnesses! But why not as many unbelievers as possible witnessing this sacred event as well?

Standing on my tippy toes in the 5 ½-foot deep water of the swimming pool with my little Kailey perched on my knee I began the baptism "service." Of course my wife, brother and sister-in-law, nephew and father- and mother-in-law were there with us. But so were five or so teenagers that my son brought from the friends he had made on the boat. There was also Maddy (26-year-old Nanny) and Sierra (her 15-year-old cousin) that my daughter had befriended while in the hot tub a few nights earlier. There were also about 20-30 others (some kids, some parents, some people drinking it up at the bar just feet away, etc) who were witnesses to this spontaneous baptism.

I took less than five minutes to explain that although baptism doesn't save anyone it symbolizes something significant. At this point I gave the gospel and invited anyone else who was listening to put their faith in Jesus and consider getting baptized right then. By the time we got to dunking time it was a powerful moment. I plunged my daughter into the pool and baptized her in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

People cheered (believers and unbelievers) and gospel conversations ensued for the rest of the trip.

What if? What if we saw baptism, not as a hide-away-in-a-church-building private ceremony but as a truly public proclamation? Whether it be in a pool, ocean, lake, river or in a church building that was specially stocked for this occasion with unbelieving friends, co-workers, classmates, teammates, family, etc., believers and unbelievers alike could witness this powerful ordinance. I get the sense that this is exactly what happened with the early believers when they got baptized publicly. Who knows how many spectators put their faith in Jesus as a result of witnessing one of these baptisms and the conversations that followed?

However your church does it, consider making baptism a public spectacle that can lead to more gospel conversations among those who are watching. It will get the good news out to more people and help seal and steel the decision that a new believer has made for Jesus. Because now the wet cat is out of the bag because that soggy new believer has now been publicly branded as a Jesus follower.

Minutes after the baptism, while warming up in the hot tub, two half-sloshed partiers asked me, "What was that all about?" There, in the heat of the hot tub, I got to use Kailey's baptism as a watery pulpit to have another significant gospel conversation.

That, my friend, is the kind of conversation that baptism should trigger.

Greg Stier is the president and founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which is mobilizing teenagers across America to share their faith. Visit him at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Greg Stier ) Preaching Mon, 24 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Why Some Christian Movements Avoid the Law of God Historically there have been many expressions of Christianity that have held less then a scriptural view of the Law of God. In this article, the Law of God refers to the Ten Commandments given to Moses (Ex. 20) and the civic laws that apply these commandments as case law in society. (For a brief example: Exodus 20 reveals the Ten Commandments and Exodus 21-23 apply these commandments as civic laws.)

Since there are 613 civic laws, hermeneutically we need to discern which ones were only for the nation of Israel during Moses' time period. We also need to know how the application and penalty for breaking these commandments have been modified in the New Covenant. (We furthermore need to understand the fact that the ceremonial law has been done away with after the death and resurrection of Christ. Read Hebrews 10.)

I contend that the Ten Commandments are still in effect in this present time because said commandments are rooted in the created order since they reflect the holiness and character of God. Hence, they are trans-historical, multi-generational and trans-cultural.

This is why each of the Ten Commandments had been restated in the Gospels and the Epistles numerous times as a standard both for personal holiness and for civil law.

In this day, many evangelical teachers and groups have disregarded and or misinterpreted the purpose of the Law of God. Groups that avoid or undermine the law do so at their own peril!

For example, the evangelical church that avoids the 613 civic laws has no specific biblical text that deals with the matter of abortion. Exodus 21:22-25 clearly illustrates that God considers an unborn child a living person and grants them the full rights and protections granted other persons. Of course there are other texts that can demonstrate the pro-life position—however they are not as direct as this case law passage in Exodus.

There are many other laws necessary to understand, especially if the church is serious regarding the application of the gospel in the various spheres of culture. Many Christian leaders flee from integrating the Law of God in their theological construct because its implications would obligate them to participate in the life of their community and nation.

I also believe that many believers are just plain lazy, and would rather focus their Bible reading to further their own personal well-being and not be bothered with the biblical implications for society. I don't know of one evangelical Christian who doesn't believe the Bible gives the church and family specific rights and ethics under God's kingdom jurisdiction. But most of these same believers have no biblical understanding regarding what the Word of God says regarding ethics in the political and economic realms!

Furthermore, it would be very difficult for anyone to prove from Scripture that believers should consign themselves to be continually ruled by secular humanists, atheists, communists and other antibiblical factions. If that were the case, then it behooves the church to integrate the law of God in its respective theological systems so it can apply it practically for human flourishing.

The following is a broad overview of Christian movements that have avoided the law of God in their theology:

1. The Roman Catholic Church. Historically, the R.C.C. has embraced a view of natural law in regards to ethics that is a synthesis of both Athens and Jerusalem (Greek and Roman philosophy and the Bible) Thomas Aquinas, their greatest teacher—devoted his life to combining theology with Aristotelian thought, leaving a lot of gaps regarding biblical law and ethics. If a person goes to a typical R.C. seminary to prepare for the priesthood, they will get a spoonful of theology along with a full-course meal replete with philosophy, sociology, anthropology and the like that serves as their main reference points for societal ethics (I have also studied many of these secular disciplines as part of my academic training but find them wanting compared to biblical ethics as found in the law of God).

2. The Evangelical Pietists. By Pietism, I am referring to the movement that de-emphasized doctrine and theology in favor of a personal relationship with Christ. This experience was quantified as a subjective inner consciousness with the presence of God. Augustus Franke and Jacob Spener made pietism as a movement popular in the 17th century among the Lutherans. It soon influenced many denominations and movements including the Moravians, Anabaptists and Methodists. Although pietism was originally a much-needed movement to bring balance to the dead, creedal, state-recognized Protestant church, extreme Pietism eventually produced individualistic Christians who used their faith to escape from the world instead of the biblical mandate to use the power of Christ to transform and engage the world (John 17:15, Acts 1:8,9; Gen. 1:28, Matt. 5:13-16, 28:19,20). Those in this camp usually view the moral law of God in a spiritual way as a personal standard of holiness rather then also viewing it as a standard for civil society.

3. The Word of Faith Movement. I will forever be indebted to the teachings of men like Kenneth Hagin, who had a real understanding of divine healing and faith. However, I have heard brother Hagin say that he did not spend much time reading the Old Testament but focused on the New Testament because the New Testament was founded upon better promises. It is not really what the Word of Faith movement taught that is a problem—it is what it did not teach that left it lacking in regards to preparing the church to transform cities. By embracing the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:26-28, those like myself who once embraced the WOF movement have learned to expand the use of our faith to include prosperity for human flourishing in communities and beyond—not just for individuals. Those with a theology that neglects the first testament will never understand the law of God.

4. The Hyper-Grace Movement. The hyper-grace movement popularized by prominent teachers like Joseph Prince has done a lot of good for those under the onerous burden of works and condemnation. However, their teachings tend to dismiss the law of God as not applicable for the church. There are several problems with this: One, the Holy Spirit may write the law of God on a believer's heart—but we need the written moral law to bring a consciousness of it to us to convict us of sin (Rom. 3:31, 7:7).

One lady wrote to me recently and said that we do not need the written law of God—all we need is love. The weakness of this argument is obvious—how do you define love without the moral law of God? Without the biblical framework, a person's definition of love can include pedophilia, bestiality or polygamy! Secondly, because teachers in this camp focus more on individual prosperity and blessing, they neglect the primary calling of the believers—which is to fulfill the Cultural Mandate (Gen. 1:26-28). The law of God is absolutely needed according to Saint Paul (1 Tim. 1: 8-11) especially to restrain the sin of the ungodly in a civil society.

5. The Dispensational Fundamentalist Movement. The Fundamentalists came to prominence during their battle against the modernists in the beginning of the 20th century. These generally had a hyper-pre-millennial, dispensational view regarding the Scripture. The dispensationalists of that ilk generally regarded the kingdom age as coming only when Jesus bodily returned and reigned for 1,000 years on the earth (in Jerusalem). This led them by and large to separate the gospel from the kingdom, to disengage from culture and to fervently preach about the rapture. They generally neglected the first covenant—especially the application of the law of God in society, since they had no vision for societal transformation. Prominent study Bibles that codified their belief system were the Schofield, Dakes and Ryrie study Bibles.

6. Various Pentecostal movements. Generally speaking, the various Pentecostal movements of the 20th century focused more on individual transformation and the use of the gift of the Spirit. These generally were fundamentalists who spoke in tongues—hence they basically had the same (non) view regarding the application of the law of God in civil society as those described in point five.

7. The Transformation Movement. Many if not most in the seven-mountain transformation movement of today rarely refer to the law of God as the standard of ethics for a culture. The problem with this is, without the moral law of God, there is no real reference point for what true biblical transformation should look like. Hence, it is common to preach transformation but not offer any explanation regarding the objective of said transformation and what it would look like in a community, city or nation. God tells us in Isaiah 2:2-4 that His view of transformation includes the nations coming to Him to learn His ways and His laws. Unless we adopt this view of transformation, our reference point for changing a community will only involve many souls getting saved (revival) that results in a quality of life shift (both very good and important things to work towards).

However, by what standard or by whose standard of ethics will nations be held accountable economically and politically? I contend that long-lasting systemic change will only come when the church agrees to work together towards the clear biblical standard of ethics. Without this, those preaching on transforming the mountains of culture will not be taken serious for much longer. Furthermore, without understanding how the Ten Commandments and its 613 case laws can be applied in principle, how can we disciple present and future gatekeepers who will frame laws and systems for nations?

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders ( He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to

]]> (BIshop Joseph Mattera) Preaching Tue, 18 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
8 Signs of Hypergrace Churches The past several decades we have seen a dramatic decline in doctrinal and biblical preaching. We have gone from theology to therapy in the pulpits. In the past decade we went from therapy to motivational speaking instead of preaching.

In addition to this, whole churches and movements have oriented themselves to a distorted understanding of the gospel by espousing a "hypergrace" approach that trickles down to not only what they preach but who they allow to minister and teach. (I was told there is even a new television station devoted to this view of "grace.")

Furthermore, many churches and preachers refuse to take a stand against sin and rarely if ever mention the need for repentance and topics like hell and judgment! Many of these same churches allow people to minister in music, as small group leaders, and even as ministers with no personal accountability while looking the other way when they are living sexually immoral lives and regularly engaged in drunkenness!

This is nothing new. For centuries the body of Christ has wrestled with something called antinomianism (anti means against; nomos means law). This is the belief that the moral law of the Old Testament has been done away with, and that, once we are in Christ, there is free grace in which we can almost live any way we want since we are not under the law but under grace. Thus, according to this view the Old Testament is not that important to read except for metaphors, types and symbols regarding the coming of Christ. The New Testament is all about grace and does away with the Old Testament law!

Of course, Paul the apostle warned against this sort of thing in Romans 6:1-2 when he rhetorically asked: shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? His response: God forbid! How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer in it?

The first thing Jude the apostle says in his epistle (in the context of contending for the faith in verse 3) is that ungodly men among them were turning the grace of our God into a license to sin. Evidently, these free grace preachers were twisting the Scriptures by teaching that 'we are no longer under the law,' meaning that we are no longer under any obligation to obey the moral law of God once we are saved.

This in spite of each of the Ten Commandments being directly cited or taught indirectly in the New Testament. Examples of exact citations are Ephesians 6:1-3 which quotes the fifth commandment; James 2:11 which quotes the sixth and seventh commandments (regarding murder and adultery) and says in verse 12 that believers will be judged according to the "law" of liberty; in Romans 7:7 Paul quotes the tenth commandment regarding not to covet; Paul also says that we dishonor God when we disobey the (moral) law (Romans 2:23).

Obedience to the Ten Commandments (the moral law) is also taught indirectly as in 1 John 5:21 which instructs believers to stay away from idols (from the second commandment regarding not to make a carved image to worship); and when Jesus said that the greatest commandment in the law is to love God with all the heart, mind and soul (Matthew 22:37-38) which corresponds to the first commandment regarding having no other gods before Him.

Paul makes it clear in Romans 7:12 that the law is holy, righteous and good and that the purpose of being filled with the Spirit of Christ is so the righteousness of the law would be fulfilled in us (Romans 8:4)—not so we can just float around as spiritual beings without any standards for obedience and disobedience!

Although we cannot be saved by following the law (because everyone is guilty of breaking the law according to Romans 3:19), God uses the moral law as the standard of righteousness in which to judge us of sin. Thus the law doesn't save us but it sanctifies us when we yield to the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us because through it we have the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).

So then, what does Paul refer to when he says that we are justified apart from the law (Romans 3:21) through grace as a gift (Romans 3:24)? The context of these statements and the other teachings of the New Testament regarding the law is clear: while the moral law doesn't save us, it is still in effect as a guide and standard for righteous living, but the ceremonial law is no longer in effect and has been totally done away with!

This we know because circumcision (Romans 3:30; Galatians 5:1-2) and animal sacrifices (Hebrews 9:12-14) are always brought up in context of Paul teaching that the law has been nullified in Christ. Thus, Paul is affirming that the ceremonial law has been done away with in Christ because He was the perfect lamb of God who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29) and in whom by a single offering of Himself (Hebrews 10:14) abolished the law of commandments and record of debt that were against us (Colossians 2:13-14, because we violated them).

In Him we are no longer obligated to follow the levitical system for, although the Old Covenant terms are no longer in effect and faded away (Hebrews 8:13), the New Covenant clearly is a more perfect continuation of the Old Covenant because of its prophetic fulfillment in Messiah (Hebrews 10:1).

The following are signs of a hypergrace church:

1. The preachers never speak against sin. If you are in a church like this, you will notice that the word sin is usually only mentioned in the context of forgiveness of sins in Christ but hardly ever in the context of taking a stand against sin, except, of course, when they condemn the sin of "legalists" and "Pharisees" who are the ministers they denigrate for preaching against sin.

2. The lead pastor never takes a cultural stand for righteousness. When issues like abortion come up, these pastors will shy away from mentioning it because they are afraid of offending new people. I can understand this to a point. But I counter that we as ministers of Christ are obligated to at least mention our positions publically so that we use it as a teaching moment for the sheep following us. Not saying anything about an issue like abortion is another way of condoning it!

3. The Old Testament is almost totally ignored. In these churches the Old Testament is treated as only types and shadows for sermon illustrations but has no real value regarding our standard of living today. As I show in this article, my position is that the New Testament and Old Testament are organically connected together with the New building upon the Old, not eradicating it altogether!

4. People are allowed to teach and lead ministries who live immoral lives. One pastor was telling me that sexual immorality and drunkenness is rampant in many evangelical churches—even among small group leaders and other leaders in local churches! This is because there is very little accountability.

5. The lead pastor speaks often against the institutional church. Many hypergrace pastors constantly denounce churches that are conservative in their values because they believe those churches represent the 'old school' that is no longer relevant to today's culture.

6. The lead pastor preaches against tithing. Although I believe tithing carried over into the New Testament, I believe it is more of a biblical principle that preceded the Law of Moses (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all tithed before Moses gave the law), was taught by Jesus (Matthew 23), and was mentioned in other passages like Hebrews 7.

These pastors denounce tithing as a law that was done away with in Christ. (For more on this, read my position paper entitled "Is Tithing in the New Testament?")

7. The lead pastor only preaches positive motivational messages. Those attending hypergrace churches only hear positive messages on health, wealth, prosperity, God's love, God's forgiveness and on how to succeed in life. Although I also agree with and teach on these topics, we have to be careful to include in our preaching the whole counsel of God so that we feed the flock a balanced diet instead of just the sweetness of feel-good messages. We must do this so we are free from the blood of all men (Acts 20:26-27)!

8. Key members of the church are regularly living sinful lives with impunity. Those attending a hypergrace church will most likely find that, because of the strong emphasis on grace—with no teaching against sin or on repentance, judgment, or hell—there is an atmosphere of loose living with many involved in sexual immorality and drunkenness as well as other physical vices.

The reason for this is "the law is our schoolmaster that leads us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24) because through the (moral) law comes the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20). If the moral law of the Ten Commandments is not preached or alluded to, then in ignorance the people will live foolish lives and will be like the blind leading to blind because: "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law" (Proverbs 28:18).

In conclusion, there are many other things I could mention regarding hypergrace churches and their preaching, like how it is one step away from universalism (the belief that all people will eventually be saved, whether they believe the gospel or not, e.g. Love Wins by Rob Bell) and liberalism, because an increasing amount of Scripture is eviscerated because it is culturally offensive (like husbands being the head of the house, views on homosexuality, etc.).

I believe antinomianism is a dangerous trend in evangelicalism and is something we need to lovingly take a stand against with our brothers and sisters who espouse it.

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders ( He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera ) Preaching Wed, 12 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
WATCH: REINHARD BONNKE Says the Baptism of the Holy Spirit Should Be Simple "When He created us, He created us in a way that we would be power assisted."

In this video, worldwide evangelist Reinhard Bonnke teaches on the baptism of power in Acts 2. He refutes bad teaching and reminds us of how simple it should be.

]]> (Charisma Staff) Preaching Mon, 10 Aug 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Five Lies Preachers Believe About Preaching Pastors suffer from an abundance of unsolicited advice about their preaching. Many not called to preach think themselves the most gifted to critique. Despite this, there are few church members more critical of the preaching than the one who delivers the sermon.

After I have preached my wife usually asks, "How do you think it went?" Most of my responses are in the "I guess it went alright" vein followed by, "How did you think it went?" Assurances of "it was great" or "that was one of the best sermons you've ever preached" are mostly doubted. I know the times I've lost my place in the notes, become mentally distracted, and realized the second point had too much or too little content. My train of thought has refused to leave the station, or derailed once it did.

A pastor's normal excessive scrutiny about his preaching is bad enough, but it is made worse when these five lies are believed.

1. If I just preach the Bible my church will grow. Churches grow or don't grow for any number of reasons. Good location, good organization, an overwhelming move of the Spirit of God or a charismatic leader are some possible reasons. Churches almost never grow solely because of the preaching. Conversely, churches almost never stay small or plateau as a result of the preaching.

2. If I study and pray enough I will always get God's mind on the sermon text. We all approach the Scripture with certain biases. These are not always erroneous, but they can cause the preacher to mistake an interpretation or application. I remember a well-known pastor saying: "One Sunday night I preached a sermon on why the Antichrist has to be a Jew. After the service a member graciously approached me with a few Scriptures. The next Sunday night I preached on why the Antichrist has to be a Gentile." There is a reason Paul calls us "jars of clay." The treasure is priceless and eternal; the container is aging, chipped and fading every day. The Word has enough power to overcome the frailty of the one delivering it. When you mess up a text, admit it and move on. If you have not landed on particular interpretation out of three, preach them all and let the Spirit do His work.

3. There is a single best way to preach. Whether a pastor preaches expositorily or topically is not typically the reason a church grows. It is humorous how often I see a pastor advocate for expository preaching as a key to church growth when his own church is not growing. Both history and our contemporary setting provide numerous examples of Christians growing in the faith, and churches increasing in number under different styles of preaching. I prefer expository for a number of reasons, but am not inclined to limit the work of God to a single style. Preach with confidence from the gift(s) God has given you.

4. I'm the worst preacher in the world. I don't know anyone who thinks themselves the best, and I hope no one believes about themselves the worst. Every pastor has a bad day, an off Sunday. Chances are on any given Sunday all of us are the worst preacher in the world. We are fallible. We all have grand slams in the study that turn into strike outs in the pulpit. But most neither hit it out of the park nor foul it into the stands week after week. We do well to remember that a string of singles and doubles scores a lot of runs too.

5. A lack of audible feedback equals a lack of hearing. Congregations are different. Some say "Amen" or "Preach it" quite a lot. Most pastors love this. For some communicators, audible feedback is the connective tissue of receptivity. But not all congregations are comprised thus. Some are more reflective. Among our people are auditory, visual and experiential learners. Attention is given in different ways.

I rely on body language for feedback more than amens. Is anyone asleep? Are people checking their watches? Has a conversation broken out on the fifth row? Has anyone closed their Bible and moved on to Facebook?

Conversely, are eyes facing forward and are they alert? Are notes being taken? Are their nods or head shakes at appropriate places? Are students engaged? One of our campuses has light dimmers for the auditorium. Our lighting techs always make sure the lights are bright enough for me to get the visual cues I need to read as much body language as possible.

Pastor, neither exalt yourself more highly than you ought, nor think more badly of your preaching than you should. You may not be as good as you wish, but you probably are not as bad as you fear. Work to improve the craft of preaching, and trust God for His blessing on it. Faithfully teach the Word, for it has the power, and do not believe enemy lies that will haunt your soul and hollow your preaching.

For the original article, visit

Marty Duren is a Christ follower, husband, father, writer, social media strategist and general provocateur living in Hermitage, Tennessee, just east of Nashville.
]]> (Marty Duren/ Preaching Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Prophetic Word: Ministry Leaders, God Wants to Propel You in the Spirit Realm I felt the Lord drawing me in to His presence. Then an unction came upon me to pray specifically for His servants, leaders and ministers in His kingdom.

I could feel His heart for you; His desire for a refreshing of your spirit and soul and that He would break your heart for what breaks His heart. I felt that your heart would unite with His and that you would come into spiritual alignment with His will and calling on your life. I felt that you would be refreshed and renewed in Him, have abundant life, health, prosperity and that you would not grow weary in your calling.

I transitioned to praying in the Spirit for God's servants, and He gave me the interpretation. God wants your heart to be united with his heart. He wants to give you an outpouring of his love for His people. He wants you to burn with love for His people. He wants to invigorate you.

He desires to sustain you. He sustains you through his love, because when you have an overflowing vessel of His love, it can't help but continually sustain you. You are always filled.

He wants to refresh you with His living waters, pour out new wine on you, he wants to fill you with revelation of His scriptures and pour out an everlasting abundance of knowledge. He desires to you use in greater measures.

I hear the word propelling right now in the spirit realm. He wants to propel you in new places, new spheres of influence and new places in the Spirit. He wants to increase your prayer life. He wants to lavish His abundant love upon you. He wants to renew your strength as an eagle.

God says now is not the time for weariness and heaviness; they must go. They have no place in the kingdom. He says, "You are victorious; you have the victory; you are victorious."  Victorious because of His great love and nothing cannot be conquered when you have His love. His love will propel you into new places, new assignments and new anointings.

He said, "I am going deeper because the time is here that My kingdom must manifest. I desire to come in like a fresh morning rain. I love you with an everlasting love. I have anointed you, appointed you, chosen you. I desire to fellowship with you and renew your strength."

There are great things coming. "Get ready, My people," He says, "Get ready. Abundance! Outpouring! Refreshing! Renewal! Now is the time for prosperity in your soul, growth, abundance and transition. Yes, it is a time of transition, but good transition. You will be learning new things, abundant things about My kingdom. My Kingdom will prevail. Get equipped. Get ready! I am going to release the increase you need to advance My kingdom. My kingdom shall prevail. No weapon formed against it shall prosper, and no weapon formed against you shall prosper when you are equipped, prepared, ready and armed for battle. Yes, get yourself armed for battle. Get yourself armed in My Word. Permeate yourself in My Word, permeate yourself and saturate yourself in the revelation of My Scripture."

Allow the Holy Spirit to be your teacher and instructor. Seek Him for guidance into my Scripture that is life and abundant health to your soul. Your soul is not perishing; it is renewed daily when you feed it my Word. Your mind, will and emotions need my Word, which I have brought forth. It is abundant life and light. It is refreshing, renewing and everlasting.

Bury yourself in My word. Allow it to come forth and birth new sprouts in you. Water those sprouts with My love. In the word, there is love and power that will spring forth and cause new things to grow in you. As you bring those things forth out of the depths of My Word, you will bring forth the change the world longs to see.

Kathy DeGraw is the founder of DeGraw Ministries ( She is a prophetic deliverance minister who is passionate about releasing the love and power of God. She travels hosting conferences, teaching schools and evangelistic love tours. Kathy enjoys empowering and equipping people through writing and is the author of five books.

]]> (Kathy DeGraw) Prophecy Tue, 28 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
3 Important Church Trends for the Next 10 Years As someone who both cares about the mission of the church and leads a research organization, I watch the trends in the church and the culture. Occasionally, someone asks me to share some thoughts on the big picture, in the case of the North American context, questions related to "streams" of Protestantism.

Based on research, statistics, extrapolation, and (I hope) some insight, I notice three important trends continuing in the next 10 years.

1. The hemorrhaging of mainline Protestantism. This trend is hardly news—mainliners will tell you of this hemorrhaging and of their efforts to reverse it.

Mainline Protestantism is perhaps the best known portion of Protestantism, often represented by what are called the "seven sisters" of the mainline churches.

Mainline churches are more than these, but these seven are the best known, perhaps:

  • United Methodist Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
  • Episcopal Church
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • American Baptist Churches
  • United Church of Christ (UCC)
  • The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

They tend to fall on the progressive side of the theological continuum, but there is diversity of theology as well (Methodists, as a whole, are probably most conservative, for example).

Mainline Protestantism is in trouble and in substantive decline. Some are trying to reverse this, through evangelism and church planting initiatives.

However, this is an uphill battle and, as a whole, mainline Protestantism will continue its slide.

According to the General Social Survey, about 30 percent of Americans would self-identify (through their denominational selection) as mainline Protestants in 1972. Now they are down to 15 percent. In other words, based on the GSS, they lost half their people over 40 years.

Now, the GSS is not the same as membership rolls and attendance numbers, but it does reflect people's connection. And, if that trend continues, the math does not look good.

2. Continued growth of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement. The second thing I think you're going to continue to see is the continued growth of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement. The charismatics and Pentecostals have already won the worship war—most churches are now comfortable with what would be "Calvary Chapel" worship in 1980. They are in the process of winning the spiritual gifts debate concerning cessationism, a view that seems in decline in the next generation.

Yes, that growth has slowed in North America and the charismatic practices (both inside and outside of the movement) have also been tamed.

In other words, Pentecostals and charismatics are growing and influencing, but they also look a lot less like the Pentecostals and charismatics of a few decades ago.

Many in the movement are shying away from the oddities and excesses of Pentecostalism, while evangelicals are moving towards the theology of Spirit-filled and Spirit-led ministries.

I see both of those trends continuing.

If you are interested, here is my series on the continualist movement:

3. Networks will explode in number and influence. Denominations still matter—and they actually, for example, do most of the church planting in North America. However, networks are growing in influence and impact.

Ironically, some networks are going to become denominations (or denomination-like). For example, both the Vineyard and Calvary Chapel, some of the early forerunners of networks, basically function like denominations today.

Networks are predominantly made up of non-denominational evangelical churches. The fastest growing category in North America is non-denominational evangelicalism—so growth here is inevitable.

The future is less mainline denominations or flat evangelical denominations, and more non-denominational evangelical networks.

All of these trends have implications—some good, and some not so good. But, facts are our friends. As we look to the years ahead, we need to do so with discernment and hope about what God is doing in the world through his churches.

Ed Stetzer is the executive director of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ed Stetzer ) Prophecy Tue, 07 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
5 Prophetic Words About Shaking and Awakening in America I asked the Lord to wake me when He wanted to speak to me and for five nights in a row at 3 a.m., He answered that prayer. The following are five prophetic words the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. I pray they touch yours.

Day 1: The Lord spoke early this morning about the future of the American church. I saw a person walk to the edge of a cliff overlooking a huge valley. The Man of God started shouting to the masses and they got up and started moving toward him. Thousands!

The Lord said complacency was leaving and people were ready to move forward. The America church has tried to advice thought programs and worldly structure, but have produced an Ishmael, but now Isaac is on his way! There is a Move of God coming to the church an Awakening!

Day 2: The Lord woke me early this morning ... I felt my bed shake so I jumped up! The Lord spoke very strongly and boldly saying, "Will you answer this call or should I call another?" I said, "I will answer your call."

The Lord said there is a greater shaking coming to America than anyone can imagine. I'm calling the leaders now. They will be the ones of intercession. The broken ones. They have been preparing for years. The current success the American church thinks she has, will have to be repented for. The American church has produced a Ishmael now its time for Isaac. I've never felt God so strong, my friends! We are about to see repentance in our churches from leaders who have taken the focus off God. I encourage everyone to fast and pray. Get ready!

Day 3: The Lord says He is making an offensive response to every demonic attack on America. The Lord is putting His armies in place. This will be a wave, and yes, even greater waves are coming of the responsive attacks from heaven. God wants his people and land back!

Day 4: The Lord woke me at 3 a.m. this morning speaking very strongly about this hour in the church. The Lord said, "I need my watchmen to be alert and ready at all hours!" When the Spirit wakes you get up and pray, don't pray in bed or roll over. This is the time God needs us to be seeking Him. Everything is silent with no hindrances at this time of Day. Whenever God wants your time, give it to Him. Don't be sleeping when you should be seeking!

Day 5: This morning the Lord spoke a very strong word to my spirit about the revivalists in the land. Many are falling away from the fight and giving up their calling. Like Elijah the powerful mouthpiece for God, when things got hard he complained and quit. So God raised up Elisha! Never watch someone else answer the call GOD placed on your life. 

Stay in the fight, get back in and never give up! America needs the revivalist to stand up, stand out and be counted on! I felt the Lord say, "I'm about to do something so powerful in the land and I need and want my revivalists to be ready!" 

Pockets of true revival are breaking out across America. Want to know more about the next great move of God? Click here to see Jennifer LeClaire's new book, featuring Dutch Sheets, Reinhard Bonnke, Jonathan Cahn, Billy Graham and others. 

Joe Joe Dawson is the president of Burn Texarkana Revival center and House of Prayer. Pastor Dawson also serves as staff evangelist for First Assembly of God in Texarkana, Texas, where he also is now the Tribe College/young adult pastor. Burn Texarkana has one revival/awakening service a month at First Assembly and also has Burn on the Road meetings in neighboring cites monthly. There are four Burn Texarkana prayer meetings each week! Joe is married to the love of his life, Autumn, and together they have three kids: Malachi, Judah and Ezra.

]]> (Joe Joe Dawson) Prophecy Wed, 06 May 2015 21:00:00 -0400
True Differences Between Apostolic and Prophetic Function There has been much confusion regarding the difference between apostolic and prophetic function.

Regarding these two functions, when we examine the Scriptures we find only a slight difference regarding ability in executive leadership roles, the main difference being the actual ministerial expression of leadership ability.

Many view prophetic ministers as folks who merely float from one place to the next as itinerant ministers who give "words of the Lord" to individuals and organizations, but have little or no ability to lead large, effective organizations. This definition is not sufficient in light of biblical teaching and models. Ministers who function like this may very well be "exhorters" who have a prophetic edge rather than functioning in the office of New Testament prophet.

When using the Old Testament as our guide, we find that many of the men called prophets were serving in roles that most today would consider apostolic. Men like the patriarch Abraham, Moses, and Samuel would certainly be called apostolic leaders if they were functioning in the same capacity in this day and age. Why they were called prophets and not apostles is the main subject of this brief essay.

Perhaps, one could say, the reason is because Old Testament prophets were the equivalent of New Testament apostles with no real difference in function or calling. Furthermore, when we read Ephesians 2:20 which says the church has been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, we could say the word "prophets" in this passage is not referring to New Testament apostle/prophet teams but only to Old Testament prophets since the New Covenant was based upon the prophetic writings that were handed down (a position I agree with).

That being said, if we find no real separation between apostles and prophets, then why separate apostolic and prophetic ministerial functions as we see in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11?

As we examine the Scriptures, perhaps the real reason for this New Testament separation does not lie in the governmental nature and ability of New Testament prophets but lies in the fact that, in the Old Testament, prophets were mainly called to minister in a single geographic location because God was building a theocratic model-nation in Israel. (with the exception of the excilic and postexcilic prophets)

Even Acts 13:1-2 teaches that the great first-century church in Antioch was led by prophets. There was no mention of apostles in that church. This shatters the false assumption that present-day prophetic leaders cannot lead huge organizations or networks.

Since the resurrection of Christ and His command to take the gospel to every nation, we now have powerful leaders with anointings to go into uncharted enemy territories (where Christ has not been named or where there is no real kingdom witness), outside of the bounds of their local congregations, to set up beachhead ekklesias as salt and light to establish God's dominion in every territory.

This view goes along with the nature of the title "apostle" which literally means "a sent one." This term was taken from the Roman army, which called generals whom they sent to set up beachheads in enemy territory "apostles."

So, even though prophets were sent (Is. 6:6-9) they were mainly stationary in regards to their national focus. Apostles were deployed as God's generals to establish His kingdom witness in new nations and arenas of life.

If my above opining is true, then many people whom we today call apostolic are really New Testament prophetic leaders, and many of those we call prophets are merely exhorters who have a mature gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:3 teaches on the nature of this gift of prophecy), and there are really far less apostolic leaders among the ranks of those who give themselves the title "apostle"!

To expound a bit more: What seems to be the main difference between apostolic and prophetic leaders in regards to their actual ministry mode and delivery? From experience it seems that when apostolic leaders engage in problem solving, teaching or strategizing, they tend to speak more out of principle—out of the accumulation of their vast experience. In contrast, prophetic leaders engaging in the same kind of problem solving have a different mode of delivery based on a more spontaneous, prophetic utterance. The difference is minute.

The point is, both can be involved in laying the foundation and the building of a local church or network of churches and establishing organizations. This is why they should both work in tandem to establish a kingdom witness on the earth.

While prophets may tend to speak into an entity that is already established, and apostles tend to be the initial leaders in establishing entities, both are needed and necessary—the apostle for breaking and establishing new ground, biblical purpose and order in enemy territory, and prophets for bringing fire, passion and a continual sense of urgency into the faith communities of those entities established by apostles.

In saying this, I realize it would be a huge mistake to imply that apostolic leaders are not prophetic. On the contrary, apostolic leaders must be extremely prophetic because, when being sent to lay a foundation and establish a beachhead for God in enemy territory, they must receive a word from God in regards to the timing, the geographic location, and the strategic spiritual warfare needed in order to be successful in their missions. Those functioning apostolically must have an acute sense of the leading of the Lord at all times. Hence, apostolic leaders have profound prophetic ability. It is simply that the primary focus of their ministries is on the managing, developing, and administration of leadership and the establishment of church government, whereas prophetic leaders have as their primary focus the renewal and continued movement towards hitting the mark in regards to corporate purpose and power.

In conclusion: Based on the realities presented above, perhaps there are really more apostolic and prophetic leaders working together than we think. Moreover, maybe it is not just those we deem apostolic leaders, but also true prophetic leaders who tend to shy away from some of the more extravagant, showy, shallow, itinerant prophetic ministers out there today. This is because true New Testament prophets are so principle-centered they cannot relate to those who exhort, make prophetic proclamations, and then leave with little or no accountability or oversight. True New Testament prophetic leaders are builders, not just blessers and, as such, maybe there is not really such a great present-day divide between apostolic and prophetic leaders.

Finally, I have seen many apostolic leaders working very closely with prophetic leaders in ways they cannot avoid: many apostolic leaders are married to prophetic spouses.

This is just one chapter from Joseph Mattera's latest book. Click here to purchase it. 

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, New York, and author of numerous books, including Ruling in the Gates: Preparing the Church to Transform Cities. Follow him on Facebook or visit him online at

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Prophecy Mon, 06 Apr 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Ancient and Emerging: 5 Major Changes Coming to the Church Over the last 24-plus years of ministry, one of the most difficult challenges I've faced has been effectively communicating just what changes are coming to the church.

The current church paradigm is so prevalent and saturating in our culture that people just can't seem to wrap their minds around the shift that is coming. It seems nonsensical, threatening or just plain bizarre. They wonder how their ministry stream or focus or gift fits in that structure.

The reality is that it may not, or it may be radically redefined. The discomfort level will be quite high, and it will take a radical remnant to truly sign up for the reformation—for the revolution of the church.

The disciples of Jesus had an idea of what it would look like in Acts 1, but Jesus radically violated their dreams, plans and comfort zones by leaving—and commissioning them to establish what they hoped Jesus would build!

"So when they had come together, they asked him, 'Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' He said to them,'It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.' And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight" (Acts 1:6-9, ESV).

The Coming Church

This book that I'm currently writing will be addressing some of the spiritual and practical changes that will be coming to the structure and expression of the church. Trust me, it will shock our nation severely. Those who hold on to a structure or a ministry instead of Jesus Himself will not be willing to go where God is leading.

I call this the ancient and emerging church. Ancient because it's rooted in scripture; emerging because the biblical structure has been largely forsaken. What will this ancient and emerging church look like? Here's just a small peek into a grand shift in the structure of the church:

1. Services will become more like prayer meetings. One of the greatest indictments on the church today is that prayer is not the driving force. Today, people tend to choose churches based on the appeal of the teaching and the worship instead of the fervency of prayer. If the church was a house of teaching or a house of worship, that would make sense, but it's not. The church is a house of prayer for all nations. Every person in the church will function as a burning intercessor and the services will be marked by this unified groan of fiery prayer.

2. Personal need will give way to personal mission. Today, churches are often more like organic, socially driven hospitals. People tend to use the church as a way to meet their personal needs instead of serving it as a minister of God. This is going to change. Of course, there will still be personal ministry and true needs will be addressed.

However, instead of the church functioning as a hospital, it will once again function as a mission-driven military. The mission will take precedence. The saints will be equipped for service, not for personal survival. In this ancient and emerging model, there will be MASH units that will take very good care of the wounded with the primary purpose of getting the soldier back into battle. Apostles will again lead with governmental authority and pastors will be seen as the main leader less and less as they focus more on shepherding and less on primary leadership.

3. Teaching will be minimized while instruction is emphasized. Teaching is mostly for personal edification while instruction is mostly for corporate assignments. Today, most churches focus on teaching principles of Scripture, providing truths that will help believers navigate through their lives and giving nuggets of biblical info. While there will still be important Bible teaching, apostolic instruction will emerge as a necessary new ministry.

There is enough Bible teaching online, on CDs, in books and on video to turn every one of us into personal spiritual giants. We need to take it upon ourselves to grow. What is lacking, however, is apostolic leaders, military commanders who give instruction and assignments to a ready army. Teaching is personal growth-based while instruction is a call to corporate action for the sake of mission fulfillment.

An example of apostolic instruction is this: The apostolic leader gives a corporate assignment for everybody in the church to fast for a week and then show up together to prayer walk through the city streets. It's a corporate call to action versus biblical study. It's mission focused versus personal growth focused. Personal growth will be largely our responsibility between services so we can be ready to respond to the corporate instruction where we will receive our assignments.

4. We will gather together most days of the week. The 24/7 church will again emerge as the church drives culture instead of reacting to culture. Cares of life will lose their power as we simplify our lives and put corporate prayer and mission ahead of most everything else.

This may be the most challenging change for Christians. Today, Sundays are the days to set aside for corporate worship while we give precedence to our 'normal lives.' In the Coming Church, the very reason we live will be to pray on fire together every day, receive apostolic assignments and then move out into our lives as kingdom ambassadors. It wouldn't be surprising if a tithe of our time is what became the standard. Two to three hours a day, whether it's in the morning, afternoon or evening, or even in the late night hours, will be given by every believer to praying on site together with others, ministering and giving ourselves to intercession-fueled kingdom ministry. Of course, much of what we have been giving ourselves to will have to be eliminated so we have the time necessary to devote.

5. Worship will be supernaturally driven. There is a new sound coming to worship, and it's not simply a new style. There is a supernatural, otherworldly groan of intercessory worship that will explode out of the entire body as a new breed of trembling worship leaders lead the way into the shock and awe of the glory of God. We will no longer simply sit in a pew or stand with a raised hand while a familiar worship song is sung.

The prophetic, groaning sounds of Holy Spirit facilitated worship will make it normal to shake and fall to our faces as we cry Holy! The natural, logical sing-a-longs will be no more. We will have a hard time standing as God's Shekinah and Kabod glory resides in His church. Worship teams will practice less and pray in the Spirit with tears in their eyes more.

Of course, this is an extremely limited glance into the many, many changes that are coming. I wanted to share this to provoke you to preparation. There is much that you and I enjoy in the church, or that is comfortable to us, that we will have to let go. Again, the coming church will be troubling and shocking, but it will result in the power and life that we have been crying out for.

God is about to answer that cry.

I strongly recommend that you read my book 20 Elements of Revival. That book reveals much of the shift that we must embrace right now. If you truly take in all that it has to say, you'll never participate in the church the same way again.

John Burton has been developing and leading ministries for over 20 years and is a sought out teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. John has authored nine books, has appeared on Christian television and radio and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. Additionally, he planted two churches, has initiated two city prayer movements and is currently directing a prayer and revival focused ministry school in Detroit called theLab University. John's mandate is to call the church in the nations to repentance from casual Christianity and to burn in a manner worthy of the King of kings. He is equipping people to confront the enemies of God (established religion, Jezebel, etc.) that hinder an extreme, sold-out level of true worship.

For the original article, visit

]]> (John Burton) Prophecy Thu, 07 May 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Why Conviction Matters in the Life of a Prophet MichelleMclainConviction is a major anointing that is needed in the prophetic ministry. The Scripture tells us that the gifts and the calling are without repentance. Many prophets operate in the gifts without having any conviction in their personal lives. Conviction can be defined as “the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth.” 

When you spend time in the presence of God, you are measured according to His standards, not the standards of man. In light of the Lord revealing Himself to Isaiah, he got a true picture of himself.

]]> (Michelle McClain) Prophecy Fri, 07 Jun 2013 20:00:00 -0400
How Do Christ Followers Define the Church? Since my connection to Christ in 1978 I have observed many models or views people have regarding how they connect to the body of Christ. The following are some of the popular views I have observed regarding how believers define the church for themselves.

1. The "I am the church" concept

Many people do not have any personal affiliation to any particular local church even though they still attempt to cultivate a relationship with God. They may even read the Bible, pray and share their faith, but they have no organic connection to any community of believers.

In my opinion, these believers have a disembodied faith and foolishly think they can fulfill their purpose in Christ alone! This is as ludicrous as cutting off a finger and thinking that it can continue to live and function normally without the rest of the body (read 1 Cor. 12)!

2. The "my family is my church" concept

There are many believers who rarely participate in a local faith community because they are constantly doing things on weekends with their families. They take the "putting family first" mantra too far and think that as long as they are spending time with their families they are putting the kingdom of God first.

What these people don't realize is that if their children don't see them living sacrificially for the kingdom of God in the context of a local congregation then they will most likely not attend church at all when they get older, as well as come up with their own definitions of Christianity. Also, we will be nurturing self-centered children if everything we do for Christ revolves around them and they don't see us serving in the context of a local congregation.

3. The microchurch concept

The micro church concept is also known in some circles as the house church concept. This has to do with trying to go back to the simplicity of the first-century church when groups of 30-70 people met in homes, were very relational, and won souls through word of mouth and friendship.

Those in the microchurch tend to be very critical of what they call the box church or institutional church which depends on large buildings and programs to preach the gospel, putting an inordinate amount of time and money into expansion by buildings, developing professional-sounding worship experiences and great Sunday experiences.

While I agree with them that the so-called institutional church has lost a lot of its focus and has turned the majority of church attendees into spectators, I also believe that the body of Christ is called to penetrate and influence culture. In today's world it is very hard to influence top leaders without the so-called institutional model that many marketplace leaders respect. Also, I believe you can have a large church that meets in huge facilities without compromising your call to have genuine fellowship by utilizing the use of small groups that meet in homes. It is not the size of the church or the facilities that matter but the ministry and discipleship capacity of a local church that matters.

Also, the only reason the first-century church utilized house or micro churches was not because of the superiority of the method but because of persecution: they were not legally allowed to worship in public and could not build large church buildings. As soon as the persecution lifted in 313 A.D. the body of Christ began to build large buildings (for example, cathedrals) so they could accommodate larger crowds of people.

4. The independent congregation concept

There are thousands of independent churches in America that are islands unto themselves without any formal affiliation with other churches, associations denominations or movements.

Although I believe this is better than the first two concepts discussed above, I still think it is very limiting because every city should have a regional church expression in which like-minded pastors work together to serve their communities. One church alone cannot be God's answer for a large community or city. Every congregation is, at best, only part of the body of Christ, not the totality of it. Independent pastors and congregations have to ask themselves the theological question of how Jesus would speak to them in the same way He spoke to the messengers of each of the seven city churches mentioned in the book of Revelation (chapters 2 and 3): If Jesus came to your city, to whom would He give his letter? To which messenger would He speak? This demonstrates that if there is no unity in the church it actually limits what the Holy Spirit can say to a region!

5. The apostolic church concept

This model is when a church helps unify other like-minded gospel preaching churches in their communities and/or regions and gives leadership and vision to city reaching efforts. Many of these churches eventually form formal associations with other churches that function together as an organized network or coalition. These churches function very similarly to the first-century churches in that they are not compelled to work together as a denomination but do so on a voluntary basis because of common vision.

This is the church model that is exploding in Africa, Asia, Latin America and beyond, and is mainly responsible for the global expansion of Christianity.

6. The historic mainline denominational church concept

Although many have written off this church model I believe God still has a redemptive purpose with the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist and other denominations.

There are people who love and serve Jesus in every Christian denomination. Although many of their congregations are greatly struggling and losing their youth they may yet have some kind of future impact on world evangelization! Denominations like the Roman Catholic Church are being presently purged and hopefully being restored back to their original calling while some other liberal Protestant denominations are likely disinheriting themselves and losing members because their ideology has virtually no distinction from the non-Christian world.

7. The emerging church concept

The emerging church is made up primarily of younger evangelical leaders who have grown tired of the dry, modern, logical approach to the faith. Consequently, they have reverted to a form of post-modernism, which is a denial that objective propositional truth is knowable in this life, resulting in subjectivism.

Although I believe Christianity is very experiential and subjective I also believe that truth is knowable, otherwise Jesus would not have said He is the Truth (John 14:6) and the church would not be called the ground and pillar of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15)! Denying that we can know absolute truth in this life eventually leads to liberalism because faith will be based on the feelings and perspectives of believers instead of on the unchanging Word of God.

8. The online church concept

Many Christians have a home church that streams their services on the internet, making it possible for them to be blessed without ever setting foot in the church building!

Cyberchurch services are growing in popularity and are ideal for homebound people and for people in areas without access to a church community. The drawback is that many will substitute the real experience of community for cyberchurch and will miss out on real-life relationships. This kind of church is better than nothing but will greatly limit your calling since you need to function in a body in order to fulfill your purpose (1 Cor. 12).

9. The workplace church concept

Many business leaders have been so frustrated with the lack of business savvy or leadership in their local churches that they have taken the kingdom message too far and set up churches in their offices. (In the Kingdom of God all believers are priests and ministers, not just pastors and preachers. Thus when they do weekly Bible studies with their employees they call this their church!)

Although I believe it is a great thing to shepherd your employees and give them Bible studies, every business leader needs a local church, especially for their families to be cared for. If you are a high-level marketplace leader and are frustrated with your local church pastor and/or vision then find an apostolic leader you can align with and receive input from!

In some cases the marketplace leader can have an individual apostolic leader as a mentor while their family is cared for in a local church they all attend. My experience has been that high-level marketplace leaders need strong apostolic church leaders in their lives to hold them accountable in regards to their families, their ambitions, and their work ethic. Without a local church many of these marketplace leaders go off into unbiblical pursuits and eventually experience cynicism and shipwreck.

10. The mobile church concept

There are some trans-local ministers who teach that their traveling team is their church. They take the words of Jesus in Matthew 18 too far when Jesus says 'where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.' Jesus never called this experience a church; the book of Acts and the epistles model a church that has ministry to all people from the cradle to the grave. Mobile teams should pray together and learn from one another and function as part of the larger body of Christ, but every one of those team members should have a home church and a pastor or apostle they are in alignment with so they will have credibility within the church world and so they will have the most possible care and protection.

In closing, there are probably many other forms and/or models of the church we can discuss that are not mentioned in this article. These are just the main models that I have observed.

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including "The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (" He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to

]]> (Bishop Joseph Mattera ) Vision Tue, 28 Jul 2015 21:00:00 -0400
5 Commitments to Fire Up Your Team for the Vision Leaders are by definition visionaries. We're gifted by God to see the future before others can see it.

As we architect strategies toward vision achievement, that vision can begin to consume us. We eat, drink and sleep it. If we're not careful, we can become obsessed with the thrill of achieving the vision ... and the condition of our team can become secondary.

Leaders with the highest levels of vision and passion often have the lowest levels of awareness when it comes to the spirit of their team. Leaders can feel so responsible for the vision that they believe no one else is as committed as they are. It can be easy for leaders to think those who don't share the their same level of passion about the vision are not as important to the organization.

Don't get so addicted to vision achievement that the people you've assembled to achieve that vision become like equipment.

Willow Creek made five key commitments to fire up its staff to engage with the vision of the church:

1. Use an outside firm. We used an objective, outside firm to measure the temperature of the team when it came to staff engagement.

2. The entire executive team must own the "turn around." A culture will only ever be as healthy as the senior leader wants it to be. Willow's executive team took responsibility for the turn around.

3. Get serious about training those who manage people. People join organizations; they leave managers. Your organization will never reach its full potential until everyone on the team leads and loves well.

4. Raise the level of candor in performance reviews. Everyone on your team wants to know "How am I doing?" "Am I adding value?" Jack Welch says the kindest form of management is the truth. Willow Creek provides ongoing, truthful feedback to everyone on staff. We added three words to our twice-a-year performance evaluations: Start, Stop, Continue. We clarify what we're trying to move forward, and if it's not moving, we modify the plan to get the desired progress. We continue to call out the best in the employees and then fire them up to get better. Everyone wins when a leader gets better.

5. Resolve relational conflict, no matter how scary it is. We made a ruthless commitment to resolving relational conflict. Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians (John Paul Lederach) points out that relational conflict is an opportunity to strengthen a relationship instead of looking at it as a precursor to relational ruin.

According to Gallup, in the average Christian organization, only 54 percent of the employees are engaged in their work. In the corporate world, that number falls to 30 percent and internationally, the rate is half that.

At Willow Creek, our latest survey reported 81 percent of our staff was engaged. But it's heartbreaking to me that 19 percent feel underchallenged or disconnected from what God is doing. I won't be satisfied until 100 percent feel fired up about coming to work.

Bill Hybels is the senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and the founder of Willow Creek Association. The author of more than 20 books, he is a leader committed to inspiring men and women to raise the stakes when it comes to leadership. This is the 20th year for The Global Leadership Summit, to read more about the upcoming Global Leadership Summit visit

]]> (Bill Hybels) Vision Thu, 23 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Carol McLeod: The Best Spiritual Paycheck Ever I know what it is like to question my effectiveness in ministry. Do you?

Often I wonder, "Am I truly making a difference?" "Is the labor of my life encouraging anyone to embrace a vibrant faith?"

If you are a woman in ministry, I would assume that these same questions have tormented you, like they have me, from time to time.

Paul, Silas and Timothy faced the same questions as they thought about the church that they had planted in Thessalonica. They started the Thessalonian church but had to leave in its infant stages because those apostles' very lives were threatened.

Paul later sent Timothy to check on this suckling church to see how the new believers were faring.

Timothy brought back a stellar report! Not only was the church at Thessalonica still standing, but also the Thessalonians were actually growing in their faith!

"But just now Timothy has come from you to us and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good memories of us, desiring greatly to see us, as we also desire to see you. Therefore, brothers, during all our afflictions and distress, we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For now we live, if you stand strong in the Lord" (I Thess. 3:6-8, MEV).


The words of Paul ricochet through the ages and hit a bulls-eye in this weary heart of mine. The single determinate that has the capacity to encourage an overworked minister is the knowledge that somebody who has received the investment of one's ministry is now living with a vibrant faith!

Timothy brought an energizing report to Silas and Paul! The Thessalonians were standing firm!

Paul and Silas were being persecuted to the point of death and the only piece of information that they desired from the church at Thessalonica was, "Are you o.k.?"


The heart of Paul rings with clarity and richness in these memorable words, "For now we live if you stand strong in the Lord!"(I Thess. 3:8, MEV).


You, my sisters in ministry, will discover the secret to life at its finest when you choose to serve someone who needs you. 


Paul was wise enough to realize that abundant life and personal fulfillment is eternally tied to the giving of one's life away for others. 


"For now ... we really live ... if YOU stand firm in the Lord!"


My life is not about me but it is about you and your life. If I know that the people to whom I have ministered are standing firm in the Lord, that is what gives my life distinct and valuable meaning.

I don't need Rodeo Drive ... or mani-pedi's ... or expensive furniture ... or a private jet.  All I need to know is that the people in whom I have left a deposit of the gospel are living passionately for Christ!

Knowing that those under my watch "get it" when it comes to the gospel is the very best paycheck ever!

Paul, Silas and Timothy knew the truth of what you and I often ignore—abundant life is not tied into stuff or things but it is intrinsically linked into the call of making a difference in someone else's life.

There is no greater joy than that!


Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books: No More OrdinaryHoly Estrogen!The Rooms of a Woman's Heart and Defiant Joy! Her most recent book, Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire, will be released on Aug. 1. Her teaching DVD The Rooms of a Woman's Heart won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. 

]]> (Carol McLeod) Vision Fri, 17 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Don't Give Up Workers are leaving the labor force in droves. During June, the U.S. labor force declined by 432,000 people. This labor force consists of the number of employed plus unemployed.

BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) also computes a participation rate by dividing the number in the labor force (employed plus unemployed) by the total workforce population (those who could work). The June participation rate fell to 62.6 percent, the lowest level in 38 years. For workers in their prime, from 25 to 54 years old, the participation rate fell to 81.8 percent; the second lowest in 31 years.

Workers can leave the labor force for a variety of reasons. Workers can retire, become disabled, or become discouraged and quit looking for a job. According to BLS definitions, if unemployed have not looked for a job in the last 30 days, they are no longer considered unemployed nor in the labor force. The June unemployment rate fell from 5.5 to 5.3 percent because of the large number of people leaving the labor force.

The number of people who have given up looking for a job is a significant problem. Too many unemployed people have given up.

In the kingdom, we have reason for more hope. The world looks at facts and circumstances.

We should look with faith to the King of Kings and His promises. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. The writer of Hebrews, by the Holy Spirit, promised, "Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which will be greatly rewarded" (Heb. 10:35).

The book of Hebrews was written before the fall of Jerusalem by the Romans. Persecution of Christians, and Jewish Christians in particular, was severe. But God was in control. The promises of God are assured. We should not lose our confidence. We will see the reward.

Has the Lord given us specific promises that are yet to be fulfilled? Don't give up!

Do the circumstances in life appear disheartening? Don't give up!

Are we beginning to lose hope? Don't give up!

Are we beginning to doubt the promises of our King? Don't give up!

Does it appear to be getting worst? Don't give up!

As we approach our promised land, the tests will often become more severe. Battles are often most trying and can be lost just before the Lord has ordained our victory. The preparation for a great mission in life is often the passing of great tests.

If we remain faithful, our victory is assured, because the Lord is always faithful. We are sons and daughters of the King. We have been given access to everything we need to accomplish all that we have been called to do. Let us never, never give up.

"... You know in all your hearts and souls that not a single word has failed out of all the good things that the Lord your God has said concerning you. All came true for you. Not a single word among them failed" (Josh. 23:14).

"... Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts" (Zech. 4:6).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

]]> (James R. Russell) Vision Wed, 08 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
How We Went from Theological to Therapeutic Preaching There has been a growing trend among Evangelical pastors and churches over the past 50 years regarding the demise of theology and its subsequent replacement with psychology. (By theology I mean the serious systematic and orderly study of God.)

There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which is the failure of many seminaries to fully prepare potential pastors for the practical rigors and challenges of leading a local church, and that so many leaders find themselves burned out and unable to cope with all the pressures of the ministry and their personal lives.

The genesis of this trend started in the late 1800s, when theology no longer functioned as the "queen of the sciences" (in which all academic study evolved around the study of God), but became a separate field of study through seminaries only for those who were going into full-time ministry.

The repercussions of this have been cataclysmic. Now it has become popular that theology is not important enough for the average Christian, and also that it is not practical for the real world.

The domino effect of this has been felt more and more until its culmination in the early twentieth century when most universities eradicated all references to theology as its centerpiece. Note this shift began at Princeton University in the late 1920s.

Prior to this shift, natural empirical science was actually called moral philosophy, as the study of nature was seen as a compliment and an extension of theology. Creation and nature were called the 67th book of the Bible that was needful to study, to understand and know the glory of God. Read Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1:18-21.

Universities (the genesis of which grew out of King Charlemagne calling on the church to educate the masses of people in his empire during the ninth century) started as a Christian endeavor. Even in the United States, most of the Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and Columbia, started out as Christian universities with an emphasis on studies in divinity. Then, it was thought only theology could unify and cohere all of the various studies together. Thus the name uni (one) versity.

Today, all of the various academic departments in most universities are disconnected in regards to their fields of study, with no one overarching discipline or worldview. It would be more accurate to call these places of learning "multiversities" instead of universities. Thus the word university implies a Christian worldview for academic study.

Because of this cultural shift away from theology, the people who attend Christian churches today have been trained to think that theology is not necessary or even practical. This is in spite of people being destroyed by a lack of the knowledge of God (Hosea 4:6).

Worse yet, this has led pastors to preach messages that show they spend more time studying behaviorism and sociology than they do the Scriptures. Many of the fastest growing churches today have pulpit preaching based on self-help positive messages with or without Scripture as an appendage. The days of a pastor preaching relevant doctrinal messages have now gone the way of the dinosaur!

Furthermore, most successful Christian leaders espouse a corporate style of leadership with most of their personal focus on pragmatics and organizational strategy than a serious study of the Scriptures. I think a leader is called to do both, not either/or. But leaders should delegate as much administration as possible so they can spend more time alone with God.

Many churches painstakingly take their congregants through a long process to make sure everyone understands the mission and vision of the church, but do not make the same effort to ensure attendees know the fundamentals of the faith! I wonder what Peter and the Apostles would have thought about God's shepherds moving away from devoting themselves to the study of Scripture and prayer to what amounts to "waiting on tables" (Acts 6:1-4)?

Psalm 1, Joshua 1:8, 2 Timothy 2:16, and all of Psalm 119 speak of the importance for all believers (not just pastors) to know the Scriptures in order to be equipped to serve God as His followers. Deuteronomy 17:18 teaches that even kings should write out the whole Book of the Law by hand so they would be successful as civil magistrates.

If all believers are commanded to know the Scriptures and grow in the knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18) how much more should we, who are called to preach as God's representatives to His people! While church elders who preach are considered worthy of double honor according to 1 Timothy 5:17, James 3:1-3 also gives a warning not to be quick to teach because we will be judged even more strictly! We as teachers must know what we are talking about, and study to show ourselves approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

In spite of all this, rare is the pastor who considers himself or herself a theologian (one devoted and skilled in the study of God) although frequent is the leader who presently owns a doctorate. Even the highly acclaimed doctor of ministry degree in most seminaries is considered more of a study of pragmatic ministry models than the Scriptures. Thus pastors now have an academic counterpart to the professional education revered by those in the fields of law, business, and medicine, which unfortunately has the potential to perpetuate the corporate model more than the biblical model espoused by Peter and the Apostles. (I say this even though one of my doctorates is in ministry, but I made sure my concentration was in biblical worldview so that my focus stayed on theology.)

Not only is there a de-emphasis on theology in Christian circles, but in most Christian leadership circles it is mentioned with scorn and as something irrelevant! I even hear pastors brag that they do not talk about doctrine or that people do not have to study theology to be effective believers. This may be true in regards to a new Christian as a soul winner, but not true in the long run regarding their effectiveness.


As a result, many Evangelical churches and sermons are a mile long and an inch deep! We emphasize getting people into our church buildings via slick marketing strategies, felt-need programs, and nice ambiance, while neglecting the greater commandment of sending out saints to transform the world as disciples of Christ!

This shift away from theology towards pragmatism is also going to cause many pastors to shy away from preaching much of the content in the epistles of Paul (because he is too sexist and homophobic, for example). This will result in the church becoming progressively doctrinally liberal, just as the declining historic mainline Protestant denominations have become.

In my observations of the church over the past 30 years, I have seen biblical literacy gradually being replaced by a touchy-feely subjective approach to God that can eventuate in replacing the logos (reason; truth) of God with an irrationalism that is closer to new age spirituality than it is to historic Christian orthodoxy.

Much of the culture has been captivated with a postmodern notion that truth cannot be known; we can only feel our way through life! When I was new to the ministry, one church leader even told me not to study the Bible because doctrine is not important, but instead to read the Scriptures in the narrative as a love letter from God to me. I retort that if doctrine is not important then we might as well do away with the first chapter of John, all of Romans and Hebrews, along with most of the content of the epistles of Paul, Peter, James and Jude.

There are also those among Evangelicals who claim that the theological construct since the Reformation is imbedded in a modernist/Enlightenment view of truth that has also been tainted by a Greek concept of rationalism. These say that the Scriptures must be interpreted through the lens of Jerusalem, which is holistic, rather than through the lens of Athens, which is more didactic, systematic, and rational.

While there is a lot of truth in this, we also need to understand that God has providentially directed His church through the centuries and allowed Greek/rational influence in the church.

Also, God is very systematic and detailed at times in dealing with His people. Read Exodus 25 with the building of the Tabernacle of Moses, and the book of Leviticus and the dietary laws, ceremonial laws, and the nuanced details regarding the five different sacrifices the Levitical priests had to administrate.

Regarding the New Testament, you could not get any more Greek than the name given for Jesus in John 1:1. Logos was used in Greek culture for hundreds of years to depict logic, reason, concept, a message, doctrine, teaching, and in respect to the mind it was used to describe the mental faculty of thinking, reasoning, calculating, and in giving an account for something. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus first used the term logos around 500 BC to designate the divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe.

Paul the apostle used the Greek form of reasoning in Acts 17 when he debated with Greek philosophers before the Areopagus, and his treatise on salvation in the book of Romans is as close to systematic theology as anything else I have read.


While it is true we must understand Hebraic thought in order to correctly interpret the Scriptures, we also need to understand that the Hebrew writers also include much in the way of systematic thinking and doctrine which can be aptly understood and studied by the use of both biblical and systematic theological works.

I am not saying that pastors ought to neglect the practical administrative matters of their local church, but that they need to go back to focusing on the study of and growth in the knowledge of God as the locus of their calling with which everything else is built around! I do not want to go to heaven and have God sarcastically congratulating me for being a great deacon of the church instead of functioning in my call as a prophetic minister to the church (Ephesians 4:11).

We need to be like King Josiah, who rediscovered the Book of the Law, if we are truly going to experience biblical reformation. Our biblical illiteracy has already reached a point to which many of our brothers and sisters do not know the difference between a true move of God and an emotional tizzy, or biblical reformation from a political victory by a Democrat or a Republican.

My biblical model regarding all this is the late great Jonathan Edwards, who led the first Great Awakening in America in the 1740s. He was not only a revivalist and reformer, but a pastor, a great prayer leader who led continental "Concerts of Prayer," a theologian, and a writer who even penned scientific works (one of his famous writings was his study on spiders). This leader not only brought church and cultural reformation but was an acclaimed revivalist/theologian who actually became the President of Princeton University before he died.

Abraham Kuyper was also a notable theologian who became a pastor, started a denomination and university, and eventually became the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

Time and space forbid me from also illustrating the lives of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and other theologians who turned their worlds upside down. Paul the Apostle, our greatest theologian, did not do a bad job transforming the world either.

Who said theologians or theology is irrelevant?

Joseph Mattera has been in full-time church ministry since 1980 and is currently the Presiding Bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York. He is also serving as the United States Ambassador for the International Coalition of Apostles, and as one of the founding presiding bishops of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches.

]]> (Joseph Mattera) Vision Mon, 29 Jun 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Kingdom First: Starting Churches That Shape Movements Church movements are tricky things, but the phrase has never been more popular.

People keep referring to themselves as "a movement for global change" or "a church planting movement." If we're honest, however, that's usually not the case.

Why do so many people classify themselves as a movement? People want to be a part of one. I recognize that desire because I share it. I am a seeker of movements. I want one. We need one.

Yet, only God can create a movement—it takes His divine and sovereign work. But, based on my observations in history and around the world today, there do seem to be some patterns related to such movements.

The obvious question is, "What will it take for a church movement to start now?" Here are just a few ideas of many:

We Need Unreasonable Men and Women

The comfortable do not create movements. Instead, they originate with those who are desperate, demanding something different. Movements come from those who become more committed than they are now.

George Bernard Shaw, Irish dramatist and socialist, once said, "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." He's right, in a way.

I'd say that when women and men allow their faith to be tamed by the world, they end up with a "nice religion" uninterested in the big issues like global evangelization, world poverty, and injustice. That's why I love passionate people. We need more, not less of them.

Christianity needs unreasonable people who are uncomfortable with the status quo and unwilling to be content with the current mode of life and church. We all need a cause bigger than ourselves, which can drive us to action with a holy dissatisfaction.

Sacrificial Churches

Seeing the kingdom as more important than an individual church will take sacrifice, but that's what a movement is about. For so many churches that are simply trying to get by, however, that is an odd thing. Instead of a vision for the kingdom, they have a vision for survival.

A movement takes churches that so believe in their mission and cause that they are willing to sacrifice for it—financially, congregationally and corporately. They are willing to give and go. Movement churches will sacrifice people to send out missionaries around the world and church planters across the nation.

Everyone loves a movement, as long as it looks great, but costs them little. A true movement will have a steep price, but those who are a part of it will recognize the immeasurable value.

We Need Multiplying Disciples

That's so basic it is easy to miss, but it cannot be more essential. The fact is, no disciples are willing to be unreasonable and no churches are willing to sacrifice unless deeply committed disciples are involved.

Discipleship is the DNA of "movemental Christianity." It is the basic building block of anything Jesus calls us to do, which is why it is central to the mission of God. Disciples are unreasonable because they want the world to know of Jesus and to live as those who are changed by the gospel's power. Disciples demand their churches sacrifice for greater gospel good.

Paul explained that when we become new creations in Christ, we are drafted into service. We go out on God's behalf and offer reconciliation to the people in our lives. We don't replace Christ, but we do join him in the grand plan of redemption. We join churches and sacrifice for the good of the kingdom.

On multiple occasions Jesus challenged the faith development of his disciples. As time went on, he expected them to step out in faith and believe with more consistency. He expected them to step out of boats with greater confidence. He expected them to be unsatisfied.

No Christian movement can be birthed without discipleship. It is impossible.

So, what needs to happen and what needs to change?

This book, Kingdom First: Starting Churches that Shape Movements, by Jeff Christopherson with Mac Lake, is a helpful tool to answer that very question. Throughout this text, Jeff walks the reader through the various necessities required for a real movement of the church, focused on the kingdom, powered by discipleship.

All sorts of factors play into church movements: leadership, purpose, communication, teamwork, and so much more. I am thankful for the ways in which Jeff has addressed all of these topics because each one of them plays an important role in real, effective kingdom-centric movements of the global church.

I hope that as you read and engage with Jeff's book, you would be inspired to take the steps necessary to focus your discipleship-fueled multiplication on the good of the universal kingdom of God.

Note: The above text is the foreword Ed Stetzer wrote for Kingdom First: Starting Churches That Shape Movements by Jeff Christopherson and Mac Lake.

Ed Stetzer is the executive director of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ed Stetzer ) Vision Tue, 23 Jun 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Are You a Sarah? I have always been fascinated by the stories of the great women of faith whose biographies are included in the Bible. The Holy Spirit, who is an expert on every imaginable topic, selectively chose particular women whose lives were worthy of mention in the greatest Book ever written.

One of the women whose life holds great interest to me is the woman by the name of "Sarah" in the Old Testament. I even believe that Sarah and I just might be kindred spirits.

Sarah was nearly 90 years old and she had never held a baby in her elderly arms. She never had stretch marks, never had lost sleep due to a colicky baby and never had felt the quickening of new life within her womb. 

Sarah's hands were spotted with age and her cheeks were wrinkled by the hands of time.  There was no youthful glow about this woman, Sarah.

Month after month ... year after year ... decade after decade ... Sarah's hopes were dashed and her prayers went unanswered.

I believe that there are Sarahs in the church and that there are Sarahs in ministry today who have waited month after month ... year after year ... and decade after decade ... for God to answer their prayers and fulfill their hopes. Perhaps you are one of the Sarahs of whom I speak.

You have begged God to open doors of ministry for you and have quietly nurtured hopes and aspirations within your heart. You have believed that God would use you and your voice to impact a generation ... or a nation ... or a group of people. You have longed for the opportunity to leave a legacy beyond yourself in being a spiritual mother to spiritual sons and spiritual daughters.

"By faith Sarah herself also received the ability to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised" (Heb. 11:11, MEV).

The word "conceive" in this verse is the Hebrew word "yacham" and it means to "get hot." Because of faith, Sarah received the strength to conceive and defied the limitations of her physical body.

Sarah "got hot" with the passion that refuses to walk by sight and determined that if God had made a declaration then His Words were eternal and promised truth.

Faith inflamed a passion inside of Sarah that circumstances and time could not quench. When Sarah pondered the Person and the promises of God, she resolved that God was faithful. Sarah's faith assured her that God keeps every promise that He makes.

It is time for the women who have been waiting for prayers to be answered to be enflamed with the passion of faith. It is time for the women of this generation not to be limited by age or by unfilled hopes but to give birth to dreams and visions that will impact a generation.

Are you a Sarah? Are you willing to walk by faith when circumstances remain unchanged? Have you determined that faith will ignite in you an unquenchable fervor that will touch nations and history?

Now is the hour for women to "get hot" due to the power of their faith and then to travail in the birthing room of prayer. Now is the hour.

Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books: No More OrdinaryHoly Estrogen!The Rooms of a Woman's Heart and Defiant Joy! Her most recent book, Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire, will be released on Aug. 1. Her teaching DVD The Rooms of a Woman's Heart won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. 

]]> (Carol McLeod) Women in Leadership Fri, 24 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
6 Reasons Why Women May Be Leaving Your Church I have the opportunity to be in many churches. In that regard, I am observer of people.

When I enter a worship service, I do a quick scan of those attending. And almost every time I look to the congregation, I notice one clear reality: The majority in attendance are women.

It is for that reason that volumes have been written the past couple of decades about getting more men to attend church. In this brief article, however, I want to look from a different perspective. I want to understand the motivations for women who leave the church. My process was simple; I quickly reviewed thousands of comments on my blog. Many times, I read a comment where a woman told me she had given up on a church.

Here are the six most common themes:

1. Overworked. "I had trouble saying no when I was asked to do something in the church. The leaders piled so much on me that the only way I could get relief was to leave the church."

2. Not valued. "I really don't think the leaders in our church value women. Our roles and opportunities are very limited. I am frustrated. I hope I can find a church where my gifts are appreciated."

3. Relationally hurt. "There was a group of ladies in our church that did everything together. When I tried to join them, they paid me no attention. I don't want to be in a church of cliques."

4. Lack of quality childcare. "The preaching was great and the people were friendly, but the childcare was a mess. It was both unclean and unsafe. I'm not taking my child there."

5. Busyness. "I work full-time. I have four kids at home. I have so many responsibilities. It's tough to give even more of my time to the church."

6. Husband does not attend. "It's tough coming to church without my husband. I am totally responsible to get our three kids to church. And I really feel out of place because the church has groups for married adults and single adults. I don't know where I fit."

Church leaders: See these comments as opportunities for ministry rather than problems that can't be solved.

How would you address these concerns? What is your church doing now? What more would you like your church to do?

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer ) Women in Leadership Thu, 23 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Marilyn Hickey: Angels Shut Lions' Mouths Angels are sent to believers to take care of the ions in their lives.

The devil pretends he is a lion. He has a big mouth and he walks around roaring and looking for meaty Christians to devour (1 Peter 5:8-9). But angels know how to shut lions' mouths.

The Old Testament prophet Daniel discovered an angel's power over lions in a dramatic way one day.

Daniel was not a young man when he encountered lions. He was probably more than 80 years of age, however, he had learned to handle lions long before he had his personal encounter with them.

In James 4:7 we are told to resist a lion (Satan) by standing in faith. Daniel had learned how to pray God's Word. From the first day of his cap­tivity he purposed in his heart to stand uncompromisingly on God's Word. We never find him praying problems; only promises and thereby only receiving provisions. He had learned how to resist a lion. He stood fast in the Word, however, his praying didn't keep him out of the lions' den.. His praying put him in the lions' den.

Daniel had a very important position in the Persian empire. He was one of three presidents who were second only to the king. He had power, wealth and favor. The Bible says he was promoted because he had an excellent spirit. This aroused envy in the other rulers and they looked for ways to destroy Daniel.

They found Daniel to be faithful with no evil in him but they did discover one "glaring error" in him. He prayed too much. He had a disciplined time for prayer three times a day. Being more than 80 didn't keep him from bowing his knees. It was no secret because he opened his window and prayed toward Jerusalem three times a day.

David, who also fought lions, prayed three times a day (Psalm 55:17).

The presidents devised a plan they felt would please the king and remove Daniel from power. They came to Darius to persuade him to pass a decree that no prayer should be made to anyone but the king for 30 days.

The decree appealed to the king for it made him a deity. And once a decree was passed, it could not be revoked, even by the king himself.

Daniel did not have to get ready to face the lions, he stayed ready. His prayer life is shown throughout the book.

He prayed privately in Daniel 6:10: "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks to God, as he did aforetime."

He prayed earnestly in Daniel 9:3: "And. I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth and ashes."

He prayed desperately in Daniel 10: 2-3: "In those days, I, Daniel was mour­ning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were ful­filled."

He prayed powerfully in Daniel 10:12: "Then he said unto me, 'Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to under­stand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.' "

When the king was brought the news concerning Daniel's prayer life he saw the neatly planned trap and became disgusted with himself. The king spent the night worrying while Daniel was in the lion's den. Daniel did not. He was prepared.

Early the next morning, the king called to Daniel and to his surprise and joy the strong voice of Daniel an­swered: "My God hath sent His angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths." Daniel hadn't been scratched in his ordeal with the lions.

Darius was so impressed he published a decree proclaiming the greatness of Daniel's God. He declared:

1. God is living.

2.   His kingdom is eternal.

3.   His dominion is unto the end.

4.   He delivers and rescues.

5.   He works signs and wonders.

6.   He sent an angel and delivered Daniel from the lions' den.

The story opened telling of Daniel's prosperity and closed with Daniel's prosperity. What made him prosper? Very simply, it was faith. Faith in God's Word. Angels move to our aid when we move in God's Word.

You may have an overnight stay in a lions' den sometime. Let me give you some advice on how to cope with lions.

1. Read your Bible before you arrive in the lions' den.

2. Have a disciplined prayer time before lions are sniffing at your clothes.

3. Give God the glory for your angelic deliverance.

4. Pray for those watching you in the lions' den.

5. Keep an excellent spirit.

6. Know the Bible will work for you.

7. Decide you are a success.

8. Look to God.

 9. Keep your focus on the Word in a crisis..

 Daniel didn't try to get the king to help him,' he appealed to the King of Kings. It is the King of Kings who dispatches angels to your rescue.

 Because of his faith, Daniel receives an honorable mention in Hebrews 11:33, "who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness., ob­tained promises, stopped the mouths of lions." Daniel means "God is my judge." Put your trust in a righteous God who is .judge of all and He will send His angel to stop the mouth of lions.

One cold, snowy night several winters ago I also had an experience with that old pretender lion the devil and my angel.

 I fixed dinner for my family and looked forward to a relaxing evening at home alone with only our black toy poodle, Beethoven. My husband and son had left to take an oil painting lesson and my daughter had gone to her piano lesson. It was so rare to have such a night at home alone, I thought I would savor every moment of it. I had been wanting to try a new cake recipe and what better time could I have?

 I took the newspaper clipping out of my recipe file and began to get out all the ingredients. Running up the stain to our bedroom to find an apron, I heard the ring of the- bedroom phone interrupting the warm silence I had been enjoying. Hastily I picked up the phone wondering who would be calling on my solitary night which I had so relished. Answering questions in rapid-fire yes's and no's, I waited impatiently for the opportunity to say good-bye.

After 10 or 15 minutes, I hung up and hurriedly walked down the steps to continue my cake baking: While I had been talking on the phone I had kicked off my shoes and I remembered that as I walked down the steps in my stocking feet. But, impatient to get at my cake baking, I decided to leave my shoes in the bedroom.

As I walked into the kitchen, a cold wind hit my feet and the reason became obvious when I saw our back door wide open. My first thought was "which one of my children.has left the door open?" and yet I knew in my heart that no one in our family would have left the door open on such a cold; wintry night.

 Before I could react, Beethoven went over to our black, wrought iron fence which separates our family room from our kitchen.

The family room was dark but our little poodle was aware of more darkness than merely the absence of light. He let out a low, throaty growl. Every little black curly hair on his body seemed to be standing at atten­tion. He was alert and ready to jump through the wrought iron railing.

There was no question in his mind that there was an intruder someplace in the darkness of that room. By now, there was no question in my mind either that . there was an uninvited guest and perhaps a dangerous one. I didn't know whether I should scream, run out the back door, or go into that dark family room and chase out the in­truder.

As these thoughts raced through my mind, it was as though someone took my arm and guided me to close and lock the back door. A calmness which is really beyond description filled my spirit, my mind, and even my body. Every movement I made seemed effort­less. As though it had already been planned. and I was simply walking in steps placed before me.

I picked up our tiny poodle and walked out the front door. When my stockinged feet touched the cold con­crete of our front porch, I suddenly wished that I had gone back up those stairs and put on my shoes. I walked rapidly down the front steps and then ran across the lawn to our neighbor's house to the west of us.

As I stood shivering on their front porch, waiting for them to answer the door bell, I probed in my mind trying to imagine who the frightening, mysterious intruder might be. I could feel the warmth of Beethoven's furry body in my arms and it seemed the only spot of warmth on the whole body. Even my mind seemed to be cold.

At last, my neighbor came to the door. He looked at me as though I had lost my mind — no shoes, no coat and holding a dog. Before he could open his mouth, I opened mine. The words flew out of my mouth, "There's someone in my house, hiding. They came in the back door. Would you please come over to my house with me?"

I waited with my feet almost numb with cold as he grabbed a jacket and a flashlight. The two of us cut across his lawn. I noticed the moon and for a second it seemed like a normal cold Colorado night. Because of the moon light, we could easily see the figure that erupted out of my front door, running in long strides and jumping into a car parked not too far from the front of our house.

Though I could tell the figure was tall, maybe 510" or 5'11", I was not sure it was a male. Much of the movement was like a woman. I felt a sickening feeling in my stomach as I realized that I could easily identify my unwelcome intruder.

She was a large woman with many mental problems our church pastor had counseled. We had all seen some extremely hostile reactions. Three of us had encouraged her to go to a Christian counseling service but she had refused. She had also refused psychiatric help.

Why had she waited until my family was gone? Why had she hidden in some dark corner of our family room? What did she want? What were her in­tentions?

I cannot give you secure answers to these questions but I do know this: my guardian angel was very busy that night. I believe he took my arm and guided me and calmed me in those first moments of panic. My guardian angel is my friend.

When my husband came home with my daughter and son, they walked in the front door to the delicious aroma of freshly baked pound cake. My husband said, "Why is every light in the house on?" My neighbor had insisted on going through every room and closet in the house and turning on all the lights. He had also insisted we call the police but I didn't tell my husband until after cake and coffee.

It  was then I could honestly say that I believed the rescue squad of heaven, God's angels, had come to my aid. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them" (Psalm 34:7)

]]> (Marilyn Hickey) Women in Leadership Tue, 04 Aug 2015 19:00:00 -0400
7 Ways to Honor the Pastor’s Wife One of the toughest jobs in the church is that of being a pastor's wife.

It has been called the loneliest job in the church.

No doubt I have one of the best. Cheryl has a professional job as an accountant, is an excellent mom and wife, but the demands on her as my wife are some of the most overwhelming.

Still she handles it with grace and a smile.

In this post, I want to help you know how to honor and protect your pastor's wife.

Truthfully, I am not talking on behalf of Cheryl. She would never ask for this and frankly we are mostly in a good church environment as far as the way our staff and spouses are treated. Plus, we came out of the business world into ministry. We were older and more seasoned by life, so we've always approached things differently—protected our personal time more. Sunday is Cheryl's favorite day of the week.

I know, however, because of my work with pastors that many pastor's wives are facing burnout, a sense of loneliness, and some even struggle to come to church. That should not be.

Here are seven ways to honor the pastor's wife:

1. Do not put too many expectations on her. Regardless of the church size, she cannot be everywhere, attend everything and know everyone's name and family situation, all while still carrying out her role in the home. She simply can't. Don't expect her to be super-human.

2. Do not expect her to oppose her husband. She will be protective of her spouse. Hopefully you would equally protect your spouse. If you bad mouth her husband she's likely to respond in a way you don't want her to—but should expect her to. Don't complain if she does.

3. Protect her from gossip. She does not need to know the "prayer concerns" that are really just a way of spreading rumors. And, you know when that's the case. Check your motives in what you share. Don't share what you don't have permission to share.

4. Let her have a family. The pastor is pulled in many directions. The family understands the nature of the job. Life doesn't happen on a schedule. But, in reality, there are often unreasonable demands on the pastor. That always impacts the family. If you can—limit your demands to normal working hours for the church and the pastor. Send an email rather than calling at home if it's not an immediate concern. It will help the pastor have a family life.

5. Include her without placing demands or expectations on her. That's the delicate balance. The pastor's wife is often one of the loneliest women in the church. She rarely knows whom to trust and often is excluded from times that are just for fun. Don't be afraid to treat her as a normal human being. She is. But, if she says no—don't hold it against her either.

6. Never repeat what she says. Ever. If the pastor's wife happens to share information with you about the church or her personal life, keep it to yourself. Always. There will be temptation to share her words as "juicy news," but you will honor her by remaining silent. And over time you will build her trust and her friendship.

7. Pray for your pastor's family. Daily would be awesome. And much needed.

Finally, if your church really wants to honor the pastor's wife, find ways to give her time away with her husband and/or family. That is probably what she needs the most.

Feel free to give a shout-out to your pastor's wife here and share practical ways you can honor your pastor's wife. If you are a pastor or pastor's wife, I would love to hear your thoughts.

(Two closing notes: First, these may work equally well for the husband of a pastor or minister, but I can only speak from my perspective. Second, I've been told numerous times that a pastor's wife IS the problem in the church. That's the subject of another post, but I do understand and recognize that there are times this is the problem. It is very difficult for a pastor to be effective without a supportive spouse.).

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson ) Women in Leadership Wed, 29 Apr 2015 18:00:00 -0400
'It's Time for Women to Go to War' Women, in a unique and powerful way, are God's search and rescue team. When God's heart is pursuing a lost person, often He sends a woman on the chase.

God knows that women have been especially created to care extravagantly about people who need a bit of help and some extra tender loving care. After all, God should know what women are capable of ... He created women just the way we are for His particular purpose. 

And, may I just say, that God's purpose for your life should be your purpose for your life.  No questions asked. No excuses given. Just your life for God's will.

For much of my life I have been content to be a nurse who quietly, gently and kindly gave encouragement to those who were bruised on the battlefield of life. What joy and what safety I have in fulfilling that merciful role. I have loved being a vital part of God's Red Cross.

Recently, however, God has spoken a word to my heart that has emphatically changed my focus and my job description.

God spoke to me and said, "It is time for women to go to war!"

There is a battle raging for the lives of men, women and children, and it is time for the women of this generation to exert their influence and their power and to strategically battle on behalf of those who are caught in the crossfire.

You see ... women can either be content to care for the wounded or we can rise up and fight so that there will no longer be so many who need critical care. We must lend our voices, our hearts, our gifts and our time to the great commission and  thusly prevent someone else's pain.

It's time for the women of God who are alive on the earth today to rise up against the powers of darkness, against the slavery of sexual predators, against the thief of depression, and against the lie of eating disorders. 

It's time for the women of God of this generation to say, "No More!" to abuse, to pornography, to addictions and to self-harm. 

It's time for the women of God to raise a standard of moral purity, to demonstrate the strength that is only extracted from the joy of His presence and to live the abundant life that only Jesus gives.

It's time.

I believe that God is raising up a generation of Esthers. He is not raising up just one "Esther" but He is raising up an entire generation of women who have been born for such a moment as this moment. God is raising up a generation of women who know the power of fasting, who are not intimidated by the compromise of the culture and who are willing to stand against demonic spirits. God is raising up a generation of women who are not afraid of dying but are determined to live boldly and courageously on the battlefield of life.

What will your role be? Because you will, indeed, play a role in the plan of God during your lifespan. Will you cower or will you care? Will you be afraid or will you be a force to be reckoned with? Will you truly live or will you merely die?

It's time for the women of God to go to war. It's time.

Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books, No More Ordinary, Holy Estrogen!, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart and Defiant Joy! Her most recent book, Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire, will be released on August 1. Her teaching DVD, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming.

]]> (Carol McLeod) Women in Leadership Fri, 10 Apr 2015 21:00:00 -0400
The Pastor's Wife: The Most Vulnerable Person in Your Church We're all vulnerable.

Everyone who walks in the church door can be helped or hurt by what happens during the following hour or more. Whether saint or sinner, preacher or pew-sitter, old-timer or newcomer, child or geezer, everyone is vulnerable and should be treated respectfully, faithfully, carefully.

However, no one in the church family is more vulnerable than the pastor's wife.

She is the key figure in the life of the pastor and plays the biggest role in his success or failure. (Note: I am fully aware that in some churches the pastor is a woman. In such cases, what follows would hardly pertain to her household.)

And yet, many churches treat her as an unpaid employee, an uncalled assistant pastor, an always-available office volunteer, a biblical expert and a psychological whiz.

She is almost always a reliable helper as well as an under-appreciated servant.

You might not think so, but she is the most vulnerable person in the building. That is to say, she is the single most likely person to become the victim of malicious gossip, sneaky innuendo, impossible expectations and pastoral frustrations.

The pastor's wife can be hurt in a hundred ways—through attacks on her husband, her children, herself. Her pain is magnified by one great reality: She cannot fight back.

She cannot give a certain member a piece of her mind for criticizing the pastor's children, cannot straighten out the deacon who is making life miserable for her husband, cannot stand up to the finance committee who, once again, failed to approve a needed pay raise, or the building and grounds committee that postponed repair work on the pastorium—often called a parsonage, if your church provides one.

She has to take it in silence most of the time.

It takes the best Christian in the church to be a pastor's wife and pull it off. And that's the problem: In most cases, she's pretty much the same kind of Christian as everyone else. When the enemy attacks, she bleeds.

The pastor's wife has no say-so in how the church is run and receives no pay, yet she has a lot to do with whether her husband gets called to that church and succeeds once he arrives.

That's why I counsel pastors to include with their resume a photo of their family. The search committee will want to see the entire family, particularly the pastor's wife, and will try to envision whether they would "fit" in "our" church.

The pastor's wife occupies no official position, was not the object of a church vote, and gives no regular reports to the congregation on anything. And yet, no one person in the church is more influential in making the pastor a success—or a resounding failure—than her.

She is the object of a world of expectations:

  • She is expected to dress modestly and attractively, well enough but not overly ornate.
  • She is expected to be the perfect mother, raising disciplined children who are models of well-behaved offspring for the other families, to be her husband's biggest supporter and prayer warrior, and to attend all the church functions faithfully and, of course, bring a great casserole on potluck night.
  • Since her husband is subject to being called away from home at all hours, she is expected to understand this and have worked it out with the Lord from the time of her marriage—if not from the moment of her salvation—and to have no problem with it. If she complains about his being called out, she can expect no sympathy from the members. If she does voice her frustrations, what she hears is, "This is why we pay him the big salary," and "Well, you married a preacher; what did you expect?"
  • She is expected to run her household well on the limited funds the church can pay and keep her family looking like a million bucks.

And those are just for starters.

The pastor's children likewise suffer in silence as they share their daddy with hundreds of church members, each of whom feel they own a piece of him, and can do little about it. (But that's another article.)

Here is what we owe the pastor's wife:

1. We owe her the right to be herself. She is our sister in Christ and accountable to Him.

My wife was blessed to have followed pastors' wives who cut their own path. So, in some churches, Margaret taught Sunday School and came to the women's missionary meetings. In other churches, she directed the drama team and ran television cameras. A few times, she held weekday jobs while raising three pretty terrific kids.

And, as far as I know, the churches were always supportive and understanding. We were blessed.

Allow the pastor's wife to serve in whatever areas she's gifted in. Allow her to try different things and to grow. But do not put your expectations on her, if at all possible.

Do not try to tell her how to raise her children. Do not try to get to her husband through her with your messages or (ahem) helpful suggestions.

2. We owe her our love and gratitude. She has a one-of-a-kind role in the congregation, which makes her essential to the church's well-being.

Recently, as I was finishing a weekend of ministry at a church in central Alabama and about to drive the 300 miles back home, a member said, "Please thank your wife for sharing you with us this weekend. I know your leaving is hard on her."

How sensitive—and how true, I thought. That person had no idea that my wife underwent surgery two weeks earlier and I had been her nurse ever since, and that in my absence, my son and his family were taking care of her, and that I was now about to rush home to relieve them.

Church members have no clue—and no way of knowing—regarding the pressures inside the pastor's family and should not investigate to find out.

What they should do is love the wife and children and show them appreciation at every opportunity.

3. We owe her our love and prayers. While the Father alone knows her heart, the pastor may be the only human who knows her burdens.

Pray for her by name on a regular basis. Then, leave it to the Lord to answer those prayers however He chooses.

If we believe that the Living God is our Lord and Savior and that He hears our prayers, we should be lifting to Him those whose lives are given in service for Him.

Ask the Father for His protection upon the pastor's wife and children—for their health, for their safety from all harm, and for Him to shield them from evil people.

Pray for His provisions for all their needs, and for the church to do well in providing for them.

Pray for the pastor's relationship with his wife. If their private life is healthy, the congregation's shepherd is far better prepared for everything he will be asked to do.

4. We owe her our responsible care. What does she need?

Do they need a babysitter for a date night? Do they need some finances for an upcoming trip? If they are attending the state assembly or the annual meeting of the denomination, are the funds provided by the church budget adequate, or do they need more? Is the wife going with the pastor? (She should be encouraged to do so, if possible.)

Ask the Holy Spirit what the pastor's wife (and/or the pastor's entire family) needs, and if it's something you can do or provide, do it. If it's too huge, rally the troops.

5. We owe it to the pastor and his wife to speak up. Sometimes, they need a friend to take their side. If your pastor's wife has a ministry in the church, look for people to criticize her for: a) dominating others, b) neglecting her home, or c) running the whole show. To some, she cannot do anything right.

You be the one to voice appreciation for her talents and abilities, her love for the Lord, and her particular skills that make this ministry work.

Imagine yourself standing in a church business meeting to mention something the pastor's wife did that blessed someone, that made a difference, that glorified the Lord.

Imagine yourself planning in advance what you will say, asking the moderator (who is frequently the pastor) for a moment for "a personal privilege" without telling him in advance. 

And, imagine yourself informing a couple of your best friends what you are planning to do, so they can be prepared to stand up "spontaneously" and begin the ovation (Hey, sometimes our people have to be taught to do these things).

The typical reaction most church members give when someone is criticizing the pastor's wife is silence. But you speak up. Take up for her.

Praise God for her willingness to get involved, to not sit at home in silence, but to support her husband and bless the church.

6. We owe them protection for the pastor's days off and vacations. After my third pastorate, I joined the staff of the great First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, and quickly made an outstanding discovery. The personnel policies stipulated that the church office would be closed on Saturdays and the ministers were expected to enjoy the day with their families.

Furthermore, when the church gave a minister several weeks of vacation, it was understood at least two full weeks of it would be spent with the family in rest and recreation and not in ministry somewhere. As one who took off-days reluctantly and would not allow myself to relax and rest during vacations, I needed this to be spelled out in official policy.

When a pastor is being interviewed for the position and when he is new, he should make plain that his off-days are sacred. The ministerial and office staffs can see that he is protected.

The lay leadership can make sure the congregation knows this time is just as holy to the Lord as the time he spends in the office, hospitals or even the pulpit.

7. We owe them the same thing we owe the Lord: faithful obedience to Christ. Pastors will tell you in a heartbeat that the best gift anyone can give them is just to live the Christian life faithfully. When our members do that—when they live like Jesus and strive to know Him better, to love one another, to pray and give and serve—ten thousand problems in relationships disappear.

Finally, a word to the pastor's wife ...

It's my observation that most wives of ministers feel inadequate. They want to do the right thing, to manage their households well and support their husbands, keep a clean house, sometimes accompany him on his ministries, and such, but there are only so many hours in a day and so much strength in this young woman. She feels guilty for being tired and worries that she is inadequate.

The Apostle Paul may have had pastors' wives in mind when he said, "Not that we are adequate to think anything of ourselves, but our adequacy is of God" (2 Cor. 3:5).

We are inadequate. None of us is worthy or capable of this incredible calling from God.

We must abide in Him, or nothing about our lives will go right.

One thing more, pastor's wife: Find other wives of ministers and encourage them. The young ones in particular have a hard time of it, with the children, the young husband, the demanding congregation and sometimes, Lord help us, even an outside job.

Invite a couple of these women for tea or coffee. Have no agenda other than getting to know one another. See what happens. 

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

]]> (Joe McKeever ) Women in Leadership Fri, 10 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
7 Attributes of a Great Worship Leader or Pastor I have worked with some great worship leaders and pastors. Jason with Building 429 was once our worship pastor. He is phenomenal at helping people engage in corporate worship.

How could I not mention the golden voice of Daniel Doss? I should mention our current worship pastor, Bo Warren, is one of the most gifted people I've ever known. 

I'm not intending this post, however, to be a shout-out to any of them specifically. I've been blessed with many great worship leaders and pastors with whom to work. 

I've worked with enough now to form some opinions of what makes a great one. Here are seven attributes of a great worship leader:

1. Humility. They love Jesus and attempt to walk with Him daily. They are willing to let others help lead, because it's not about them—it's about Jesus. And they don't have to always be center stage.

2. Strategic. They think through the planning of a service from start to finish. They are conscious of the need to remove distractions and give people the best opportunity to potentially engage in worship. 

3. Cooperative. I once worked with a worship leader who could not handle a change. I believe in planning. I also believe the Spirit of God can work in our planning process. But it's very difficult to allow God's Spirit to reign when we are the ones in control of the service. The bond between the teaching pastor and the worship pastor is so important. In fact, when seeking a worship leader, the ability to form chemistry with him or her may be the most important quality for me.

4. Faithful. In this one, I really mean a willingness to walk by faith—even when it's uncomfortable. A good worship pastor can lead people to respond, but it is one position in the church where there are multiple opinions of their "performance." The worship pastor is subject to receiving criticism as much or more than the pastor. It can be a challenging position for anyone who thrives on popularity. A great worship leader focuses more on the call of God in their work than in the comfort of the position or the response of the people. 

5. Servant. They are here to serve the church, its volunteers and ultimately Christ. There's no "Green Room" mentality. I love, for example, to see a worship leader who engages with people after the service. They realize people see them "on stage," but they want people to simply remember them for being a regular person—humbly striving to be like Jesus. 

6. Encouraging. They invest in volunteers, making them feel valued. People are drawn to them because they know they are loved and appreciated.

7. Innovative. The best worship leaders I know don't get caught in a rut. They are not afraid to try new songs or new orders of service. Every week is not the same. They are consistently raising their own bar, challenging others, changing things and seeking to improve.

Notice I never mentioned talent.

Granted, they should have the talent to fit the job requirements, but just as a pastor doesn't have to be the next Andy Stanley to be successful, neither does the worship pastor have to be the next Chris Tomlin. (Or choose the names that work best for you in my analogy.) Talent matters, but that someone goes without saying, and—if I had to choose—I'd rather have slightly less talent to get slightly better character. 

What are attributes you believe make a great worship leader?

Ron Edmondson is the lead pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson ) Worship Thu, 27 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
17 Habits of Effective Local Worship Leaders Sometimes I'll ask the guests on my podcast, "When you think of the word 'successful' who is the first person that comes to mind?"

Often, they are taken off guard and feel a little awkward. I love the question because successful means different things to different people. I become a better person when I learn about what other people value.

Most people define successful on a personal level: having this much money, possessing this much freedom, having this job, family, possession, status, etc. That is great. But when it comes to following Jesus, there are some additional markers we need to judge "successful" by.

We humans may have an opinion of what success looks like on this earth, but God's definition of success is completely different. It's a whole new world (cue Aladdin soundtrack). It's a different value system. Today I'm not here to undermine personal, career and financial goals. Those are important and often are reflective of a life that has its priorities in order.

But what does the Bible say about success? What is God's opinion? And more specifically, what is the definition of success as a worship leader? I'm looking forward to the comments one this one, because the answers simply can't be contained in a single blog post. There is simply too much depth to this answer.

What are the habits of highly effective worship leaders? What do successful worship leaders do?

Here are 17 worship leader habits you should look into. Effective worship leaders:

1. See (and continue to see) the glory of God. You become what you behold. You grow into what you consistently lay your eyes on. A good worship leader has history in God and continues to make history with God every single day.

2. Know the depth of their sin. A truly great worship leader isn't very impressed with himself. He sees the darkness in his own heart and sees himself in light of the overwhelming glory of God. When you know who you are in and of yourself, there's not much to be impressed by.

3. Know the greatness of God's mercy. At the same time, a great worship leader knows the greatness of mercy. Deserving of wrath, the true and just sentence over our lives should be everlasting separation from God. But God ... but God who is rich in mercy ... This truth causes one to lead worship with a brokenhearted, humble joy.

4. Value "serving" over "performance." A true worship leader doesn't waste time trying to impress people. They have a heart to serve people. Their preparation, practice and programming are aimed to pastor people in their pursuit of God, not build their fanbase.

5. Are influenced by the needs of their local church. It's one thing to be influenced by the songs, creativity and artistic vision of the latest Bethel Music release. It's another to know the stories of your congregation—to know what they are going through. Sure, you can't know everyone's story. But knowing a few will change the way you lead.

6. Are on a path of continuous learning and worship development. A true leader doesn't stagnate. They are constantly learning from others, receiving feedback, keeping a pulse on what is new, and mining the depths of history to learn.

7. Never do ministry alone. Ministry isn't just the pursuit of being used by God. It's the pursuit of helping others be used by God. A great worship leader understands this. They don't just lead worship. They are always bringing others along with them to coach, train, teach and develop.

8. Have kingdom values. No, worship leadership isn't a platform to broadcast talent. It's place to execute the values of God's kingdom. Building people, preaching the gospel, praying for lost souls and serving off the stage.

9. Honor and serve their lead pastor's vision. A vision drifting on its own, apart from the blessing and vision of the lead pastor will be destructive to the local church. A worship leader isn't there to pursue his own creative fancy. He's there to serve what God is doing in a community. Get behind your pastor and do whatever it takes to make his vision come to pass.

10. Keep an open mind. Sounds, styles, methods—these are all ever changing. A great worship leader doesn't stay locked into one way of doing ministry. He's not locked into pursuing his own preferences. He does what is best for his ever growing, ever changing ministry.

11. Don't neglect the practical aspects of their craft. Great worship leaders don't just learn worship songs and prepare their heart. They prioritize the practicalities of what they do. They practice their instrument. The work on their singing. They don't just leave public speaking to chance. Excellence is in the details.

12. Take the backseat. One of the hallmarks of great worship leadership is knowing who you are and what your gift is. You empower others; therefore you're not afraid to give someone else the spotlight. You may not be the best singer, so you surround yourself with others who are. A great worship leader takes the backseat to allow others a chance to grow.

13. Delegate. One of the greatest myths of leadership is the lie that you need to be the best at everything. No, a great leader knows how to build a team and surround themselves with people who are better than them. They don't do all the work—they do what only they can do and delegate the rest.

14. Have a prayer life. The praying person is a dependent person. The self-sufficient man has no need to pray because he believes he can make everything happen with his own talent and hard work. Great worship leaders know they need God for God-sized things to happen in their ministry. So they pray like a desperate, dying man in need of a miracle.

15. Know God's Word. The Bible, for the worship leader, isn't a book they read once. It's the lifeblood of their days. It's the foundation of their confidence as a leader. They are constantly looking to see something they haven't seen before. They want to worship in Spirit and in Truth.

16. Know their place. Good worship leaders knows they're not responsible for "ushering" people into the presence of God. They are merely a spotlight, drawing attention to Who does, namely, the Holy Spirit. We bring perspective to the rugged cross, the empty tomb, the torn veil and show people that they have access into the Presence of Holiness through Jesus. Worship leaders get out of the way and keep getting out of the way. Worship Leaders spotlight the rugged cross, the empty tomb, the torn veil, and get out of the way" (Tweet this).

17. Laugh a lot. Well, I suppose laughing isn't the important part. A great worship leader takes what they do with utmost seriousness but doesn't take themselves too seriously. They are quick to apologize, laugh at themselves, and admit when they are wrong. And they laugh a lot.

OK, now it's your turn, my friends. What would you add to this list? What disciplines or habits make a worship leader effective?

David Santistevan is the worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh. For the original article, visit

]]> (David Santistevan) Worship Mon, 02 Feb 2015 17:00:00 -0500
Calling Leaders to an Asaph Generation of Worship We recently started a unique and needed community for worship leaders. We call it the Asaph Generation. Why the name "Asaph Generation," you ask? Simply put, we want to be part of a generation of worship leaders who leave a godly legacy in worship ministry—like Asaph did!

The Asaph Generation is an exclusive community committed to 1) whole-life worship of God, 2) musical excellence and 3) investing our lives in others. These three qualities really define Asaph's life:

1) Asaph was a worshipper. Read any of the 12 psalms he was credited for writing (Psalms 50, 73-83), and you'll immediately know that Asaph (pronounced "aw-sawf') was a passionate worshipper who was growing in his relationship with God. He wasn't perfect, but he really wanted to please the Lord.

Passages like the following help us see how well Asaph "got" worship: "Whoever sacrifices a thank offering glorifies Me and makes a way; I will show him the salvation of God" (Ps. 50:23).

"But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have taken my refuge in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works" (Ps. 73:28).

2) Asaph was a musician. John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible describes Asaph as "a famous singer." He was, in fact, one of the most skilled and well-respected songwriters and worship leaders in the Old Testament. His songs were celebrated and recognized right alongside of David's.

"Then Hezekiah the king and the officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they praised with gladness and bowed down to worship" (2 Chr. 29:30).

"So the number of them, with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the Lord, all of whom were skillful, was two hundred and eighty-eight" (1 Chr. 25:7). This "number" included Asaph.

3) Asaph was a mentor. He invested his life into others and left a legacy for others to follow. He passed his knowledge and skills down to his children and grandchildren, who in turn taught their children about ministry through music. Because of his heart to intentionally train and mentor, Asaph helped start customs, which lasted for many generations.

"Then David and the officers of the army also set apart for the service some of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, those who prophesied with lyres, harps, and cymbals ... From the sons of Asaph: Zakkur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asarelah, the sons of Asaph under the guidance of Asaph, who prophesied according to the decree of the king ... All these were under the direction of their father for the music in the house of the Lord" (1 Chr. 25:1-2a, 6a).

"The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mika. Some of the sons of Asaph were the singers attending to the work of the house of God" (Neh. 11:22).

"For in the former days of David and Asaph there were leaders for the singers, the songs of praise, and thanksgivings to God" (Neh. 12:46).

If you're serious about growing as a worshipper, musician and mentor, then join the Asaph Generation community and sign our covenant at Our community exists to encourage, advise and hold each other accountable. We invite you to come grow with us.  

Dwayne Moore is founder of Next Level Worship. He is also Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts at Valley View Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

]]> (Dwayne Moore) Worship Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Songwriters Won’t Make It Without This Frances Mayes writes in The Discovery of Poetry:

"If your blood is on fire with the love of language and the desire to make something with words, you probably know that. You probably know, too, that no matter how awkward your writing is right now, something in you will make you a writer. ... Teaching in a large urban university, I've been surprised to find that genuine talent is not at all unusual. What is unusual is the perseverance and will it takes to become a writer."

I've lost count of the number of short stories, songs and other pieces of writing I've done that have never seen dawn's early light. Before I discovered that I preferred writing songs and nonfiction, I even kept a tally of the number of rejection notices I received for short stories versus the number of stories that literary journals accepted. I believe the final score was:

  • 150 rejections
  • 4 acceptances (one of which was by a magazine that went out of business before publishing my story)

To Make It, You Must Persevere

We all know it takes talent and it takes experience. One of our major goals at My Song In The Night is to give you tools and pointers. But realize that it also takes volume—plugging away, day after day. A personal example:

Every time our church, Sojourn, releases a major, full-length album of original worship songs, we include 10-12 songs from a pool of at least 50 songs that writers have submitted. And these 50 are the resulting work of writers who tested, pruned and started many other songs that they knew not to submit.

Yet occasionally writers have expressed disappointment to me that their song didn't make it. "Your song?" I ask. "You turned in one?"

"Yes. My best song ever."

"Was it your first song?"

"Yes." Or sometimes "Not my first. My third."

OK, so let's do the math. Let's just say all the Sojourn songwriters together turned in 50 songs, one of which was yours. Lets not even factor in that this was one of the first songs you've ever written, while many of the other songs came from writers who have been doing this for a decade or longer. Your chance is 1 in 50. You had a two percent chance, and it didn't pay off. Small wonder.

Let's also consider that it isn't even really a matter of choosing the 10, 11 or 12 "best" songs. Maybe your one song was good—even worthy of recording, in and of itself. Let's say your song was slow tempo, rock music and your theme was "God's power displayed in creation," and you wrote it to be used as a Call to Worship. OK, now let's say that of the 50 songs turned in, 23 are worthy of recording. But:

  • 15 of them are slow. We're probably not going to release an album of mostly slow songs.
  • 11 of them are "God's power displayed in creation." This theme occurs so often in modern praise and worship music that it's hard to write a new one that will stand out. Meanwhile, many other themes and even major doctrines remain largely unexplored.
  • Seven were written for the Call to Worship. Your song is good but has stiff competition. Unless the entire theme of the album is "Call to Worship songs" we probably won't record more than one or two of them.
  • Yet only eight of them are rock songs. In fact, let's say that the majority of good songs turned in for this project happen to be Americana-folk-country styled songs. That style will probably influence the entire direction of the album. Your rock song just doesn't fit in. Maybe next time (compare the difference in styles between Sojourn's Over the Grave and The Water and the Blood albums).

So, your good song got axed. Nothing wrong with it, but compared with all the other songs available, and with the stylistic "home" of the musicians and record producer, and with the theme the pastor wants, and with other variables, your song didn't fit.

This has happened to my wife Kristen and I. We wrote several songs for a Sojourn children's music album, including one we particularly loved. We got an email from one of Sojourn's worship directors, Jamie Barnes (who produced the children's album), saying he loved it too and wanted to record it.

However, in light of several factors, Sojourn Music decided to change the focus of the children's album to be psalm-inspired and focus on songs that teach and encourage expressive worship. Jamie explained this to the songwriters and issued a new call for submissions. Our song no longer fit the theme of the album, so we went back to the drawing board and wrote some more, which I also believe are strong songs. As for the one that almost made it: We still loved it and wanted to record it someday!

But we weren't going to sit around and stew about the fact that it didn't fit one particular project. I did, however, post a photo on Jamie's Facebook wall that showed him sleeping in a car while on a trip with me to the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship in Michigan, his bald head hunched over to the side. Touche.

You may not be in this position. Maybe you're a singer-songwriter who records all your own music. But you're still struggling to get the attention of fans, record labels, radio stations, publishers—anyone that your game plan is counting on. It may be that you aren't writing enough. You're recording everything that you write, and it just isn't strong enough.

Instead of writing 10 songs for your next album, write 50 and whittle down to your 10 best. Volume is your friend. It will give you more choices, and the sheer amount of work it requires will cause you to improve over time.

Bobby Gilles has written several of Sojourn Music's popular worship songs for albums like The Water And The Blood, Over The Grave and Before The Throne. He is content manager for and has mentored songwriters and led many Sojourn songwriting workshops as part of Pastor Mike Cosper's worship ministry. Bobby is also Sojourn Church Director Of Communications, and works with Lead Pastor Daniel Montgomery to communicate Sojourn's mission and vision. He co-wrote the children's book Our Home Is Like a Little Church, published by Christian Focus. As a former radio disc jockey and music director, he was twice named a National Top 10 Finalist for Gospel Music DJ of the Year.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Bobby Gilles) Worship Fri, 30 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
As a Pastor, Do You Struggle With This? Have you ever noticed that when life gets busy, spiritual disciplines are the first to go? We don't mean for that to happen, but bills and meetings and car repairs and errands are louder and more persistent than our Bibles—quietly sitting there, waiting to be read.

We mean to get back to it, to pick that discipline back up, but before we know it, it's been longer than we want to admit, and we're spiritually dry as a bone.

This is something we don't like to admit as Christians, but something I think most of us struggle with. Even as a pastor, it's easy to only pick up our Bibles to prepare for a sermon, instead of for our own spiritual well being.

So, what do we do? 

We know how important it is to be in the Word of God, but if we're honest, we also know how difficult it is to be disciplined in anything, especially something that doesn't beep, or make a fuss, or involve a team of people counting on us to show up.

I've compiled a list of a few simple tricks I think might help us be more consistent in reading our Bible. They're not large commitments, rather bite-sized ones that will help us move in the right direction:

1. Wake up 15 minutes earlier. The beauty of the morning is that it's usually the quietest part of the day. Once everyone is awake, peace is hard to come by. Ideally we'd wake up an hour before everyone else so we could dive into the word in peace. But for now, lets try 15 minutes.

Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier, and try to get in the habit of ignoring that snooze button.

Make some coffee and sit down in the peace of the morning, reading just a few verses at a time. It's a great way to start your day off right, and a small habit like this is an excellent jumping off point for more time in the Word each morning.

2. Put verses where you can see them. Write verses on sticky notes and put them in places you're sure to see them—on your mirror for when you're getting ready in the morning, above the sink to look at while you're washing dishes, or on your dashboard to see when you're in the car. It doesn't take the place of hours in the Word, but every little bit helps.

3. Download an audio version. The thought of sitting down to read the Bible feels especially impossible to someone who's always on the go. A great way to get your time in even when you don't have the time to sit down to read is to download an audio version.

That way you can soak yourself in the Word of God while you're cleaning the house, or driving to work, or doing tasks that take time but don't require a lot of concentration.

4. Keep a small Bible with you. Spending time in God's Word doesn't have to be a production. It doesn't have to happen in the same place at the same time each day. It doesn't require lots of supplementary texts or lots of time.

Buy a small Bible and keep it with you (or if you prefer, download a Bible app on your phone). That way, whenever you have down time—between meetings or while waiting for the dentist—you can spend some time reading.

5. Set an alarm and take 5. The reason many of our other commitments take precedence over our time with God is that they're more insistent, also—they remind us. We have reminders and calendar notifications for all kinds of things, why not for this?

Choose a time when you're normally just at your desk each day, and set an alarm for that time. Every day, when the alarm goes off, take five minutes away from whatever you're doing to read a verse and meditate on it for a moment. You'll be surprised at how much those five minutes rejuvenate you and fill you back up for whatever you go back to.

Our lives are fuller than ever these days, and it's tempting to feel overwhelmed and disappointed in yourself for how little time you spend in the Word of God. First of all, give yourself some grace. God already did. Second, try a few of these techniques. You'll be amazed at how much you're able to squeeze into your day, and how differently you feel when you're filling up spiritually throughout the day.

With more than a dozen years of local-church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the founder of (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership and, all while staying involved in the local church.

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]]> (Justin Lathrop ) Worship Fri, 16 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
Some Lies the Enemy Whispers During Worship The devil's first plan of attack is to get us to worship him. He tried that with our Lord, as recorded in Luke 4:7. "All these things will be yours if you will worship me."

He soon found the futility of that. Not then and hardly at all since has anyone wanted to bow down and worship this foolish fallen angel.

But such a persistent enemy always has a backup plan. Plan B is to interfere with our worship of the living God. Satan will do anything to throw a wrench into the works and shut down or hinder our daily submission to the Lord Jesus and all that involves (prayer, commitment, study of the Word, service, etc).

Not long ago, while sitting in church listening to a friend preach, I began a list of the lies Satan whispers to God's people who gather to worship Him:

  • "This isn't working. You're wasting your time here."

It's true, the pragmatic mind—I think of Martha in Luke 10—cannot see the point in our sitting for an hour at the feet of Jesus, doing nothing productive. Here was her sister Mary, for instance. She was just sitting there on the floor, listening and adoring and thinking. The Lord said to Martha, "Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42).

  • "Nothing they're doing is inspiring."

Pity the worship leaders. They're in a no-win situation. They get criticized for putting on a performance and criticized for not performing well enough. They cannot do our worship for us, but we demand that they sing and preach and lead so well, our worship is automatic.

  • "You don't feel the song you are singing, and so it's pointless."

Some of them are pointless, I fear. But whether I "feel" the song I'm singing is beside the point. I do a lot of things that count with the Lord which I may not "feel."

  • "You don't understand that Scripture."

Often that's true. But my heart loves that text and every time I read it or hear it read, my spirit soars and I know I'm hearing from heaven. So often, I say with the psalmist, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is lofty, and I cannot fathom it" (Ps. 139:6). But I read it anyway and draw worship from its inspiration.

  • "That prayer of yours is something you have prayed a hundred times. Vain repetition."

If the devil only knew! So many of my prayers are the same thing I've mentioned to the Lord a hundred times or more. But that's all right. Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit takes our baby-talk and translates it into the language of heaven that makes sense (see Rom. 8:26, 34). My poor praying does not nullify my prayers or make them ineffective; it just gives the Spirit more room to work!

  • "You are not living up to what the pastor is preaching. You are such a hypocrite."

The first part is true but not the second. I do not live up to everything my pastor preaches—or that I preach, for that matter. But to be a hypocrite, I would have to claim I did. And that I will not do.

So, once again, the devil is proven to be half-right and totally wrong.

  • "What difference will your little offering make? The worldwide budget for the International Mission Board exceeds $100 million."

Aw, but that's the wonderful thing about how the Lord works. He takes the coins from the widow (Mark 12:41) and adds them to the gifts of His other faithful children and turns it all into a river of support and provisions for His obedient laborers throughout the world.  By itself, my offering would hardly do any thing. But with yours and his and hers and theirs, we are able to do amazing things!

  • "You're just going through the motions. And most of the people around you are too."

Maybe so, but isn't it great that we have all learned to worship by faith. Even when we don't feel it or see what it accomplishes or know where our offerings go or receive answers to our prayers when we would like, we still gather and sing and pray, we give and love and hear and obey.

Satan is a liar and the father of lies. According to our Lord in John 8:44, our enemy specializes in half-truths, near truths and bald-faced, outright lies.

The truth of worship—and this must drive him up the wall—is simply that:

  • It's not necessary for me to be perfect in order to worship the Lord.
  • It's not necessary for me to understand perfectly what we are saying or what I am doing in order to pray or serve Him.
  • It's not necessary for me to know why in order to obey.
  • It's not necessary for me to know where my offering is going, what it will accomplish or anything else in order to give.
  • It's not necessary for a worship service to be exciting, new, fast or loud in order for it to please the Father and be acceptable to heaven.  (It can be as new as something written last night or so old Charles Wesley borrowed from it, but if given from the heart, the Lord welcomes our worship in heaven.)
  • It's just necessary that my worship be real, in Spirit and in truth. That's John 4:24 and it's one of the all-time great truths about worship.

My favorite picture of worship is found in Luke 7:36-50. Variations of this account are given in the other gospels, but none can match Luke's version of the "woman who was a sinner" slipping into the home of the Pharisee where rumor said Jesus had gone to eat.

"She stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her head, kissing them and anointing them with the fragrant oil."

Next time you find yourself in worship, let's see you do that. (I cannot read this story without misting up. I want to worship Him like that).

The enemy, always on the job, had two harsh things to say about this woman's lovely worship:

  • "She is unworthy."

In Luke 7:39, the Pharisee who was His host dismissed our Lord for welcoming the worship of this fallen woman. She was so unworthy, he said in his spirit. And he was right, of course.

She was unworthy, and so are you. Thank God, He "receives sinners" (Luke 15:2).

  • "That is wasted."

In John 12:4, Judas the betraying disciple watched this woman anointing Jesus and said out loud, "What a waste! That oil would have brought a year's wages for a working man. Think of all the poor people it would have fed." John—who was present on the scene, says Judas cared nothing about the poor, but hated to see all that money poured out on the floor and going to waste. He could think of better uses for money.

The enemy can tell you (ahem) better things to do with your money than to place it in the offering plate. He will say you are wasting your money, wasting your time and wasting you life away by following Jesus.

The enemy will remind you that you are not worthy to worship and what is more, neither are all those others sitting around you, singing and praying as though they had good sense. As you reflect on them—turning the attention away from yourself since that was so uncomfortable—you find yourself growing critical of Christians, angry at churches and suspicious of preachers. And mad at Jesus too, if you were honest.

That's when you know the enemy is in the house today, on the job, and doing a very effective work of sowing tares (Matt. 13:25), of sowing suspicion ["has the Lord said?" (Gen. 3:1)], and sowing distrust between brethren (in Revelation 12:10 he is "the accuser of the brethren").

Don't let it happen, friend.

Keep saying to yourself, "The devil is a liar. Nothing that comes from his mouth can be trusted. I will worship poorly if that's all I can do, but worship I will."

Go on. Worship God. Do it in faith. Do it regardless of how you are feeling today or how much you are understanding, how little you have to give or what difference it will make.

Do it because He commands it in the Word. "O come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!" (Ps. 95:1).

Just do it. Worship by faith.

"When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).

Let's have our answers be a resounding, "You bet. I'm here in my place, O Lord Jesus, worshipping and serving and obeying!  Praise Your holy name."

(Post script: I sit here at the computer typing through my tears and it occurs to me that this is the nearest I can get in this lifetime to doing what the woman of Luke 7 did: sitting at the feet of our Lord and bathing His feet in her tears and wiping them dry with her long hair.  I think of the promise "when that which is perfect is come" (I Corinthians 13:10), my worship will be full and complete and lasting. Until then, like Mary in Luke 10, this is momentary because in a few minutes, we have to get up and help Martha in the kitchen. But that's all right.)

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.

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]]> (Joe McKeever ) Worship Wed, 03 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500