Ministry Leadership http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership Wed, 01 Apr 2015 21:24:22 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 7 Distinguishing Habits of Highly Effective Pastors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21633-7-distinguishing-habits-of-highly-effective-pastors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21633-7-distinguishing-habits-of-highly-effective-pastors Determining the effectiveness of a pastor is a highly subjective exercise. While certain metrics may prove helpful, they do not tell the whole story.

In that context, I reviewed my 40 years of serving churches in a variety of capacities and noted several very effective pastors I knew well. My list was lengthy: nearly 30 pastors total.

Since I knew each of these pastors so well, I began to write down traits that distinguished them from most other pastors. I wanted to know what made them tick; I wanted to know how and why they were so effective.

There are many characteristics most pastors have: prayerful; committed to the Word; dedicated to their families; high character; and others. My interest in this exercise, however, was to find the traits that set them apart from most others. When I finished this assignment, I found seven distinguishing characteristic or habits:

1. They have genuine enthusiasm. I am not referring to the vocal cheerleader type. These pastors may be quiet, but their passion and enthusiasm for their churches, their families, and their ministries are evident in all they say and do. It is not a contrived enthusiasm; it is real and contagious.

2. They are great listeners. When you are around these pastors, they genuinely want to focus on you. They seem to have little desire to talk about themselves; they would rather hear your stories. They can make you feel very important because they genuinely care and genuinely listen.

3. Their identity is not their vocation. They don't have to climb a perceived ladder of success because their greatest reward comes from serving Christ in whatever manner He directs them. You don't have to worry about these pastors manipulating the network or the system for their own advancement. Their identities are in Christ, not their vocations.

4. They are intentional about personal witnessing. These pastors don't see the Great Commission as an abstract concept or something that others are supposed to do. They love to share the gospel personally with others. They are also highly intentional about personal witnessing.

5. They have unconditional love of their critics. So many leaders, pastors included, have limited effectiveness because critics constantly hound them. They are drained emotionally and sometimes walk in fear of the critics. These effective pastors, however, include in their prayer lives intercession for their critics. They learn to love them because they are asking God to help them to have that love.

6. They have a gentle spirit. We often forget that gentleness is part of the fruit of the Spirit. In this hypercritical social media world, aggression and negativity have become normative, even in our churches. These pastors, to the contrary, have a calm and gentleness that can only come from the Holy Spirit.

7. They persevere. Ministry is not easy. Local church ministry can be especially difficult. There are too many wounded warriors in our churches. Unfortunately, most of their wounds have come from friendly fire (though I'm not sure the word "friendly" fits well in this metaphor). Highly effective pastors hang in there. Sure, they get hurt. Sure, they get discouraged. But they ultimately keep on doing ministry in God's power.

Though it's cliché, they look for strength to keep on ministering one day at a time.

At the risk of redundancy, let me remind you that these seven traits are not necessarily the same as the biblical qualifications of a pastor. They are, according to my subjective research, those traits that set them apart from most other pastors.

They are thus the seven distinguishing habits of highly effective pastors.

Let me hear from you on this topic.

Thom S. Ranier is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Ministry Leadership Tue, 17 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Dr. Sam Chand: The Perils and Prize of Leadership http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21544-dr-sam-chand-the-perils-and-prize-of-leadership http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21544-dr-sam-chand-the-perils-and-prize-of-leadership One of the most respected voices on church and ministry leadership today is Dr. Sam Chand. On his website, his tag line is "My Life's Vision Is Helping Others Succeed"and he's good at it.

Sam and I have shared a number of clients over the years and time and time again, I've seen him turn around struggling churches, inspire frustrated leaders and transform the culture at failing organizations. Recently, I did an interview with Dr. Chand because I wanted to share some of his experience, wisdom and insight on church and ministry leadership. Take notes. Share it. This is powerful stuff.

PC: You've worked with hundreds of churches, ministries and nonprofit organizations in your career. What's the challenge you see the most?

SC: The greatest challenge I see is organizations "pack" for where they've been and where they are rather than "packing" for where they are going. All of us who travel know that part of packing is to know the weather, culture and context of where we are going so appropriate apparel and accessories can be packed. You don't want to land in Chicago in January while packing for Hawaii! But that's exactly what churches do. We talk (pack) about where we've been, what we're doing presently and even about where we are going—but, little strategic thought is given to alignment for synergy for the proposed destination. This includes aligning (packing) resources (staff, volunteers, programming, structure, culture, facilities, media, etc.) for where you are going as an organization.

PC: Why does having a leadership strategy matter with Christian organizations? Shouldn't Christian leaders be focused on spiritual issues?

SC: Of course, Christians should think strategically about how the call of the Lord unfolds in their lives. Let me use the most spiritual person to every walk on this planet—Jesus—to make my point. In Luke 4 Jesus overcomes the temptations in the wilderness and starts unfolding his leadership strategically.

  • Luke 4—Jesus establishes Himself via the Word of the Old Testament and prophetic utterances that there was something special about Him.
  • Luke 5—Jesus picks His executive team (Peter, James and John)
  • Luke 6—Jesus picks His staff (12 apostles)
  • Luke 4-9—Jesus continues to do miracles gaining popular following and dissenters
  • Luke 10:1—"After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come." This verse gives us a great glimpse into the strategy of Jesus.

A. "After these things." His choosing His team, creating a groundswell about Himself, both negative and positive ...

B. "Appointed." No volunteers, no nominations, no elections. These were handpicked and chosen for this specific part of the strategy.

C. "Sent Them." Sending is different than going. When you're "sent" somewhere it is done by someone else with a defined purpose. No ambiguity.

D. "Two and Two." Teams are better.

E. "Into every city and place, whither he himself would come." This means the 70 we divided into 35 teams and sent to the 35 cities and places Jesus was planning on going to. This means, Jesus' strategic plan involved knowing his 35 city and places itinerary, knowing which team would be best matched and suited for that city and place. This was his "advance launch team."

F. In the verses following, Jesus even gives them the script of what to say when they are accepted or rejected. By the way, the script doesn't change regardless of the reception.

Acts 1:8—Jesus, again, give the geographical strategic plan—Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and uttermost part of the earth. Jesus strategic plan can be capsulized as Discover—Develop—Deploy. Christian organizations shouldn't feel it is spiritual to not be strategic.

PC: A big challenge with many leaders is developing a great team. Are the best teams hired from the outside or developed from the inside? 

SC: One hiring issue that many churches are wrestling with centers on whether it's better for them to promote from within or to hire someone from the outside. I typically recommend following the example of many healthy organizations, which first look inside for a qualified candidate before searching externally.

If no candidates are found inside, then looking outside is a legitimate option. Those who want to hire and promote only from within think that insiders are better suited because they already understand the church culture and its operations. This paternalistic hiring philosophy appears to have more disadvantages than benefits. Only hiring from within might match your organizational DNA; just keep in mind that it can also result in:

• Slower growth. Churches who are limited to hiring internal candidates, grow at a slower pace. When they realize they need people with experience and skills beyond what they presently have, they begin looking externally. In the end, they find that hiring believers who have worked in corporate settings satisfy many of their needs.

• In-fighting. Rather than simplifying a search, limiting hiring to internal candidates can actually complicate matters. Once the policy is known, people will begin jockeying for position, which is not the type of motivation we want to encourage. When only one internal candidate is selected, it can also create awkward situations, uncomfortable feelings and resentment among those who weren't chosen.

• A limited pool of candidates. Hiring from within limits the number of qualified people. For example, let's say that we're looking for a person to handle accounting and need someone who is a CPA. In addition to looking within our own ranks for a CPA, this person also has to meet the qualifications of church membership, and have a willingness to leave their outside job and come to work for a church. We might be searching for a needle in a haystack.

Focusing on the internal/external debate, however, avoids addressing the most important issue: finding and hiring the best possible candidate. The goal of every hiring process should be to find the best-qualified person—regardless of where they come from. To do that, we must be very clear about the job's requirements and qualifications.

The clearer the profile, the better are our chances of finding the right person. If we have people on the search team who are still tied to the idea of internal hiring, a clear job description can stop this debate by making it clear that we don't have a candidate inside the church. By not imposing limits on hiring searches, we open ourselves up to God's provision. Whether the right person comes from within the church or transfers in from the business world, we'll have the right combination of talent and strength to move the church forward.

PC: Speaking of hiring, what should leaders be looking for with potential employees?

SC: In my book, Who's Holding Your Ladder, I say, "We hire people for what they know and fire them for who they are." Competence is important. Character is entry qualification. But I've found the ultimate determining factor is Culture: "Do you fit here?" Potential employees have to be thoroughly vetted for cultural fit.

PC: What's the biggest mistake leaders make in hiring?

SC: Feeling that a vacancy must be filled. A vacancy should give an organization the opportunity to ask itself important questions such as:

  • Do we really need this position?
  • How does this position need to change?
  • Can responsibilities from this vacancy be delegated to others?
  • What type of person will be best qualified?

B. Hiring in a hurry. The best predictor of disaster.

C. Feeling pressured by others to hire quickly or even their candidate. Pressured decisions don't last.

D. Not being clear about what success would look like in this position to be filled.

E. Not taking time to scan the horizon for the best person and hiring the most needy person who needs a job.

F. Hiring as a "pastor" and not a "CEO." Hiring to help someone and encourage them rather than the best person for the job. It doesn't take long for a "gift" to become "entitlement."

PC: What about firing people? Do Christian organizations do it enough, or do it well? What should leaders know about letting people go?

SC: In my book, Who's Holding Your Ladder?, I say that we need to "hire slowly and fire quickly." In fact the best time to fire someone is the first time it goes through your mind. I know, this sound harsh, even un-Christian. Once you know a person has to go and don't act on it, you'll keep searching for reasons to keep them. We continue tolerating people and their incompetence because of our pastoral calling and ignoring our responsibilities of godly stewardship.

Christian organizations pay their staff by the funds we receive via people's generosity such as tithes, offerings, pledges, donations etc. People give as unto the Lord. It's the Lord's money. We pay people with the Lord's money. Therefore, is paying (rewarding) incompetence, bad attitude, cultural misfit, etc. Good stewardship? Lord-pleasing?  So, if you as a pastor want to help someone, don't tie it to pay for work. Just help them from your benevolence budget.

You have to know that everyone in the organization knows who need to go. I've consulted with hundreds of organizations and the only person surprised by the firing is the person being fired. Everyone else wasn't. Moreover, the longer you allow such a person to remain on the team you are affecting your leadership equity adversely. The rest of the team is asking three questions:

A. Does our leader see what we see? If he sees what we see and isn't doing anything about it, what's wrong with that picture?

B. If our leader sees what we see why doesn't she do something about it?

C. If our leader doesn't see what we see, what kind of leader is he?

We must also know that a person could be the wrong person and not necessarily a bad person. Early intervention and surgical removal of cancer can save a person's life. So is it with employees—early intervention and removal can save your leadership and organization.

PC: Statistics show that many pastors and leaders are burning out. From your perspective, why does burnout happen, and what's the remedy?

SC: Burnout can happen to anybody—no one is exempt. But it doesn't have to happen. Much has been written on this and there are ministries that specialize in serving church leaders so my answer will sound superficial. However, in my experience with leaders facing this dark valley of doubt, disappointment and hopelessness the common denominator is seepage. Yes, seepage. Burnout is not an event. It can be traced to when joy and fulfillment started seeping. When joy turned into a job. There are predictable behaviors as well. Hard charging leaders who don't realize that this is a marathon not a sprint are susceptible. Leaders needing high doses of affirmation create an insatiable appetite ending in deep disappointment. Stages of life in late 40s and on lead to asking existential question of being, meaning, purpose and legacy. Feeling trapped with no way out pushes a person internally into a fetal position. Less than satisfying family relationships depletes the energy source available most readily.

The remedy? I don't think there's one, but plenty can be done to build guardrails to prevent it:

A. Don't take yourself too seriously. Life is fleeting. You are replaceable.
B. Work on healthy family relationships.
C. Take care of your finances to never feel trapped.
D. Have a 911 list of friends. May be one or two such 911 friends.
E. Be introspective enough to do early detection on seepage.
F. You're not the Messiah. You can't save anyone. You can only help.
G. Pace yourself. You have a lot to do, but all that can't be done today. Set realistic expectations.
H. Know that no human being can satisfy your deep yearning for meaning, fulfillment and affirmation.
I.  Be grateful. He saved you, trusts you, called you, and is for and with you.

PC: Years or decades in leadership can frankly wear people down. The day to day struggle can be a grind. How can leaders re-capture the passion they had in the beginning?

SC: Re-capturing might not be the most healthy aim. That's reaching into the past. God is always leading us into the future. In my book LADDERShifts I write about eight shifts that are taking place in the lives of leaders. Once you tune into those shifts, you don't think you are going crazy or obsess with re-capturing what once was. Here are the eight shifts:

A. New people
B. New pains
C. New places
D. New perspectives
E. New priorities
F. New passions
G. New preparation
H. New possibilities
Instead of bemoaning the loss of the past, charge forward with the excitement of the shifts taking place in your life.

PC: If there was one thought you'd leave with our readers about leading Christian organizations, what would it be?

SC: Leading Christian organizations is a joy yet not easy. Challenges are many, resources often don't match them. Therefore, the one thought I would leave with you is captured in one word: Measurements.

Measure what really matters.

Most Christian organizations measure the ABCs—Attendance, Buildings and Cash. Measure vitality of volunteers. Measure transformed lives. Measure children immersed in strong Christian values. Measure reaching the community. Measure salvations and baptisms. Measure lack of divorces. Measure children born in wedlock. Measure people who want to follow in your footsteps.

Measure what really matters.

Phil Cooke is a media producer and consultant in Los Angeles who has written several books, including Jolt and Unique.

For the original article, visit philcooke.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Phil Cooke) Ministry Leadership Tue, 17 Feb 2015 20:00:00 -0500
If God Is Calling You, Here’s Where to Start http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21623-if-god-is-calling-you-here-s-where-to-start http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21623-if-god-is-calling-you-here-s-where-to-start We must always remember that the gifts God has given you were given for His glory. So, if the Lord is calling you as a leader, here are some things you should do to prepare:

1. Serve a seasoned and respected voice that carries the same call you do. We need new leaders that start their journey by serving a mentor and that mentor's anointing, long before going into public ministry. Seasoning and accountability come to those who are patient to allow God to move on their behalf. It is dangerous to bypass the process the Lord has planned for those representing Him beyond the walls of one congregation. Pushing doors open damages the body of Christ.

Find someone in the Spirit you desire to be like and serve them. This will help you see more than just the spotlight side of ministry. It's the principle of honor. Before Elisha could ever receive the double portion from Elijah, he had to go through a process called service.

"But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah" (2 Kings 3:11, KJV).

Imagine—the only credential given to Elisha was that he washed the hands of Elijah. As the old saying goes, "if a person is too good to serve others, he is not fit to lead others."

2. Let other seasoned leaders confirm your call. A few years ago, well-respected friends told me to consider running for mayor. It didn't sound like a bad idea and I am still not opposed to it in my future, should it be God's will. However, when I prayed about it, I could not get a clear answer from the Lord. So I called upon my mentors and spiritual fathers. I received the same answer from all of them. "This is not the season for you to run for office." Their answer gave me peace.

Good ideas are not necessarily God ideas. Good ideas can bring worldly success but have the potential to keep you from God's intended plan. I do not want to chase illegitimate dreams that were never God's plan.

3. Pray, pray, pray. Kyle Searcy, a respected leader in the body of Christ, posted a note on his Instagram that said, "My secret is simple; I pray." I loved seeing a great giant in the faith post that foundational truth. Many people give credit for success to their education or great contacts. However, those who know their position in ministry understand it has been given by God and their burning relationship with Him. They find fuel for success by living in the wilderness of prayer. Build a solid prayer life that is sustained by a radical love for Jesus.

I am confident God will raise your gift to the level He desires it to be. After all, the gift was given for His glory.

Chris Mathis is the lead pastor of the Summit Church in Crestview, Florida, and oversees several churches, ministries and networks. He is the author of the book, Thy Kingdom Come, as well as many other teaching manuscripts that train and equip leaders around the globe. He has also served on the leadership team of the New Breed Revivalist Network.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chris Mathis) Ministry Leadership Fri, 13 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
7 Behaviors of High Capacity Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21528-7-behaviors-of-high-capacity-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21528-7-behaviors-of-high-capacity-leaders Leadership is a mix of iron and water. One part never bends while the other part is fluid and adaptive.

Effective leaders not only understand that relationship, but also the one between their motor and their motive—that it takes a combination of energy and humility to become great at what you do. Leadership has nothing to do with luck. A leader soars for a reason. So what exactly is it that makes them flourish?

Here are 7 things that all great leaders seem to embrace, things the average leader often overlooks. It's what makes them soar.

1. Great leaders pay attention. Poor leaders seek attention. The fastest way to taste the contents of your heart is to hear your competition complimented. King Saul's paranoia skyrocketed the moment he heard the women of Israel dancing and saying, "Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands" (1 Sam. 18:7). The thought of someone else getting excessive attention drove Saul senseless. Swept out to sea by jealousy, Saul's influence was over. Attention seekers have a short shelf life when it comes to leadership. Great leaders are different because they pay attention to themselves and to the world around them; not for the purpose of applause, but to acquire and absorb anything and everything that might help them transform into something new. Remember, the moment you brag you become less noticeable. 

2. The secret to high-capacity leadership is knowing how to turn personal criticism into personal improvement. Criticism is different than accusation. There is zero truth in an accusation, so resist it ... dismiss it ... don't park there. An accusation is demonic in nature. Criticism, however, is different because it usually contains some measure of truth. A mature leader listens for the smaller portions of the criticism that are actually factual instead of only hearing the larger portions that are usually exaggerated and unjust. It's human nature to focus on the parts that are untrue and to miss out on the opportunity to grow past your blind spots. Never treat criticism like an accusation. You will be dismissing something the Lord wants you to hear.

3.  It's not what you achieve but what you set in motion. Great leaders have the same passion for planting as they do for reaping. Never connect your enthusiasm for leadership to what your natural eye can see. Great leaders know they will never see the full results of their efforts. To stay emotionally engaged, you have to practice "emotional patience" in leadership, knowing that some results are years in the making while other results will never arrive during your lifespan. Seeing another person come alive and soar forward in their life with the ideas you passed on to them is euphoric. As a matter of fact, it is the highest form of leadership satisfaction. Leadership outcomes do not return to you in a neatly wrapped package with a thank you note. If that's your expectation, you will be sorely disappointed. So don't crave the credit.

4. Insecurity will emotionally rearrange everything you see and hear as a leader. Healthy leaders know how to give love and receive love. Insecurity sabotages that process. Everyone fears being insignificant. It's when you allow those feelings to fester and dominate your emotions that your leadership becomes toxic. Everyone gets overlooked and forgotten, but not everyone self-destructs because of it. The insecure leader must manipulate people because the only one they trust is themselves. Insecurity deceives by telling the person they must delve past the mistrusting words they are hearing and discern the darker agenda inside the person. This kind of constant guesswork makes day-to-day to leadership impossible. You cannot lead if you are insecure.

5. Leadership happens over time, not overnight. For leaders, the conflict between seed and speed is relentless. Many leaders fail because they see leadership as a competition. They are desperate to be first to the marketplace with a product, or to be seen as the cultural thought leader on a certain subject. But great leadership is about anti-speed. The science of God's kingdom is agriculture not technology. It takes the same amount of time to grow an apple today as it did in the days of Jesus. Great leaders pace themselves; not simply to avoid burnout, but because they understand that substance and wisdom grows like tree bark. No one can go deep in a day.

6. It's the responsibility of leaders to make complex things simple. It's never to make simple things complex. There is a deceptive trend happening in leadership. In an era of competitive creativity, leaders believe they must impress their listeners with deeply intellectual sayings to prove they are a cut above their peers. The effect though, is that people are left confused about basic spiritual and life principles because their leaders and teachers are creating complexity out of simple truth. Life is tough and taxing for the average person. Your job is not to "wow" them with pseudo intellectualism, your role as a leader is to bring clarity (not complexity). It's to help them identify their next step and then encourage them to take it.

7. The attitude is always louder than the answer. Nothing communicates more than your countenance. You cannot hide your heart—whatever fills spills. When people hear you speak, what they really want to know is, "What's in your heart?" Everybody knows that words can be constructed, manipulated and controlled, but an attitude has a life of its own. It operates independently. A negative person can figure out a way to say positive words, but they will still come across as a negative person because you cannot mask an attitude. People hear words, but they feel attitudes. Attitudes are indelible. Presentations are quickly forgotten, but an attitude is remembered for a lifetime.

For the original article, visit scotthagan.org.

Scott Hagan and his wife, Karen, are the founding pastors of Real Life Church in Sacramento, California. Scott is also a regular columnist for ministrytoday.com and the Enrichment Journal. He has authored two books through Charisma House: They Walked With the Savior and They Felt the Spirit's Touch. Scott holds a master's degree in Leadership from Azusa Pacific University.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Scott Hagan) Ministry Leadership Wed, 11 Feb 2015 13:40:00 -0500
2 Signs You’re Hindering Your Own Leadership http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21512-2-signs-you-re-hindering-your-own-leadership http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21512-2-signs-you-re-hindering-your-own-leadership It's one thing to desire to be in leadership, but it's another to actually lead people.

As I watch other leaders, consider my own life in leadership or think about all the people I have had on my staff, there are some common denominators in those that are effective in leadership. I can also think of a few commonalities I see hindering effective leadership.

These are often missed at first glance. But, over time, they are usually seen clearly by those who open their eyes.

There are many definitions of leadership, but the one I refer to the most is: Leaders get people to do things they never wanted to do, and like it.

This definition has the idea of being able to positively effect someone's actions AND desires. These leaders can get to the heart of someone in ways that cause movement.

From a spiritual leadership position, where we view this as being used by God for His kingdom purposes, this is a lot of fun. Mature leaders are hard to come by sometimes, but we have some phenomenal leaders in the church today. That said, there are also a bunch of "wanna-be" leaders that inevitably hinder their own leadership potential by thinking wrongly in the following 2 ways:

1. They take themselves more seriously than their work. Effective leaders take their work seriously, but don't take themselves that seriously. This allows them to encourage other people to lead and empower creativity/ingenuity in others. If leaders take themselves too seriously, they protect their position and seek to control what other people are doing through either micro-management or overly assigning things to do. This would be, at best, a manager—not a leader.

2. They think they need a position to lead well. I know a lot of people who think they need to have a position before they can lead effectively. Granted, we do need a voice in people's lives to positively effect them, but our lives are what give us that voice. If a position is required to lead people, you are not a leader. This mentality will actually hinder your leadership in the long-run.

What do you think? Have you seen either of these characteristics in yourself ?

Chuck Bomar planted and is lead pastor of Colossae Church in Portland, Oregon, and is founder of both CollegeLeader (collegeleader.org) and iampeople (iampeople.org). He is author of 8 books, including the highly anticipated releases of Better Off Without Jesus and Losing Your Religion.

For the original article, visit simplyyouthministry.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Bomar ) Ministry Leadership Tue, 03 Feb 2015 20:00:00 -0500
7 Surprising and Endearing Characteristics of Highly Effective Church Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21500-7-surprising-and-endearing-characteristics-of-highly-effective-church-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/21500-7-surprising-and-endearing-characteristics-of-highly-effective-church-leaders What makes a successful leader successful?

And—here's the next question— could you adopt any of their characteristics to help you become a more effective leader?

Sometimes it's easy to think that some people were just "born" successful or that they "have it" and you don't. For sure, some people are gifted communicators, visionaries or organizational wizards who seem to naturally know how to lead churches and organizations.

But the recipe for a leader's effectiveness does not all lie in the gene pool.

The good news is there are common traits and characteristics that make highly successful church leaders successful. And the really good news is that these characteristics can be learned and then adopted by leaders like you and me.

Last year I launched a leadership podcast (you can subscribe and listen for free here) and so far have had the opportunity to interview over 20 top church leaders. Not only has this been a fun journey, but also I started to notice early on common characteristics among all these leaders as we did the interviews.

The common characteristics are so simple they're surprising, and you might be tempted to dismiss them. But they're incredibly endearing. I think they are in part what makes each of them effective in their own realm.

There is absolutely nothing stopping you from adopting each of the characteristics in your own leadership starting today.

7 Surprising and Endearing Characteristics

So what do leaders like Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Jon Acuff, Jeff Henderson, Pete Wilson, Derwin Gray, Tony Morgan, Kara Powell, Casey Graham, Ron Edmondson and others have in common?

Of course they're gifted speakers, writers, thinkers, strategists and more. But they also do the following seven things very, very well.

And before we jump to the list, you can get the full list of leaders here and can listen to any or all of the interviews by subscribing to my podcast (for free) on iTunesStitcher or TuneIn Radio.

Here we go:

1. They're prompt. I know a lot of leaders who manage far less than any of my guests who are always running late. Usually they talk about how busy they are and excuse it. But not one of my guests has been late so far for their interview. They are precise, to the minute.

This challenges me because as much as I value being on time, I sometimes show up a few minutes past due. This might only happen a few times each month, but it's still a failure on my part as a leader.

When you show up on time, you not only steward your time well, you steward other people's time better too. When you're on time, you steward other people's time better too, not just your own.

2. They do their homework. I make it a habit to send out questions and an interview tip sheet before each interview.

Honestly, I never expected most of the leaders to read it. I know how busy they are and felt fortunate to get an hour of their time.

Every leader I interviewed had read the questions in advance. What blew me away is some of them took it further.

Andy Stanley made notes. So had many other leaders. So just how busy are you again as a leader?

3. They call you by name. Many of the people in these early days of the podcasts are my friends and colleagues, but some truthfully I just knew well enough to ask to be on the show.

But what blew me away is how all of them called me by name, not just in the pre-recording set up, but during the interview.

It's very endearing when someone knows and remembers your name. As a leader, it's hard to remember the names of everyone you meet. But it's so important. I wrote this post a few years ago about my struggle to remember names and outlined some techniques I use to help me when I'm stuck.

If you want to be a better leader, remember names. And use them. It's that simple.

4. They're OK not being good at everything. You would think that some leaders are just naturally great at everything. Not true.

I record the interviews via Skype, and I was surprised by how many leaders had to get other people to help them get online (not everyone, but more than a few). Some leaders had to create accounts for the purpose of the podcast. They'd just never used Skype before. Others used other people's user names and got that person to get them online because they weren't sure how to do it.

What's interesting is they all seemed at peace with it.

No apologies. No trying to pretend like they knew what they were doing. Just an honesty and a gratitude for the friend or staff member who got them online, and then a focus on our conversation and the upcoming interview.

And maybe that's a secret of their success.

When you try to be great at everything, you can end being excellent at nothing. The world is not going to stop spinning because you need a friend to help you do something you haven't taken the time to master yourself.

They were just super cool not being great at everything. And I think that's super cool. When you try to be great at everything, you can end up being excellent at nothing.

5.  They follow through. Fast. Sometimes there's follow-up to an episode. We'd cover something in the interview I wasn't expecting to cover, and after it was over, I'd ask whether they could provide the link or resource they talked about.

A great example is Perry Noble's interview on burnout (such an amazing and compelling story by the way). We referenced a number of articles on his blog and resources he and his team had pulled together on burnout, depression and suicide.

Perry and his team got me the notes within an hour of promising they would. And it was no small project. Have a look at the show notes. The coolest part is that those notes have literally helped thousands of leaders at this point.

Follow-through—and fast follow-through—is a characteristic of almost every effective leader.

The lesson is simple. Don't make promises you can't keep. And when you promise, deliver.

6. They take their work—not themselves—seriously. Every guest I've interviewed so far takes their work seriously, but not themselves.

It's so refreshing to find leaders who are absolutely passionate about their mission, but who don't take themselves that seriously.

This shouldn't be a surprise, but it is. Jim Collins identified humility as the defining difference between a Level 4 and a Level 5 difference. The leaders who go the furthest, even in business, are the most humble.

Want to be a better leader? Take your work more seriously than you take yourself.

7. They're incredibly down to earth. I often get asked, so what's ___________ really like?

I love that question, because of the top church leaders I've met and know, the answer is they're incredibly genuine people who walk the talk and who are good to be around.

I was a little intimidated in some of the interviews, but the warm demeanor, kind words and down-to-earth approach of every guest was disarming and encouraging. I've met some leaders of small things who take themselves too seriously and are anything but down to earth. I think that limits your leadership.

The leaders I've interviewed all know where they've come from, realize that leadership is a stewardship and make others feel at ease. What if you and I made others feel the same way. The leaders who go the furthest are the most humble.

What Do You See?

These are seven characteristics I've seen in the high-capacity leaders I've been around on my podcast and in my leadership.

What do you see in the leaders you admire?

What can we learn together on this subject?

Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Church north of Toronto, Canada. He blogs at careynieuwhof.com and is host of The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast available for free on iTunes. More from Carey Nieuwhof or visit Carey at careynieuwhof.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Carey Nieuwhof) Ministry Leadership Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
4 Secrets of a Fruitful Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21630-4-secrets-of-a-fruitful-ministry-warren http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21630-4-secrets-of-a-fruitful-ministry-warren Most people are interested in productivity. But the Bible doesn't use the word "productivity;" instead, you'll find the word "fruitfulness."

God wants us to have fruitful ministries, so I want to show you some principles that will produce a godly fruitfulness in your life. I believe there are four conditions that are essential for a fruitful ministry:

1. You must cultivate roots. God says there's no fruit without roots. You need roots particularly when your resources are limited, for when times of drought come along.

Drought, as you know, is a long period without rain. We had one here in California that lasted seven years. A drought in your life is whenever you have to do without something you need, perhaps time, energy, money or support. There will be times of drought in your ministry; perhaps you're even in one now.

2. You must eliminate the weeds in your life and ministry. The weeds in your ministry, and in your life, are any things that hinder or limit your spiritual growth. Weeds are the things that choke your relationship to Christ or that prevent you from further growth.

How much effort does it take to grow weeds? None at all!

You don't have to cultivate weeds. In fact, that's the difference between a weed and a vegetable. Even though you feed, water and cultivate a vegetable, sometimes it still dies. Pay no attention to a weed and it grows!

Weeds are a sign of neglect. I've found that when I neglect my quiet time, when I neglect my personal maintenance like walking and staying physically fit, and when I neglect key relationships in my life, the weeds start to grow and begin choking my productivity.

3. You must cooperate with God's pruning in your life. What is pruning?

Pruning not only involves cutting off dead branches, but living ones as well in order to improve the shape of the plant and stimulate growth. Pruning is essential for increased productivity. It's not optional. If you're going to be productive in ministry, God will put you through times of pruning.

God prunes you for fruitfulness. In your life it's not only the dead wood that God cuts off; He also cuts back areas of success, EVEN areas that are bearing wonderful fruit.

When He does this you might struggle to understand why, but the reason is He is preparing you for even greater ministry.

4. You must wait for the harvest. Growing fruit takes time. It doesn't come automatically. You don't plant a seed in the ground and harvest it the next day.

It's common sense: seeds must be planted. You've got to cover them up with dirt, and then you wait and pray and expect growth.

Just as a seed creates new life out of death, for you to be more effective in your ministry there's a dying to your old nature, a dying to your own desires and ambitions in the waiting process. Growth takes time, but don't give up. Stay plugged into Jesus Christ.

Maybe you've been dormant in your ministry for some time. My prayer is that you'll give yourself to Christ, saying, "Lord, I want to work on these four things: cultivating my roots, eliminating the weeds, cooperating with Your pruning, and waiting for the harvest. God, I trust You with what I've planted, and I trust what I have sown will inevitably reap a harvest for You."

That is the law of the harvest.

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 Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren) A Pastor's Heart Mon, 16 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Those Tiny Vignettes We May Overlook in Scripture http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21594-those-tiny-vignettes-we-may-overlook-in-scripture http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21594-those-tiny-vignettes-we-may-overlook-in-scripture Vignette: noun; a short descriptive literary sketch. 

These are short excerpts from Scripture's narrative of the salvation story that I find fascinating and in many cases, parable-like because in a brief story or a few lines they encapsulate so much of God's message. They are so short, however, they often get overlooked.

Only those who stroll slowly through the garden of God's Word, taking time to notice the petal of each flower, only they see and appreciate and benefit. (I'm thinking of several articles with perhaps 20 vignettes in all.)

Take a look at these and see if they aren't loaded with importance....

1. Lazarus on the front porch in Bethany (John 12:9-11). Brought back from the grave after four days of bodily decomposing, the man of Bethany required no book tour or television crew to attract a crowd. He sat on the front porch in a rocking chair–that's how I figure it, at any rate–so that people arriving in Jerusalem for Passover streamed out the Eastern Gate, down the Kidron Valley, and over the Mount of Olives for a glimpse of the man dead four days! No one had ever seen such a thing. The crowds kept coming.

He was quite the attraction. Lazarus was the talk of the town. And as a result, Jesus was the Man of the hour.

Many believed on Jesus because a man sat on his porch doing nothing but smiling.  Lazarus was Exhibit A of Jesus' power over death, hell, and the grave.

Ya gotta love it. (In some ways–but different, of course–the Lord wants you and me to be Exhibit A of His power to change lives (See I Peter 2:9-10).

The enemies of our Lord were infuriated and came to a decision: they had to do something quick to put a stop to the Man of Galilee.

"Let's kill Lazarus." Seriously. That's what they decided.

What a one-track mind these guys had. Jesus had already demonstrated that tactic didn't work anymore. But death is the big gun in the enemy's arsenal. Rob him of that and he is powerless.

Lazarus laughed. When will the enemy ever get it?  (Answer: He still hasn't. All over the world, God's faithful are being martyred for their faithfulness to Jesus. The archenemy of all that is holy still thinks if he can kill enough believers, everyone else will be frightened into submission. But there is an elementary law of physics Satan never has learned: Fire burns brighter under pressure).

2. The women who supported Jesus and the disciples (Luke 8:1-3). This is the only place where we're told the women were responsible for supporting the Lord and His disciples with their contributions. "From their substance," Luke says.

For many reasons, I love this.

Not only were these women funding the travels, they accompanied our Lord and the disciples to the various cities. Some or all "had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities." The women were among the Lord's most faithful disciples.  Maybe not "apostles," but they were definitely disciples.  Some stood near the cross when our Lord died (see Luke 23:27,49,55). The women did not flee like several of the disciples did (Matthew 26:56), but took careful note as the Lord's body was taken down from the cross as to where it was laid (Luke 23:55). Later, "they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils." "Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they and certain other women with them came to the tomb ... " (Luke 24:1).

Thank God for the faithful women. As a young pastor, I recall hearing preachers speaking disparagingly of women taking the leadership roles in churches. And yet, the church I was serving at the time would have died many times over its 20-year-history without the dedication of devoted godly women. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  At what point are we going to start believing this?

The Pharisees in the room will read the above and decide I am a liberal. They could not be more wrong. I am a Bible-loving, Jesus-worshiping, sold-out disciple of the only Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. All I want to do is know His word and live it and then teach it. If you and I disagree on any of these points, let us do so in love but not as the world does.

3. Barnabas departs from Antioch in search of Saul (Acts 11:25). A revival had broken out among the Gentiles of Antioch of Syria.  The believers at Jerusalem had sent up Mr. Encourager, Barnabas, to check into these matters (see Acts 11:22). Once he saw that the Gentiles, surely the unlikeliest of all people, were turning to Jesus in large numbers, Barnabas remembered the man who had been called by God as an evangelist to those very people (see Acts 9:15).  As far as he knew, Saul had returned to his hometown of Tarsus, banished from Jerusalem in a manner of speaking, because his brutal tactics of evangelism had ended up making more enemies than friends. Acts 9:30 tells how the Jerusalem brethren slipped him out of the city to Caesarea and sent him home.

I think we are safe in saying the Lord was giving Saul time to rethink matters. The fiery young evangelist had "gone up like a sky rocket"–and had come down just as quickly.  Soon, no one was inviting him to preach. His parents must have wondered about their brilliant son, the honor graduate of the rabbinical school in Jerusalem, who was now back living in his old room and making tents for a living. (Admittedly, we're talking from silence and supposition here. Scripture omits any mention of what Saul was doing during this interlude. But many a faithful servant has had to learn the hard way what it means to be "put on a shelf" for maturing).

Acts 11:19 is one of the most important sentences in this history of this small planet. "Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul." Once Barnabas matched God's man with the field of service, nothing was ever the same. (Has anyone ever fully calculated the debt the Christian church owes to Barnabas? It is massive, to be sure.)

We who work in church leadership are always trying to match up the called of God with the appropriate opportunity and the need for which God has prepared them. Doing this well is one of the most exciting aspects of Christian service. (To our shame, we have sometime short-circuited the situation and stuck uncalled, ill-prepared people into slots where they proceeded to do more damage than good.  Let us believe Matthew 9:38 and ask the Lord to raise up workers for a particular harvest, then wait until He does.)

4. Paul and Silas give a midnight concert (Acts 16:25). The two missionaries had been brutally beaten, their bleeding backs left as open wounds, and locked into stocks in the interior part of the Philippian jail—all for doing nothing more than trying to bless people with the good news of Jesus.

We can only imagine their pain.  But their faith was truly amazing. "At midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them." (Please memorize this verse. You are going to need it).

Does anyone suppose Paul said, "You know, Silas.  I just feel like singing"? Not in a million years. They were both hurting so badly. Maya Angelou's first autobiography carried the wonderful title, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Sometimes, you have to choose between singing and crying.

They were "praying and singing hymns" by faith in the living God whom they knew was still on the job and present in that very room. (Oh, how Heaven must have loved their song. I tear up at the thought.)

How they "felt" had nothing to do with anything.

Had I been in their place, what the prisoners would have heard would likely have been bellyaching. "Where is God?  We came to Philippi to bless these people and look how they've treated us. Why have they done this to us? I'm going to rethink my call if this is how congregations treat their ministers."

We are such crybabies. These two men knew that being thrown in jail was part of God's plan to reach certain ones who would not be coming to their church revival (See Matthew 10:16ff).

The prisoners were listening. They'd never heard anything like this. And so was the jailer listening, which explains why a few hours later he burst in and fell on his face before them when the earthquake awakened him. He demanded to know "How can I get what you have?" (Acts 16:30)

It's fascinating to notice how, after the jailer gets saved, he proceeded to do something that he would have died rather than do earlier: he took Paul and Silas out of the jail.  He woke up his wife and mother-in-law to prepare some breakfast for them, while he applied salve to their backs and the missionaries spoke about Jesus (Acts 16:32-34).

I do love this story. It ranks up there with the greatest and most beloved stories of Scripture.

5. When a Bible scholar gets saved, Scripture becomes a new book to him, forever yielding additional treasures (Matthew 13:52). The Lord said imagine a homeowner who goes into his treasure–perhaps his attic–and checks on all his valuables. Each time he goes, he finds something new there. He would go often, wouldn't he?

That's the way with scribes (experts on Scripture from their lifetime of copying manuscripts) who receive Christ as Savior. Now, they return to those beloved texts and see them in a new light.

After Saul of Tarsus came to Jesus, he spent a full three years in the desert rethinking all the Scriptures as he had learned them (see Galatians 1:17-18). He was discovering the treasures God had put throughout His Word, which Saul had never noticed because of the scales over his eyes. Now that he was seeing through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, he was finding gold nuggets everywhere. This is why Paul's writings are saturated with Old Testament references and re-interpretations as to what he had been taught in the rabbinical school.

God will do that for you and me, too, even if we did not come to Christ the way Saul did.  Personally, I've been saved since I was 11 years old. But to this day, each time I return to a scripture, no matter how familiar, I find something new. It's truly amazing, and something that can be said of no other book anywhere.

I do love this book. How about you?

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 joemckeever.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) A Pastor's Heart Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:00:00 -0500
Black History Month: Honoring Pentecostal Pioneer William Seymour http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21541-kyle-searcy-honoring-william-seymour http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21541-kyle-searcy-honoring-william-seymour I recently listened to a sermon by Arthur Burke titled Treasures of the African Americans. In it he alleged that God deposited certain traits in certain races that were designed to be a blessing to humanity.

These are traits that we must embrace and redeem in order to actualize God's intent for granting them. I sat spellbound as I heard him expound on the African-Americans' unique ability to understand and embrace the Holy Spirit. His theory was that God chose William Seymour to be the catalyst of the Pentecostal renewal, not in spite of the fact that he was black but because he was black.

Burke said:

"There has never been a revival like it. Listen to me: 1 billion people on planet earth today walk in an understanding of the Holy Spirit because God designed black people to know the Holy Spirit and to express the Holy Spirit. And God gave you a moment in destiny and allowed that stream to begin in Azusa through a one-eyed black man and spread throughout the world. That is His design and no Jim Crow laws, no discrimination and nothing that humans can do can take away from you what God gave you and designed you for."

During this month in which we celebrate Black History, I want to honor William Seymour but not simply with a historical salute, I want to encourage a present embrace of the substance of what his life's purpose was. I am persuaded the power of Pentecost was not just for the 20th century or Acts 2. We need it now more than ever.

I encourage each of us to stir up the gift inside and cultivate a stronger partnership with the Holy Spirit. Here are 5 reasons I believe every believer ought to be filled with the Holy Spirit and have a prayer language:

1. It's the key to spiritual power. Acts 1:8 says, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you."

We already have the Holy Spirit in us if we are born again but it never hurts to put more logs on the fire. The Apostles in Acts were filled more than once (Acts 2:1-4, 4:24-32). The more of the Holy Spirit we have, the more we can do for God.

2. It provides spirit-to-spirit communication with God. 1 Corinthians 14:2 says, "For he who speaks in an unknown tongue does not speak to men, but to God. For no one understands him, although in the spirit, he speaks mysteries."

Scripture alleges that speaking in tongues is spirit-to-spirit communication. The Holy Spirit who dwells in our human spirit is communing with God through us. That's powerful. Interestingly, Nightline did a study and found that when Christians pray in tongues, the speech centers of the brain are not active. Click here to take a look.

3. It builds our faith. Jude 1:20 says, "But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Pray in the Holy Spirit."

1 Corinthians 14:4 says, "He who speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself ... ."

Can you use a faith boost? Tongues build you up and edify you. Go for it!

4. It's spiritual refreshment. John 7:37-39: "On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.' By this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believe in Him would receive. For the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."

I love Jesus' description here ... "rivers of living water." Soul thirst can be quenched any time through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit not only produces external power it also releases internal balm. We should want more.

5. It's healthy. 1 Corinthians 14:4: "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself ... ."

A blog written by the Christian-Psychiatry Inc., states that Dr. Carl Peterson, a brain specialist, conducted a study on speaking in tongues study at Oral Roberts University. He found that "as we engage in our heavenly language the brain releases [two] chemical secretions that are directed into our immune systems giving a 35 to 40 percent boost to the immune system. This promotes healing within our bodies. Amazingly this secretion is triggered from a part of the brain that has no other apparent activity in humans and is only activated by our Spirit-led prayer and worship."

See for yourself by clicking here.

Let's honor the man that ushered in the greatest revival of our time, not just with a historical nod but a heartthrob. Like William Seymour, let's awaken to the reality that there is more God wants for us and pursue it. Anything God has for you won't hurt you.

As Seymour once said: "The Pentecostal power, when you sum it all up, is just more of God's love. If it does not bring more love, it is simply a counterfeit."

Kyle Searcy is the senior pastor of Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery, Alabama. Visit him at kylesearcy.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Kyle Searcy) A Pastor's Heart Mon, 16 Feb 2015 20:00:00 -0500
There’s Something For Everyone in the Christmas Story http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21427-there-s-something-for-everyone-in-the-christmas-story http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21427-there-s-something-for-everyone-in-the-christmas-story "Now, the birth of Jesus happened this way ... ." (Matt. 1:18).

Do you like a true-life adventure story? This one is the best. It's found in only four chapters in the Bible: Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.

You like genealogies? Then check out the birth narratives about our Lord Jesus. See Matthew 1:1-14 and also Luke 3:21-38.

You like mysteries? Try to figure out how those two lists of ancestors work out for the lineage of Jesus. If you finally give up, then (and only then) go to a commentary written by a Bible-believing scholar. Your church library probably has several.

Are you a history student? Then check out Luke 2:1-3, where "the beloved physician" gives the historical setting for the birth of our Lord. Then, move up one chapter and see how Luke does the same thing for the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry some three decades later.

You love conspiracies? (There's a lot of that going around today. Is Elvis really dead? Who shot JFK? Was General Patton murdered?) Then check out King Herod in Matthew chapter 2 and notice his murderous rampage against anyone who appears to be a threat, even little babies. Sheesh. What a monster. And notice how the Lord Jesus sent the Magi with funds ("gold") to finance the trip of the little Holy Family to Egypt, just ahead of Herod's legions. They slipped away just in time.

You are a woman and you love babies? (I'm a man and I love babies. But concerning the pregnancy/birth process, we men are on the outside looking in). Then do not miss the entire first chapter of Luke. It begins with the announcement/birth of John the Baptist and moves seamlessly into the announcement and birth of his cousin, the Lord Jesus. It's pretty special. Your heart goes out to Mary.

Do you love old people or (ahem) happen to be one yourself? Don't miss Simeon and Anna in Luke 2. Simeon had been told a secret by the Holy Spirit, that he would live to see the Messiah. Then, as Mary and Joseph entered the temple for His dedication, the Holy Spirit nudged him. "All right, Simeon. You're on! This is the moment you have lived for!" Who among us does not resonate with pleasure at his exclamation, "Now, Lord, you can call me home! I've seen it all!" The blessed Anna, on the other hand, just seems to have been in the right place at the right time.

Do you love Bible prophecy? It's throughout this wonderful story. In Matthew 1:22-23, we have the connection of "Jesus" with the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. And in Matthew 2:5, the theologians advise King Herod that according to Micah 5:2 the Christ will be born in Bethlehem  Or see how the song of Mary (Luke 1:46ff) shows her acquaintance with Psalm 18.

Are you a guy who loves doing macho things like going on sudden fishing/hunting trips or mission excursions to difficult parts of the world? Then take a look at the Magi of Matthew 2. If ever there was a "guy thing" in Scripture, this is it. A group of men in some distant eastern country who were studying the heavens came to the conclusion—no one is sure how—that "the King of the Jews" was to be born in this tiny kingdom. And they decided to come and see for themselves! These men put their lives on hold, convinced their wives they would be home in time for the children's birthdays, and at great expense and incredible hardship started out on a trek to (don't miss this!) follow a star! Meanwhile, back at home, you can imagine how the wives are taking this. We shake our heads at the daring of these men and so admire how God used them. (And can you imagine the stories they had to tell on their return!)

Are you a nobody wondering how God could ever use a cipher like you? You have come to the right place, my friend. Check out Luke 1:26, where the angel Gabriel informs Mary of Nazareth that God has chosen her for hazardous duty. Her responses come down to variations of "Who, me?" And do not miss her song, recorded in Luke 1:40-55, which reeks of praise to God for choosing to bless the lowly and the nobodies.

Are you a ruler impressed with your own power? You're in this story, too. There is Herod, that bum, in Matthew 2. And do not miss Luke 2:2 where Caesar Augustus, the mightiest ruler of the day, receives only honorable mention. God is clearly not all that impressed by earthly rulers. "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; He turns it to any place He will" (Prov. 21:1).

Are you an hourly worker with a poor reputation, perhaps a spotted record and little prospects for success? You can identify with the shepherds outside Bethlehem (Luke 2:8ff) who were selected by Heaven as the first welcoming committee for the Son of God. How special is that? (Scholars tell us that first-century shepherds were a class of rejects as a rule and that their testimony was unacceptable in court. And yet, the Lord Jesus calls Himself our Good Shepherd. See John 10.)

Are you burdened with guilt and wondering how you got your life in such a mess? "He shall save His people from their sins," the angel told Joseph in Matthew 1:21. And that angel or another one—it's impossible to tell—told Bethlehem's shepherds, "I bring you good news of a great joy. For unto you is born today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11). There is a Savior, my friend. His name is Jesus, and you have come at a great time! Now is the time and Jesus is the One (see Acts 4:12). Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:30-31).

Are you a preacher wondering how to get yet another sermon out of the Christmas story, one that has not been preached to death, maybe one with a fresh angle? Bite your tongue, friend. You're not editing the National Enquirer here, trying to find a fresh scandal for every issue. You're proclaiming the old, old story from Heaven, and your message is as good as it's possible to get. Tell the old story. Those sitting before you on Sunday are not looking for a fresh spin on the ancient narrative. They want to know more about what God did, what it meant and what it means today. Open your Bible to Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, then get on your knees with it open before you and sit at the Master's feet for an hour or two. You'll get sermons enough for a year of Christmases.

Are you new to the Christian faith? Then, welcome, my friend. We hope you will not be put off by all the cultural things our society does to piggy-back on the Christmas story.

This is not about Santa or elves, not about Scrooge or Tiny Tim, not about George Bailey or Macy's sales, and not about Frosty or Rudolph. It's about God so loving the world that He stepped into history and became a man who preached Heaven's message and died for humanity's iniquity.

It's about Hebrews 2:14-15: "Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, He also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death."

It's about 2 Timothy 1:10: "the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."

And, in particular, it's about Galatians 4:4: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons."

It's for you and for me. It's for "all the people" (Luke 2:10).

It's the best news ever. We praise His holy name.

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 churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) A Pastor's Heart Wed, 24 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
The Jesus Way: Unshockable Love http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21413-the-jesus-way-unshockable-love http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21413-the-jesus-way-unshockable-love Sunni glanced in the rearview mirror. She had mostly stopped stripping for a living since her daughter was born, but kicking the alcohol and drugs did not come as easy—all addictions share a similar root. "My beautiful little girl deserves more than an addicted mom in unhealthy relationships. How do I get out of this?"

"Mommy, when can we go to church again?" Autum's four-year-old voice cut through Sunni's introspection. Sunni had tried church a year earlier. She always left feeling small, dirty, unworthy of God's love, and like there was no way she could ever redeem herself in God's eyes. And she knew if these church people found out her past, they'd surely reject her.

"I don't know, honey," Sunni told Autum. Yet that very day, driving along listening to her favorite rock station, Sunni heard a radio ad from a church we helped start. The ad made her laugh. "It surprised me that it was a church," Sunni recalls, "but what stuck in my mind were the last words: 'Come as you are—no perfect people allowed.'" Two weeks later, Sunday morning found her so hung over her body shook from dehydration.

"'Come as you are' kept filling my mind," Sunni recalls, "so I decided to put them to the test and see if they would push me out"—better sooner than later, she figured. Sean saw her come in, introduced himself as the pastor, and asked how she was doing.

"I have a massive hangover," Sunni blurted out, intending to shock him into a judgmental reaction.

"Oh, then you need some coffee," Sean responded, "Can I get some for you?"

Sunni was shocked. She tried again and again with other people, working hard to get a reaction to her "massive hangover." Instead, she felt like the people there were less concerned about her hangover than they were about her—it blew her away.

"I continued to come to church and began building amazing relationships with people there, and as trust built, I began to say less words for shock value (which was a defense mechanism I used to keep people from getting close enough to hurt me), and I began to allow myself to be ever-so-slightly vulnerable. People brought me into their lives like I was family. No matter what I said or did, the response was, 'I love you for exactly who you are, and exactly where you're at, and so does Jesus. Nine months later, I almost overdosed like my mom had, but I cried out for help—this time to God and my new Christian friends."

Sunni entered recovery to get clean of drugs and alcohol and was baptized. Today Sunni celebrates nearly four years of sobriety. "God led me to an amazing Christian man I've been married to for a year now, I'm back in college, and I know Autumn will have a better life than I did, because God's leading us all."

Jesus offered mercy to people who needed mercy. He brought good news about God's heart for people who felt condemned, judged, thinking God saw no hope for them. He offered people relationship that restored. As followers of Jesus, do we first bring something "good" relationally to people in need of good news, or do we bring a gospel that says, "Until I help them see the 'bad news' about how wrong their sin is, they won't see their need for forgiveness"? Jesus didn't do this, but the Pharisees did.

Jesus did not recoil in shock and disbelief at people's relative "badness." He saw it like mud on a Masterpiece—something that needed to be removed because something of immense value was present underneath. Something worth dying for! Jesus put the spotlight of grace on the Masterpiece, so people could see why the mud needed removing. He identified the person with the Masterpiece rather than the mud (read Eph. 2:8-10).

This doesn't mean Jesus ignored or denied the seriousness of our sins against God or our wrongs against each other. The reason I believe Jesus wants his followers to be unshockable has nothing to do with hating sin or not hating sin. It has to do with seeing sin for what it is—it's foreign matter. Sin is not our true identity—that's the whole problem. We need to help people identify with God's image in them (who God created them to be).

What do you see in yourself or others—the mud or the Masterpiece? What you see determines how you treat yourself and others.

Paul explained it this way: "It is no longer I myself who do [wrong], but it is sin living in me [i.e., sin is not me]" (Romans 7:17). So don't beat yourself up, beat up on sin! When people identify themselves with the mud (which is not them), they act like mud! Feelings of shame and condemnation keep driving them away from the only One who can restore them. When people identify themselves with the Masterpiece God created them to be, they're more willing to allow the Master to do his restoration work.

Jesus didn't make sure the woman at the well, who was shacking up with a guy after having five divorces, understood that sex outside of marriage is wrong (though he taught it was at other times), he offered her living water that made the muddy water distasteful (John 4). Jesus didn't remind the woman caught in adultery that she broke the Ten Commandments—he didn't have to—he set her free from condemnation so that she could "go and sin no more" (John 8:11). He offered a chance to live a new life! Relationship was Jesus' solution to sin.

What would happen if you went into your workplace, your neighborhood, or your home and really started treating people just like Jesus did? What if you were unshocked by mud ... motivated by mercy ... and committed to restoring value—connecting people to the Master Restorer?

John Burke is the pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas and author of Unshockable Love, No Perfect People Allowed, and Soul Revolution (bakerpublishinggroup.com). To purchase Unshockable Love, click here.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (John Burke) A Pastor's Heart Fri, 12 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Rick Warren: Be Thankful in the Tough Times http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21380-rick-warren-be-thankful-in-the-tough-times http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/a-pastor-s-heart/21380-rick-warren-be-thankful-in-the-tough-times When the Apostle Paul says, "Always be full of joy in the Lord," he doesn't say to only be joyful in good times. Even when times are tough, the Bible teaches we can be joyful if we follow these simple strategies:

1. Don't worry about anything. Worrying doesn't change anything. It's stewing without doing. There are no such things as born-worriers. Worry is a learned response. You learned it from your parents. You learned it from your peers. You learned it from experience. That's good news: The fact that worry is learned means it can also be unlearned.

How do you unlearn it? Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (NIV). He's saying don't open your umbrella until it starts raining. Live one day at a time.

2. Pray about everything. Instead of worrying, use your time for praying. If you prayed as much as you worried, you'd have a lot less to worry about. Is God interested in car payments? Yes. He's interested in every detail of your life. That means you can take any problem you face to God.

3. Thank God in all things. When you pray, pray with thanksgiving. The healthiest human emotion is not love but gratitude. It actually increases your immunities. It makes you more resistant to stress and less susceptible to illness. People who are grateful are happy. But people who are ungrateful are miserable because nothing makes them happy. They're never satisfied. It's never good enough. So if you cultivate the attitude of gratitude, of being thankful in everything, it reduces stress in your life.

4. Think about the right things. If you want to reduce the level of stress in your life, you must change the way you think, because the way you think determines how you feel. And the way you feel determines how you act. The Bible teaches that, if you want to change your life, you need to change what you're thinking about.

This involves a deliberate, conscious choice where you choose to think about the right things. We need to choose to think on the positive and on God's Word.

What is the result of not worrying, praying about everything, giving thanks, and focusing on the right things?  Paul says we will then "experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7 NLT).

  • What do you worry about? Talk to God about your worries and honestly tell him why you worry.
  • If you prayed as much as you worried, how do you think your life would change?
  • God says he has your best interest at heart. Thank him in all things, even if you cannot understand what God is up to in your life.
  • What do you think about most? What do you think God wants you to think about?
  • Are these two things in alignment? If not, then why?

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

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren ) A Pastor's Heart Thu, 27 Nov 2014 19:00:00 -0500
8 Values of Teamwork That Keep a Church Healthy http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21667-8-values-of-teamwork-that-keep-a-church-healthy http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21667-8-values-of-teamwork-that-keep-a-church-healthy The success of your ministry depends largely on developing a strong team with a deep sense of team spirit. I've witnessed the incredible power of a unified team to create growth and have counseled many churches that weren't growing because their team members worked as individuals and not as a team.

A team spirit is never accidental; it is always intentional. Teamwork is built on three factors:

  • A compelling purpose
  • Crystal-clear communication
  • A code of commonly held values.

At Saddleback Church, we express the eight values of teamwork in a simple acrostic, T.E.A.M.W.O.R.K.:

T–Trust

Trust among your team is the emotional glue that binds them together; it's essential to producing true confidence in each other. There are three factors that create trust within a team:

1. Consistency. People will trust you if, time after time, they see you responding in a consistent and reasonable manner. You also need to be readable, in the sense that they need to know where you are coming from in your decisions and responses.

2. Loyalty. Defend members of your team when they're criticized and then check the facts later in private, always assuming the best until there is concrete evidence to the contrary.

3. Delegation. When you delegate to your team the power to make decisions, you're essentially telling them: "I trust you!" People trust leaders who trust them.

E–Economy of Energy

Even a thoroughbred horse can't run at a full gait all the time. The quickest way to burn-out a team is to never let them relax. The book of Proverbs teaches: "A relaxed attitude lengthens a man's life." (Proverbs 14:30, LB) If you want the people on your team to last, they must have some down time.

Here are some ways you can promote an economy of energy within your team:

  • Anticipate and compensate for personal and family energy drains, such as illnesses and new babies. Your team has a life outside of their area of ministry.
  • Allow people to work at different energy levels on different days. Some days, everyone must work fast and energetic. Other days, it is important to slow the pace a bit. In the long term, slow and steady always outlasts the fast and furious.
  • Plan your year in energy cycles. At Saddleback, we always build in rest periods for consolidation between major growth campaigns and initiatives.
  • Allow flexibility in schedules when possible.
  • Make the work fun!

A–Affirmation

Everybody is hungry for affirmation. When they don't get it, they get cranky. It's amazing how a smile and a simple word of encouragement can change a team member's entire day. Four practical ways you can affirm your team would be:

  1. Valuing their ideas
  2. Appreciating their uniqueness
  3. Commending their efforts
  4. Praising their loyalty

M–Management of Mistakes

The Bible teaches: "Even though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again." (Proverbs 24:16, NIV) I love that saying because it points out that even righteous people make mistakes and stumble occasionally. Mistakes are not failures, because you're never a failure until you give up. Mistakes teach us what doesn't work. If you're not making any mistakes, it means you're playing it safe and not trying anything new. I tell my staff that I want every one of them making at least one new mistake a week—as long as it isn't the same old one! Mistakes are how we learn and get better.

W–Weekly Staff Meetings

For years, I asked my team to bring me a brief weekly report on a small 3-by-5 card. This kept the reports short and to the point. Then those cards became our weekly meeting agenda. Today we use email. Here are the four things you want to know as a leader:

  • "I've made progress in ______________________________________"
  • "I'm having difficulty with ___________________________________"
  • "I need a decision from you on ________________________________"
  • "I'm thankful for ___________________________________________"

O – Open Communication

Open communication is the cornerstone of great teamwork. Proverbs 13:17 (LB) says "Reliable communication permits progress." There are three common barriers to great communication:

1. Presumption. How many problems have been caused by the phrase "But I assumed ..."? Here are some fatal assumptions: assuming that there's only one way to see a problem; assuming that everyone else feels just like you; assuming that someone will never change (they do); assuming that you can know someone else's motives (you can't).

2. Impatience ruins open communication because we are more interested in what we are going to say than listening to what others say. Impatience causes you to jump to conclusions.

3. Pride. When you think you know it all, you are resistant to feedback, and you become defensive instead of really listening to others and learning.

R–Recognition and Reward

The more credit you give to others, the more you develop team spirit. It's that simple. The Bible says, "Give honor and respect to all those to whom it is due." (Romans 13:7, LB)

K–Keep on Learning

All leaders are learners. The moment you stop learning, you stop being a leader. As I consult with churches, I've seen that growing churches require growing leaders.

Another proverb says "The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them." (Proverbs 18:15, LB) Do you do that? Do you encourage your team members to keep on growing, developing, and learning?

At Saddleback, our staff is constantly reading books and listening to tapes to sharpen their skills and develop their character.

If you practice these eight T.E.A.M.W.O.R.K. values with your team, you'll experience a new level of teamwork in your church that will take your ministry to new heights.

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

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren ) Administration Tue, 31 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Does Your Church Have a Sabbatical Leave Policy? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21621-does-your-church-have-a-sabbatical-leave-policy http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21621-does-your-church-have-a-sabbatical-leave-policy The role of pastor is extremely stressful. In effect he/she is never off duty. This long-term stress takes a toll emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Churches that want to keep their pastor for many years must provide him/her with a season of rest. I recommend that all full-time pastors and staff receive a three-month paid sabbatical every six or seven years.

The Battle Wounded

Consider the following statistics:

  • 23 percent of pastors have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
  • 25 percent of pastors don't know where to turn when they have a family or personal issue.
  • 45 percent of pastors say that they have experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence.
  • 56 percent of pastors' spouses say that they have no close friends.
  • 70 don't have any close friends.
  • 75 percent report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear and alienation.
  • 80 percent say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 90 percent work more than 50 hours a week.
  • 94 percent feel under pressure to have a perfect family.

1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to burnout, conflict or moral failure.

Time for Some R & R

Universities and colleges have given professors sabbaticals for many years. Originally modeled on the biblical cycle of work and rest, professors receive a sabbatical for research, writing, travel and rest every seven years.

Many churches today find that by providing a regular sabbatical for their pastors, they are able to keep them for a longer period of time. And, as I mentioned in an earlier article here, there is a direct relationship between pastoral longevity and church growth.

Two Examples

A number of books, articles and examples are available to help you avoid re-inventing the wheel in developing a policy. Google "pastoral sabbatical policy" and you will find over 3,700 hits. Here are two examples of churches' sabbatical policies:

Example No. 1

Personal development leave is for professional growth that will benefit our church.

  • Leave accrues at 1.5 weeks per year of service.
  • A pastor must serve a minimum of 2 years before scheduling a study leave.
  • All personal development leave must be scheduled and approved by the church Council. The Administrative Committee will make a recommendation based upon a review of all the pastor's schedules and the purpose of the leave with the assurance that all ministries will be properly carried on.
  • A pastor will serve a minimum of 6 months following the use of any personal development leave.
  • Accrued personal development leave is forfeited when a pastor resigns. The church Council may waive this in the case of a tendered resignation.

Example No. 2

Sabbatical leave may be granted to full-time pastoral staff members for the pursuit of activities as approved by the Council of Elders. The following stipulations and requirements will apply:

  • Sabbaticals may be approved for six months at the culmination of each seven years of full-time ministry at the church. Each staff member may apply vacation time earned to extend his/her leave to a maximum of one month.
  • Full salary and benefits will be paid during the leave.
  • A detailed proposal for use of a sabbatical leave will be presented to the Council of Elders at the time of application for leave. Applications should be presented six months prior to expected leave. The council has the right to deny leave for sabbaticals it feels does not meet its approval.
  • The intent of sabbatical leave is to further the ministry of our church.
  • Upon returning, the staff member taking a sabbatical leave will give a report to the Council of Elders on what was achieved during the leave.

Conclusion

Each year your church should put aside an amount equivalent to 1/12 of the pastor's annual salary to cover the salary during the sabbatical leave. The seventh year of a pastor's tenure is often one of mental and spiritual fatigue. By allowing the pastor to take a three-month sabbatical at this time the pastor's life will be re-energized which will have a positive impact on the church's ministry, as well.

Dr. Charles Arn has been a leading contributor to the conversation on church growth/health for the past 30 years. His newest book, What Every Pastor Should Know, is available from Baker Books.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Charles Arn) Administration Wed, 11 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
6 Ways to Control Your Calendar So It Doesn’t Control You http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21510-6-ways-to-control-your-calendar-so-it-doesn-t-control-you http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21510-6-ways-to-control-your-calendar-so-it-doesn-t-control-you Mark Batterson once wrote, "If you don't control your calendar, your calendar will control you."

Alan Lakein said, "Time is life. It is irreversible and irreplaceable. To waste your time is to waste your life, but to master your time is to master your life and make the most of it."

Scott Peck is credited with saying, "Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it."

And, I've heard a hundred preachers say, "Show me your checkbook and your calendar, and I'll tell you what you value."

I agree with all these statements. Leaders who don't have control of their calendars will constantly be spinning out in the dirt without making much progress. Life will seem frantic and hurried, yet it will be difficult to pinpoint what they are actually getting done.

I'm not the king of time management, but I do live and die by my calendar. Everything that is important in my life goes on my calendar.

Here are six principles that help me:

1. Put priority items on your calendar first. Perhaps you've seen the illustration where the presenter tries to fill a jar with a combination of big rocks and little rocks. If the presenter fills the jar with the little rocks first, he is not able to fit very many big rocks in the jar. However, if he fills it with all the big rocks first, then he can add many of the little rocks in and around the big rocks.

The analogy breaks down if you go very far with it, but the foundation is true.

You must put priority things (e.g., time with your spouse and kids, vacation, strategic planning, and vision time) on the calendar first.

Otherwise you'll never find time for those priorities.

2. Stack your meetings. If it's within your control, try to schedule all your meetings on the same day or two each week.

I knew I wouldn't get much productive work done on those days, but I was going to have some great conversations, help move the ball down the field on some projects, and keep my staff moving forward because of our connections.

Stacking your meetings will keep you from getting bitter about meetings ruling your life, and it will leave you with a couple of days where your schedule is relatively open.

3. Schedule your rest. If you don't plan for rest and renewal, it won't happen.

My calendar will always fill up if I don't plan for some down time. I'm always amazed when I hear people say, "I'm going to try to take a couple days off next week. I just have to see how the week goes."

What? Are you kidding? You can't wait for the right time to unwind or take a vacation with your family. It will never happen.

Get the dates on the calendar months in advance. Always be looking at your schedule for busy seasons ahead. Make sure you plan some time in the middle of those seasons to unwind and get centered.

4. Manage your travel schedule. If you don't travel, skip over this one. But many leaders have to be on the road.

A few years ago I noticed my travel schedule was getting out of hand. One year I was gone 18 nights, the next year it was 25, then 32, then 47. This was not a good trend.

Because my kids were younger, and because my wife was not able to travel with me often, I was unwilling to see that trend continue.

So I sat down with my wife and my boss, and we figured out that 30 nights away from home was a reasonable number for me during that season. Any more than that, and my priorities started to get out of whack.

If it was much less than that, it was more difficult for me to get my job done. I don't think the number 30 is magical, but I do think it's important for anyone who travels regularly to find the right amount that balances family, business and personal health.

5. Go home before the work is done. This is difficult whether you are in business or the church world. (In ministry, we convince ourselves someone might go to hell if we go home too soon!)

When you go home before the work is done, it means you are leaving something really good behind. But you can't wait until your to-do list is complete or until the phone stops ringing before you head home to your family.

The work is never finished. Just go home!

(Note: If you are a slacker, then please ignore this point. You actually shouldn't leave until your to-do list is done.)

6. Leave room for people and leave room for God. It is easy to fill up your calendar and not leave room for what God might bring along your path.

I had a friend who called these "Godadents" instead of accidents. If my calendar is booked solid, I don't have the flexibility when someone drops by my office or a crisis comes up that needs attention.

I try to monitor this by blocking more time than is needed for appointments, leaving a buffer between appointments and keeping my door open as often as possible.

This is just as important for Christian business leaders. Part of your calling as a follower of Jesus is to love and care for people—and that begins with the people already in your life. Make room to ask your employees about their lives, their dreams and their hurts.

John Maxwell summed up calendar management this way: "The key to becoming a more efficient leader isn't checking off all the items on your to-do list each day. It's in forming the habit of prioritizing your time so that you are accomplishing your most important goals in an efficient manner."

Tim Stevens serves as executive pastor of Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana. Tim has a passion for the local church and equipping leaders with practical advice and tools to add value to them. He has co-authored three books with Tony Morgan, including Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers, and Simply Strategic Growth, and most recently published his own book, Pop Goes the Church: Should the Church Engage Pop Culture?

For the original article, visit churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Tim Stevens) Administration Tue, 03 Feb 2015 14:00:00 -0500
7 Ways Pastors and Church Staff Find Jobs http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21475-7-ways-pastors-and-church-staff-find-jobs http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21475-7-ways-pastors-and-church-staff-find-jobs This post may cause some of you to feel uneasy. I have to admit I've had some of those same feelings writing it. I prefer to think of pastoral ministry as a calling more than a job. And I sometimes cringe when I write about seemingly secular solutions to Christian work.

Nevertheless, over the life of this blog the past several years, I have received countless inquiries from men and women seeking positions in churches. Many are frustrated because they feel like their applications or resumes go into a digital black hole. They never even hear from many of the churches.

So I asked a number of pastors and church staff about the processes they experienced in getting a new position in a church. To be transparent, I need to explain that a church pursued some of them without any initiative on their part. The vast majority, however, took specific actions that ultimately led to their being called or hired.

My questions were conducted informally, but I still think the responses are telling. Here are the top seven responses in order of frequency.

1. They used an informal network of persons to recommend them for the position. That network included friends in ministry, denominational workers, and church members at the specific church that had the opening.

2. They made certain their resumes stood out. They accomplished this feat in three ways. First, they asked knowledgeable persons to help them shape the resumes, and to proofread them carefully. Second, they looked at other people's resumes to see what everyone else was doing, so they could do something unique. Third, they made certain the resume addressed very specifically the position they sought.

3. They sought an influential person to recommend them. Because the person recommending the candidate was influential to the decision makers, the candidate was more likely to be given more serious consideration.

4. They made certain that their reputations were good in the world of social media. One pastor shared with me that he has not been able to find another church because of his negative reputation on his blog and other social media. More and more churches are doing a social media search on a candidate before ever contacting him or her.

5. They actively monitored sites that provide job postings. Denominational groups offer some of the sites. Others are independent and include ministry search firms.

6. They asked for help from their denomination or seminary. These entities are not as active in ministry placement as previous years; but they still can be very helpful to a candidate.

7. They were persistent. One candidate told me she had her application in over 20 churches before she ever heard from anyone. She persisted by submitting a resume to a different church for a position almost once a week. That determination finally resulted in a great position in a church.

Some of the pastors and staff I contacted were appointed to their positions by a denominational authority, so their process differed from the seven items I note above. Let me hear your responses to these seven approaches. If you feel comfortable, share with us how you got your current position.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom. S. Rainer ) Administration Thu, 15 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
Unenviable Task: Finding a New Senior Pastor http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21472-unenviable-task-finding-a-new-senior-pastor http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21472-unenviable-task-finding-a-new-senior-pastor One of the toughest jobs for any church is to find and select a new senior pastor. It's an intricate and delicate balance of both natural and supernatural forces. God is sovereign, but people are fully human. This makes for what is often a challenging time. The more intentional you are, the better the results.

If you believe as I do, that "next to the favor of God, everything rises and falls on leadership," then the choice of a senior pastor is of ultimate importance and consequence. This is not a process to be rushed, bullied, played politically or treated lightly. It is a process that must be entered into with much prayer and the utmost passion to find the pastor who is part of God's plan for your church. 

The following thoughts will give you some helpful guidelines to follow. But first, let me offer a couple of quick comments.

In the case of a planned succession in which the next pastor is already selected, that is a unique and separate process from what I'm writing about in this article.

If you are part of a denominational structure, follow the guidelines in your established governance. Loyalty matters, and I recommend that you look for your pastor within your denomination first. But on occasion, you may need to look outside your denominational affiliation in order to find the best pastor.

1. Select a competent search committee. The process of a search starts with prayer and continues with prayer! Include prayer for the right members on the search committee. It's not always the "obvious" people who should be on the team.

I recommend a search committee of five to seven people. Only two or three of the search committee should be from the existing church board. Include other sharp influencers in the church who have great people and interviewing skills. Involve leaders on the team who have spiritual gifts of wisdom and discernment. All personnel on the search committee should be faithful and committed to the church. This could look like: involved in ministry, faithful in tithing, demonstrate maturity and active in the church for at least one year.

2. Review the guidelines that were set for your interim pastor. In the last edition of The Pastor's Coach, I outlined four options for a "temporary" pastor. They are: 

  • Interim Pastor
  • Transition Specialist
  • Pulpit Supply
  • Rotating Staff or Key Lay Leaders

It's important to know how the Interim fits into the search/transition process. For example, will the Interim have a voice in the choice of the new pastor? (I recommend not.) If the former pastor is the founding pastor of a community church, with a long tenure, should he have a voice in the selection process? How will you transition from the Interim to the new pastor? Will there be a brief overlap? Will you give a gift or bonus to the Interim? If so, how will you decide what that should look like? These kinds of questions are important to think through before you are deep into the process. This will help you avoid conflict and keep a clear mind to make a better decision.

3. Develop a pastoral profile. One of the key elements in the process is the design of a selection criteria for your new pastor. This deserves considerable time, thought and prayer because once it is set, it's important to never "lower the bar" and settle for anything less than what you want in your next senior pastor. It's not about finding a perfect pastor; it's about being unified in the search.  

Example:

  • Strong visionary and leader
  • Good communicator
  • Minimum of 7 years of full-time ministry experience
  • Senior pastor experience of no less than 3 years
  • Successful leadership (a growing healthy church) of no less than 300 in attendance
  • Bible college or seminary degree
  • Spiritual gifts of faith and leadership
  • Believes in small-group ministry
  • Great sense of humor

4. Gather a large number of names of potential candidates. You can't gather too many names at this point. Do exhaustive searches contacting everyone you can think of for leads. Don't get stuck on things like, "He's out of our league," "He seems happy where he is" or "We couldn't possibly afford him." Let God worry about those things. Collect many names. At this point in the process you may not know if the candidate meets all the criteria you have set or is even interested, but as you gather names do your best to keep the criteria in mind. The phone is one of your greatest tools; use it for live conversations that result in productive networking.

5. Narrow the list to the best candidates and gather resumes. Once you have what seems like an exhaustive list, (and it won't be), begin determining which of the names on your list are genuinely open to be considered for the position. Ask for their resumes. Once you have candidates and resumes, start comparing notes, studying resumes, making more phone calls and, of course, continuing to pray. The goal is to narrow your list to about 5-7 candidates.

6. Travel to the candidates' current churches for initial impressions. This is often not done, but the churches who do it are always glad they did. Travel to the candidates' churches in order to observe them on their own turf. Two of you to each church is good. Listen to them preach, watch how they interact with their congregation, observe things like energy level, sense of humor or whatever key things are on your selection criteria. You don't need to feel like you are secret agents or spies in a foreign land, but usually you are there simply as a visitor.  

7. Set up interviews for your top candidate(s). There are two approaches here. One is to interview two or three top candidates. The other is to interview one top candidate at a time. Both work. Choose the one that works best for you.

Ask dozens of questions and spend lots of time together. It's important to understand the leadership experience and style, ministry background, personal bents and biases, ministry philosophy and values, staffing preferences, successes, failures, likes and dislikes, mentors, preaching style, worship preference, personal testimony, family story etc. The more you know, the better. Multiple interviews over several weeks is usually a really good idea.

8. Decision time. You've come a long way by now. You may have started over a couple times if a promising candidate didn't work out. But when you arrive at that critical decision-making time, you want to handle it correctly. For those of you who are part of a denomination, just follow your process.

For those without a system, determining how the decision is made well before it is time to decide is very important. There are several possibilities, but this sample will get you started. Choose what works for you at your church.

First, the search committee must have a strong majority, and unanimous is better. Second, the official church board must vote, achieving a clear majority, and unanimous is best. Third, the congregation votes, requiring a clear majority for the decision. 

Pay your pastor well, help him or her move and welcome him or her with open arms! Keep praying and ask God for His continued favor and blessing upon your church as you begin a new era with a new pastor.

Dan Reiland is 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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dan Reiland) Administration Wed, 14 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
5 Common Ways Churches Determine Pastors’ Salaries http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21399-5-common-ways-churches-determine-pastors-salaries http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/administration/21399-5-common-ways-churches-determine-pastors-salaries There has been considerable interest on my previous posts dealing with pastors' salaries. One of the most common questions that I am asked is: "How do churches determine the salary of a pastor?"

In this article, I offer the five most common ways churches establish the pay level of a pastor. I am offering these five approaches from an informational perspective rather than evaluating them. Also, many churches use some combination of these factors.

1. The pastor's salary at the previous church. By far, more churches use the pastor's previous salary as benchmark to establish the new salary. For example, if a pastor has an income of $50,000 at his current church, his prospective church may offer him $55,000, or a 10 percent increase.

2. The previous pastor's salary. The second most common benchmark to determine a pastor's salary is the previous pastor's salary. Allow me to make an editorial comment here. If you are a pastor who has been declining raises for a few years, you could be hurting your church and the next pastor. There could very well be a big gap between your current salary and the compensation needed for the next pastor.

3. Experience. Simply stated, most pastors' salaries increase with increasing years of ministry experience.

4. Education. I have observed this factor decrease in importance over the past 15 years. I don't see nearly as many churches requiring a doctor's degree as they did in the past. And I am seeing fewer churches require a seminary master's degree, though that degree is still important for many churches.

5. Demographics of church. The specific demographics to which I refer are family income levels. I know one church that used the estimated median family income of its congregation as the base to determine the pastor's salary. They would then adjust by other factors, such as experience and education.

These factors all have their strengths and their weaknesses. I have noted in previous posts some resources that could help your church to offer your pastor a fair salary.

I would love to hear from you about these five most common approaches. I would also appreciate input about other ways your church determines the pastor's salary. Finally, it would be great to get input regarding other church staff positions. Thanks for your feedback. I look forward to hearing from you.

How are salaries determined for ministry leaders in your church?

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Administration Thu, 11 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500
9 Traits of 'Mean' Churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21653-9-traits-of-mean-churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21653-9-traits-of-mean-churches "My church is a mean church!"

I received two emails this week from church members who made that very statement. The members are from two different churches in two different states.

One of the churches belongs to a denomination; the other is nondenominational. In both cases the church members made the decision to drop out of local church life altogether.

Yes, I tried to reason with the two members. I told them that no church is perfect. If they had any doubt, I wrote, look at the two letters the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. I failed in convincing them to stay in their churches. I pray they will become active in other churches later.

I love local churches. But I have to admit, I am hearing more from long-term members who are quitting church life completely. One member wrote me, "The non-Christians I associate with are much nicer people than the members of my church."

Ouch. That really hurt.

So, after receiving the second email, I began to assimilate all the information I could find where church members had written me about their "mean" churches. They may not have used the word "mean" specifically, but the intent was the same.

I then collected characteristics of these churches, and I found nine that were common. I call these the "nine traits of mean churches."

1. Too many decisions are made in the cloak of darkness. Only a select few members really know what's going on. The attitude of those elitists is that the typical member doesn't really need to know.

2. The pastor and/or staff are treated poorly. Decisions are made about them without a fair process. Complaints are often numerous and veiled. Many of these churches are known for firing pastors and/or staff with little apparent cause.

3. Power groups tenaciously hold on to their power. The power group may be a formal group such as a committee, elders or deacons. But the group can also be informal—no official role but great informal authority. Power groups avoid and detest accountability, which leads to the next point.

4. There is lack of clear accountability for major decisions and/or expenditures. The church has no clear system in place to make certain that a few outlier members cannot accumulate great power and authority.

5. Leaders of the power groups have an acrimonious spirit. Though they may make first impressions of kindness and gentleness, the mean streak emerges if you try to cross them.

6. A number of the members see those outside of the church as "them" or "those people." Thus the church is at odds with many in the community instead of embracing them with the love of Christ.

7. Many members have an inward focus; they view the church as a place to get their own preferences and wants fulfilled. They are the opposite of the description of church members in 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul describes them as functioning members for the greater good of the body of Christ.

8. Many people in the community view these churches negatively. Those on the outside often refer to these churches as "fighting and firing churches." The community members detect no love for them from these churches.

9. Most of the members are silent when power plays and bad decisions take place. They don't want to stand up to the power group. They are afraid to ask questions. Their silence allows the power abuses to continue.

Are mean churches really increasing in number? My anecdotal information would indicate they are.

What can we do to become a more unified body? How can churches demonstrate more positive impressions to the community? What can we do to hold on to good members who are giving up on local churches altogether? What is your input on these issues? Let me hear from you.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Adversity Wed, 25 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
The One Thing You Must Do When a Crisis Comes http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21637-the-one-thing-you-must-do-when-a-crisis-comes http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21637-the-one-thing-you-must-do-when-a-crisis-comes I will never forget a couple that attended Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago for five years. They almost never missed a week. They would walk in, hear the message and the music, and walk back out.

Week after week, in and out, they never met anybody. They never established any friendships. They never got involved in ministry. They never joined. They never built a network of support.

After about five years, they went through one of those horrendous, gut wrenching, devastating crises that shattered their world; the kind that knocks you against the wall and leaves you gasping for breath just trying to hold on.

The real tragedy was, there was nobody there to help them. They had never taken the time to get to know anyone. They had never built any relationships. They had never been there for anybody else in a crisis, and nobody was there for their crisis. That's sad because it's completely unnecessary.

They could have taken the time before the storm to establish a few key relationships that would have been there to strengthen them when they were going through tough times. So, what do you do when you're going through one of those horrendous, gut wrenching, devastating crises that shatters your world? Drop your pride and accept help from others.

Accepting Help From Others

The temptation, when you are stressed out and at the breaking point, is to hide, hibernate, crawl into a hole or build a wall around yourself. You are stressed out and only want to isolate yourself from everyone. That's a big mistake. A very big mistake.

When you're at your breaking point, you need people who will give you support and strength.

When you are at your breaking point, when you are stressed to the limit, you need people in your life. You need people who will give you support, strength, and most of all perspective. When you're stressed, you do not think straight. You are not able to see the whole picture, just a limited perspective. You need someone that can help you see the broader view. You need people when you are at the breaking point.

The Importance of Belonging

This is why it is important to be a part of the church family. Some people consistently attend but never join the church family, never get involved in ministry or develop friendships or relationships. You need to build friendships with some godly Christians who know something about the Bible and can pray for you when you cannot. Have you ever been in so much pain you could not pray? Sure. Have you ever been so depressed you could not pray? Probably. When you are in these situations, you need some friends who can pray for you.

When you cannot believe God because you are so devastated, you need somebody to believe God for you, somebody to have faith when you have no faith, somebody to have confidence when you're full of doubt. You need somebody who will stand up beside you, walk alongside of you, and help you carry on.

A genuine Christian friend walks in when everybody else walks out. When you are under stress and you're at the breaking point, who's going to walk with you? Can you name me four or five people that you can count on, friends that will give you good, godly, strong advice?

A genuine Christian friend walks in when everybody else walks out.

A Little Pastorly Advice

My advice: set up those kind of relationships before the crisis! It is a little too late to wait until the storms and hurricane winds come into your life and messes you all up to get into a small group and develop some close friendships that you can count on.

One day, you are going to hit the wall. Count on it. In fact, you are going to hit the wall many times.  You  better have some people around you that you can count on or you will just spin out of control and go off the deep end.

Galatians 6:2 says: z'By helping each other with your troubles, you obey the law of Christ."

What is the law of Christ? It is called The Great Commandment. "Love your neighbor as yourself." When you love your neighbor as yourself, when you're helping each other with your troubles, you are obeying the Great Commandment – Christ's commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says: "Encourage each other and give each other strength."

The Power of an Encouraging Word

Never underestimate the power of an encouraging word. The Bible says that we are to encourage each other and give each other strength. Sometimes a little phrase, a little word, can be a hingepoint, a turning point that's the salvation of that person's life.

Never underestimate the power of just a little word of encouragement. You may need to go make a phone call this afternoon, or send a text, or write a little note. It does not have to be long—just a note of care, a note of encouragement because we all will need to accept help from others at some point.

The Rev. Clarence E. Stowers Jr. succeeded his father, Dr. Clarence Stowers Sr., as the pastor of the historic Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago in 1999. Mars Hill has experienced phenomenal ministry growth under his visionary pastoral leadership since then. Follow Rev. Stowers' blog, The Urban Pastor or check out Mars Hill's website.

For the original article, visit cestowers.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rev. C.E. Stowers) Adversity Wed, 18 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Pastors Kicked Out of Capitol Visitor Center Over ‘Appeal to Heaven’ Prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21585-pastors-kicked-out-of-capitol-visitor-center-over-appeal-to-heaven-prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21585-pastors-kicked-out-of-capitol-visitor-center-over-appeal-to-heaven-prayer An emerging movement is growing under a white banner with an evergreen tree and the words "An Appeal to Heaven." But this prayer and awakening movement is already seeing resistance from the U.S. government.

Indeed, a group of pastors were kicked out of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) over a prayer meeting with an Appeal to Heaven theme. The pastors were granted the use of the CVC for an event on Feb. 25 dedicated to racial reconciliation but five days before the meeting they were told they could not proceed unless they removed the words "An Appeal to Heaven" from the theme.

All of this is ironic, considering that before its foundation America first flew the Appeal to Heaven flag. It was the banner George Washington used on his navy ships to signal that their only hope against British rule and religious persecution was an appeal to heaven. Revivals are breaking out under the appeal to heaven banner across the nation. Some are expecting the next great move of God to emerge under this banner.

"We never misled anyone about the theme," says Bishop E.W. Jackson, who organized the meeting. "Congressman Bob Goodlatte secured the auditorium for us, and he knew what the theme was. The event was created as a positive and unifying response to the incidents in Ferguson and Staten Island which sparked protests and riots around the country."

Congressional Oversight Committee Staff required that the theme be changed to "A Discussion of [or Appeal for] Legislation." So it seems that although the wall of the CVC says "In God We Trust," apparently God is not welcome in the building.

"Given the ugly rhetoric by the likes of Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan, we thought they would welcome our call for unity, healing and reconciliation," says Jackson, bishop of The Called Church, Marine Corps Veteran, 2013 Republican Nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia. "But instead we faced suspicion and resistance."

The pastors were told that Congressional Oversight Committee senior staff were "monitoring" their promotional material, and would not allow the ministers to use the room unless "Appeal to Heaven" were replaced with a legislative theme.

"When you tell us we have to change the nature of our meeting or be kicked out, you have already kicked us out," says Jackson, who is also president of STAND and Senior Fellow for Family Research Council. "We will not compromise the purpose of the event, so we had to move it. Many government officials have forgotten that government exists to serve the will of the people, not the other way around."

Rekindle the Flame will still be held at 7 PM on Feb. 25. The new location is the Hilton Washington at 1919 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., 20009. RSVP at rekindle@standamerica.us or call 757-375-6444.

What 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.

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jessilyn.justice@gmail.com (Jennifer LeClaire) Adversity Wed, 25 Feb 2015 19:00:00 -0500
Your Sermon Offended? Good, It Was Supposed To http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21489-your-sermon-offended-good-it-was-supposed-to http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21489-your-sermon-offended-good-it-was-supposed-to Let me say up front that no church can long endure a steady diet of negative preaching. No Christian, no matter how faithful, can withstand an unending barrage of sermons directed toward straightening them out. On a regular basis, we need messages reminding us we are loved, God is faithful, heaven awaits, and there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

But sometimes the minister enters the pulpit with a burdensome task: to attempt a diagnosis, surgery and amputation, all in a 25-minute message. At those times, the sermon must cut deeply.

At those times, the message hurts. How the Lord's people ever came to expect their pastors to declare the riches of His Word without offending wrongdoers is beyond me.

It cannot be done.

"Offenders will take offense." Remember that. As columnist Dear Abby put it, "You throw a rock in among a bunch of dogs. The one that hollers got hit."

Delivering the commands of Scripture on how to live and think, how to re-prioritize our lives and change our behavior, and bring every detail of our existence under the Lordship of Jesus Christ without treading on anyone's toes is expecting a little much of the preacher.

George Whitefield, the great British preacher of the 18th century, gave us an unforgettable line on this ...

"It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher."

We preachers are a strange lot.

We will know this—that preaching is supposed to challenge the status quo and disturb the complacent and upset the pretensions of the hypocritical—and then turn around and feel like a failure when someone gets mad at us for doing it well.

"Where did I fail? Someone is angry with me!"

What a crybaby. C'mon, warrior. Gird up your loins. Be strong in the Lord.

The deacon had no appointment because this urgent matter had robbed him of sleep through the night and surely demanded the preacher's immediate attention.

"Pastor, that sermon yesterday."

"Yes. The one on materialism."

"Are you aware that some in the congregation were offended by it?"

"Ha. I wouldn't be surprised."

"Well, to be specific, pastor, Mr. Crenshaw, the owner of the big plant out at the edge of town—you know he employs half the givers in our church, the people who pay your salary—told Deacon Johnson that he felt like getting up and walking out when you said what you did."

"What did I say? What are you referring to?"

"You know, when you said that the man who stored up wealth was a fool."

"I didn't say that, my friend. Jesus said it."

"Well, that's one way of putting it. I know it's there in the Bible somewhere."

"Not just 'somewhere,' deacon, but here in Luke 12:20. God called the man a fool. I was just quoting Him."

"Well, that's not how Mr. Crenshaw took it."

"So, what are you suggesting?"

"Some of us think it would be good if you went to see Mr. Crenshaw and apologized. We need influential people like him in our church."

And the pastor said, "Why?"

That is the question that has no answer.

Why do we think we need carnal people in the church just because they exercise power over men and control wealth in the world? Is God weak and in need of their assistance? Should the church apply for welfare? Go on disability?

Jesus did not soften His approach and sweeten His words to the Pharisees. "With your tradition, you actually violate the command of God" (Matt. 15:3). "Your tradition nullifies the commands of God" (15:6).

He called them names.

"You hypocrites, Isaiah well prophesied of you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. In vain they do worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men'" (Matt. 15:7-9).

That kind of preaching is not carefully calculated to impress the influential and draw in the powerful.

One of the worst things ever to happen to the Lord's church was when it decided to tone down its preaching in order to attract the world's crowd. As though the Lord needs them and as though the size of the crowd validates either the message or the messenger.

Lord, help us.

The Lord Jesus Christ is not insecure, not powerless, and not suffering from low self-esteem. He does not "feel better about Himself" when a bigshot condescends to show up in church and honor Him with his presence.

The Lord does not need anyone and the size of the crowd proves nothing. Anyone doubting this will benefit from reading John 6:60-66. Jesus actually dialed up the intensity and sharpened the offense of His preaching to drive out the unbelievers and enrage the fence-straddlers.

Pastors do two very foolish things in this regard, both of them Christ-insulting.

1. They present insipid, uninspired, safe, offenseless messages designed to please everybody with their sweetness and pleasantries. We call it "positive thinking" and even "good news." (But good news is only that if it addresses and remedies a bad situation. Otherwise, it's meaningless.)

2. When they get it right and someone gets mad at the truth they preached, they feel that in some way they have failed in their assignment and want to go apologize to the Pharisees.

Sometimes the sermon is wimpish and sometimes the preacher is the wimp.

Consider this a call for preaching that tells the truth and offends the untruthful, that is sharper than a two-edged sword and just as dangerous, and that lays it on the line Sunday after Sunday without regard to what this does to the pastor's job security.

If I am hoarding God's money or spending it on my own pleasures, let the pastor preach a ringing sermon condemning materialism even if it angers me. My anger proves he hit his mark.

If I am afraid of the world and cower in my home rather than go down the street to witness to my neighbor, let the pastor call us to "rescue the perishing" and make us feel guilty when we do not. If I take it personally, then good. I should not feel good about cowardice and disobedience.

If I am neglecting my family in order to carve out a bigger piece of success in the world, let the pastor preach God's Word on the father's responsibility to husband his wife and nurture his children and protect his home. If it offends, so be it. He has been fingered by the Almighty; let him hurt a little; it's good for him.

If I am devoting my energies and investing my wealth on foolish pursuits like supporting ball teams and traveling to distant cities for meaningless sport, let the pastor ask us "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" And let him care not one whit whether half the congregation gets angry at him. In eternity, they will rise up and bless him.

Pastors have bigger goals than pleasing a congregation, larger aims than job security, and a higher priority than a great reputation. The Apostle Paul who "got" this, said, "If I should please men, I would not please God" (Gal. 1:10).

Every pastor has to choose.

One final word. Consider this a call to churches to grow up and free the preacher to declare the whole counsel of God, letting the chips fall where they may.

Let the deacon leadership keep reminding one another and the entire congregation from time to time: "If a preacher does his job well, people will sometimes be offended. If you get offended by our minister's preaching, do not come running to us with a complaint. We thank God for such a faithful pastor."

Every church has to choose whether it is willing to hear from God or to be rocked to sleep by the Lord's messenger. The first can be painful, the second is scandalous.

"Lord, bless Your church please."

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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) Adversity Fri, 23 Jan 2015 14:00:00 -0500
5 Conditions That Lead to Negative Departures of Pastors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21397-5-conditions-that-lead-to-negative-departures-of-pastors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21397-5-conditions-that-lead-to-negative-departures-of-pastors I have written rather extensively on this blog regarding the short tenure of pastors in churches. Of course, many pastors leave churches for very positive reasons. They sense a call to another ministry opportunity. Or they retire from a church with a new phase of ministry in mind.

But too many departures of pastors are negative. Sometimes the pastor is fired. On other occasions, the pastor leaves under adverse conditions.

Oftentimes, we look at the immediate precipitating factor of the departure and conclude that to be the reason for the exit. But, in reality, there are certain conditions in the church that increase the likelihood of a departure well before it takes place.

Here are five of those conditions:

1. False promises made prior to the pastor's arrival. Depending on the polity of a church, those promises are made by an individual or a group. Some pastors, for example, are selected by a pastor search committee. Members of that committee may make comments like, "We are ready to change to reach people for Christ." Then the pastor finds out the church is really not ready for change.

2. Lack of clear expectations established. It is astounding to speak with a pastor and leaders of the church and to hear the perceived expectations of the pastor. Those perceptions are often miles apart! I recommend that every prospective pastor ask this question before accepting a call to a church: "What frustrated you the most about your previous pastor?" This one simple question will provide a lot of insights regarding expectations.

3. Lack of accountability of the pastor. Every person in an organization needs some level of real accountability. Sometimes churches have accountability on paper for pastors, but it does not result in real accountability. No leader in any organization should be left alone. It is a formula for failure, if not disaster.

4. No advocacy group for a pastor. Too many churches have no group that is specifically supportive and prayerful for the pastor. In fact, a deacon or elder body often can be an adversarial group rather than an advocacy group. By the way, the best advocacy groups can also be an accountability group. They support and love the pastor, but they are willing to push back if necessary.

5. Lack of full disclosure by the church. I recently spoke with members of a pastor search committee. They shared with me that a power group existed in the church that made life miserable for the previous two pastors. Should they disclose that issue, they asked, to prospective pastors? Absolutely! It is deceptive not to disclose major issues in the church, whether they are positive or negative.

When a pastor leaves a church, whether through firing or voluntary departure for negative reasons, it is rarely a single immediate factor that led to the exit. There are typically negative conditions that created the environment for the departure.

What has been your experience regarding negative pastoral departures? What do you think of these five conditions?

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer ) Adversity Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Greg Surratt: 4 Things I Learned When the Lights Went Out http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21366-greg-surratt-4-things-i-learned-when-the-lights-went-out http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/adversity/21366-greg-surratt-4-things-i-learned-when-the-lights-went-out Recently, the lights went out at our Mt. Pleasant Campus. All of them. For a very long time. Three and one-half hours, to be exact. Fun times.

Oh, I've been in the dark for longer periods of time, but never with so many people.

The electricity went off halfway into the opening set of the first service and returned halfway through the message in the third service.

Here are four things I learned when the lights went out:

1. Without light, you become more aware of the little things. We tend to take things for granted until they are taken away. I was in a small bathroom off of the space we affectionately call the "bullpen." It's the place where speakers gather their thoughts before giving the message.

The fact that I was in a bathroom is probably more information than you are comfortable with, but here's what I suddenly became aware of:

  • How dark the darkness is: Darkness is really dark when there is no light. What I would have given for even just a little light. Rule of thumb—never enter a bathroom without your cell phone. Thank God for Jesus who pierces the darkness!
  • Paper towel dispensers work without electricity. There is no spiritually redeeming value to this observation, but it was interesting to me. Even in the dark you can wash your hands and then wave them under the paper towel dispenser. Pretty cool.

2. Desperation can trigger creativity and innovation. We originally learned this lesson about 13 years ago when a "no" from our city led to a desperate innovation called multisite.

During our service, we were about five minutes away from a live transfer of video to 12 campuses and two venues when a sudden lack of electricity triggered innovation everywhere.

  • The worship team kicked into acapella mode.
  • Campuses shifted to their backup system: Saturday night's recorded message.
  • Nursery classes moved outdoors.
  • Tech teams cobbled together battery-operated work lights and a recently purchased, portable sound system.
  • Venue Pastor Michael Morris—a 20-year friend—took my notes and preached heaven down in the chapel. He knows me so well that he even delivered my Debbie illustrations with credibility!
  • First Touch volunteers shuffled thousands of attenders in and out around large fire doors that automatically close when the electricity goes out.

I was amazed at how quickly and smoothly innovation began to happen.

3. Shared experiences create a greater sense of community. There is a shared dynamic when you go through something together.

Within minutes of the lights going out, a tangible sense of community spread through the congregation. An anticipation of "What's going to happen next?" and "How can I help?" broke out everywhere.

More people were smiling, the jokes seemed funnier, the atmosphere was great! It was kind of like a huge camp out.

Except I never much liked camping.

I heard people saying, "We should do this more often." I'm not sure I'm there yet. Some thought we had planned it all out as an illustration of the message topic—"The parable of the shrewd manager and the power of money."

We are not that smart! But it was fun for a day.

4. The power and presence of Jesus doesn't depend on smoke, moving lights and high-definition screens. This was my biggest takeaway.

As I listened to the people sing with all their might, and watched them respond to God's Word without some of the cool tools He lets us use on most weekends, I again realized that it's not about us.

It's all about Him.

And He is not limited by a lack of anything.

The lights went out but there was still plenty of power in the room.

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

For the original article, visit gregsurratt.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Surratt) Adversity Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
How to Empower Lay Counselors to Reach the Broken http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/21392-how-to-empower-lay-counselors-to-reach-the-broken http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/21392-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 pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastor's Toolbox and was formerly a pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

For the original article, visit churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brandon A .Cox) Counseling Mon, 08 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
How to Use Your God-Given Influence as a Kingdom Builder http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/21060-how-to-use-your-god-given-influence-as-a-kingdom-builder http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/21060-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 Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren) Counseling Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Some Can’t-Miss Books for Family Ministry Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/20828-some-can-t-miss-books-for-family-ministry-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/20828-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 jonathancliff.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jonathan Cliff) Counseling Mon, 07 Apr 2014 19:00:00 -0400
3 Phases of a 'Paul and Timothy' Relationship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/20695-3-phases-of-a-paul-and-timothy-relationship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/20695-3-phases-of-a-paul-and-timothy-relationship Every leader needs mentors and models—typically other leaders just ahead of where they are in their growth and journey. And every leader also needs to be mentoring and modeling those just behind them.

This is the only way for discipleship to take on the multigenerational nature described by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2: “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others” (NLT).

In order to both mentor and be mentored effectively, it’s important to see how the relationship between Paul and Timothy developed over time. It unfolded in three phases.

Phase 1: Parenthood

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he addresses him as “my true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2). We first meet Timothy in Acts 16, when Paul is heading out on his second missionary journey. He stops in Lystra to pick up the young disciple who accompanies him, assists him and serves as a sort of apprentice under him. Timothy’s biological father was Greek, but no evidence is ever given that he was a Christian. So Paul filled the shoes of a spiritual father to Timothy.

My heart hurts as I look around at the number of young pastors and leaders who are enthusiastically serving with big dreams but who lack spiritual fathers in the generation ahead of them. The past is always part of our future. I recommend that at least 25 percent of a church leader’s reading be spent in pre-Reformation era writings and another 25 percent from the Reformation to the modern missionary age. Another 25 percent of our reading should be drawn from the generation just previous to ours and only the remaining 25 percent among contemporary authors.

We need a sense of parenthood as we mentor because it’s vital that we be grounded as we dream big dreams.

Phase 2: Pacesetting

The second phase of our ministry mentoring is pacesetting—being the example of what mature ministry looks like. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he points out, “You ... know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance” (2 Tim. 3:10). Paul sets the pace with his life and challenges Timothy to learn by keeping up and emulating his lifestyle.

You’ve probably heard people say that Christianity is always one generation from extinction. I think that might be oversimplifying it, but the fact is that no generation is exempt from the call to fulfill the Great Commission or to serve God’s purposes as fully as possible. The next generation is always watching, so we get to set the pace.

Phase 3: Partnering

Over in the book of Romans, there is a somewhat obscure reference that Paul makes to Timothy: “Timothy, my fellow worker, sends you his greetings” (Rom. 16:21). Timothy has gone from being a son to a student and now to a colleague and co-laborer.

We spend plenty of time desiring and praying for more laborers, but perhaps not enough time investing in those with the potential to become our partners in the mission. 

We serve today because of the repetition of this three-phase process for centuries. It didn’t stop with Timothy. The baton has been passed to you who are reading this, and it is our responsibility to be parents, pacesetters and partners with the next generation until Jesus comes!

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 Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren) Counseling Mon, 10 Feb 2014 14:00:00 -0500
The Biggest Hindrance to Your Life and Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/20425-the-biggest-hindrance-to-your-life-and-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/20425-the-biggest-hindrance-to-your-life-and-ministry I meet talented, smart, interesting people all the time who admit they’re nervous to connect with others. These people avoid networking events and chances to “mingle” before and after church because the idea of standing around making smalltalk sounds petrifying to them.

These are people of all ages, backgrounds and with all different experiences, but the complaints are still the same.

“I’m shy.”

“I’m not good with people.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I’m an introvert.”

I don’t want to ignore the fact that differences in temperament and personality do exist (a very intriguing and well-researched book about the introvert/extrovert dilemma is called “Quiet” by Susan Cain).

It’s just that I don’t think being an introvert, or even being shy, means you don’t have what it takes to connect in a meaningful way with others.

I’m an introvert, and connecting with others is one of the skills that, by the grace of God, I’ve been able to develop over the years. And, although I sound like a broken record, connecting with others is a skill you must master if you want to live up to your full potential in life and ministry.

Why do so many competent, capable people have a hard time connecting?

What makes them think they’re “not good with people”?

I think there are many reasons, but they all stem from the same place—insecurity.

If you are not secure in your identity in Christ—if you’re waiting for others to tell you are loved and valuable—connecting will always be scary (and you won’t ever be likable). Because no matter how many skills you learn to connect with others, no matter how much you practice, nothing can make up for the peace and security that comes when you know you don’t have to perform for others.

You already matter.

The worst part about insecurity is it tends to be a self-fufilling prophecy. You feel insecure, so you try to perform. When you perform, you’re not authentic. When you’re not authentic, people tend to notice. When they notice, they either criticize or disconnect.

And when they criticize or disconnect, it seems to reaffirm what you were worried about all along… that you “aren’t good with people.”

So what do you do to overcome your insecurity?

I don’t know that we ever overcome our insecurity 100 percent during our lifetime, but I think we can make really good progress if we’re willing to submit our lives to God and believe the truth of what He says about us.

The first place to start is recognizing the source.

To discover the source of your insecurity, ask yourself this: What would be the worst thing another person could think or say about you? If I were going to start a rumor about you, or talk about you behind your back, what would be the worst thing I could say?

That you aren’t smart?

You aren’t nice?

You aren’t funny?

Chances are, the way you answer that question is getting to the root of your insecurity. At that root is (usually) a lie you believe about yourself. Some people are insecure about the way they look (they’ve believed the lie they are ugly), others are insecure about their intelligence (they’ve believed the lie they aren’t smart), and others are insecure that they aren’t interesting or important (they’ve believed the lie they don’t matter).

What is your biggest insecurity? How is it holding you back?

Once you’ve identified the source of your insecurity, you can fight it with truth. John 8:32 says the truth shall set you free.

Do you know the truth of what God says about you?

If not, now would be a good time to get to work reading scripture. Look for verses that remind you the value you have in Christ. Commit these verses to memory, and use them to replace the lies you’ve believed about yourself.

Then, get to work connecting to others. Nothing will be more satisfying.

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 Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and MinistryCoach.tv, all while staying involved in the local church. Justin serves as a consultant in the area of strategic relations predominantly working with the Assemblies of God, helping to build bridges with people and ministries to more effectively reach more people.

For the original article, visit justinlathrop.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Justin Lathrop) Counseling Thu, 17 Oct 2013 13:00:00 -0400
A Model for Restoration http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/20593-a-model-for-restoration-pastors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/counseling/20593-a-model-for-restoration-pastors No pastor relishes the idea of having to involve himself in the restoration of another leader who has fallen. So when Chris Hodges, senior pastor of the Church of the Highlands in Alabama, heard of the moral failure that led to Dino Rizzo’s resignation in 2012 from the church he founded (Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, La.), he was heartbroken. But Hodges, who co-founded the Association of Related Churches with Rizzo and is now overseeing his restoration process, believes there is hope for the situation, partly because of the healthy restoration plan established by a group of leaders.

Ministry Today recently caught up with Hodges to talk about this restoration. And while the conversation was not to divulge details of Rizzo’s situation, it became obvious that his restoration process—without revealing private matters—could serve as a positive example of how to fully restore a leader the right way.

This whole thing had to be physically and emotionally draining for Pastor Rizzo. How is he holding up?

He’s doing exceptionally well. We’ve got him on our team for the second year of his restoration. We did it in stages, where there was one year of sitting out completely and then a second year of supervised ministry. We have him on our team, and he is shining on all fronts. It’s been fantastic to watch and see. There is nothing but a glowing report.

You are very much involved in the restoration process of Pastor Rizzo. Can you walk us through the entire process and what was required of him and his wife?

One of the things that people don’t know about this is that I wasn’t involved from the beginning. Some of the steps taken early on weren’t what I would have recommended, but when I did get involved, the first thing we did was that we consulted with people like Pastor Larry [Stockstill], who is my pastor, and literally more than 50 different respected leaders to learn and to find out what were the best processes: what works and what hasn’t worked. Even some of the industry standards from different denominations, we really did our homework on a lot of those. Whoever is being a part of the restoration for someone, they really need to begin by educating themselves on what some of the norms are by different groups. You need to do that so that it is not so subjective to your own opinion. We really took an informed view of it.

Basically, the consensus was two-fold: Some time is needed for the individual to sit out, and then [some time] for him to have some supervised ministry, which again is a very industry-worn standard. You need to give the couple and the individual some benchmarks to determine whether the restoration can move forward. So, between his overseers of the church and people like the counselors—they went to an independent counseling center for their marriage—[they received a great deal] of advice.

Was there a list of benchmarks that he had to meet during the initial healing process?

We came up with 31 different benchmarks that we wanted them to fulfill for them to qualify for restoration. It sounds a little bit more complicated than it really is. There were some as simple as books that we wanted them to read [and others such as] things we wanted them to get in order in their home. One of them was for both him and his wife to go and get a complete physical, a complete health assessment. A lot of it involved counseling, different things like that. Not all of them were easy. In fact, some of them were incredibly difficult and required serious sacrifice. After the first year of sitting out and completing all of those benchmarks, that’s when we could go to Phase Two, the re-entry back into the ministry.

I can’t get into specifics, but I can talk about the categories for the benchmarks. One was in personal finance, getting your financial house in order. There were some in physical health, counseling and marriage. A lot of them were educational. There were seminars he had to attend and books to read. We didn’t feel like we could do both the counseling and the restoration process because I was also helping Healing Place Church and their transition. Emerge Ministry out of Akron, Ohio, was in charge of the counseling process, and they did a phenomenal job. That’s what they do, counseling for ministers, and they are simply fabulous at it.

Pastor Rizzo moved to Alabama after he resigned from the Healing Place. From your conversations with him, how difficult was it for him and his family to move on after 20 years there, and how difficult has it been for him to accept his new role?

One of the conditions of the restoration was for him and his family to move away from Baton Rouge, La., so that with the person we set in his place, there wasn’t any confusion with his congregation and the city. That takes quite a bit of commitment to the process to leave the place you’ve been for 20 years. And that’s not just leaving the church, but the city. There needed to be full compliance. We’re fortunate that we’ve gotten 110 percent of their effort. We offered for him to come to our church and to be in Birmingham for that second year, and it has just been fabulous in every way. You can see the life coming back to them, the vision is returning. The whole goal is for after that second year, there are options. We want to give them as many options as we can to fulfill the call of God on their lives. We’re headed that way.

To be honest, they were in 100 percent submission to the people who were in authority over them and to the process. We could have said, ‘Stand on your head in the snow in Alaska,’ and they would have done it. They were completely willing to do whatever. It’s one thing to be compliant, and it’s another to have a good attitude about it. We not only got the action but the attitude as well. That speaks loudly because we’re still observing the whole process.

Since they’ve been here, they’ve loved being a part of our church. Dino is very involved in our Dream Center. Every minister has a little niche—their preaching or their music or whatever—and Dino’s niche has always been compassion and serving the poor. So we have him involved in the Birmingham Dream Center. With the vision and energy and excitement in our church, he’s having a blast, and our church is benefiting from his spiritual gifts as well.

Trust is something that is difficult to regain once it has been broken. Has it been your experience by looking at others’ situations that people are quick to forgive, or will it be a long process for Pastor Rizzo to earn the trust for any potential new congregation?

I think there are different trust levels needed for different roles, and it depends on which role he chooses and which direction he chooses to go. For instance, for him to be a senior pastor of a church, I’m not sure that’s possible, and if he does [desire to do that, it’s unknown] how long it will take to serve in that capacity again. I think the roles determine the level of trust required.

Then there is the one between him and his family, especially his wife. Part of the restoration process requires a designated time for that. It’s different with every situation because every offense or sin or moral failure is completely different. It’s different in not only what happened but also in how long it was happening. A 20-year, covered-up adulterous affair is obviously different from a one-night stand.

Did Pastor Rizzo ever convey what he thought was the most difficult part of the process for him and what his hopes and dreams were for the future going forward?

We talk all the time about what’s difficult and what he wants to do moving forward. I’ve urged him not to formulate any long-term plans until the process is completed. With every month that passes, the process changes, and it’s all been positive change. I’ve urged him to stay in the present and for Dino to continue to do what he’s doing.

The most difficult thing for him is the difficulty of knowing that he’s disappointed many people, the feeling of breaking that trust. One of the most painful parts, and I’ve even felt this as part of his restoration process, is when people have misread the situation and added more than what’s there. Being misunderstood has been hard for him.

You can divulge some things, but you can’t divulge others because there are other people involved. His kids are involved. There is a level of sensitivity there. You try to be as open as you possibly can, but you have to be as sensitive as you can, too, to other people’s feelings and needs. It can be very difficult.

When will Pastor Rizzo be released from the program to pursue what God has for him?

The first year of no ministry was completed Aug. 7. It had been about 14 months. On Aug. 7, he preached here at our church on a Wednesday night. The two years is up August 2014. If he continues in good standing in all of these areas, we’re just going to turn him loose to fulfill the call of God on his life. He will have several options open to him, one of which is, if he would like to stay here and stay on our team, he can do that.

We’ll help him fulfill whatever he wants to do as someone who has been completely restored. Every indicator to this point is 100 percent positive. I would give him, his wife and his family an A-plus on attitude and effort. There have been more than 30 ministers who have given their approval during this process. I check in with several of them, including my pastor, Larry Stockstill, and give them updates about what’s going on. They give their thumbs up, and you can’t ask for more.

Satan obviously is having a field day with marriages and breaking up families in this day and age, and pastors’ families are no exception. What does Pastor Rizzo’s restoration say about God’s grace and mercy and the hope it gives?

When I did research, I couldn’t find models of guys restored. In most cases, pastors were just put out to pasture. ‘Sorry, but you’re done.’ I so desperately wanted there to be a model here. It is a message of hope to those who have experienced some sort of moral failure or whatever. There has to be. It is our responsibility as a body of believers to let there be literal demonstrations of the love of God and the restoration of God in people’s lives, all to God’s glory.

People are watching. We have a responsibility to model the old adage of, ‘What would Jesus do?’ He would take that person and pick him up and show him a way to restoration and freedom if he would just take the steps.

Is this your first time going through such a process, and if so, what have you learned from it that, God forbid, you can apply if you ever have to again?

Yes, indeed, this is the first time, and yes, I’ve learned a ton about not only the process but also what caused it in the first place. It has caused a lot of us who are watching closely to re-evaluate our own lives in any areas that may be open doors for the enemy.

In Dino’s case, and I suspect that this would be true for most pastors and ministers, one of the main culprits was the pace of life. When you get working so hard for so long, you neglect the important relationships, including your relationship with God. It’s not a bad relationship, but it’s simply a neglected one. There’s your time with your family and your time with the Lord, and the pressures of your time that are demanded within the ministry.

There were other factors that were involved, but that was one of the main ones. It’s made all of us who were watching closely re-evaluate our personal Sabbath, our travel schedules and just how much we’re doing. Personally, I’m already healthier from the adjustments I’ve made by watching what happened to Dino. That’s been one of the greatest benefits. I’ve learned some things just in watching this process. 


Shawn A. Akers is the managing editor of Ministry Today magazine.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Shawn A. Akers) Counseling Wed, 15 Jan 2014 17:00:00 -0500
7 Signs You Are Suffering From Mission Drift http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/21598-7-signs-you-are-suffering-from-mission-drift http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/21598-7-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 josephmattera.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Calling Tue, 03 Mar 2015 19:00:00 -0500
Bi-Vocational Pastors: Facing the Wall of Guilt http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/20202-bi-vocational-pastors-facing-the-wall-of-guilt http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/20202-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 deepimprints.com. She writes a weekly column for ministrytodaymag.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Kim Martinez) Calling Thu, 27 Jun 2013 20:00:00 -0400
When a Pastor Is Called to an ‘Ignorant’ Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/20122-when-a-pastor-is-called-to-an-ignorant-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/20122-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?

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever) Calling Tue, 28 May 2013 16:00:00 -0400
Francis Frangipane: What It Means to Be Seated With Christ http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/20028-francis-frangipane-what-it-means-to-be-seated-with-christ http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/20028-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)

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Francis Frangipane) Calling Wed, 17 Apr 2013 13:00:00 -0400
John Bevere: ‘When Should I Leave My Church?’ http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/20008-john-bevere-when-should-i-leave-my-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/20008-john-bevere-when-should-i-leave-my-church manleaving-stockfreeimagesI’m often asked, “When should I leave a church or ministry team? How bad does it have to get?”

I respond, “Who sent you to the church you presently attend?” The majority of the time they answer, “God did.”

“If God sent you,” I reply, “do not leave until God releases you. If the Lord is silent, He is often saying, ‘Don’t change a thing. Do not leave. Stay where I have placed you!’”

When God does instruct you to leave, you will go out with peace, no matter what the condition of the ministry: "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace" (Is. 55:12, KJV). Therefore, your departure will not be based on the actions or behavior of others, but rather on the Spirit’s leading.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (John Bevere) Calling Mon, 08 Apr 2013 20:00:00 -0400
Why You Should Drive Through Life Like a Ferrari http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/19973-why-you-should-drive-through-life-like-a-ferrari http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/calling/19973-why-you-should-drive-through-life-like-a-ferrari Joey-Bonifacio-Miles-McPhersonHe achieved All-American honors in football and was drafted into the NFL. He played for the Los Angeles Rams and the San Diego Chargers. But with success, Miles McPherson found himself trapped in drug abuse.

In 1984, Miles encountered the Lord Jesus and became a Christian. In 1986, after retiring from football, Miles went back to school and received a masters degree in divinity. Today he pastors Rock Church in San Diego.

I met Miles at a fellowship of Christian leaders recently in Dallas. While hanging out with him, I asked him what was the closest thing in his heart as a Christian in recent times. Here were his three thoughts:

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joey Bonifacio) Calling Mon, 18 Mar 2013 20:00:00 -0400
10 Joy Stealers in Ministry and How to Get It Back http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21656-10-joy-stealers-in-ministry-and-how-to-get-it-back http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21656-10-joy-stealers-in-ministry-and-how-to-get-it-back I know. There are many unhappy ministers in our local churches. Such is not a judgmental statement, but a statement of reality. Indeed, I count myself among those who have struggled with joy in ministry on more than one occasion.

In this post, I share 10 of the most common reasons pastors and other church staff members lose their joy in ministry. But I don't want to just dwell on the negative. Next to each reason, I offer suggestions to counter these joy stealers. Indeed, I have learned both the reasons for joy stealers and the reasons joy returns largely from you readers. Over the past few years, you have been my teachers in many ways. I am so grateful for you.

What are the joy stealers? Even more importantly, what are pastors and other church staff doing to recapture their joy? Here are 10 common responses.

1. Seeing the underbelly of Christian ministry. Christian ministry means working with sinners just like you and me. It's often not a pretty sight to see what we see in local churches. And while we don't condone sin, let's learn to demonstrate grace and love like Jesus did and does.

2. Constant criticisms ("death by a thousand cuts"). I received my first criticism as a pastor on my third day of ministry. I was crushed. May we be men and women who seek to please God instead of people. And may He give us the strength to be godly and gracious when we do receive criticisms.

3. Fighting among Christians. A non-Christian recently told me that he has been observing Christians on blogs and social media the past several months. He said: "You Christians are some of the meanest people I've ever known." Ouch. We will know Christlike joy when we act like Him, and not like the world.

4. Busyness that turns to prayerlessness. We will always lose our joy when we neglect our time in prayer. When we pray, we are connected to the Source of all joy. If we are too busy to pray, we are too busy.

5. Unreasonable work hours. Many in Christian ministry become workaholics to the detriment of their families and themselves. It is ultimately our choice and our responsibility to have a balanced life. When we don't, the joy goes away.

6. Attacks on our family. This is an especially difficult joy stealer, because we sometimes feel powerless when it happens. Be even more diligent in prayer to seek His wisdom. Let your family know they come first. Confront the perpetrator, if necessary. But do this all in a spirit of prayer and love.

"If we focus on these joy stealers, they will indeed take away our joy. But if we keep our focus on Christ, our joy can never be taken away."

7. Sour staff relations. Anecdotally, I believe this joy stealer is present in over half of our churches. It is your responsibility to be gracious, to be a reconciler and to be a peacemaker. If relationships are still sour, you have done all you can. Your joy comes from the Lord, not the other church staff.

8. Inwardly focused church. A church that focuses most ministries and activities on the members and not those beyond the church becomes stale and self-serving. You must get your joy in the Lord by reaching out to others, regardless of what others in the church do.

9. Lack of respect in the community and culture. Up until about 1990, most ministers were respected, if not revered, in their communities. That reality is shifting dramatically in most communities today. Remember again, your joy does not come from the approval of men and women in the community.

10. Entitlement mentality among some church members. A number of church members view the church as a country club where they pay dues to get what they want. Your responsibility as a minister in the church is to serve all people in the name of Christ. In doing so, you will find His joy. But that does not mean you have to yield to the demands of selfish whiners.

There are definitely two common themes in this article. First, ministry in the church is not easy. It's been that way for 2,000 years. Second, if we focus on these joy stealers, they will indeed take away our joy. But if we keep our focus on Christ, our joy can never be taken away.

Let me hear from you. What are some joy stealers you have encountered in ministry? How did you get your joy back?

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original story, visit churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Culture Thu, 26 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Evangelical Pastors Want Mix of Justice and Mercy Regarding Immigration http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21625-evangelical-pastors-want-mix-of-justice-and-mercy-regarding-immigration http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21625-evangelical-pastors-want-mix-of-justice-and-mercy-regarding-immigration When it comes to immigration reform, American evangelicals want it all.

Nine out of 10 (86 percent) want more border security. Six in 10 (61 percent) support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. More than two-thirds (68 percent) favor both. And they want Congress to take action soon.

Those are among the results of a new survey of evangelicals from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The study, sponsored by the Evangelical Immigration Table and World Relief, found widespread support for immigration reform.

"Evangelicals are united in their desire for significant immigration reform," says Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research.

A number of high profile evangelical groups have promoted immigration reform in recent years, including the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. Many evangelical pastors also support reform.

A November 2014 LifeWay Research study found many pastors want a mix of justice and mercy when it comes to immigration. More than half (54 percent) support a path to citizenship. Most (91 percent) evangelical pastors also say the government should stop illegal immigration.

In the February 2015 study, researchers found similar views among all evangelicals.

Nine out of 10 (88 percent) say reform should respect the rule of law and secure the national borders (86 percent). 

They also want to protect the unity of immigrant families (72 percent) and to respect people's God-given dignity (82 percent).

More than two-thirds (68 percent) of evangelicals say it is important for Congress to take action on immigration reform this year. And half (50 percent) are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports border security and citizenship.

"Evangelicals care about immigrants and want immigration reform," says Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. "We pray for Congress to stop waiting and start legislating."

Immigration Worries

Researchers found some differences by age and ethnicity among evangelicals.

Those over age 64 (84 percent) are more likely to want Congress to act than those 18 to 34 (59 percent). Those 18 to 34 are more likely (72 percent) to say reform should include a path to citizenship.

Hispanic evangelicals (79 percent) are more likely than white evangelicals (54 percent) to support a path to citizenship.

Some evangelicals are uneasy about the number of recent immigrants to the U.S., according to the survey.

Almost half (48 percent) say immigrants drain the country's economic resources.

About a quarter (22 percent) say immigrants are a threat to law and order. One in 5 believe immigrants threaten traditional American customs and culture.

Other evangelicals view immigration as a chance to love immigrants (40 percent) and or to share Jesus with newcomers (42 percent).

Few Connect Faith and Immigration

Few evangelicals say their faith directly shapes their views about immigration.

Researchers asked evangelicals to list which factor has most influenced their beliefs about immigration. About one in 10 (12 percent) chose the Bible, and only 2 percent named their church.

Among other influences: relationships with immigrants (17 percent), friends and family (16 percent) and the media (16 percent).

LifeWay Research also found many churches don't talk about immigration, and few take action on this issue. Two-thirds of evangelicals (68 percent) say their church has never encouraged them to reach out to immigrants.

Still, evangelicals are interested in what their faith says on this topic. About half (53 percent) are familiar with the Bible's teaching about immigrants. Two-thirds (68 percent) say they'd value hearing a sermon about the Bible's views on immigration.

"The sad part of this research on immigration is that American evangelicals are more influenced by the media than by their Bibles and their churches combined," says Anderson. "We need to turn off our TVs and open up our Bibles."

Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine.

Methodology: A demographically balanced online panel was used for interviewing American adults between February 17-27, 2015. Quotas were used to balance gender, ethnicity, age, region, and education. Respondents were screened to only include those who consider themselves an evangelical, a born-again, or a fundamentalist Christian. This report refers to these as "evangelicals." The completed sample is 1,000 surveys.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bob Smietana/For LifeWay Research) Culture Thu, 12 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
10 of the Most Fiercely Defended Traditions in Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21550-10-of-the-most-fiercely-defended-traditions-in-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21550-10-of-the-most-fiercely-defended-traditions-in-church I recently embarked on a major research project for a new resource I will soon be offering. Part of my research included a long review of thousands of comments made on this site over the past few years.

Though my research had another purpose, I became intrigued by the comments related to church traditions.

Of course, by "traditions," I am referring to those extra-biblical customs that become a way of life for many congregations. A tradition is not always inherently good nor bad. Its value or its distraction in a given church really depends on how members treat the traditions.

With that in mind, I began noting the most frequently defended traditions in churches. As a corollary, these traditions can also be a potential source of divisiveness. They are ranked here according to the frequency of the comments.

1. Worship and music style. Though I have noted elsewhere that this issue is not as pervasive as it once was, it is still No. 1.

2. Order of worship service. Thou shalt not change any items in the order of worship.

3. Times of worship service(s). The first three most frequently defended traditions are related to worship services.

4. Role of the pastor. The pastor is to be omnipresent and omniscient. Many church members have clear expectations of what "their" pastor should do.

5. Committee structure. Many congregations continue committee structures long after their usefulness has waned.

6. Specific ministries and programs. The healthy church constantly evaluates the effectiveness of its ministries and programs. That's good stewardship. Other churches continue their ministries and programs because that's the way they've always done it.

7. Location of church facility. A church relocation can be an issue of fierce debate, even contention, in many congregations.

8. Use of specific rooms. Some of the more frequently named rooms are the worship center, the parlor, the gym and the kitchen/fellowship hall.

9. Business meetings. Traditions include the frequency of business meetings, the scope of authority of business meetings and the items covered in business meetings.

10. Staff ministry descriptions. Some churches insist on having the same staff positions with the same titles with the same ministry descriptions even though the needs in the congregations may have changed dramatically.

My purpose in writing this article is twofold. First, I thought it might be of interest to church leaders. Second, I hope it can provide a cautionary note for those who are leading change.

Do these fiercely defended traditions seem familiar in your church? What would you add?

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Culture Fri, 20 Feb 2015 19:00:00 -0500
10 Signs Your Church Has Been Secularized http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21498-10-signs-your-church-has-been-secularized http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21498-10-signs-your-church-has-been-secularized The Bible teaches that the church is supposed to influence the world as salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16), but instead the church has often been influenced by the world. Ezekiel 22:26 sends a stern rebuke to believers who make no distinction between that which is common and that which is holy (by common we mean worldly things and values) in this article the word secular refers to worldly rather than holy and set apart for God's purposes:

Truly any congregation that has no distinction from the world is close to extinction! The reason so many evangelical churches have grown so rapidly is not necessarily because of a true spiritual revival but because of cultural accommodation. The following are 10 signs your church has been secularized:

1. They preach only what is popular and avoid what is culturally controversial.

Often secularized pastors stay away from preaching on the standards of biblical morality so as to stay in the societal mainstream and avoid offending visitors. The result is a membership that only hears a partial gospel without the power to renew minds which leaves them as secular saints.

2. There is no standard for membership or those serving in ministry.

I have heard reports of many churches that allow anybody to become a member and or serve in ministry positions without being vetted; the result is people serving on worship teams or as small group leaders who are engaged in premarital sex, co-habitating or living a morally sub par Christian life.

3. Premarital sex and cohabitation between unmarried couples are normalized in the congregation.

When folks in the congregation have the same view as the world when it comes to sexual ethics, then that is a secularized congregation.

4. Most young people have normalized alternate forms of family and marriage.

When the youth of a church by and large adopt and or celebrate unbiblical views regarding family and marriage, then that congregation is secularized.

5. Secular music is played in church events.

I have heard of churches that incorporate secular music as a normal part of their church services or church related events. Although this is primarily done to attract more visitors by being more relevant, this practice waters down the distinction between the world and the church and makes them spiritually irrelevant!

6. Worldly dancing, drinking and getting drunk are acceptable.

There are some churches that have such a secular culture that it is normal for their members to go out clubbing, dancing and getting drunk! They espouse a loose lifestyle to avoid being tagged with the term "religious," but their practice makes them closer to living as pagans than true believers!

7. The church espouses the values of the surrounding culture more than the teaching of Scripture.

These churches are informed and internally calibrated towards the world; hence, they celebrate and honor the world's values more than God Himself! When the congregation desires to reflect the values of the world more than the Word of God, then they have been secularized.

8. The congregation espouses a culture of entertainment more than biblical discipleship.

When the primary objective of a congregation is to attract crowds on Sunday by giving them an "experience" rather than making committed disciples, then they have espoused a culture of entertainment and have been secularized.

9. The congregation espouses a culture of opulent greed and narcissism instead of sacrifice and giving.

If the preaching appeals to the narcissistic desire of using faith for personal affluence more than the biblical call to surrender and sacrifice all for the Lord, then that congregation has been secularized.

10. If Jesus is only presented as a personal Savior rather than Lord of all.

When folks only want Jesus to save them without transforming them, they have been secularized. When Jesus is continually presented in a church only as a personal Savior without the injunction for all people to surrender to His Lordship, then that congregation is focused on individual salvation more than on the glory of God. Secular humanism is all about centering life upon the needs and desires of autonomous humanity without any concern or submission to the Creator God.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Culture Mon, 26 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
Why the Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage Issue Matters for the Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21488-why-the-supreme-court-and-same-sex-marriage-issue-matters-for-the-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21488-why-the-supreme-court-and-same-sex-marriage-issue-matters-for-the-church The Supreme Court announced last week that they are taking cases on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Effectively, this means that the highest court in the land will decide, this year, whether marriage, as defined for thousands of years, will exist in our country any longer. Here's what we should keep in mind:

First of all, this is not something we should shrug off. Marriage isn't merely a matter of personal import or private behavior. States recognize marriage for a reason, and that reason is that sexuality between a man and a woman can, and often does, result in children. The state has an interest in seeing to it that, wherever possible, every child has both a mother and a father.

The state doesn't create this reality. It merely recognizes it, and attempts to hold husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, accountable to their vows and to their responsibilities. In every aspect of the Sexual Revolution, from the divorce culture to cohabitation to casual sex to the abortion revolution, children have borne the burden.

If the Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, we will have a generation of confusion about what marriage is, and why it matters. Beyond that, we have already seen that the Sexual Revolution isn't content to move forward into bedrooms and dinner tables. The Sexual Revolution wants to silence dissent. The religious liberty concerns we are grappling with already will only accelerate.

We should pray that the Supreme Court does not take upon itself a power it doesn't have: to redefine an institution that wasn't created by government in the first place. But we shouldn't wring our hands in fear, or clench our fists in outrage.

The worst-case scenario is that the Court hands down a Roe v. Wade style redefinition of marriage. Marriage in the minds of the public will change, but marriage as a creation reality won't change at all. Jesus has taught us that marriage is essentially male and female, and that such is grounded not in government fiat but in God's creation (Matt. 19:4; Mk. 10:6).

The Sexual Revolution, with or without the Supreme Court, cannot keep its promises. People will be disappointed, and, ultimately, in search of something more permanent, more ancient. We must be the people who can preserve the light to the old paths.

This will mean articulating a Christian vision of marriage. We will be forced to spell out things we could previously assume. That's not a new situation. The New Testament epistles had to do the same thing, for the people of God within a sexually-lost Roman Empire. In the past, we've assumed that most people aspire to the same sorts of marriages and families we aspire to. We can no longer assume that. We must spell out why marriage matters, in light of who we are as men and women and in light of the gospel mystery of Christ and his church (Eph. 5).

Moreover, we must embody a Christian vision of marriage and sexuality. This will mean churches that reclaim marriage from the ambient culture in the seriousness with which we perform weddings and in the accountability local churches expect from couples to keep their vows. The undisciplined churches of the past generation acted as though the culture could keep marriages together, with just some preaching and encouragement from us.

This led to the chaos we too often see in our own pews, with marital abandonment, unbiblical divorce, and more. Outsourcing marital expectations to the culture will now mean that our marriages preach a different gospel, one that upends the cosmic mystery of Christ. We cannot afford to dispense with the gospel.

Marriage is resilient. God created it to be so. The Supreme Court could make a decision that hurts a lot of people. I pray not. But if they do, let's be a church that can carry the gospel to hurting people. Let's articulate and embody a Christian vision of marriage. If we're out of step with the culture, we should ask why we haven't been so all along.

The Supreme Court may or may not do its job. We must make sure, no matter what, that we do ours.

Russell D. Moore serves as the eighth president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation's largest Protestant denomination. Prior to his election to this role in 2013, Moore served as provost and dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also taught as professor of theology and ethics.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Russell Moore) Culture Tue, 20 Jan 2015 14:00:00 -0500
Pastors, Shout Religious Freedom From the Rooftops http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21470-pastors-shout-religious-freedom-from-the-rooftops http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/culture/21470-pastors-shout-religious-freedom-from-the-rooftops Jan. 16, 1786, was the day that the Virginia Assembly adopted the Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, finally ending the official state-established church in Virginia.

It provided that (1) all individuals would be free from any punishment for not conforming to state-established religious mandates, and (2) one's religious affiliation would no longer affect the civil privileges he could enjoy. In short, in Virginia it legally secured religious toleration and protection for the right of religious conscience.

The Virginia Act, drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777, originally failed to pass when brought before the State Assembly in 1779. James Madison later reintroduced the measure, and it was finally enacted in 1786. Jefferson considered it one of his three greatest achievements, ranking it along with penning the Declaration of Independence and establishing the University of Virginia.

This act was reflective of the attitude that had developed across much of America toward securing full religious liberty for all—an attitude later embodied in the federal Bill of Rights' 1st Amendment to the Constitution.

Each year, in commemoration of religious freedom (one of the most important of our freedoms), the president proclaims Jan. 16 to be Religious Freedom Day. Religious Freedom Sunday is commemorated the Sunday before Religious Freedom Day, and this year, Religious Freedom Sunday falls on Jan. 11.

Alliance Defending Freedom and Gateways to Better Education have teamed up to provide ways for Christians and churches to celebrate this important day and to participate in encouraging the free exercise of religion. But pastors, don't stop with simply celebrating Religious Freedom Day at your church; make sure the schools in your area also recognize this special holiday. (Gateways for Better Education has a guidebook to help you enlighten those in the education system about this important day.)

Happy Religious Freedom Sunday!

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (David Barton) Culture Fri, 09 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
5 Characteristics of ‘Country Club' Christians http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21660-5-characteristics-of-country-club-christians http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21660-5-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 evantell.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Larry Moyer ) Culture Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
3 Things That Make Introverted Guests Nervous About Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21421-3-things-that-make-introverted-guests-nervous-about-your-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21421-3-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 TheChurchOfNoPeople.com 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 churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Matt Appling) Culture Mon, 22 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
8 Contrasts Between the Confessing Church and the Compromising Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21369-8-contrasts-between-the-confessing-church-and-the-compromising-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21369-8-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 josephmattera.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Culture Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
4 Tipping Points That Could Result in Societal Chaos http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21351-4-tipping-points-that-could-result-in-societal-chaos http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21351-4-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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Culture Fri, 14 Nov 2014 17:00:00 -0500
10 Ways Millennials Are Shaping the Local Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21143-10-ways-millennials-are-shaping-the-local-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21143-10-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 thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Culture Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
To Grow Your Church You Must Know the Culture http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21058-to-grow-your-church-you-must-know-the-culture http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/235-culture/21058-to-grow-your-church-you-must-know-the-culture I talk with a lot of pastors and leaders, pastors and leaders from different places and different-sized places.

Specifically, as I talk to pastors and leaders in rural places, in small towns, across the country, I hear desperation in their voices about their community. You see, I've come to realize that pastor and leaders are wired for their community and context. The best leaders are leading where they are because of a great call from God—because they've heard God tell them to lead where they are.

The small town pastor and leader is no different. These leaders aren't leading in small towns because they can't cut it in the big city. They're leading in a small town because that is exactly the place God has called them.

These leaders are desperate for their town. They're desperate to win people to Jesus.

The biggest concern these pastors often have? How they can grow their church. I hear so many "We don't have the money to do that" and "I don't want 9,000" I'd settle for 90" comments.

What's the key?

It's the same key that Jesus understood when he spoke in parables—you gotta know your culture before you can reach it. You have to know the people you are dealing with, speaking to, and ministering to before you expect to grow the kingdom or your church.

Small town leader or big city leader, don't expect to grow your church if you aren't' willing to know your culture. Rub shoulders with the powers that be in your small city. Go to the Friday night football games. Hang out at the local gas station that everyone in your small town hangs out at.

Know your culture. Grow your church.

Artie Davis wears a lot of hats and leads a lot of people. He's Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Orangeburg, South Carolina. 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 ArtieDavis.com or catch him on Twitter @artiedavis.

For the original article, visit artiedavis.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Artie Davis) Culture Fri, 11 Jul 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Now Playing http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19715-now-playing http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19715-now-playing And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. — Philippians 4:8

The human brain is an amazing component of our bodies. With it, we are able to sense, to recognize, to understand, and to remember countless things. Our brains keep track of countless important details (like heartbeats) that keep us alive. All without conscious decisions on our part. Even with the most advanced products of scientific research, we have not been able to rival what has been given to us by God with the gift of life.

One thing we must be careful about is the type of material we give our brains access to. Since the brain is like a sponge, it retains all the information it receives. A few years ago, Denny Gunderson, former president of Youth With A Mission, asked an interesting question: Would you feel comfortable if your thoughts were to be shown on a movie screen for all to see?

What we think about can have a very strong impact on the way we handle a situation or view a series of events. Thoughts lead to actions. And, if left unchecked, these can turn into negative character traits rather quickly.

The Lord wants our minds to be pure and useful for the tasks he has planned for us. It is difficult to serve effectively when a person is considering thoughts of revenge, envy, or other wickedness. Paul understood this and challenged the Philippian church to think about things that were honorable, true, lovely, admirable, and worthy of praise. This way, their actions would match their thoughts.

Would you feel comfortable if your thoughts were shown on a movie screen for all to see? It's not too late to allow God to perform some "editing" so our thinking is in line with his. The question is whether you are willing to let him do it. Can you take the list from Philippians 4 and note three or four items for each of those traits?

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webmaster@strang.com (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 20:43:37 -0500
A Breathing Lesson http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19714-a-breathing-lesson http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19714-a-breathing-lesson But despite Jesus' instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. — Luke 5:15-16

Our society wants us to spend every waking second of our lives doing something. As a result, the pace of life can become quite daunting. There are clients to meet, deadlines to make, calls to return. We run at 10,000 RPM for the entire day, then make our way home and have to deal with cooking dinner, washing laundry, and getting the kids to bed.

We must learn to slow down in life. Racecars cannot be repaired while on the track, so why do we think we can "be still, and know" God (Psa. 46:10) when we cannot find the time to take a lunch break?

But there is a way to slow down when we're running full throttle all day and night. It's called margin. Put another way, it could be considered a reserve or simply breathing room. Jesus thought it was important enough that he made it a routine part of his life on earth--he recognized his earthly limits and took time to get recharged.

Consider this: When you don't have any margin in your life, you cannot fully accomplish the things God reveals for you to do.

There are numerous ways we can introduce breathing room into our lives. We can learn to say no when we're already overloaded with tasks. We can anticipate the unexpected and add some time to the front end of meetings. We can take opportunities to laugh, cry, and rest. We can also take time to help others in ways that allow them to experience breathing room in their lives.

Don't move so fast that God's voice is lost in the everyday. Take time to slow down and breathe so you can grow and get to know the Savior as a friend.

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webmaster@strang.com (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 20:42:43 -0500
The Secret of Peace http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19713-the-secret-of-peace http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19713-the-secret-of-peace Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." — Hebrews 13:5

Contentment lies not in what is mine but in whose I am. When I come into a relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, I understand whose I am and what I have. Envy causes one to look horizontally--at what others have--so we are never satisfied. We pursue the god of money, thinking of what it can buy us. Contentment invites us to look vertically--at God. When we look in his direction, we know that he is enough.

Contentment is the secret of inward peace. It recalls the bare truth that we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it, including our money. Life, in fact, is a journey from one moment of vulnerability to another. So we should travel light and live simply. The reality for most people is that we have enough--whatever enough is. We would be well advised to be content with what we have.

Being content with less stuff and not envying those with a lot is a process that will take more than a quick prayer or reading a book or hearing a sermon. It will require a dependence and satisfaction in God. He knows what is best and what is needed in our lives. We must trust him and not money.

Too often we take our eyes off God and put them on earthly pursuits, with money most often at the top of our lists. Money has an incredible power, much like a magnet and more like a god than most of us are willing to admit, to draw us away from those things that are eternal and life-filling.

Always be on your guard with money. As the writer of Hebrews stated, "Don't love money." The heart can only love one thing at a time. When we choose to love God, we will discover the marvelous benefit of contentment. And, more importantly, we will learn that money can never satisfy the heart. Keep your focus, therefore, on God. He is enough.

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webmaster@strang.com (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 20:40:34 -0500
We Are Being Watched http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19712-we-are-being-watched http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19712-we-are-being-watched People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall. — Proverbs 10:9

Integrity is a high standard of living based on a personal code of morality that doesn't succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority. Integrity is to personal character what health is to the body or 20/20 vision is to the eyes. People of integrity are whole; their lives are put together. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. Their lives are open books. They say to a watching world, "Go ahead and look. My behavior will match my beliefs. My walk will match my talk. My character will match my confession."

Integrity is not reputation--what others think of us. It is not success--what we have accomplished. Integrity embodies the sum total of our being and our actions. It originates in who we are as believers in Jesus Christ--accepted, valued, capable, and forgiven--but it expresses itself in the way we live and behave, no matter whether we are in church on Sunday or at work on Monday or in a lonely hotel room on Tuesday or suffering in a hospital bed on Thursday.

Unfortunately, integrity is in short supply and seems to be diminishing everyday. All too frequently our integrity is discarded upon the altar of fame or fortune. Sadly, what we want to achieve is more important than what we are to be. Integrity is lost when we focus on expedience more than excellence, on progress more than purity, on riches more than righteousness.

People are watching. They watch to see if our behavior matches our belief, if our walk matches our talk, and if our character matches our confession. In a word, they watch to see if we have integrity.

How secure is your walk? Others are watching.

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webmaster@strang.com (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 20:39:01 -0500
Thinking Like a Leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19711-thinking-like-a-leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19711-thinking-like-a-leader Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. — Romans 12:2

Some years ago a magazine pictured a man staring out of a window; the caption read: "Why does this company pay this man $100,000 to look out a window?" The answer: Because the lifeblood of any organization lies in ideas and creative thinking. Thinking is powerful. Flying a plane, air conditioning, cell phones, vaccines, the World Wide Web--without thinking, these would have been impossible. Everything begins with a simple thought.

Ideas are a great moving force of history. We are never free to do what we cannot conceive. Having a godly mind enlarges our thinking capacity. A leader's thinking must be shaped by the following:

Vision: What is our dream? Carl Sandburg was right: "Nothing happens unless it is first a dream." Vision is a process of the mind--it's mental, not visual. Vision is seeing what everybody has seen but thinking what nobody has thought. What is needed to build a pyramid? One person who can think and ten thousand people who can grunt.

Values: What is important? Values have to do with how we treat people, how we do our work, what is vital to us. Values are the standards, the principles, and the code of conduct that characterize the organization. Values aren't dreamt; they already exist. Leaders shape and form the organization's values. Some universities decide to pour sidewalks after students have first worn a path. Where are the well-worn paths--the actions, the beliefs, the attitudes--that matter most to you? Those are your values.

Venture: What are we willing to risk? Organizations that make a difference are willing to think outside the box. For example, a company that was in the well-digging business began to think in terms of efficient and effective means of making holes, and they soon discovered that lasers dug holes better than augers. They achieved the same goal but accomplished it more efficiently.

Vehicle: What will get us there? How can we accomplish our desired outcome? A dream without a strategy is merely wishful thinking, but with a strategy it becomes powerful thinking.

Victory: What will the celebration be like? A leader thinks like a champion. The end result is to move forward, to accomplish goals, to be God's faithful servant, to celebrate being a part of God's kingdom.

Wake up and start thinking. Take off your nightcap and put on your thinking cap. Ask God to continually renew your mind.

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webmaster@strang.com (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 20:37:58 -0500
Looking Ahead http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19710-looking-ahead http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/devotionals/19710-looking-ahead The prudent understand where they are going, but fools deceive themselves. — Proverbs 14:8

Bill Walsh, the former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was thought eccentric because of how extensively he planned his plays in advance of each game. Most coaches would wait to see how the game unfolded, then respond with plays that seemed appropriate. Walsh wanted the game to respond to him. Walsh won several Super Bowls with his "eccentric" proactive approach. He was a coach who looked into the future.

Looking ahead is the process of creating the future before it happens. People who learn to do it "understand where they are going." Like Bill Walsh, it involves deciding your actions in advance so that your life will respond to you. What are the benefits of such a proactive pursuit?

Looking ahead gives direction. It's like using a highlighter on a roadmap to indicate where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there. The highlighted roadmap not only provides information for where you are going; it also suggests where you are not going.

Looking ahead helps us to create rather than react. With each step along our journey, we are faced with a choice either to create or to react. Many people spend their entire days reacting. Like goalies in hockey, with pucks flying at us all day, we react. We react to news, cars in traffic, people, events, challenges, and obstacles. A better way involves making choices and following plans.

Looking ahead saves time. "One hour of planning saves three hours of execution." Planning yields a savings return. We only have twenty-four hours in a day and 365 days in a year. If we don't use them wisely by looking ahead, we will forever forfeit those gifts.

Looking ahead reduces crisis. Our daily lives have two controlling influences: plans and pressures. When we look ahead and choose to plan, we take charge and control of our days. If we fail to look ahead, we will spend our days in crisis mode. We will fall into a trap of panic planning--planning on the fly with no time to effectively map out a strategy.

Looking ahead maximizes energy. Failing to look ahead, we dissipate our energy on less important matters, improper agendas, and lost crusades. We waste our time on the trivial many. But preparation often energizes us!

Be wise. Look ahead. It's eccentric but well worth the effort.

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webmaster@strang.com (Ministry Today Staff) Devotionals Thu, 06 Dec 2012 20:36:55 -0500
Pentecostal Academics Name New President at Diverse Annual Meeting http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21651-pentecostal-academics-name-new-president-at-diverse-annual-meeting http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21651-pentecostal-academics-name-new-president-at-diverse-annual-meeting Themed "Global Spirit: Pentecostals and the World," the Society for Pentecostal Studies' 44th Annual Meeting drew students, theologians and other academics to Southeastern University, March 12-14.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Christine D. Johnson) Education Fri, 20 Mar 2015 21:22:00 -0400
Our Journey of Hope Equips Churches to Support Cancer Patients http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21640-our-journey-of-hope-equips-churches-to-support-cancer-patients http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21640-our-journey-of-hope-equips-churches-to-support-cancer-patients Cancer is perhaps the single greatest health crisis affecting our nation's churches, and yet until now there has not been a coordinated effort to meet the widespread need for spiritual support among Christians facing this struggle. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Kelsey Potter ) Education Fri, 20 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
NICL: ‘The Business Side of Ministry’ http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21416-nicl-the-business-side-of-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21416-nicl-the-business-side-of-ministry Recently, Dr. Mark Rutland, Founder and Director of the National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL) appeared as a special guest on the Marcus and Joni show on Daystar television network. 

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

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

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

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

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

About the NICL:

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ministry Today Staff) Education Fri, 12 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Disaster in the Making: 20 Pieces of Bad Advice for Young Ministers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21364-disaster-in-the-making-20-pieces-of-bad-advice-for-young-ministers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21364-disaster-in-the-making-20-pieces-of-bad-advice-for-young-ministers People love to give advice to young adults just entering the ministry. I'm sure they think they're helping.

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

As if I had a choice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You never go wrong obeying the Holy Spirit.

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

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) Education Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
To Be a Great Leader, You Must Be a Reader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21297-to-be-a-great-leader-you-must-be-a-reader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/21297-to-be-a-great-leader-you-must-be-a-reader If you've ever been to Israel, you know there's a real contrast between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee is full of water and full of life. There are trees and vegetation. They still do commercial fishing there. But the Dead Sea is just that—dead. There are no fish in it and no life around it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren) Education Tue, 28 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Greg Surratt: Why Multisite Churches Don’t Value Teaching Gifts http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20942-greg-surratt-why-mutli-site-churches-don-t-value-teaching-gifts http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/higher-education/20942-greg-surratt-why-mutli-site-churches-don-t-value-teaching-gifts I thought it might be of interest to address some frequent criticisms of multisite churches. Questions are good because they force us to examine what we do in light of Scripture and culture. 

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

Here are some ways we handle that at Seacoast Church:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

For the original article, visit gregsurratt.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Surratt ) Education Wed, 21 May 2014 19:00:00 -0400
How to Bring Down a Church Bully http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21509-how-to-bring-down-a-church-bully http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21509-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 joemckeever.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever) Ethics Mon, 02 Feb 2015 20:00:00 -0500
7 Significant Lessons Churches Can Learn From Mars Hill Implosion http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21312-7-significant-lessons-churches-can-learn-from-mars-hill-implosion http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21312-7-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 josephmattera.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera ) Ethics Tue, 04 Nov 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Dr. Bill Hamon: ‘How Can These Things Be?’ http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21579-dr-bill-hamon-how-can-these-things-be http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21579-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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bill Hamon) Ethics Wed, 25 Feb 2015 13:00:00 -0500
Should You Attend a Friend’s Same-Sex Wedding? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21307-should-you-attend-a-friend-s-same-sex-wedding http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21307-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 churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bob Russell) Ethics Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
10 Dangerous Distractions for a Pastor http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21241-10-dangerous-distractions-for-a-pastor http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21241-10-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 ronedmondson.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson) Ethics Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
10 Judgments of Jesus Against the Church’s Religious Systems http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21157-10-judgments-of-jesus-against-the-church-s-religious-systems http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/ethics/21157-10-judgments-of-jesus-against-the-church-s-religious-systems Every church and/or organization has a corporate culture with norms, rules and expectations that pressure participants to conform. Some cultures are good and some bad.

That being said, there are particular attributes that characterize false religions or become the norm during religious decline in a true faith such as Christianity. For example, "Every religious system in the world is centered upon a temple (or a sacred place) and has rites and ceremonies, has hierarchies and titles distinguishing men from one another, and has holy days and holy celebrations" (quoted from a teaching I heard from Pastor Tommy Moya several weeks ago).

The Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Micah and Amos decried religious ritual that was without true righteousness, humility and love for neighbor (Is. 1:10-17; 58; Amos 5:21-24; Mic. 6:8). The line of prophets arose starting in the 8th century B.C. primarily because Israel had a tendency to focus more on adhering to the temple ritual worship of the Levitical system than the ethical lifestyle required by the Law of Moses as found in the Ten Commandments. For this, the prophets pronounced judgment upon the nation, and God dispersed the people and, on two occasions, destroyed their temple.

We have the same issue in today's church, irrespective of the denomination or expression of the body of Christ. (Many Pentecostal, charismatic and evangelical churches have these same issues.) Not only that, but all leaders (including me) have to constantly grapple with some or all of the following issues internally to make sure we are never sucked into this false system.

The following are 10 of the characteristics of false religious systems as taught by Jesus in Matthew 23:

1. There are onerous rules and regulations some call legalism (Matt. 23:1-3). In the contemporary church, there are numerous man-made traditions and requirements that never arose from the Word that have become an unnecessary burden upon believers. For example, in many Pentecostal churches the emphasis is on outward holiness related to attire, make up, the cutting of hair, jewelry and other regulations. I have spoken to numerous young people who stopped attending church because these regulations made them feel weird in front of their unchurched friends. Fundamentalists in the past forbade any form of entertainment including watching movies, listening to the radio, watching television, etc. These are legalistic efforts to bring holiness that have resulted in numerous churches losing their next generation.

2. The church leaders serve to receive prestige from men (vv. 5-7). God makes it clear in His word that some religious leaders love the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43). The judgment of God is against the leaders who are constantly posturing themselves within their denomination to attain the highest seats of authority and places of honor amongst men. Truly, some of the greatest people of God in the earth today are hidden from the public eye.

3. The leaders crave titles and moving up the ranks of hierarchical religious systems (vv. 8-11). Today's church is replete with people who use titles to validate their ministries. I can't tell you how many people I have met with the title apostle, bishop, doctor, and archbishop on their business cards who have very little influence in the church and secular world. Truly God doesn't care about an apostolic title; God looks more at apostolic function and fruit. I have found that, the more a person speaks about their academic achievements and ecclesial titles, the more insecure they are as a person and about their ministry accomplishments.


I say this as a person who has been consecrated both a bishop and apostle and who flows in circles with leaders who use these titles. There is nothing wrong with these titles (both are biblical) as long as we don't flaunt them, crave them, and depend upon them for validation and/or to hide that we do not have real apostolic function and fruit. Many of the greatest leaders in the church world do not insist upon people referring to them with a title.

4. The leaders have an entitlement mentality (vv. 11-12). I believe in the biblical principle of serving the people of God as a prerequisite to being qualified to function in the same ministry as they do. For example, Joshua was called the servant of Moses; Elisha served Elijah; David served Samuel and Saul, and the 12 apostles served Jesus.

That being said, there has also been abuse of this principle since many people desire to become leaders partially because it enables them to be waited upon. I believe younger ministers should serve older, more mature ministers out of honor and proper protocol but at the same time older ministers should not demand it or become abusive if they do not receive it. We do not receive titles in the kingdom so we can be waited upon but so that we can have greater opportunity to serve in the church.

The more mature a Christ-follower is, the more they will celebrate service as the highest form of ministry and leadership. God resists those leaders who emotionally abuse and/or lord it over those under their care (1 Pet. 5:3).

5. The leaders become a stumbling block to others seeking the kingdom (vv. 13-15). It has been evident the past 30 years in both the evangelical and Roman Catholic Church that leaders can become huge stumbling blocks instead of assets to the kingdom. Whether it is lavish lifestyles, sexual misconduct, abuse of power, and other forms of narcissism, many have been turned off from Christianity by those who are supposed to represent it. Truly those who handle the Word of God will receive the most scrutiny at the judgment seat of Christ (James 3:1).

6. The leaders value and love money and wealth more than anything else (vv. 16-17). While I do not believe church leaders should live in poverty, nor do I believe they should receive salaries from their churches that are greatly disproportionate to the average income of their congregation and/or community. The religious leaders Jesus denounced seemed to value gold more than the glory and honor of God. Leaders should never serve primarily for money but for the love of God and His people (1 Pet. 5:2).


7. The weightier matters of the Word are neglected (vv. 23-24). Although I believe and practice the principles of tithing, fasting, church attendance and the like, they should never be an excuse for me to think I have fulfilled all of my Christian duties. Jesus says here that we ought to continue to tithe but also includes in our lifestyle the practice of treating others with justice, mercy and faithfulness.

For example, if we tithe but treat our spouse poorly, neglect the poor in our midst, or mistreat others, our tithe will not do us any good. Then we are just like the Pharisee Jesus describes in Luke 18:10-14.

8. Ritual is valued more than inner transformation (vv. 25-28). In the church we all have our traditions and rituals; whether it is the high-church liturgies of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican churches, and/or the more informal gatherings of the Pentecostals and evangelicals. The tendency for human beings is to fall into a routine and equate our routine with true worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that she worshipped what she did not know (John 4), which means that people can worship in ignorance and/or without a true experience with God.

Whether it is the sacraments of denominational churches or the shouting, shaking and tongue-talking of the Pentecostals, human nature has a tendency to fall into habit patterns of outward worship bereft of the life-changing dynamic of encountering the living God. We do not have to do away with these rituals, sacraments and traditions, but integrate them with true heartfelt worship and passion for our Lord.

9. They honor the departed saints without living like them in the present (vv. 29-32). I have found that it is much easier to study about revival than to actually work hard for it. It is much easier to study church history than it is to make history. Every denomination and expression of the church has its Christian heroes of the past, but very few denominations, churches and adherents attempt to emulate the life, passion and sacrifice of the saints of old (for example: Ignatius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Francis, Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards, Finney, Spurgeon, Moody, Hudson Taylor, John G. Lake, Wigglesworth, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Francis Schaeffer and more).

Jesus wants us to honor the prophets of old by living like them, not merely by building and revering their tombs.

10. They reject the prophets and wise men that confront their false systems (vv. 33-37). Those who are captivated by a religious system will never listen to those speaking for God that are not of their denomination and/or do not have acceptable academic credentials. Sound familiar? The Pharisees and Sadducees rejected Jesus (John 7:14-18) and Peter (Acts 4:13) for the same reason. It is not an accident that in Luke 3:1-2 it shows that the Word of God came to John in the wilderness and not to an already established institutional leader. Thus, God bypassed the litany of prominent political and religious leaders and their systems (3:1) because they were so corrupt.

When a leader is captivated by their religious system or dead institution, they become blind to the pure Word of the Lord. God has to bypass them and speak prophetically through those outside the dead institution. Those who are humble and have ears to hear (like Nicodemus in John 3) will recognize and receive the people God sends to them, irrespective of their institutional affiliation.

Truly, God cannot be contained in a temple, an institution, a denomination or any one religious system. He is Lord of all and will seek after those who worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

May God help us to avoid these 10 judgments!

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Ethics Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
7 Reasons Why Church Leaders Should Practice Fasting http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/fasting/21275-7-reasons-why-church-leaders-should-practice-fasting http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/fasting/21275-7-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 thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Lawless ) Fasting Tue, 21 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Creating Expectation and Anticipation http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/21678-kingdom-economics-creating-expectation-and-anticipation http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/21678-kingdom-economics-creating-expectation-and-anticipation A better understanding of consumer behavior improves leadership. Consumers purchase varied goods and services to increase their total satisfaction (utility).

As a consumer uses more of a product, the additional satisfaction (marginal utility) will eventually decline. This law of diminishing marginal utility means the product becomes less satisfying with additional purchases. To sell more product, businesses or organizations must either lower price, increase the customer base, or increase demand by offering a new or improved product.

Apple computer understands the law of diminishing marginal utility and uses it to their advantage. Every year, give or take a few months, Apple comes out with a new and improved model for their popular iPhone. Consumers, analysts, and the press try to predict the size, speed, camera, screen, enhanced features and timing of the new model. Apple periodically releases totally new products which also create its own set of predictions.

Buzz is generated. Current customers anticipate its release and wonder if they will upgrade. Others eagerly await expiration of their current contracts so they may upgrade. Announcement of the specifications of the new iPhone creates additional buzz. Whether the announcement exceeds or misses expectations, buzz is created. Non-iPhone users are exposed to the buzz and interest is aroused. Apple has created an environment where the world expects and anticipates the next iPhone.

As ministers are we creating the buzz that Apple computer has managed to generate. The Kingdom is more exciting, powerful, useful, and satisfying than any technological advance. It has eternal rewards, and is filled with righteousness, peace and joy. The power of the Kingdom is unlimited and is a free gift of God. The Kingdom is the solution for all the world's problems.

Is our congregation filled with expectation and anticipation when they come to church? What is the Lord going to do today? How is the Holy Spirit going to move? What new aspect of His nature are we going to learn from the Word today?   What miracles will be manifest? What testimonies are we going to hear about the Lord's goodness, faithfulness, and miracle-working power during the past week? Are we going to have the chance to bless someone new? Will the solution to our problems become evident?

If our churches became known for the presence of God, our congregation and our communities would be filled with expectation and anticipation.

Unfortunately, too many of our churches attempt to compensate for a drop in marginal utility or satisfaction by attempting to compete with the world. Clear presentation of the good news of the Kingdom is replaced by entertaining productions. The cost of discipleship is downplayed. The service will not last longer than the allotted time. Sermons are chosen so as not to offend. Heaven is emphasized but hell is never mentioned. The Word is not stressed although we may include one or two verses so as not be criticized. The Holy Spirit is almost never mentioned. Miracles are discussed in the past tense, but are not to be expected now. Cultural expectations are more important than Biblical commands.

To bring the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, we must get back to the biblical model. The gospel of the Kingdom must be taught, modeled, and demonstrated. The saints must be equipped with the knowledge, power, and assurances of the Kingdom.

The Holy buzz created will change the world. Saints will be changed from victims to victors; from the defeated to over-comers for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James R. Russell) Finance Wed, 01 Apr 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Equipped but Not Participating http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/21659-kingdom-economics-equipped-but-not-participating http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/21659-kingdom-economics-equipped-but-not-participating Many born-again, Spirit-filled, Word-trained believers are equipped but not participating in the kingdom.

The labor force participation rate, for those with a bachelor's degree or higher, has been trending downward for the last 20 years.

These educated people are neither working nor unemployed. Some have simply dropped out of the labor force, while others have never entered. The are not employed and do not seek employment due to a lack of motivation, discouragement or retirement. They are equipped but not participating in the labor force.

Educated, skilled and experienced workers are a valuable resource for the economy. Their contributions create more output and a higher standard of living for society. Their training and development was expensive. The loss of their labors harms the economy.

As I said before, many born-again, Spirit-filled, Word-trained believers are equipped but not participating in the kingdom. Maybe they have been offended or feel their contributions are unimportant or unneeded. Possibly, they have never been asked to serve.

Perhaps, like Moses, they feel unqualified. Or maybe, like Gideon, they need someone to call them a valiant warrior. They may be in need of deliverance, healing or restoration from sin. Regardless of the reason, efforts must be made to bring these equipped believers into full kingdom participation and service.

Others have secular skills which are very useful in the church, outreaches, evangelistic and development efforts. Accountants, bankers, carpenters, computer specialists, counselors, dentists, doctors, educators, entrepreneurs, mechanics, nurses, plumbers and secretaries are some of the skills needed. Kingdom participation can be increased significantly among the professions by simply asking for their help.

Our responsibility as ministers is to equip the saints where they are lacking and put them into service. We are promised greater unity, knowledge of Jesus, maturity and becoming more like Christ.

"for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-13).

We should be led by the Spirit, wise counsel and wisdom. But ministers should consider the following to increase church participation for the equipped:

  • Complete a church needs assessment for the next three months, one year and five years.
  • Indicate priorities by important and urgent, important but not urgent, and good.
  • Survey all congregants to determine skills/competencies and interests.
  • Identify the intersection of needs, skills/competencies, and interests.
  • Confirm any calling choices in prayer.
  • Extend the call to new assignments with personal contact.
  • Monitor and express thanks to all involved in the work of the kingdom.

As ministers, we are responsible for equipping all saints. But, increasing kingdom participation among the equipped is a way to increase church growth, expansion, and effectiveness rapidly.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James Russell) Finance Wed, 25 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400
How to Tap Into Unrealized Potential in the Kingdom http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/21642-how-to-tap-into-unrealized-potential-in-the-kingdom http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/21642-how-to-tap-into-unrealized-potential-in-the-kingdom U.S. industrial production continues to increase while utilization has become relatively flat at nearly 80 percent of capacity. The use of better robotic, computing and telecommunication technologies; more efficient supply chains; and more effective communication channels have allowed output to trend upward.

But, unused capacity remains stagnant at about 20 percent. Potential is unrealized.

Unrealized potential harms economies. Unused industrial capacity, a lack of economic freedom, a poor educational system, diminished infrastructure and/or a host of other factors can contribute to unrealized economic potential. The result is a lower standard of living, diminished incomes, higher unemployment, and a more frustrated or disheartened populace.

Unrealized potential hinders the work of the saints, our churches, and spread of the gospel. The gap between potential and realization needs to be narrowed in the kingdom. We are citizens in the kingdom and sons or daughters of the King of Kings. Saints have unlimited potential regardless of their past or present experiences or circumstances.

Saul of Tarsus persecuted the church. Peter denied the Lord. John Mark deserted his missionary companions. Mary Magdalene had seven demons. And Thomas was known as a doubter. The world desperately needs individuals, families, churches and ministries to reach their God-given, God-enabled, and God-directed potential.

As ministers, we have a responsibility to encourage, teach and equip the saints to achieve their full potential; the perfect plans and purposes of God for their lives. The good news should become real in their lives. They need to move from infant to mature Christian. We need to teach, exhort, and model the Good News of the Kingdom. The following time-tested axioms should help:

  • Emphasize relationship with Jesus. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10, NASB).
  • Teach the Kingdom. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matt. 6:33, NASB).
  • Stress knowledge of the Word, obedience and prayer. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John 15:7 NASB).
  • Emphasize the companionship, guidance, fruit and power of the Holy Spirit ... for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 14:17, NASB).

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, (Eph. 3:20, NASB).

Let us be diligent. Let us wise. Let us be true to the Lord. Let us honor the God-given, God-enabled, and God-directed potential in each of the individuals under our charge.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James Russell ) Finance Thu, 19 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Attention Pastors and Ministry Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/21574-attention-pastors-and-ministry-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/21574-attention-pastors-and-ministry-leaders We are seeking stories about men and women leaders in Christian-owned businesses. If you have members of your congregation who are doing well in business and kingdom living, please send us a brief description of their work and life as you know it.

Simply send a few bullet points and contact information; it will be greatly appreciated. Feel free to have them contact Dr. Steve Greene directly at drsteve.greene@charismamedia.com. Thank you.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Shawn A. Akers) Finance Fri, 20 Feb 2015 15:00:00 -0500
When Faith and Finances Intersect http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/21458-when-faith-and-finances-intersect http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/21458-when-faith-and-finances-intersect Picture in your mind what your church would look like if your people were financially free. Dwell on that image. Dwell on the impact your financially free congregation could have on your community, on the world. Stewardship ministry is an integral part of making that happen.

The hope of the world isn't politics or economics. If the government could really fix the economy, every president would have a good economy. Our country is in trouble, and the only solution is transformed lives through Jesus Christ. The church, as the bride of Christ, is the force to bring this hope to the world.

The church plays three vital roles in making this happen. First, we are like the Mayo Clinic. People show up hurting and don't know why. We diagnose, help them get healed and build a solid foundation.

Second, we're like the Pentagon. We've been given a worldwide strategy and mission. We hear from our Commander-in-Chief in heaven, and we do what He tells us.

Finally, we're like a military base. We bring in the recruits, the believers, and we train and equip them. Then we send them out to shine the light of their freedom, including their financial freedom.

Healing the Wounded

There have been church members who have been hurt by improper teaching of stewardship and generosity. But this hurt has also been inflicted on pastors and church leaders by other pastors and ministers who abused them, misused their gifts and their giving and left them hurt. There are many walking wounded among us because of what the church has done.

As a stewardship pastor and a representative of the stewardship ministry, I want to apologize. Congregation members have been wounded because well-meaning pastors were not trained properly. And because of the role you play in your churches, the damage can be even greater than among the members of your congregation.

The Pastor's Perspective

Let's take a look at how pastors perceive ministry:

  • 52 percent of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family's well-being and health.
  • 56 percent of pastors' wives say they have no close friends.
  • 57 percent would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
  • 70 percent don't have any close friends.
  • 90 percent feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry. I think we're always going to feel that way. The Holy Spirit is never going to let us get ahead of Him to the point where we say, "I've got it, Lord." He won't let us step out in our own pride to do God's work.
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries every month due to burnout, conflict or moral failure.

I believe that pastors can help and support each other and that you, as pastors, associate pastors and church leaders can work together to change these numbers and guide your church into new areas of spiritual, physical and financial growth.

When the culture of stewardship and the spirit of generosity rise up in the church, things change. The church becomes stronger.

Why a Ministry of Stewardship and Generosity?

First, it's because it is God's heart for people. It's not something God wants from you. It's something God wants for you, for His people. This is why we teach this material; why we work to give people a solid foundation of who they are in Christ in the area of finances.

To do this successfully, our motives must be pure. It is the pursuit of the spirit of mammon to say, "If our church had more money, we would be successful."

Congregations that do this chase unrighteous mammon and serve a counterfeit god. God has never told anyone, "You need more money," or "Your church needs more money. And when you have it, then you can do all I've called you to do." He has never made money a condition of success or a sign of holiness. Money is one of the tools He provides to carry out His work, but His work can be achieved without money by those whose hearts are open to serving Him.

Why teach stewardship and generosity? It's biblical. If, as a pastor, I'm charged to teach the full wisdom of God, I want to get it right. There are 2,300 Scriptures on money. Seventeen of the 38 parables Jesus taught are on money.

A lot of Christians are shocked to learn there is so much about money in the Bible. It's shocking to many non-Christians as well.

When we teach on money, we need to first go through the exercise with our leadership team. They need to be prepared and understand God's plan in this area.

Now that everyone has pretty much adapted to the new normal, even though the economy is still not great, the questions and attitude are different. The atmosphere in churches is changing. The realization is dawning that stewardship and generosity could really change lives.

There are seven things we want to see in the people of Gateway Church at all levels of the stewardship ministry:

  • We want them to have Christ-centered financial views. We want them to wear the Biblical principles of stewardship like a contact lens so they see everything through it.
  • We want them to be generous in their tithes and offerings. We unapologetically teach on giving because we know what it's going to do in their lives. Money given to Gateway will result in souls in the kingdom.
  • We want our people to experience margin, to live in such a way they have money left over at the end of each pay period.
  • We want everyone to be debt-free. We teach and counsel them in how to develop a plan to get there. Being out of debt creates margin and gives emotional and psychological, as well as financial, freedom.
  • We want them to be savers. The Bible says we're fools if we don't save. We don't want a bunch of fools around our church. We teach the principles of saving for the short-, medium- and long-term. We want them to save because we have fun when we're seeing margin increase.
  • We want them to live on a spending plan, assigning every dollar a task.
  • Finally, we want them to be life stewards, operating in their strengths.

At Gateway, we believe everyone is a life steward. God has given them talents. My job as the stewardship pastor is to help them identify these gifts and then plant them in the areas they're good at, to get them in the right place.

God's Managers

Another reason to teach this: Stewardship is not something we do; it is who we are. God created us to be stewards. In Genesis 1:1, we see the principle of God owning everything: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." He's the Creator/Owner. About 25 verses later, we find that He created us to be stewards:

Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock, and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground" (Gen. 1:26).

Paul gives a nice summary of why we should teach generosity and stewardship. In these verses, he gives insight into what to teach the people about money:

1 Timothy 6:17-19

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

We want people at Gateway Church to use this passage as a model for their lives.

God Will Hold Us Accountable

This is a final reason to teach this. At the end of time, we, as pastors and church leaders, will be held accountable. I don't say this to scare you, but to remind you. When we have a deadline, we tend to work more diligently towards it:

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10).

Getting It Done

Let me share with you how we get this done at Gateway Church. We're not simply building a curriculum; we're building a structure for this ministry that curriculum flows in and out of.

I've been asked: "Are you a Dave Ramsey church, Compass church or a Crown Ministry church?" We are a Jesus church. Crown Ministry, Compass and Dave Ramsey have great materials that we use and have greatly benefited from them. I love the leaders in all those organizations, but we are called to teach the whole counsel of God, not just specific curriculum.

At Gateway, we divided the congregation into four groups. We use these terms to make sure we're offering something for everyone. Building a culture of stewardship and generosity in your church requires you to touch all four of these groups within your own congregation.

The first group is those who are Struggling. These families are not making ends meet. At times, we've received eleven hundred phone calls per month from people who are hurting financially.

The second group is made up of those who are Stable. They have regular income but many times are one missed paycheck away from disaster.

Group three is those who are Solid. They are doing well financially. They're not wealthy, but they are managing their finances. The Stable and Solid groups make up 70 percent of most churches.

The Surplussed make up the fourth group. These families and individuals have wealth and a high capacity to build more. They need to be ministered to differently—and not to get anything from them.

The Struggling

The key to ministering to this group is relationship. We don't want our stewardship ministry to be seen only as the ministry people go to when they're hurting. When we give benevolence, we try to determine if they are looking to have immediate needs met or if they are looking for a life change. If they want life change, we will use our resources to help them walk through it. If they are one of those families who seem to be in perpetual need, we will work with them to get them on the path to life change.

The Stable and the Solid

It's sometimes hard to differentiate the Stable from the Solid, so much of what we offer is available to both groups. This includes generational classes that meet the specific life season of the group. We use my Route 7 class, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and our versions of the Financial Hope Workshops. My friend, Dave Briggs, at Central Christian East Valley Church in Phoenix, originally created the Financial Hope Workshop.

The Surplussed

Those who have wealth are frequently the least pastored group in the church. At Gateway, we take these men and women on a Journey of Generosity with Generous Living. Check out the website generousliving.org for more details. This journey provides deep confirmation of what God is doing in their hearts. Or it provides a revelation of what God wants to do in their lives.

Getting Started in Your Church

Just starting a stewardship curriculum alone will not create permanent change in the culture of your church. As church leaders, you build the culture. There are four important elements to implementing stewardship as a culture in your church.
First and most important, you need to get the passion and support of the senior pastor behind you. He has to seriously buy into the concept.

Second, teach and train the staff. Get them behind you.

Third, identify and build your stewardship leader team. The staff will help you recruit this team. They know the key people.

Fourth, figure out your demographics according to whom in your church is Struggling, Stable, Solid and Surplussed. The church staff and leadership teams can help refine this.

These ideas should be enough to get you started.  


Gunnar Johnson is the executive pastor of financial stewardship at Gateway Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He is the author of Generous Life Journey, from which this article was excerpted.

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webmaster@strang.com (Gunnar Johnson) Finance Thu, 08 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
Give Young Disciples Some Easy Wins http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/20044-why-you-shouldn-t-aim-too-high-to-start http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/finance/20044-why-you-shouldn-t-aim-too-high-to-start
I was at the C3 Church’s Sunday service Sunday night at Oxford Falls, a suburb of Sydney, when Australian talk show host Jamie Malcolm exhorted the congregation. Jamie’s words were so unforgettable, I wanted to make sure I recorded them here so I could remember and share them with you.

Jamie spoke about generosity and giving, but he did it in a way I’ve never heard before. He spoke of how to get started in giving. His point was simple: All too often, we think in terms of larger amounts rather than just starting out and doing something no matter how small.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joey Bonifacio) Finance Tue, 23 Apr 2013 16:00:00 -0400
The Good News and Bad News of Kingdom Economics http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/21605-the-good-news-and-bad-news-of-kingdom-economics http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/21605-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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James Russell) Money Wed, 04 Mar 2015 22:00:00 -0500
How Your Church Can Survive a Financial Crisis http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/20920-how-your-church-can-survive-a-financial-crisis http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/20920-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 philcooke.com.

For the original article, visit philcooke.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Phil Cooke) Money Fri, 09 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
13 Things to Do When Your Church Is Hurting Financially http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/20897-13-things-to-do-when-your-church-is-hurting-financially http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/20897-13-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 joemckeever.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever) Money Tue, 29 Apr 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Why Year-End Giving Is a Good Thing http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/20534-why-year-end-giving-is-a-good-thing http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/20534-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 AcceptableGift.org.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jeff Anderson) Money Tue, 03 Dec 2013 20:00:00 -0500
Creating Excellence in Ministry on a Small Budget http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/20497-creating-excellence-in-ministry-on-a-small-budget http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/20497-creating-excellence-in-ministry-on-a-small-budget When we began planting Grace Hills, we didn’t have the quarter of a million dollars that some church plants in America start out with. We had way less than that, in fact, so we had to figure out how to hack some things together, and I’m convinced it’s made us stronger. We learned to do the very best we could with what we had, and we’re still doing that.

A lack of resources is merely an opportunity to be extra creative.

The Values of Excellence

The first thing we had to do was clarify our values concerning excellence, and we came up with five. These are not an official statement—just random thoughts that guided some of our early decisions:

  • We do things with excellence (the best we can) for God’s glory.
  • We refuse to make an idol of excellence—excellence isn’t the goal; disciples are.
  • We refuse to allow the pursuit of excellence hold us back. We won’t wait for perfect conditions before taking risks.
  • We will learn from models, valuing effectiveness over originality. We don’t need credit; we need life.
  • We will be a model, sharing our excellence with others, or at least sharing what we’re learning from both failure and success.

Some churches value excellence way more than we do, and that’s great. But for us, excellence is kind of assumed while we take action.

Faithraising in a Church Plant

I hate fundraising and donor development, but I love faithraising. When giving is an issue of discipleship, we have nothing to fear in teaching a young church how to become generous. So your budget woes are usually temporary if you’re effectively discipling people, excepting an economic downturn.

When it comes to raising funds, I believe it’s important to understand your financial values. For example, at Grace Hills:

  • We believe giving is a discipleship issue, so we make no apology for calling on those who have committed themselves to our covenant to invest in the vision.
  • We believe the ethical handling of money is essential, so we outsource all of our bookkeeping and we don’t let pastors touch money if at all possible.
  • We believe in taking risks in faith, thinking big and thinking ahead for God’s glory.

The Tools We Use

If you’re going to do things on the cheap, you’re going to need to know where to go for tools and resources, and here are just a few of my own favorites:

And there are plenty more. If you have a favorite or offer resources yourself, feel free to share in the comments below.

Staffing With a Tiny Budget

It’s easy to overstaff, but it’s dangerous to understaff. I’m a big believer in staffing ahead of growth. I believe in leadership, and so from early on, we wanted to expand our staff as quickly as possible—but we obviously couldn’t afford to pay a bunch of full-time salaries.

So we became creative in our solutions. For example:

  • Seek passionate people. Passionate people don’t have to be paid large salaries. They recognize the privilege of doing what others would love to do for free. I don’t mean that you should make people starve, but find people who are passionate enough to find creative ways to make ends meet.
  • Ask for volunteers. One of the things that impressed me most when I was on staff at Saddleback Church was the number of people who volunteered. The total number was well up into the 10,000s, but what I saw in my little corner of the world—the communications team and the office of the pastor—were volunteers who were working 20 to 40 hours because they believed in the vision of the church. Many staff members started as full-time volunteers.
  • Develop disciples and hire the best. To put it another way, hire from within whenever possible. It’s not always practical to do so, but some of the best staff members you will ever have will be people who were discipled and developed within your church family.
  • Use multiple part-time staffers. Today it’s possible for talented people to innovate when it comes to earning a living, especially in the entrepreneurial atmosphere of a new church plant. We are two years in with a staff of six, and none of us would be considered full-time. We all do something on the side that sustains our ability to work for Grace Hills.

Going Technical on a Budget

There are companies that do great work for the church at high prices. There’s nothing wrong with paying a lot of money for a cutting-edge web presence, but it isn’t necessary, especially for a new church plant.

Consider the following:

  • There are free website resources, such as webs.com, wix.com, tumblr.com and wordpress.com, all of which can be used to establish a free web presence, but the branding capabilities will be limited. Nonetheless, if you have no money for tech, start with these.
  • If you have a little bit of money, you can go big while going technical on a budget with a hosting account from DreamHost, which offers an easy one-click install of WordPress, and a premium WordPress theme from ThemeforestStudioPress or Elegant Themes, and a host of others. With this solution and a little bit of technical knowledge, you’ll spend less than $100 to get going.
  • If you have a little more money and lack the technical knowledge to get a basic template-driven website up and going, two of my favorite design studios offer church-specific solutions at good prices: Monk Development and ChurchPlant Media.

Promoting on a Budget

Direct mail works well in some locations and not in others. Either way, it’s expensive. It’s beneficial if you can afford it, but if you can’t, it’s still possible to promote what God is doing on a budget, especially using social media, which I wrote about here. And in addition to social media, we have had great success using MailChimp for our email marketing. Since Grace Hills started, we’ve spent $0 on traditional marketing. All of our growth is organic.

Beyond advertising and promotion is good old-fashioned service to the community, which is often cheap or free and speaks more loudly than a well-designed piece of marketing material.

Facilities on a Budget

Property is expensive, and buildings are even more so. They are also maintenance nightmares for a new church plant. And in our present culture, a new church plant needs to establish that the church is a movement of people, not a location. So I have a few rules when it comes to buildings in a new church plant:

  • Wait. Wait to lease by renting a theater, school or other venue part-time. Wait to buy land until you’ve leased a while. And wait to build a building until you’ve paid off land. When it’s time to grow, it’s time to go, so moving isn’t the issue. The issue is that if you don’t wait, you’ll be saddled with debt and a building to maintain ahead of the time when you’re really capable of keeping it.
  • Maximize spaces. Figure out how to make the most of things. We’ve created a nursery in a movie theater by using colorful rollout carpets and plastic preschool fencing. We’ve created a coffee shop inside the theater’s lobby. And we’ve done lighting and sound effectively in a space that really isn’t conducive. We have a great screen, but we use our own projection. Figure out ways to squeeze the right things into the right spaces.
  • Think neat, not nice. Again, I assume I’m talking to people who don’t have the money for the best, so think about being neat, clean and safe rather than elegant or fancy. Right now, pallets are big in the church decor and stage design world. With the right lighting and design creativity, you can make things look great without dropping a ton of cash.

Finally, to close out, here's some from-the-hip random advice for creating excellence on a budget:

  • Be a hacker.
  • Think bigger than where you are.
  • Value volunteers—big time!
  • Know your culture and what it will take to reach it.
  • Ask outsiders what they think.

And at the end of it all, do the best you can with what God provides for His glory!

Brandon Cox has been a pastor for 15 years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, sponsored by Saddleback Church and other strategic partners. He also serves as editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and he authors a top 100 blog for church leaders.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brandon Cox) Money Mon, 11 Nov 2013 20:00:00 -0500
8 Reasons Believers Give to Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/20476-8-reasons-believers-give-to-your-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/money/20476-8-reasons-believers-give-to-your-church If you want your church to grow, you must learn how to motivate believers to invest their resources into the kingdom for ministry and for facilities. It is a key responsibility of leadership.

Whoever writes the agenda must be able to underwrite the agenda. If you’re going to form the vision, you also have to be able to fund the vision.

A lot of pastors, a lot of elders and a lot of church leaders have a real hangup about asking people to give. They allow personal insecurities and personal fears to limit the ministry. You don’t need to be embarrassed about asking people to give. There is nothing greater than the kingdom of God. There is no more significant cause than the church.

I am very much against fundraising, but I am in favor of teaching people to give. Fundraising is what I call "collecting money from other people in return for a product, service, reward or recognition." But in giving, we simply challenge ourselves to give out of our own resources for spiritual reasons. The result of fundraising is that funds are collected. The results of teaching people to be givers are that funds are collected and disciples are developed.

And to develop generous disciples, you need to understand why people give.

1. People give when they trust the leadership. John 10:1-11 says, “The sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. He goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice but they will never follow a stranger. In fact, they will run from him. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd.” Study after study has proven that in the hierarchy of giving, people give first of all to people they believe in. Then they give to purposes. Finally they give to programs. That means that the most essential elements in teaching people to give are relational, not functional.

Even if you use a consultant to help you raise money, you as the pastor still need to be out front because the person who asks for the giving needs to be the person with the most credibility. And if you are a pastor and you are not the most trusted person, you have a leadership problem and you’re not ready to teach people to give yet. You need to be the most visible because the person who is the best qualified to ask for money should be the person who is the most trusted.

2. People give when they catch a vision, not when they see a need. The Bible says, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” Did you know that Ivy League schools usually receive the largest endowments? And they are the schools that need the money the least. Why? People give to success. They give to vision. They don’t give to needs. That’s why in 15 years, we have never had a bulletin with our financial reports in it along with how much we need. Why? Because bills do not motivate people to give. People give when they catch a vision and they get the big picture.

You must be very clear about what your vision is. At Saddleback, we’ve never had a vision for a building, but rather for what the building can help us do. We’ve never had a vision for raising money, but rather for what the money can do. Emphasize the lives that will be changed as people give—the marriages that will be saved, the broken people that are going to be put back together, the people who will break addictions, the changed lives that will happen. That’s the vision!

3. People give to experience the joy of generosity. It feels good to give generously—it really does. A person who doesn’t understand that has never given generously. The happiest people in the world are the most giving people. Guilt never motivates people to give. Giving that is motivated by guilt only lasts as long as the guilt does. So you never use guilt to motivate people to give. You use joy to motivate people to give.

I absolutely do not accept the "health and wealth" theology, which teaches that God wants everybody to be rich. But the fact is, there are more promises in the Bible related to giving than any other subject. You cannot out-give God. If you’re going to be Christlike, you’ve got to learn to give.

4. People give when they are inspired by models. We learn best by watching models. That’s why a testimony about giving is a thousand times more effective than a sermon on giving. Models motivate us. Giving is contagious. So I encourage people to write down and send me their testimonies, how they decided to give and what they were giving.

5. People give when they are involved. Paul told the Philippians, “I thank God because of your partnership in the gospel.” The fact is, those who are most involved in the campaign will be those who sacrifice the most. One of our gauges of involvement at Saddleback is how many people have completed our CLASSes (and you can get our CLASS material here). The more CLASSes people have completed, the more involved they are and the more they tend to give. The average gift in our church from an attender during one of our giving campaigns was about $7,000. For the people who had gone through class 101, the average gift was $8,500. The average of gift for people who had been through class 201 and 101 was more than $11,000.  And the average gift of people who had been through 101, 201 and 301, which usually indicates they are actually involved in the ministry of the church, was more than $15,000.

6. People give when you ask them to give. James says, “You have not because you ask not.” The Bible says, "Ask and seek and knock." God asks people to give. The fact is, we’re doing people a favor when we ask them to give because they grow in faith, they grow in love, they grow in sacrifice, they grow in commitment, they grow in character as they learn to give. They will be blessed in return. Never say no for anybody. Your church will be hurt more by those who would have said yes and were not asked than by those who were asked and said no.

7. People give when you make it possible for them to give. Second Corinthians 8 says, “For if the willingness is there the gift is acceptable according to what one has not according to what one does not have.” That means you need to make it possible for people to give in as many ways as you can. Teach people how to want to give, and they’ll figure out how.

Teach people that they can either give by reason or by revelation. Giving by reason means this—I look at what I have, I figure out what’s reasonable, and I commit that amount. It doesn’t take any faith to give by reason. I just figure out what can I afford to give. Giving by revelation means I determine my gift by praying, “Lord, what do You want to give through me?” This requires faith. When you give by revelation, you’re committing an act of worship and saying, “How much am I willing to trust God?”

8. People give when their gifts are appreciated. The whole book of Philippians is just a thank you letter from Paul for their offering, for their financial support. Figure out seven ways to thank people for their gift—a card, a call, a banquet. A little appreciation goes a long way in encouraging people to be generous for the long haul.

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 Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren) Money Wed, 30 Oct 2013 13:00:00 -0400
Pastors, Your Physical Health Matters Too http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20539-pastors-your-physical-health-matters-too http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20539-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 Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren) Pastoral Care Thu, 05 Dec 2013 17:00:00 -0500
Thom Rainer: Pastors and Christmas Gifts http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20532-thom-rainer-pastors-and-christmas-gifts http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20532-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 thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Pastoral Care Tue, 03 Dec 2013 14:00:00 -0500
Judge Declares Clergy Housing Exclusion Unconstitutional http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20527-judge-declares-clergy-housing-exclusion-unconstitutional http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20527-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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (ECFA Staff) Pastoral Care Tue, 26 Nov 2013 17:00:00 -0500
When Mental Health Issues Aren’t Sin http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20523-when-mental-health-issues-aren-t-sin http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20523-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 deepimprints.com. She writes a regular column for ministrytodaymag.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Kim Martinez) Pastoral Care Mon, 25 Nov 2013 17:00:00 -0500
18 Ways to Motivate Yourself in Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20521-18-ways-to-motivate-yourself-in-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20521-18-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 Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren) Pastoral Care Tue, 26 Nov 2013 14:00:00 -0500
10 Reasons Leaders Need a Confidant http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20510-10-reasons-why-leaders-need-a-confidant http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoral-care/20510-10-reasons-why-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.

Dictionary.com 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 bradlomenick.com.

For the original article, visit bradlomenick.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brad Lomenick) Pastoral Care Wed, 20 Nov 2013 17:00:00 -0500
Do You Practice Random Acts of Ministry? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21669-do-you-practice-random-acts-of-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21669-do-you-practice-random-acts-of-ministry It is easy for people who do what I do to lose touch. So, recently I was asked a question by a friend: "How do you try to not to be a 'speaker' but to be a 'person?'"

That might seem offensive, but it's actually a good question. Part of the answer is that I volunteer my time to pastor my church, Grace Church. They are completely unimpressed that I am a motivational speaker living in a van down by the river.

Yet, doing what I do, I can lose touch with local church pastors—the people I am called to serve—even though I speak to them at conferences. Also, it would be easy for me to become disconnected from local church issues, even as I preach at churches now and then when I travel.

So, when I can (and am not with my wife, Donna, or one of my daughters), I am intentional about carving out time and space for personal interaction with people I wouldn't normally meet at a conference. It's important to me to serve pastors, so I make a point to pursue personal interaction.

Here's a bit how I like to do that, as I explained to my friend who asked.

Flash Mentoring

In order to keep myself aware of what's going on outside of my own little bubble, sometimes when I travel, I'll tweet, "Hey, if you're not crazy or angry, you can come meet me for dinner at such and such a time." (That's technically called a "tweetup.")

If I'm in Orlando, I might have 20 people. If it's Boston, I'll have four people. But either way, I'll sit there and learn from pastors and church leaders of all kinds.

Another thing I do regularly is tweet out, "If you need prayer, encouragement, or advice, send me a direct message, and for the next two hours I will be calling people."

One night I had two hours while I was driving, so I made calls from 10 PM until midnight and just talked to people—about 15 to 20 individuals. I prayed with them, and we talked. I get to hear someone's story. They get to bounce stuff off of me. We connect spiritually. Everyone wins.

It's great; I always learn a lot.

Choose Balance in Your Ministry

A lot of times, I'm graciously given the opportunity to speak at various places, and I am thankful for these times. Lots of people can take something away from my message all at once; many seeds are spread with one big cast.

But I also want to be engaged in more personal, high-impact relationships. It means a lot to me. The night I was on the road for two hours, I spoke with someone I'll call Jeremy. He had some questions and we got to talk through some things. He said it meant a lot to him, I certainly felt the same way.

Now, I can't do that all the time, but there are times when I choose to do what I can. I get to minister and remain connected with real people at the same time.

Know Your Limitations

It's impossible to get personal when speaking at a conference with a bunch of people. It just isn't feasible. And, as I write in my Twitter bio, "Sry I can't read/reply to all msgs & DMs."

It just isn't possible, and my wife would not approve. But I can make time to be personal with a few people at a time when I can.

So, I am convinced that you must guard your time AND make space to minster to people. That's how you stay in touch.

When I do make these random connections, I sometimes make them specific. Small-church pastors often get the short end of the stick, so I might make the offer, "If your church is under 100 in attendance, DM me. I'll call small-church pastors for the next two hours." Or I may tweet, "If you're a church planter ... ."

Then there are times when I just offer the opportunity to anyone.

One time, I prayed on the phone with an African-American pastor in New York City. He was in a hospital room with his wife dying next to him. And I said, "Man, let's just pray. Put it on speaker phone. Let's pray." Then we prayed.

Later he tweeted something like, "Ed Stetzer just prayed with my wife, and gave us encouragement to make it another day." I love to do things like that and I think it makes a difference in others' lives—I know it does in mine.

These are just a few of the random things I do to pour into others while learning some things myself at the same time. I find that this randomness is good for my soul. Whether your lifestyle is like mine or not, we all have a tendency to get stuck from time to time.

We need more than our regular routine. We need to receive and give outside of our bubbles.

Do you practice random acts of impact ministry? How do you do that? How has it changed you and your interactions with others?

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer) Pastoring Tue, 31 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
4 Types of Unconnected People and How to Connect With Them http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21663-4-types-of-unconnected-people-and-how-to-connect-with-them http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21663-4-types-of-unconnected-people-and-how-to-connect-with-them Have you picked up on the fact that unconnected people are different in some ways than connected people? If you have, you are already moving in the right direction.

Next, though, you understand there are four main types of unconnected people and how you might connect them depends on improving your understanding of their needs and interests.

See also, "5 Things You Need to Know About Connecting Unconnected People," "Design Your Connection Strategy With Unconnected People in Mind," and "What's Your Urgency Level for Connecting Unconnected People?"

There are four main types of unconnected people:

1. Busy with other priorities and commitments. This segment of unconnected people is a very large and quite diverse group. It includes everyone frantically preoccupied as their children's chauffeurs as well as those whose own extracurricular activities crowd out the truly important. It also includes those who have commitments to church functions and activities that produce little more than sideways energy.

2. Satisfied customers of a less-than-recommended or minimum dose. Another large group of unconnected people, members of this group are unaware or unconvinced that they are missing anything.  If you are communicating about the importance of being connected and its vital role in producing life-change, they are either not getting the signal or the signal is unclear. See also, "Determining the Minimum or Recommended Dose."

3. Dissatisfied former customers. The size of this group of unconnected people is determined by several factors (in other words, the quality of your leader development pathway, the effectiveness of your coaching structure, clearly communicated expectations, etc.).  While it is rarely a large group, it is important to understand their objections and concerns. See also, "Skill Training: Equip Your Coaches to Develop and Disciple Your Leaders" and "Small Group Ministry Roadblock #5: A Leadership Development Disconnect."

4. Infrequent attendees. The size of this group is determined by a few key factors (most importantly, the size of your "crowd"). They may share some common traits with the first two types of unconnected people, but they are distinct in that their attendance pattern makes any awareness of the importance of connecting unlikely. Unless you make a strong case for the importance of being connected every week, it is likely they know nothing about it.

Here's how to connect unconnected people:

1. First, keep the needs and interests of unconnected people in mind. Their interests and needs are not the same as those who are already connected.

2. Second, relentlessly communicate the importance of being connected. Talk about the recommended or minimum dose on a regular basis (announcements, messages, bulletins, website, newsletters, etc.). Take the mystery away along with any confusion.

3. Third, teach your congregation to prioritize the main things. Clarify the main things. Challenge the presence of menu items that distract from the minimum dose.

4. Fourth, focus on raising the quality of the experience in every group. Build an effective coaching structure, identify a leadership pathway that develops leaders out of hosts, and constantly clarify expectations.

Mark Howell is the founder of smallgroupresources.net, committed to helping churches launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. He's also the Pastor of Discipleship Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church. Having served as small group pastor at Woodlands Church and Lake Avenue Church, Mark is a seasoned veteran with experience in both the contemporary and the traditional church. In addition, he served as a consultant with Lifetogether and as a host for the Purpose Driven Campaign Coaching programs. You can read Mark's blog at markhowelllive.com or follow him on twitter.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Mark Howell ) Pastoring Mon, 30 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400
7 Things the Church Can’t Do for the Pastor http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21650-7-things-the-church-can-t-do-for-the-pastor http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21650-7-things-the-church-can-t-do-for-the-pastor Pastor, there are some things your church can't do for you.

They simply can't.

Please understand. I love the church. Greatly. I'm a local church guy. But they simply can't do these things for you.

And if you think they can, or you leave it up to them to do these things, you'll someday find out the hard way—they can't.

I've watched it many times as pastors didn't do these. They followed the demands of the church and somehow expected the church to be providing these needs. It caused a void.

Some pastors have even crashed and burned waiting for someone else to do for them what only they could do.

Granted, you may have the greatest church of your ministry career, but regardless of how wonderful the church is they can't do all the things for you that your soul, personal life and ministry demands.

You'll have to do them yourself—by God's grace—if they're going to be done.

Here are seven things your church can't adequately do for the pastor:

1. Hold you accountable. The church can't guard your heart and character. It doesn't matter how many rules or committees they have, if you want to ruin your life, you'll find a way around the structure.

2. Love your family and protect your time with them. They may love your family. They may respect your time with them, but if you really want to protect your family—you'll have to take the lead role here.

3. Understand the demands on your time. They can't. And, you'll only be disappointed if you expect them to. All jokes aside, they know you work more than Sunday, but they don't know all the pressure placed upon your role. They can't understand any more than you can understand what it's like to sit at their desk, or operate that machine they operate, or drive that police car or teach that classroom. We only know what we know and we can't fully understand what another person's experience is until we experience it.

4. Ensure you discipline your Sabbath time. You can teach it—they can know it—but if they need you they aren't going to necessarily understand that you're on a Sabbath. If you're going to rest—if you're going to have a biblcially commanded Sabbath—you'll have to discipline yourselves to take it.

5. Read your mind. People are usually waiting to be led. They are looking for a vision to follow. They can't follow an unspoken vision.

6. Build your sense of self-worth. If you're waiting to hear how wonderful the message was, what a good job you're doing, or how much the church loves you in order to feel you're doing a good job—you're going to be very disappointed most of the time. You'll have to find your sense of self-worth in your relationship with God and living out His purpose for your life—the same place you're hopefully encouraging the church to find their sense of self-worth.

7. Completely discern your call from God. Some may be used of God to speak into your life, but your personal calling is between you and God. They won't always understand when you're "called away" or when you feel "led" to lead in a certain direction. And, you can't expect them to.

Don't expect others to do for you what only you—by God's grace—can do.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson ) Pastoring Tue, 24 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
3 Ways Pastors Should Respond to Criticism http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21648-3-ways-pastors-should-respond-to-criticism http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21648-3-ways-pastors-should-respond-to-criticism One of the grim realities of being a pastor is that you will experience criticism. I have known many pastors through the years, and each one has undergone criticism. Criticism is inescapable in the life of a pastor.

Few things challenge a pastor more than criticism. Personally, there have been times when criticism has absolutely devastated me. It is especially difficult to receive when given by someone you respect deeply or by someone who has completely misunderstood a situation. Criticism can sideline or paralyze a leader, or it can help a leader be better in the future. I have personally experienced each of these situations.

Without question, many times criticism is unfair; at other times, it is right on, with 100 percent accuracy. So, how should a pastor respond to criticism.

1. Receive it. When someone criticizes you as a pastor, receive it. In fact, receive it with grace, not letting your body language demonstrate defensiveness or disapproval. Assure the person criticizing you that you will receive what they say, consider it, pray about it and determine the direction God wants you to go in the future.

2. Learn from it. Criticism can be a great teacher. Pastors should be teachable, even teachable through criticism. We are not perfect. We are not sinless. We make mistakes. Own them. Confess them as sin. Make it right with the person. Those who are spiritually mature are able to learn from criticism. Pastors, always take the high road; you will never face a traffic jam there.

3. Outlive it. If a person criticizes you unfairly, outlive it! Through the course of time, a life of integrity and honesty can overcome the criticism of others. Sooner or later, their criticism of you will fall on deaf ears because time proves it all in life. Nothing is more powerful than a consistent, Christ-centered life lived out over the course of time by a local church pastor. Therefore, outlive your criticism.

Dr. Ronnie Floyd has been a pastor for more than 37 years. Since 1986, Pastor Floyd has served as the senior pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas, which has baptized over 17,000 people during his tenure. Cross Church was one of the first churches in America to go multisite. In June 2014, Pastor Floyd was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has authored over 20 books, including FORWARD: 7 Distinguishing Marks for Future Leaders, releasing in 2015.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ronnie Floyd) Pastoring Mon, 23 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
7 Ways to Successfully Lead Change http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21588-7-ways-to-successfully-lead-change http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21588-7-ways-to-successfully-lead-change Bottom line: Every organization—whether a church, business or nonprofit—needs change in order to continue to grow and remain healthy.

But here's the thing about change. If you've ever been in leadership, you're very aware of this:

Change is hard—very hard.

And, it's especially hard for some people. In fact, in my experience, the most common reaction to change—at least initially—is rejection or rebellion.

And, that's what makes change difficult to lead.

Learning to lead change successfully may be the single most important challenge of any leader.

I'm not an expert. But, I've led some change. Some successfully. Some not.

And, along the way I've learned a few things.

Here are 7 principles that can help you successfully lead change:

1. Establish trust. You can best lead change from a pre-established trust in your leadership. New leaders should be careful not to implement a lot of major change early unless that change is vital to the organization. Major change will be easier if the leader has established some credibility.

2. Introduce change early. This is where "early" comes into the process. People need time to warm up to the change that is coming. The less you surprise people the greater your chance for success can be. Change always comes with an emotion attached and giving ample notice allows people a chance to acclimate those emotions.

3. Communicate often. Inform people along the way by keeping them updated with the progress during a period of change. Include the good news and the bad news in these updates. Hold nothing back. I'm not sure you can over-communicate. And, use different means of communication to make sure you catch everyone and every style of listener.

4. Widen the distribution. Get buy-in from as many people as possible. Sometimes leaders have to lead alone. People can't understand where you're taking them that they need to go, but may not even know yet or want to go. But, those times of loneliness should be rare. Wherever possible, include others in decisions concerning change.

5. Follow through on commitments made. The quickest way to lose trust is to say one thing and do another. Likewise, do not make commitments you cannot keep. Be true to your word.

6. Be consistent. You will keep people's trust through the change if it is easier to figure out where you are as a leader, what you are thinking and why you are making the decisions you make. And pay attention to the word "why"—it's critically important. People need to learn you and seeing a consistency in you over time and testing and they more they understand why the more accepting they will be of change.

7. Change continuance. Do not make change a rare occurrence. Build a culture of healthy change so that it will be more naturally accepted when it comes. That takes time. And experience. You need some wins so people learn to trust you when you are trying to lead change.

There are a few things I've learned about leading change. What have you learned?

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson ) Pastoring Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:00:00 -0500
The Executive Pastor: The Most Misunderstood Role in Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21507-the-executive-pastor-the-most-misunderstood-role-in-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/pastoring/21507-the-executive-pastor-the-most-misunderstood-role-in-ministry After decades working with churches around the world, I've discovered one of the most difficult challenges pastors face is finding the right "executive pastor." Smaller churches don't usually need one, but as churches grow, a leader in that role becomes more and more important.

But in a significant number of cases, local pastors don't really understand the job. In my opinion, one of the best in the country is Mike Buster, executive pastor at Prestonwood Church in Plano, Texas. He's worked with Pastor Jack Graham for 28 years, and they've become a remarkable team.

In fact, in my opinion, Jack Graham is one of the greatest leaders in the church today; therefore the standards at Prestonwood are high. I asked Mike to tell me about the purpose, role, responsibilities and challenges of being an executive pastor ("XP"). Here's what he said:

PC:  What's the purpose of an "executive pastor"?

MB: The executive pastor should know the heart, vision, goals and desires of his pastor. He should have the fortitude and wisdom to take the skeleton vision provided by the pastor and put flesh on it. He is to be a steward of the church's resources and the pastor's vision. The XP should be able to see the big picture but at the same time must pay attention to minuscule details. It is a challenging and complex role that involves long-range planning and specific strategies. From the church's spiritual maturity to parking space availability, the executive pastor must be both deep and wide. He flies at 30,000 feet but notices a shrub that needs to be replaced. Always keeping the mission of the church at the forefront, he must look at every problem or opportunity though the eyes of his pastor. The XP should be focused on fulfilling the mission of the church through the vision of the pastor. Daily prayer for wisdom and discernment is paramount. An executive pastor must be first and foremost a spiritual leader with a heart for serving his pastor, staff and congregation.

PC: What are the 3 most important abilities a good executive pastor needs?

MB: In an ideal world, this person would have a seminary degree and experience in all aspects of church ministry including students, children, singles, married adults, missions, music, recreation, business, counseling, pastoral care, deacons, education, personnel, denominational work, and the list goes on. He should be analytical, have wisdom and discernment, as well as (be) a spiritual leader with excellent people skills. An effective XP would also have a great relationship with his pastor, with trust and confidence that has been built over many years.

PC: How should a pastor and executive pastor divide their roles, so there's no conflict?

MB: An executive pastor should be able to represent the church and pastor in any setting. Simply put, he is an extension of the pastor, relieving him of most administrative responsibilities and management of staff so that he can focus on the critical aspects of the ministry—pastoring, shepherding, preaching and teaching. The XP should take the leadership burden from the pastor without undermining his authority.

PC: What's the area where most challenges happen between a pastor and executive pastor?

MB: Trust is paramount but takes time to develop. Pastors often have a difficult time letting go and truly delegating. A pastor must have great confidence in his executive pastor. At the same time, the XP must have a "second chair" mentality, always seeking the best interest of the church as well as the pastor. I think of John 15:13 in paraphrase: "Greater love has no one than this, that an executive pastor lays down his life for his pastor."

PC: Many pastors hire executives right out of secular business to be their executive pastor and that often fails. Why should an executive pastor also understand the world of ministry?

MB: An executive pastor is not the administrative pastor nor is he the CFO. Above all, he is a minister of the gospel with a wide variety of ministry experience within the church. He must be a servant leader. Business and finance should only be 10 percent of what he oversees. While there are business aspects in a large church, the church is a body of believers and not just a corporation.

PC: On the other hand, do secular business skills help an executive pastor?

MB: Yes, business and financial skills are important but are only one aspect of overseeing a church. I would rather a church hire a spiritual leader to oversee the business aspects of the church than a business leader to oversee the ministries of the church. A true XP oversees all aspects of the church and business/finance is just one of those areas. Now, I do think it is important that he has a grasp of the business end of the church but if not, he can always hire a CFO. Those are actually much easier to find than a good executive pastor.

PC: In your experience, why do you think so many executive pastors fail?

MB: One reaction is they try to manage spiritual problems and spiritualize managerial problems, while neither should be attempted. I also believe they fail due to a weak prayer life; a lack of humility and servant leadership. Another reason is the inability to see the forest for the trees—they don't delegate well, don't know how to lead people, staff and laymen. However, not having a good working relationship with a pastor who trusts you is probably the biggest cause of failure.

PC: How important is the ability to lead a team?

MB: The ability to lead is crucially important. I wish every executive pastor would take time to read two books, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People and Oswald Sander's Spiritual Leadership. Master the concepts in these two books, spend time daily in the Word and on your knees, and you will be able to lead a team. Influence is paramount in the role of executive pastor and is reflected in building strong relationships with staff and lay leaders. In the process, the vision is spread to others, thus expanding the foundation of leaders and followers. The XP must be capable of leading the staff and lay leaders to effectively carry out their respective ministries. He should not be concerned about his own success but focus on making others successful. The executive pastor should encourage, empower and provide resources to the various ministries and staff. In essence, instead of driving just one bus, he creates a fleet of busses with drivers all moving in the same direction as they fulfill the mission of the church.

PC: To what do you attribute your long relationship with Pastor Jack Graham?

MB: The grace of God. Jack's expectations in me have driven me to be the best I can be. Even after 28 years with my pastor, I am still learning, but each year gets better, more fulfilling and hopefully more effective. From early on, I felt he had great confidence in me, trusted me, believed in me. I always knew I had his support and he had my back. Even when I made mistakes he found a way to encourage me.

PC: If there is one encouragement you'd give to executive pastors who are struggling in their job, what would it be?

MB: I would tell struggling executive pastors to take the time to develop a good working relationship with your pastor. There is no substitution for the time it takes to build confidence, trust and loyalty. Continually remind yourself of what John 3:30 says: "He (Jesus) must increase, I must decrease." Zig Ziglar said it this way: "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want." Executive pastors will struggle until they grasp the importance of building trust among their team and focusing on facilitating their ministries in conjunction with the pastor's vision.

Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is a media producer and strategist. His new book for church and nonprofit leaders is Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Branding and Social Media. Find out more at philcooke.com.

For the original article, visit philcooke.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Phil Cooke) Pastoring Mon, 02 Feb 2015 14:00:00 -0500
Who or What Is Your Bathsheba? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21674-who-is-your-bathsheba-serio http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21674-who-is-your-bathsheba-serio Editor's Note: The following is a pretend scenario. If King David were alive today, this is what he might say to preachers.

King David here ... Even though God described me as the man after His own heart, most people know me as the man who was after Bathsheba. That's what you tell your congregation about me the most.

You've preached a whole lot about me, so now it's my turn to preach to you. Hopefully, you'll learn a lot from my mistakes before it's too late for you. My ministry was cut short because of what I had done and I hope you won't let that happen to you. Might you have your own private Bathsheba in your life? Which month is she? What's her video star name? Let's talk about your personal temptation and porn.

You can't outsmart the wisdom of God. Your secret is known by God. You think that you cover all your tracks and hide all the evidence. That's what I thought when I did my best to hide the evidence of what I did with Bathsheba and to Uriah. No one knew—much like you think that no one will ever know about your porn.

You make sure you delete your browsing history on your computer. You might even have an alternate payment method, an alias chat name or a great hiding place for those magazines. But your private porn is not hidden to an omniscient God. He already knows and He will expose.

You've got it all figured out, just like I thought I did. God desires truth in our inner parts and you're not being truthful. He wants to create a pure heart in you and you're not interested. God will not continue to be mocked by you. Do you really think you can hide what you view and do? Do you think He doesn't see and know? Where is your head?

You know your theology and you especially should know better. God sent Nathan to expose my sin. Who do you think He's going to send in exposing you? You're way in over your head and your secret is not as safe as you think. You will lose in your chess match with God. He will win and He already is winning. I'll show you how—if you're brave enough to still keep reading. Are you still there?

You can't undo the results of sin. Just like I described in Psalm 51 and 32, your secret sin is always on your mind. It's always in front of you. It eats away at you. You're fearfully and wonderfully made that way. God wired you that way. Day and night, God's hand will be heavy upon you when you mess up. You can't stop thinking about your double life and porn secret.

Sometimes the wages of sin are a slow death that starts in your soul. Your body begins to feel it. Your strength is sapped. Your bones feel crushed and waste away. That joy you used to have is now gone. You don't have the same strength or peace you had before.

When you're not trying to justify what you do, you're agonizing over what you do. Your ministry and personality are not the same because of your shame. You've lost your power because you've lost your purity. Your enthusiasm, focus, energy and sincerity are not what they used to be. "Blessed is the one in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Ps. 32:2).

That's not you! You're quite deceitful in the double life that you secretly lead. "Who can ascend the hill of the Lord? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart" (Ps. 24:3-4). That's not you! Your hands are especially unclean as you type on the computer, turn the pages in those magazines, play those naked videos, and use them to switch to the adult viewing channel. Have you not noticed how you've changed? Maybe your wife does but she can't figure out why. And when she does ...

You can't imagine the pain you'll cause. Your family is going to suffer. Your wife, kids and church are all going to pay the price. Innocent people are going to get hurt as a result, like they did with my own porn. I had no idea how much damage I would cause by such a seemingly simple lust for Bathsheba as I walked around on the roof of my palace on that restless night. I had no idea how it would escalate and get out of control.

Bathsheba suddenly lost her husband and then she soon lost the child we had conceived in secret. I had to twice comfort my wife in the unbearable grief that I had caused her to feel. She cried because two people died and it was my fault. Her life was turned upside down because I gave into my temptation.

Your wife is going to feel the same pain. I want to spare both of you that pain that I saw. You vowed that you'd be faithful to her but your eyes can't stay off other women. Their breasts are the ones who captivate you when God tells you to be captivated only by the breasts of your wife. You've broken your wedding vows and you're going to break her heart when she discovers your secret. You're going to make her feel so inferior and inadequate.

As for your kids, how will you feel when you watch your sons do exactly what you're doing? They might follow in your footsteps. You'll always be wondering if their lifestyle is some form of punishment from God, just like I did with my sons Amnon and Absalom.

And let's not forget to add your church family to the list of those who will suffer. Some of your members will gossip. Some who know your wife will look at you differently and you'll wonder why. Others will struggle with their faith because you haven't won your struggle against lust and porn. My private porn and sin with Bathsheba was SO NOT worth it, believe me. But your story doesn't need to end the way that mine did. It's not too late. You still have time.

You can't delay the confession of sin. I did and it cost me dearly. I was like a stubborn horse and mule. You got all puffed up and so full of yourself in your success and decided to let your guard down, just like I had done when I should have been with my soldiers in war on that night when I lusted after Bathsheba. My spirit was hardened and it needed to be broken and softened.

That's what He delights in most of all. All God wanted out of me was a contrite spirit. I needed to admit how weak I was and ask Him to create a pure heart in me because I completely lost mine. Your confession is needed now. You lost all your strength, just like Samson did in his lust for Delilah and like Herod did in his lust for the daughter of Herodias. God will renew your strength in your body and your ministry. He will bring back your joy.

When I confessed to God, I was forgiven by God—immediately! My burden was lifted and my debt was paid. It's so very easy to be forgiven. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, even sexual sin and even your sexual sin. You especially should know that so let's practice what you preach. Let's come clean today.

As long as you continue to watch porn, your spirit is hardened and not broken. Jesus is the friend of sinners and He'll even be your friend once again. Maybe this sermon that I've preached to you is exactly the Nathan that you needed to set you free. After all, that is what He came to do—to set the captives free. You've preached it. Now, let's practice it.

By the way, could you be a little nicer when you preach about me next time? And make sure you come up and thank me when you get to heaven too!

Dr. Sam Serio has pastored churches in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Maryland and South Carolina. He now serves as a counselor, author, speaker and teacher with two website ministries that help people heal from their sexual hurts or habits. He is the president of Ministry Of Mending that equips ministry leaders to more competently and compassionately minister to those who need to experience the grace of God in their deepest sexual pain and darkest sexual secrets. He is also president of Healing Sexual Hurt that evangelizes unchurched seekers to find the healing they are seeking by embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Sam Serio) Personal Character Wed, 01 Apr 2015 12:00:00 -0400
7 Suggestions for Challenging a Controlling Leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21665-7-suggestions-for-challenging-a-controlling-leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21665-7-suggestions-for-challenging-a-controlling-leader After one of my posts about controlling leadership, I received this question:

"Any chance there is an upcoming post or two on how/when/where to confront a controlling leader? Especially for those of us who have had it drilled into our heads from childhood to not question authority? Some practical, nitty gritty tips would be really helpful."

That's a pretty big request and I'm not sure I can speak into specific situations with a general response, but I think it's a topic worth considering.

In my previous post I wrote about the 3 options with a controlling leader. They are Quit, Compromise or Collaborate. In order to get to collaboration—which most of us would want—there almost always has to be a challenge to the controlling leadership. This would be an expansion of the "challenge" thought.

I should point out that while I believe the Bible teaches to respect authority, I don't believe it says we must ignore the abuse of authority. All children should honor their parents, for example, but respect is never an excuse for abuse. There are times when it is appropriate to confront authority. Jesus certainly did during His earthly ministry.

Here are seven suggestions with how to challenge a controlling leader:

1. Discern the need. Pray about it. Talk it through with a select few you can trust with their confidence—emphasis on select few. You should make sure your perception of this leader is correct. Is it them ... or is it you? Then ask this question: Is this my responsibility? Do I sense the burden to do this? Will it make a difference, and if not, do I feel compelled to do it anyway?

2. Consider the timing. When addressing any conflict, timing is everything. Pick a day when things appear to be going well—from the leader's perspective. Find the least stressful, calmest time you can find. You want to catch the leader in the best mood possible. If necessary, schedule an appointment with the leader.

3. Plan your approach. What are you going to say? How will you say it? Will you do this alone or with someone else? You may want to write your response first and rehearse it. In stressful situations, I think it is OK to bring notes. It shows you came prepared and have thought about the issue. Make sure you show as much respect for the leader as you can. Balance your critique with ample and genuine compliments. (There are even times, depending on the expected response of the leader or your expected ability to keep your composure where I would recommend writing a letter. I wrote about how to do that HERE.)

4. Bite the bullet. You can keep putting it off, but at some point you'll have to approach the controlling leader if you hope to see a change. It will never be easy, but who knows that you were not put in this place for "such a time as this"—and by this point you've already discerned the need to do this.

5. Couch in love and respect. This can't be over-emphasized. People don't listen to people who don't show genuine love for them or at least the respect the things or people they love. Most controlling leaders are hungry for respect ... it's part of their problem ... so if you want to gain their attention, be respectful (Again, because I know this is difficult for some people, but being respectful does not mean being silent, just as being meek or gentle does not mean being weak).

6. Be clear and direct. Know what you offer to the leader that can add value to the team—and to the leader. Have some specific areas where you can collaborate with the leader. This is very important. Vagueness accomplishes nothing. Don't make the leader wonder what you are talking about when you confront him or her. Talking around the problem will not be clear to a controlling leader. Most controlling leaders think their control is a sign of good leadership. They don't realize they are the problem. You will not want to take this step to confront more than once, so make sure you are clear with the issues as you see them and how you want to help. If you're going through the stress and preparation to confront, make sure you address the real problem.

7. Live with your consequences. You've prayed and prepared. This is not something you will do very often in your career. But, if you know you are doing the right thing, you confronted the leader with love and respect, you were clear about the problems, then the response of the leader is out of your hands. You can't control the leader's response, but you can control your response to the leader's response. Be willing to live with the consequences of your actions. That may be the one thing you end up modeling for the controlling leader.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson) Personal Character Mon, 30 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
This Fitness Program Helps Pastors Take Back Their Health http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21671-this-fitness-program-isn-t-simply-for-pastors-smith http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21671-this-fitness-program-isn-t-simply-for-pastors-smith As a pastor, my schedule is crazy. Along with constant stress of being on call 24/7, throw in the family time, funerals, and administrative tasks that come along with running a church, and life can zip past you really quick.

Because of the hustle and bustle, it can become easy to let your health take second place. 

Passing by all of the fast food chains after work, it's easier to run through the drive-thru and grab something quick than it is to prepare healthy food at home. Fried and processed food had become my best friend. The greasier, the better. 

As far as exercise goes, the only running I did was in between all the appointments on my calendar. As far as those appointments were concerned, they were loaded with food as well. After all, I was always taught that leaders never eat alone. 

Before I knew it, my health was spiraling out of control. I was literally eating my emotions. Whether I was happy or sad, food was my drug of choice.

After I went to my family doctor for a routine checkup, I got a rude awakening—I had markers that indicated I was headed to a life riddled with heart disease and diabetes. My family doctor, who is also a Spirit filled pastor, said something to me that resonated in my spirit.

I still hear it every day. He said, "Brad, most Christians take better care of their automobiles than they do their bodies." 

It was then that the Holy Spirit began to convict me about my lifestyle habits. I knew that I didn't want to be an overweight preacher. After all, how can I preach week after week about self control when I couldn't even control my fork? If God has only given us one physical body to use as a vehicle to do His work, then we must steward it well. 

At 250 pounds, I began my journey. One of my closest friends, Michael "The Spark" Sparkman, began writing my workouts and tailoring a meal plan for me. As a competing body builder, he learned the skills to work on any physique. With six-night a week workout sessions and extremely altering my diet, I met my goal.

In seven months, I dropped down to 195 lbs.

After running more tests with our family doctor, those dangerous ranges went back to normal. Not only did I regain my health, but it also affected many other people. Our church got a healthier pastor, my wife got a healthier husband, and my children got a healthier father. Now, one of my desires is to help other Christians and ministers regain control of their health so that they can better serve Christ. 

Through a mutual relationship. God put me in contact with Ricky Van Pay, who is an Assemblies of God missionary to athletes. As a way to help ministers regain control of their lives, Ricky launched fitpastors.com.

Fit Pastors is a movement that utilizes personal coaching and technology to work with the busy schedule of ministers so that they can further God's Kingdom in their lives. When a person signs up for the Fit Pastors program, their money can be credited as missions giving because they are supporting a ministry in the process. 

Through the use of Google Hangout, ministers can meet with their coaches on a weekly basis and receive group instruction, prayer, and a challenge. Along with that comes the personal aspect. Each member has access to their coach along with others who vary in areas of expertise. One life at a time, fitpastors.com is taking back health for the gospel. 

Brad Smith is the lead pastor of Pineville First Assembly of God in Pineville, Louisiana. 

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brad Smith) Personal Character Fri, 27 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
3 Reasons Why Ministers Should Be Hard Workers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21662-3-reasons-why-ministers-should-be-hard-workers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21662-3-reasons-why-ministers-should-be-hard-workers Church members and the American public have various perceptions about ministers. Some believe that ministers are not hard workers.

Those of us who serve in local churches hear people say: "You guys only work one day a week!"

Ministers have challenging jobs. In many ways, ministers are never truly away from the office. Technology has only raised the intensity of their never-ending job.

Weddings, funerals, emergencies, and responsibilities on Sundays prevent ministers from having weekends. Yet, with these realities and many more that I did not list, ministers should never be excused from working hard.

Here are three reasons why I believe ministers should be hard workers:

1. The Bible charges ministers to work hard. When Paul was instructing Timothy on the life of being a minister, he talks about the minister being like a soldier, an athlete, and a hardworking farmer. (2 Timothy 2) Unquestionably, we must be equipped like soldiers for the battles of ministry and persevere like athletes as we lead people, but we must also be like a hardworking farmer who works until he sees the harvest.

Humbly, ministers should be known to be hard workers. We cannot claim to be spiritual men if we do not work hard. Laziness should never exist in the life of the minister. Laziness should not be permitted or excused by anyone.

2. The gospel calls ministers to exhaust themselves. I will never forget a conversation I shared with Jim Cymbala, pastor of the great Brooklyn Tabernacle Church in New York. He asked me to preach for him on a Sunday. It was a marvelous experience. I cannot recall how many services I preached, but it was several.

I witnessed Pastor Cymbala lead worship during those services, pouring himself out in prayer and ministry, and leading his people diligently. At the close of the day I asked him, "Pastor, how do you do this each week, plus most of the time you are preaching as well?" He responded to me, "Ronnie, the Gospel calls me to exhaust myself daily for my people."

Pastor Cymbala was 100 percent correct. The gospel of Jesus Christ calls every minister to exhaust himself for others. Even when we are weak physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, the gospel calls us to exhaust ourselves. People are lost and hopeless without Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer. We must give ourselves away until complete exhaustion to advance this gospel message and strive to reach person in the world.

3. The testimony challenges ministers to excel before others. A minister's testimony becomes stronger before others when he works hard. Conversely, nothing lowers the testimony of a minister than when he is lazy. A lazy minister hurts himself not only in the eyes of his people, but he also hurts the testimony of his peers.

As ministers, we represent Jesus Christ. We are called to be a living testimony of Christ and His gospel. Our work ethic either lends credibility to the gospel and the church or it discredits it before the world.

While each minister can have hobbies and sports they enjoy, we should never become more dominated with them than we are with the consuming passion of our calling to advance the Gospel to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.

Dr. Ronnie Floyd has been a pastor for over 37 years. Since 1986, Pastor Floyd has served as the Senior Pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas, which has baptized over 17,000 people during his tenure. Cross Church was one of the first churches in America to go multi-site. In June 2014, Pastor Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has authored over 20 books including FORWARD: 7 Distinguishing Marks For Future Leaders, releasing in 2015.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ronnie Floyd ) Personal Character Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
6 Tips for Pastors Who Struggle With People-Pleasing Guilt http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21654-6-tips-for-pastors-that-struggle-with-people-pleasing-guilt http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21654-6-tips-for-pastors-that-struggle-with-people-pleasing-guilt I have low-grade guilt because I want to always be there for all people—especially all the people in the church I pastor. But I can't.

I want to attend every event, reply to every email, return every call, visit every hospital, do every funeral, officiate every wedding, counsel all who struggle, meet with all who want to meet; but I can't. Funny thing is, no one is pressuring me to do so (OK, maybe a few). It's almost purely self-inflicted guilt.

Of course, I've encountered some who don't understand. I received a letter awhile back from a couple who let me know in no uncertain terms that I was an "unapproachable pastor" that was hurting the church. So they were bidding Grace adieu and moving on to find another church home where they could have a relationship with the senior pastor.

Then there was the guy who cornered me after a service, basically demanding a counseling meeting with me. When I pointed him to our campus pastor, he declared, "Oh, so you're like the Pope!" And he let everybody on social media know his feelings, too.

On and on I could go. And for one who carries low-grade guilt about this sort of thing, comments like the above are an absolute knife to the chest ... and a knife that is left there.

I've adopted Andy Stanley's mantra to "do for one what you wish you could do for everyone." Helpful, but doesn't fully scratch that guilty itch. So I try to take comfort by reminding myself that I'm not the Messiah to anyone. Take heart, my pastor friend, neither are you. And you shouldn't try to be. There is only one—Jesus. Even he set boundaries on how available he was to the masses (see Luke 4:40-43).

I've observed that any pastor who tries to be the Messiah for all people in his church, even a small church, burns out in catastrophic ways emotionally, spiritually, physically, ministerially and maritally. Rarely does he survive and continue in ministry—or in his marriage.

I get to be the senior pastor of a church of four campuses and 2,500-ish people. I preach five services every weekend. I am a husband of one and a father of four who are 10 years old and younger. I am relieved that the majority of the Grace family understands my role and doesn't pressure me to be a Messiah.

But still ... that dang guilt.

So why am I writing this? Therapy, I guess. It's yet another way to try to deal with this guilt. And hopefully my pastoral brothers out there find it strangely helpful. I don't have many answers, but sometimes it's encouraging to simply know one is not alone in the struggle.

Either way, here is my attempt to encourage you, my pastor-brother:

  • Refuse to be the Messiah. Jesus already bled for the church. You don't have to.
  • Share your boundaries with people and stick to them. If you don't, people will determine your boundaries for you.
  • Best you can, develop a team of staff and volunteers, then delegate and entrust the folks and their needs to them. In fact, in a way folks may not understand, you are doing the best for them by doing so.
  • Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.
  • If you get kickback for not being there for everyone, entrust yourself to the Lord. If you want to explain yourself, do so. But don't feel pressured to explain yourself to everyone. Some people will never be satisfied, no matter what you say or do. So don't get sucked into that vortex.
  • As a final straw, if the pressure to always be there is crushing you, and the church has developed a sense of entitlement that expects you to always be there, you might need to consider moving on. But no matter what you do, no matter where you go, that low-grade guilt will remain. Own it, but don't let it own you.

Here is my encouragement to the church folk: Take it easy on your pastor. He loves you deeply, but he cannot be there for you and everyone else.

Believe me, he LONGS to be there! In fact, he lives with deep-seated guilt that he can't; and it's guilt that might even wake him up at 2 a.m. I hope you'll honor him and his limitations. And if he provides direction where you can receive love, care and needs met by other credible and qualified pastors/others (and perhaps even by pastors/others more gifted and qualified to meet your needs than him), trust his heart, his love for you, and take advantage of his direction.

Aah, this was therapeutic indeed ... at least until tomorrow.

Jarrod Jones is the senior pastor of Grace Community Church in Orange County, NY. Grace is a multi-campus church with four locations and a total weekend attendance of approximately 2500. Jarrod is the author of three books: Worship (co-authored with singer/songwriter Joel Engle, 2004), The Backward Life: In Pursuit of an Uncommon Faith (2006) and 13 Ways to Ruin Your Life (2008). Visit Jarrod at jarrodjones.com, then follow the links to find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For the original article, visit churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jarrod Jones ) Personal Character Fri, 27 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
When Trust Fails Many Pastors and Church Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21631-when-trust-fails-many-pastors-and-church-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/personal-character/21631-when-trust-fails-many-pastors-and-church-leaders Trust is a fragile. Trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships. Trust takes a lifetime to build but can be lost at a moment in time. You cannot grow a church without trust.

When you talk about trust or distrust with pastors and church leaders, it almost always falls into two categories—sex and money. And while there have been some very public failures in these areas, I would submit to you these are not the areas most church members distrust their church leadership.

After countless conversations and almost three decades of personal leadership experience, I would submit the two areas where pastors and church leaders are least trusted by their congregations are competence and execution.

  • Competence is defined as "the ability to do something successfully or efficiently."
  • Execution is defined as "the carrying out or putting into effect a plan or course of action."

Trust is most often lost not in whether the pastor or church leader is a good person, has the fruit of the Spirit, is Godly, has high moral character or whether you personally like them or not.

Trust is lost because of broken promises, continual missed expectations, empty high-church rhetoric, lack of movement, inability to make a decision, perpetual stalling in the name of prayer, faulty systems, recklessness, plans which are not well thought through, not addressing issues, repeated poor decisions and multiple failed ministry initiatives.

When pastors and church staff are not trusted, you see the following:

  • Polite smiles as vision is being cast.
  • Shoulders slumped or shrugged.
  • Blank faces indicating apathy.
  • Frustration.
  • Leaders leaving the church or leveraging their financial resources to other churches or organizations with greater Kingdom impact.
  • Increased absences at leadership meetings.
  • Disengagement.
  • Increased efforts not in the church but parachurch organizations.

You also hear phrases like these:

  • "I've heard this many times before."
  • "I'll believe it when I see it."
  • "We never get anything right."
  • "Why didn't they call me.  I could've helped."
  • "Same ole.  Same ole."
  • "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."
  • "They don't have a clue what they're doing."
  • "They'll rotate off the Board soon."

So the questions becomes how do you increase congregational trust? Leaders increase congregational trust by making and executing wise and timely decisions over an extended period of time. In other words, get some wins under your belt. This builds confidence and credibility allowing you to make more important decisions moving forward.

For example, let's look at the life of David. David slayed the bear, then slayed the lion, and only then slayed Goliath.

People trust pastors and church leaders who:

  • Return calls within 24 hours.
  • Complete assignments with excellence.
  • Have everything ready when people show up to meetings or events.
  • Are proactive.
  • Show up to meetings prepared.
  • Don't waste others time. It's the only thing you can't give back.
  • Ask good questions. Are a learner.
  • Admit mistakes and ask forgiveness. Are humble.
  • Include volunteer leaders in the decision and execution process. Frankly, they're probably better at it than most staff.
  • Apply volunteer skill to task.
  • Have meetings before the meeting.
  • Put on good quality events showing you have given it much thought.
  • Deliver sermons which answer the questions people are asking.
  • Demand and do things with excellence.
  • Have the courage to make hard decisions and be willing to live with the results.
  • Are committed to the vision and do not let others hijack it.
  • Build mutually beneficial relationships with leaders.
  • See potential in others and unleash it.
  • Showed you have studied and are prepared.
  • Finish on time.
  • Do things that are memorable.

These are things every pastor and church leader can do to increase trust. And when you do them, you will then gain the support, credibility, funding and trust to attempt even greater things.

Church members know pastors and church leaders are not perfect. They understand seminary taught you Greek and Hebrew but not how to be a CEO of an organization. They appreciate the fact you tried something and it failed because you were trying to reach lost people.

However, your congregational leaders simply will not accept sanitized incompetence, inefficiency or a lack of preparation because it was done in the name of Jesus. That would not be an acceptable excuse where they work. And it is not an acceptable excuse where pastors and church leaders work either.

Trust can be gained or lost by if you are making and executing wise and timely decisions over an extended period of time. Make good ones and if you don't know what to do, ask for help.  Trust me.

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 pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brian K. Dodd) Personal Character Mon, 16 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Pastor, Would You Follow This Prayer Plan? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/21343-pastor-would-you-follow-this-prayer-plan http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/21343-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 churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Mark Dance ) Prayer Mon, 10 Nov 2014 20:00:00 -0500
Why Aren’t We Seeing Miraculous Healing in the US? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/20831-why-aren-t-we-seeing-miraculous-healing-in-the-u-s http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/20831-why-aren-t-we-seeing-miraculous-healing-in-the-u-s 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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Steve Stewart/Impact Nations) Prayer Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Thinking About the Lost Art of Honor http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/20793-thinking-about-the-lost-art-of-honor http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/20793-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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Doug Stringer ) Prayer Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:00:00 -0400
9 Reasons Church Leaders Struggle With Prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/20256-9-reasons-why-church-leaders-struggle-with-prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/20256-9-reasons-why-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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Lawless) Prayer Tue, 30 Jul 2013 16:00:00 -0400
Hal Seed: A Dangerous Prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/20213-hal-seed-a-dangerous-prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/20213-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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Hal Seed) Prayer Tue, 09 Jul 2013 20:00:00 -0400
Praying AG Church Reports Signs, Wonders and Miracles http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/19621-praying-ag-church-reports-signs-wonders-and-miracles http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prayer/19621-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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dan VanVeen/AG News) Prayer Tue, 30 Oct 2012 20:00:00 -0400
What Happens When Fear and Anxiety Invade the Pulpit? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21620-what-happens-when-fear-and-anxiety-invade-the-pulpit http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21620-what-happens-when-fear-and-anxiety-invade-the-pulpit Economic growth results in a higher standard of living. More people are employed and more resources exist to improve education, highways, and social safety nets.

Growth creates more disposable income with which to send missionaries, build churches, and have more meaningful church outreaches to the poor and disadvantaged. Lower national output has opposite effects.

Over the last 10 years, the Federal Reserve has increased the U.S. supply of money (M2) from about six to nearly 12 trillion dollars in an attempt to stimulate the economy. But the expected benefits have been largely offset because the velocity of money has fallen dramatically.

Consumers are less willing to spend. Some of this reaction may be attributed to wise caution and prudence. But, much of this reaction is because consumers have become anxious, less certain of the future, more pessimistic, and even fearful. Anxiety and fear harm economies.

More importantly, anxiety and fear are hindrances to the Kingdom of God. Testimonies are not said. Tithes and offerings are not given. Callings are not accepted. Prisoners are not visited. The poor, homeless and destitute are not helped. Churches, outreaches and even businesses are not started and expanded. Missionaries stay home. Sins remain unconfessed. The hurting are not helped and encouraged because our gifts of the Spirit remain dormant. Anxiety and fear are rampant in today's modern culture and its effects are devastating.

Fear and anxiety can and often does invade our pulpits. The Word is compromised. Sermon topics are selectively chosen so as not to offend. Sin is ignored, minimized and even approved. Preferences are given to the wealthy and well connected. Gifts of the Spirit are in abeyance.

Inspiration is ignored because of a preplanned program or tradition. Too many citizens in the Kingdom are not being equipped. Many are denied the help they so desperately need.

But we have assurances from the King of Kings. Ministers should make every effort to equip the flock to overcome fear and anxiety. As ministers we should model and provoke courage, strength and boldness. The Word gives the following principles.

1. Preach the uncompromising Word of God. Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Timothy 4:2 NASB).

2. Operate in the gifts of the Spirit. For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:6-7 NASB).

3. Emphasize relationship with Jesus and the fruit of the Spirit. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear ... We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:18-19 NASB).

4. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33 NASB)

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James Russell) Preaching Wed, 11 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
To Avoid Charismatic Excesses, These Pastors Actually Quenched the Spirit http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21613-to-avoid-charismatic-excesses-these-pastors-actually-quenched-the-spirit http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21613-to-avoid-charismatic-excesses-these-pastors-actually-quenched-the-spirit As I stated in a recent post, I, like many Christians, tend to be "safely" conservative when considering the power of the Holy Spirit. However, Scripture clearly supports the miraculous work of the Spirit today.

I'm open but cautious. We need sound doctrine and the power of the Holy Spirit. But it is possible to be "Bible taught," but not "Spirit led"—straight as a gun barrel theologically, but just as empty. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (see 2 Cor. 3:6).

Don't get me wrong, 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.

The Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures and empowered Jesus and the Apostles. We are desperately remiss if we fail to recognize His vital role in our lives. I agree with Leonard Ravenhill, "We need to close every church in the land for one Sunday and cease listening to a man so we can hear the groan of the Spirit which we in our lush pews have forgotten."

Sadly, we often pray on the run and scurry through a 5-minute devotional, yet we devote hours to television, movies and the Internet, and we wonder why we know little of the power of the Spirit. R.A. Torrey (friend of D.L. Moody) said, "We must spend much time on our knees before God if we are to continue in the power of the Holy Spirit." The only thing holding many churches together today is social activity, not the activity of the Spirit.

I knew a pastor who instructed his worship leader to remove most of the songs that mentioned the Holy Spirit, or that were "too emotional," and another pastor who removed songs about the blood of Christ. How sad ... in their zeal to avoid charismatic excesses and offensive truths, these pastors actually quenched and grieved the Spirit.

A.W. Tozer insightfully said, "If the Lord's people were only half as eager to be filled with the Spirit as they are to prove that they cannot be filled, the church would be crowded out." I sincerely believe that the greatest need in the church today is to confess our sins, obey the Word, and to be filled with the Spirit.

Christians can embrace one of two extremes concerning the Holy Spirit. At one extreme are those who embrace pure emotionalism and hysteria—"if it's odd, it's God"—all weird behavior is excused. The other extreme lacks a living, vibrant spiritual life. The church feels dead, cold and lifeless. Talk of reviving the things of God (revival) is either dismissed or ridiculed. Both extremes can hinder the work of the Holy Spirit and genuine Christian growth.

I will primarily address the first extreme where I have viewed videos of people supposedly "getting high," "toking" and "drunk" on the Holy Ghost. This is not the same as being filled with the Spirit of God (cf. Eph. 5:18). And I have seen video footage of people being led around like dogs on a leash and acting like animals. Yes, I'm serious ... bizarre and grossly unbiblical manifestations are not reflective of one filled with the Spirit. Those truly filled with the Spirit seek to reflect the nature of God.

When questioned about extremes in this type of odd behavior, there are no answers that find support in Scripture. Common responses are, "I know it seems bizarre, but ... ." Or "I know it's weird, but ... ." Or "You're quenching and grieving the Spirit by not being open." These are not biblically sound responses for such bizarre manifestations.

The Holy Spirit is not quenched when we honor God's Word and "test the spirits, whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1). He is quenched and grieved when we do not test and discern—when we allow the Holy Spirit to be misrepresented. The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:15, said that we are to judge, or discern, all things.

Scriptures are often used in an attempt to support very odd behavior. For example, Acts 2:15 states, "For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day," and John 18:6 records that men "drew back and fell to the ground" when Jesus surrendered Himself shortly before His death. These Scriptures, when used to validate wild, ranting fanaticism, are incorrect and misleading.

Granted, we cannot dismiss the truly miraculous works of God that happen daily, nor can we minimize the incredible power of God to radically change lives through the power of the Spirit. However, in our zeal and excitement we often minimize the need for discernment.

A discerning person considers supernatural experiences in light of God's Word, nature and character. They ask, "Is there genuine fruit? Does the experience align with God's Word? Is the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5 present: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?"

A true, genuine experience with the Holy Spirit will produce godly fruit and obedience to God. It seeks to promote those things that are pure and/or righteous. A word of caution here: Even those in the New Age movement experience powerful feelings of love and euphoria, but it doesn't draw them closer to Christ or lead to repentance or surrender to the true God.

Although sincere, we can be sincerely wrong and seriously misled. Having an experience or being enlightened can create "feel good" emotions, but it does not necessarily mean that it is right. Even though there is flexibility and freedom, our experiences must align with the Scriptures and the character of God. "We should not interpret Scripture in the light of our experiences, but rather, interpret our experiences in the penetrating light of Scripture" (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones).

For part one of this series, click here.

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.

Watch my sermon on Youtube, A Pastor's Thoughts on John MacArthur's Strange Fire Conference​here.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Shane Idleman) Preaching Mon, 09 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
10 Reasons Preaching Is Scary http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21608-10-reasons-preaching-is-scary http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21608-10-reasons-preaching-is-scary Anybody who knows me probably knows I love to preach. I so clearly knew God's calling many years ago that only disobedience would allow me to ignore preaching today.

To be candid, though, preaching scares me. Here's why:

1. I will answer to God for what I say. As a 13-year-old, I strongly sensed God's guiding me, "I want you to preach My Word." I know God will hold me accountable for every word I say, and He will not ignore any carelessness from my lips (Matt. 12:36-37). Recklessness in preaching is an invitation to judgment.

2. What I do affects eternity. Here, I am not suggesting that my preaching somehow trumps the sovereignty of God. On the contrary, I am simply aware that God uses the proclamation of His Word to save souls (Rom. 10:9-15). That truth means that preaching really does have an eternal impact.

3. I may have only one opportunity to speak truth to a hearer. A nonbeliever (or a believer, for that matter) may sit under my preaching only one time. In the midst of a busy life, he/she may offer listening ears for only a few minutes. I will miss that one-time open door if my preaching wanders from the Word.

4. It's easier to talk about "stuff" than it is to teach the Word. Preaching is hard work. From personal exegesis of the text to public proclamation of the message, preachers must dig into the Word, soak in it, be cleansed by it and then deliver it. It's just easier to use a few Bible verses as a launching pad to preach about "stuff" than to do the hard work of Bible exposition—and that reality scares me.

5. At least for a few minutes, everybody is focused on me. Maybe I'm uniquely fallen, but I like the affirmations that come with preaching. For a short while, I am the "man of God" to whom others look for truth. Yes, I want my preaching to direct them to Jesus, but I must be honest with myself: Preaching frightens me because it can instead become a means to build my ego.

6. I can preach in my own strength. I've been preaching for 38 years, 33 of those in full-time ministry. I have two graduate degrees from a seminary, and I've taught preaching courses. What frightens me is that I can rely on my training, my knowledge and my experience when I preach—and completely lack the power and blessing of God.

7. Preaching puts my life under the microscope. Those who listen to my sermons presume my life will validate my words. I preach the Word publicly on Sunday, but they have a right to see obedience and faithfulness in my life every day of the week. In fact, the very Word I preach gives them the lens through which to view my life. That's humbling ... and a bit disconcerting.

8. The devil attacks preachers. The gospel is "God's power for salvation" (Rom. 1:16, HCSB). Thus, it is not surprising that the enemy aims his arrows at preachers to hinder us from preaching and living out the Word. Our very calling to proclaim the gospel puts the enemy's bulls-eye on our back.

9. Somebody probably won't like something about the message. It's too long. Or too short. Not enough Bible. Too much Bible. Too much application, or not enough application. You're too loud. Or too soft. You don't preach like my favorite preachers on the Internet. For those of us who can wrongly be perfectionist and people-pleasing at times, preaching is a risky endeavor.

10. Somebody will listenSomebody who hears will take the message to heart and follow it. I've been in places around the world where hearers take the message and proclaim it almost word-for-word that day to their villages. If somebody is going to listen, I need to approach the Word with seriousness and humility.

For all these reasons, preaching scares me a bit. But here's what scares me the most: I will someday approach preaching without the earnestness it demands. I'm well aware that a healthy respect for the task today can become only routine tomorrow.

Please pray that God will give me grace to keep that slide from happening. If you are a preacher, share this post—and invite others to pray for you as well.

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

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Lawless) Preaching Fri, 06 Mar 2015 13:00:00 -0500
10 Things a Pastor Doesn’t Like to Hear Right After His Sermon http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21600-10-things-a-pastor-doesn-t-like-to-hear-right-after-his-sermon http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21600-10-things-a-pastor-doesn-t-like-to-hear-right-after-his-sermon I've actually assembled more than 10 things church members have told pastors immediately after they preached. But these are 10 responses where pastors have had the most visceral reactions.

1. "I am going to be late for lunch because you preached so long."

2. "You must not have had much time to prepare that sermon."

3. "My former pastor preached a much better sermon from that text."

4. "I wish {fill in the blank} would have heard that sermon."

5. "You act like you weren't feeling well while you preached."

6. "I'm sorry I fell asleep while you were preaching. Your voice just puts me to sleep."

7. "Your subject/verb agreement was incorrect three times in your sermon."

8. "I wish you wouldn't preach from the Old Testament."

9. "Let me tell you what you missed in your sermon."

10. "Are we ever going to be done with this sermon series?"

Pastors often take 10 to 20 hours to prepare a sermon. They pray for God to speak through them. They preach with conviction and fervency. And then they hear one of these sentences.

These 10 responses are close approximations of what pastors have actually told me. I am sure there are many more. Let us hear what they are.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Preaching Tue, 03 Mar 2015 22:00:00 -0500
Ministry and Aviation: A Natural Fit for Pilot http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21597-ministry-and-aviation-a-natural-fit-for-pilot http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21597-ministry-and-aviation-a-natural-fit-for-pilot I cannot remember a time when I wasn't crazy about anything with an internal combustion engine. In my life, I have owned a trophy-winning show car, raced stock cars, and have ridden and raced motorcycles.

I was first introduced to my true passion—flying—at only a few weeks old. But, life and finances always prevented me from fulfilling one of my life dreams. I kept telling myself, "Someday I'm going to get my pilot's license."

One day, I realized that if I didn't start immediately, "someday" might never come. A week later, I began my flight training, and forty hours later, my instructor signed off allowing me to take my Private Pilot Check Ride.

By day, I am a quality engineer at the General Motors Plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have been with GM for more than 15 years, and work to investigate and problem solve quality issues within the frame, wheels and drivetrain of a vehicle.

Like flying, engineering requires attention to detail, and both involve constant multi-tasking. Whether flying a plane or working on one of our popular trucks like the GMC Sierra, you must be focused. If you get distracted someone could get killed. Safety can never be overemphasized.

After receiving my Flight Certificate, I decided to take my beautiful wife Kristina on an adventure, purchasing aerobatic rides together. The moment we returned to the ground, two things were clear to me—I needed to become an aerobatic pilot and we needed to go pray with other aerobatic pilots! Never one to steer away from achieving my dreams, Open Throttle Ministries was launched and I began as an International Aerobatic Club Competitor.

Open Throttle Ministries travels to airshows across the country, praying with pilots who accept our offer to do so and participating in motorsports events in whatever capacity we can. You will regularly see us at some of the top aerobatics events, pulling our fifth wheel with my Chevy Silverado, and leading invocations to start air shows while my wife, Kristina, sings the National Anthem.

Oftentimes, I feel we make sharing our faith far too difficult. We have learned throughout our time working with Open Throttle Ministries that, as Psalm 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the LORD is good." As we continue to share our faith with others at various air shows, the many opportunities of our ministry become clear to us, and we oftentimes find that by sharing our experience, people indeed like what they see.

God loves gearheads and Kristina and I have always wanted to share that love with others. Open Throttle Ministries never charges to attend an event and we are not in this for money. Our ultimate goal at each event we attend is to provide for the spiritual and emotional needs of motorsports enthusiasts such as ourselves, and to share the hope of eternal life and peace with the world.

For those interested in forming their own ministry, it is important that people know forming a ministry while also having a full-time occupation is very possible! I find fulfillment in both of my jobs; in my role at General Motors and leading the ministry—and I see similarities in both I have found that relationships are very important in both realms.

In engineering, I need to have a good rapport with the operators on the shop floor since we interact often, sharing feedback to ensure the top quality and design in all vehicles, like the 2015 GMC Sierra I work on.

In ministry, where I find my greatest passion, I need to have a good rapport with event promoters and organizers so they trust that I have something positive to offer their audience and participants.

Relationships such as these are built over time, much like the relationship with our Lord.

Below is a poem that is very meaningful to me; many pilots know it and love it:

High Flight (By John Gillespie Magee Jr.)

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air ...

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew—

And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."

John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (9 June 1922 – 11 December 1941) was an American aviator and poet who died as a result of a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire during World War II. He was serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he joined before the United States officially entered the war. He is most famous for his poem High Flight.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bryan Hayden ) Preaching Mon, 02 Mar 2015 19:00:00 -0500
Are Sermon Series Really That Important? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21516-are-sermon-series-really-that-important http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/preaching/21516-are-sermon-series-really-that-important Almost instantaneously, sermon series have taken the preaching world by storm. Visit a handful of church websites and you're bound to find a majority promoting their hot, new sermon series.

Despite the popularity of sermon series, many ministers still view them with suspicious glances. Are sermon series really that important?

Over the years, I've found sermon series to be an indispensable tool for both spiritual and numerical growth in the church. If you're not utilizing sermon series, you could be missing out on an incredible way to teach others about the Bible.

Here are four reasons why:

1. Sermon series function as mental reminders for your church. Last year, I preached through a series called, "I Work Out." Because my messages explored spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study, I flooded our congregation with images of bodybuilders and exercise equipment. The whole point behind subjecting my group to biceps and back muscles was so I could create in their minds a mental, relatable reminder of my messages. Essentially, a sermon series is the creation of a metaphor by which your audience can relate to, group together and recall your messages.

Psychologists tell us that the key to moving information from short-term storage to long-term memory is, in fact, association. The human brain has to know where to file new ideas and concepts. With a sermon series, you are taking a number of abstract ideas and communicating them in a picture or phrase that everyone can understand.

2. Sermon series allow you to go deeper into God's Word. For pastors who don't preach through sermon series, every standalone message can quickly become an exhaustive concordance on one particular topic. For example, one sermon on biblical worship can morph into something like this:

Point 1: Worship is Thanking God for Who He Is and What He's Done

Point 2: Worship is Singing

Point 3: Worship is Giving

Because of time constraints, Pastors have approximately 30-40 minutes to hit all three of these points. This often results in a wide, but shallow exploration of worship. By working through a sermon series, however, your messages have an opportunity to dig much deeper. Within a series, your original message might now look something like this:

Week 1: Worship is Thanking God for Who He Is and What He's Done

Week 2: Worship is Singing

Week 3: Worship is Giving

Deep and wide.

3. Sermon series help pastors be better prepared. Whenever I preach a standalone message, I find myself grappling with one big, unshakeable question each time, "What am I going to talk about this Sunday?" Choosing a big idea and passage seems to be half the battle.

Preachers have a greater chance of helping others understand God's Word if they've taken time to chew on it themselves. By knowing what you're going to preach in advance, you'll be better prepared to communicate God's Word more effectively.

4. Sermon series create momentum that can lead to growth. Over the years I've seen firsthand how a well-branded sermon series can produce momentum that, in turn, leads to numerical growth. Two years ago, my church walked through a series called "Outer Space." For a whole month, every message dealt with a passage in the Bible that seemed out of this world. During this time we hit a new attendance goal for our congregation.

Part of that growth can be attributed to our attention-grabbing sermon series.

A well branded, interesting sermon series can create momentum that will lead to more people visiting your church.

I created a FREE tool to help you plan your sermon series and sermons so you can communicate the gospel with absolute effectiveness and efficiency. The Sermon Organizer is a free download. Click Here to learn more.

Justin Trapp serves as associate pastor at Northwood Church and is the founder of Ministry Pass™. Justin blogs about church leadership, creativity, productivity and marketing at justintrapp.com.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Justin Trapp) Preaching Thu, 05 Feb 2015 14:00:00 -0500
Why Conviction Matters in the Life of a Prophet http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/20147-why-conviction-matters-in-the-life-of-a-prophet http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/20147-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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Michelle McClain) Prophecy Fri, 07 Jun 2013 20:00:00 -0400
R.T. Kendall: ‘Knowing John Paul Jackson Was a Privilege’ http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/21628-r-t-kendall-knowing-john-paul-jackson-was-a-privilege http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/21628-r-t-kendall-knowing-john-paul-jackson-was-a-privilege I have think of the irony. I never thought I would speak at John Paul Jackson's memorial service. I always thought it would the other way around considering I will be 80 in a few months; he was only 64.

In January 1991, my wife, Louise, and I flew to Anaheim, California, courtesy of John Wimber. I met Mike Bickle the next day and he was keen to have me meet someone. I sat in a room that looked like a doctor's office. In no time my name was called. I was introduced to John Paul Jackson by Mike, although he did not tell John Paul my name or anything about me.

For the next several minutes John Paul told me things about my life that seemed to me to be supernaturally revealed to him. He then prophesied a number of things; some have come to pass, some have not. Those which have come to pass include three books he said I would write and especially that I would have influence one day in South Africa.

When it was all over, as I was leaving I turned to him and said, "Young man, if what you say is true the world will know about it; if what you say is false, the world will know about it." I forgot I said that. John Paul repeated this several times. He said it scared him nearly to death.

Mike Bickle brought John Paul to see me in my vestry at Westminster Chapel in 1993. It was then John Paul gave more prophecies, especially one about our son T. R.—an almost incredible word that came true with amazing accuracy in 1995. The next time I saw John Paul was in September 2001, a couple weeks after 9/11. He then gave me the most astonishing and thrilling prophecy I have ever received.

However, this one has not been fulfilled. A couple years later I preached with him for CLAN in Scotland and did it two years in a row. Subsequently, I became a member of his board of directors. I introduced him to bonefishing in Bimini, Bahamas.

I had hoped we would have a return trip to Bimini this year. Most of all, for some reason I thought that he and I would have some kind of ministry together. We had preached together a few times, were on TV together, did some videos, but most recently a planned trip to India had to be canceled and also one to Hong Kong. So the thought of further ministry with him is now over. I am having to come to terms with life without John Paul.

I spent about 30 minutes making a video for use at his memorial service. Because of time it was edited down to seven or eight minutes. One of the things left out (they had to edit it because of time for other speakers) was John Paul's emphasis on "character is more important than gifting." One would have thought this goes without saying, but, sadly, there were a surprising number of Charismatic leaders who opposed this teaching. John Paul's view regarding character over gifting was one of the main things that made me feel comfortable about him. Holiness is more important than seeing miracles.

But now he is gone. The Lord snatched him away. Yes. It was the Lord. If you think it was a victory for Satan, shame on you! God is bigger than the devil. Why God was pleased to take John Paul is unprofitable speculation. But what is not speculation is God's will to do this.

We may never know why. It is none of our business. What is our business is to focus on God and trust in His faithfulness and sovereignty. My heart goes out to Diane his wife and their two sons—also those connected to Streams Ministries whose future may be in doubt. But God will look after each of them, be sure of that.

I will miss him. I am pretty sure I will miss him more than almost anyone who reads these lines. I shall seek the face of God more earnestly than ever—not to find out why God took John Paul but what we are to do in days ahead. I have only a vague idea. It will be interesting for me to see if John Paul's most daring words concerning my own future will come true. Don't ask me what they are. I will only say that if they are true, (1) I will be around a while longer and (2) God has plenty for me to do.

I must say that one of the most helpful prophetic words he gave me was some 10 years ago when we lived in Key Largo, Florida. Out of the blue he said: "R. T., you will live to a ripe old age. But if you don't get in shape physically you won't be around to enjoy it" (or words to that effect). I took them seriously. These words changed my life.

Steve Strang gave me exercises which I do regularly to this day. T. R. bought me a special book on dieting. I have no doubt that I would not have come through open heart surgery so brilliantly seven years ago—or be able to travel the world as I do—had not John Paul have given me those unexpected words. And yet I still thought I would die first. I think he did too. I think he was counting on a miracle to raise him up right to his death.

So John Paul was not right about everything. After all, Paul said, "We know in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Cor.13:9). Also, we prophesy "in proportion to our faith" (Rom.12:6). And since nobody has a perfect faith except Jesus (John 4:34), none of us of us should expect to be infallible in our understanding of God's word or in our application of it. That is enough to humble us. None of us is perfect.

Many of us have a lot of thinking to do. I know I do. I don't think we should be hasty in trying to figure things out. I do suspect that there needs to be a sea change or paradigm shift in much of our thinking about the prophetic realm. For my part, I am a "word" man. I don't claim to have a prophetic gift. I only want to know what God wants me to know—nothing more.

One last thing (for now). I myself have made a big deal about prophetic people not saying "the Lord told me" when they utter their words. The habit of saying "the Lord told me" is the hardest to break for people like this. But John Paul not only agreed with me but asked me to share this perspective at his last Convergence Conference with 70 or 80 prophetic people present. I was very forthright with them—fully expecting them to be against me. If they were, they didn't show it. In fact, all I talked with agreed with me. Whether they will be able to put into practice what I talked about—not saying "the Lord told me"—remains to be seen. It is my view that you and I should not say "the Lord told me this or that"; it is transgressing the Third Commandment not to take the Name of the Lord in vain or misuse His Name (Exod.20:7; Matt.5:33-37).

To make the audacious claim "the Lord told me" means that God swore an oath to you which in turn means you can't get it wrong. But thousands do get it wrong, which goes to show the Lord didn't tell them after all. I fear that our desire to say "the Lord told me" is not out of the wish to give Him glory but to make ourselves more credible—which is not right to do.

I thank God for John Paul. It was a privilege to know him. Let us honor him but without esteeming him too much—or God will be displeased with us.

R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London from 1977 to 2002. He now lives in Nashville, Tenn. He is a well-known speaker and the author of many books, including Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit's Work in Our Lives (Charisma House, 2014). Order the book here.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (R.T. Kendall) Prophecy Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Flood of Aberrant Doctrines Endangering True Faith http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/20143-flood-of-aberrant-doctrines-endangering-true-faith http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/20143-flood-of-aberrant-doctrines-endangering-true-faith r-loren-sandfordbigI am burdened with concern right now for the body of Christ. The days are urgent, and time is limited. We need to be ready, alive and alert to the Spirit. People around us are hurting, the world rushes toward coming catastrophes, and yet I see too many believers who should know better falling into self-centered emotional turmoil, moral compromise and inconsistency at just the time when we need to be at our finest and most focused. Lives are at stake.
 
I'm not just talking about my own flock. I see this in too much of the wider body of Christ, even as a remnant sharpens its hunger and passion for God. In my book Visions of the Coming Days, I wrote of the preparation we need to be making, but I despair that few have read it and that even fewer understand the urgency of what they're reading. I wrote of a sense of hope for the economy from 2012 into 2013 and said that it could not last. This current period of relative improvement has lulled many of us into complacency, a sense that it’s all going to be all right. It isn’t. We’ve been given a limited season of grace in which to prepare for difficult times, more than just economically, and we must use it.
 
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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Loren Sandford) Prophecy Thu, 06 Jun 2013 16:00:00 -0400
How to Give a Church Prophetic Correction http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/20109-how-to-give-a-church-prophetic-correction http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/20109-how-to-give-a-church-prophetic-correction MichelleMclainWhen ministering in a church, the prophet should have a specific area the Lord has revealed that needs correction. Jesus gave each church a specific place of constructive criticism.

It’s important at this stage to determine if the message should be given to the senior leader publicly or privately. Most words of correction should be judged by leadership before their delivery over the congregation. The interpretation and application of the prophetic word is at the discretion of the senior leader. The senior leader must filter the partial, progressive and conditional part of the prophecy.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Michelle McClain) Prophecy Mon, 20 May 2013 13:00:00 -0400
John Eckhardt: Understanding the Office of the Prophet http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/20081-john-eckhardt-understanding-the-office-of-the-prophet http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/20081-john-eckhardt-understanding-the-office-of-the-prophet johneckhardt1The highest level in the prophetic realm is the office of the prophet.

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. —1 Corinthians 12:28

The prophets will have the strongest utterances because they speak by the spirit of prophecy, the gift of prophecy, and also out of the strength of the prophet’s office. They have the grace to speak messages that go beyond words of edification, exhortation, and comfort.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (John Eckhardt) Prophecy Thu, 02 May 2013 13:00:00 -0400
Perry Stone: How to Judge a Prophetic Word http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/19983-perry-stone-how-to-judge-a-prophetic-word http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/prophecy/19983-perry-stone-how-to-judge-a-prophetic-word perry-stoneIf a person claims to have received a word from the Lord to give to you, the first important point is to “recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you” (see 1 Thess. 5:12).

Is the person respected in the church and in the body of Christ, or is he or she a rebel on the loose and a self-appointed prophet who left a church in a negative manner because the “pastor wasn’t spiritual enough”?

At times, pastors detect arrogance and pride and a wrong spirit, and this is why this lone ranger prophet or prophetess was removed from the assembly of the saints! So the first point is not to accept a word just because a person claims, “The Lord told me thus and so . . . ” Know something about the person’s reputation and character.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Perry Stone) Prophecy Fri, 22 Mar 2013 13:00:00 -0400
Will Your Church Be a Part of the Great Spiritual Awakening on the Horizon? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21649-will-your-church-be-a-part-of-the-great-spiritual-awakening-on-the-horizon http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21649-will-your-church-be-a-part-of-the-great-spiritual-awakening-on-the-horizon I believe God is preparing the church for another reformation. The first reformation focused on what the church believed; this one will focus on what it does.

For too long we've separated the Word of God from the work of God. As the church, we're called to be the body of Christ—the whole body. We're not just called to be the mouth of Christ, but the feet and hands as well.

Every time a new reformation has come, five renewals have preceded it. The awakening and reformation of the global church will begin with churches like yours. The same five renewals will precede this movement in your church:

1. Personal renewal. It starts with the heart. If God is going to renew your church, he'll begin it with you—and then it has to continue with the rest of your church. You might call it rededicating your life, being filled with the Spirit or the "deeper life." I don't care what you call it. Just get it! Pastor, the bottom line is this—you need to fall in love with Jesus again. Do that and all of a sudden it's not about religion and rituals; it's about a relationship with Jesus. You realize that Jesus doesn't just love you, but He likes you.

2. Relational renewal. After you get right with God, you've got to get right with others. Jesus told us this. He told us to love God with all of our heart and then love others as ourselves. When you have relational renewal in your church, the gossip goes down and the joy goes up.

How do you know when a church has been through relational renewal? People hang around longer after the service. They want to spend time together. If people don't want to hang around after your services, you have a performance, not a church. The church is more than content; it's a community.

3. Missional renewal. This is when a church discovers what God wants it to do. We have a kingdom assignment. We're not here just to bless one another. God wants to bless the world through us. Specifically, God has given the church five purposes—worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism. Missional renewal happens when we focus our churches on these purposes. When your church gets personal, relational, and mission renewal, it can't help but grow.

4. Cultural renewal. In this stage, God renews the culture of the church. I've known pastors who have tried to change the culture of the church without going through the other three renewals. There's a word for that—martyrdom. You cannot change the culture of the church. Only God can. But once the first three renewals have happened in the church, God will change the culture.

5. Structural renewal. After your church has been through the first four renewals, it's going to outgrow your current structure. No doubt about it. I've seen it happen at Saddleback. The structure that works for a church of 100 won't work for a church of 250 and so on. There is no perfect structure in Scripture. Why? Every situation is different. We've got to structure our churches differently depending on our circumstances. We change structures just about every year at Saddleback. You can't put new wine in old wineskins. As your church begins to get healthier and healthier, the structure has to change.

There's a sixth renewal, but it doesn't happen in the local church. Institutional renewal happens when Christianity's institutions change. Institutions like seminaries and denominations are always the last ones to change; they never start the change process. Change always happens first in the local church. Institutions are there to preserve the change of the previous generation. Take a look at a tree. The growth of a tree is never on the trunk. It's always on the new branches. Institutions are like trunks. They provide stability not innovation.

A great spiritual awakening is on the horizon. Will your church be a part of it? Be aware of these five stages of renewal. As a pastor, God has called you to be a catalyst in the renewal of your church. You can't do that unless you know where your church is on its journey.

Exciting days are ahead of us!

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

Pockets of true revival are breaking out across the nation. 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.

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 pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rick Warren ) Vision Tue, 24 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Synergy: The Catalyst for Succession http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21647-synergy-the-catalyst-for-succession http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21647-synergy-the-catalyst-for-succession There is an increasing desire to consider how the church will handle the generations. The church's rapid decline in cultural influence, the amount of empty church buildings, the brokenness of families, and a generation of older leaders finishing their race has added up to a riveting reality that there is a glaring void of generations working together.

Impacting ministries find themselves facing extinction or major reduction in scope as generations move further away from each other.

The aching question among many leaders is: "What do we do?"

The recent, tragic loss of Dr. Myles Munroe has been deeply felt by many around the world. At the time of his death, he was carrying a mission to address this issue of needed succession. He had a dream that he believed revealed the conditions keeping generations separated.

Just before his death he had been making efforts to impart a passion to have generations come together and find the way for succession. He was trumpeting a call to see generations discover how to make the transition of leadership so existing kingdom endeavors would continue for decades to come.

A news report shared him communicating the dream he had that was very insightful and challenging. When I heard him share his dream via this video (see video interview below from 1:30 to 3:16), my heart was gripped again to see this crises resolved. I felt the burden he carried. There were three main points I saw his dream speak of:

  • The old guards wanted to hold onto their positions
  • Young leaders have to fight for a place to be involved
  • Young leaders would have to peel the baton from the dead fingers of older leaders.

These points reveal the serious need to look further into what can be done to resolve these dilemmas. To do that, we have to be willing to question the way succession has been approached, how generations are looked at, and why generations long to have each other but tend to go away from each other. These questions need to challenge the current paradigms. The present absence of successful succession calls us to evaluate how succession is being handled. 

For the last seven years, I've been sent across America and other nations, calling for the church to aim for generational synergy that will provide what is needed for great succession. The objective of bringing 3 generations into synergistic relationships and mission must become the heartbeat of every leader. When 3 generations live out a mindset of "carry the baton together" instead of one carry it and then pass it on, there is easy and natural succession that happens as needed. There is an inherent struggle when one generation carries a baton for decades and then at the end of an older leader's life they start looking for someone younger to take their place.  f the aim stays at that level, there will continue to be less than successful results to carry on ministry assignments. 

There is such a critical need for older leaders to make room for younger leaders and find the ways for succession to be a victorious reality. I am submitting that in order to achieve what is desired in succession, we must aim higher. We must aim for a lifetime of synergy. If we aim for succession only, we fall short of the powerful benefits of synergy. When we aim for and achieve synergy, successful succession is not a struggle. Leaders of each generation living out the kingdom dynamics of synergy will accelerate kingdom advancement and create longer lasting and deeper impact. Then, when an older generation's time comes to graduate, it does not become about filling someone's shoes. Things carry on, as generations have already been shouldering the assignment together. 

The book, Generational Synergy, provides excellent biblical insights of how generational synergy was required to overcome a death culture in the days of Mordecai and Esther and a paralyzing giant in the days of Saul and David. Synergy had a major role in the foundations of the New Covenant Church through Paul and Timothy. We don't see Esther succeeding Mordecai. They worked synergistically. David and Saul worked synergistically to overthrow Goliath, but they divided when it came to succession of the throne. Timothy didn't succeed Paul. They worked synergistically to establish the church for global impact. These efforts in synergy provided the required ability to see significant victory and advancement. In the same way, synergy in our day will create the needed dynamics for global influence.

The critical situations and chaos of our day demand synergy. When synergy is functioning, succession is an amazing byproduct to carry on the victories that were won together. My prayer is to see a resolve to the circumstances depicted in the dream Dr. Munroe saw and communicated. I believe the remedy is achieved by generational synergy. This will release the generations to operate together instead of working alone successively. I pray the hearts of fathers turn toward sons and sons turn toward fathers in ways that are relationally fulfilling, not just about carrying on a project. I pray their hearts would turn toward each other in ways that develop and release each generation to the fullness of who they are so more is achieved together than the sum of what each do on their own. 

Synergy is the catalyst for succession. If synergy is achieved, succession is at its strongest availability. May the generations rise together in a synergistic approach for kingdom expansion. Esther 8 reveals Mordecai and Esther were given the assignment together to rewrite the decrees for the future, and the king would seal it with his signet ring. The future needs the generations of today "writing" together. The King will set His seal of authority on that which has the generations working as one. Those who are able to discover the ways to have generations moving synergistically will be the leading force in the next decades and will see the longest lasting, deepest impact in the years to come.

May batons no longer be in just one generation's hand! May young leaders no longer have to fight to have a place to contribute what God has given them to deposit! May there not be any generation that demands they stay in positions of power! May the hearts of the generations rise and demand we go at the future together instead of waiting for one generation to die off before another can be involved.  May generational synergy be the key unlocking further glory in the nations! May the grace to have generations run as one be unleashed now upon the church! 

Eric Reeder leads RISEmovement and serves on the Leadership Council of Federation of Ministers and Churches International (FMCI) at generationsrise.com. For the original artcle, click here.

Copyright © 2015 GenerionsRISE, All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Eric Reeder ) Vision Mon, 23 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400
The Price of Pleasure: How Ministry Pornography Can Destroy a Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21543-the-price-of-pleasure-how-ministry-pornography-can-destroy-a-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21543-the-price-of-pleasure-how-ministry-pornography-can-destroy-a-church Lately, a lot of "so called" experts believe the church is in decline. I don't.

As a result, there are plenty of conferences offering their latest and greatest pitch to stop the church's decline. Each year we're invited to hear "celebrity" pastors share God's plan for the church and how we ought to adopt it and be large and successful like them. Frankly, I'm surprised that there hasn't been a venue to really address how and why churches grow.

Many pastors and church leaders make their annual pilgrimage to Catalyst, Saddleback Church, Willowcreek Association's Leadership Summit, North Point's Drive Conference, Greater St. Steven FGBC, The Potter's House, etc. and come away excited and delusional with unrealistic expectations. Ed Stetzer calls it ministry pornography.

According to Ed Stetzer:

"Ministry pornography is an unrealistic expectation of an experience you're never going to have, which distracts you from the real thing.

God used these churches and their pastors for a specific time and in a specific place. Unfortunately, that experience is rarely duplicated. If you were to take the aforementioned churches and transplant them in other areas, the results would be drastically different.

Can you imagine Bill Hybels, Rick Warren or Andy Stanley leading an inner-city urban church? Or can you see Bishop T.D. Jakes screaming, "Get Ready ... Get Ready ... Get, Get, Ready" at Saddleback or North Point Church? Simply put, God rarely does the same thing twice.

Ministry pornography is an unrealistic expectation of an experience you're never going to have (Tweet this).

Here are some suggestions on how to break your addiction to ministry pornography:

  1. Confess your addiction to ministry pornography and repent!
  2. Try not to attend any conferences for one year.
  3. Get alone with your Bible, pen and paper and discover God's purpose for the church (read Matt. 22-37-40, 28:19-20; the entire book of Acts).
  4. Get a demographic breakdown of your community (U.S. Census Bureau or your local Chamber of Commerce).
  5. After discovering the purpose of the church, write down how your church plans to reach that community (this is the hard part). Make sure it's less than a paragraph because people don't like to read long statements.
  6. Preach/teach a series on God's vision for the church and how you plan to fulfill it.
  7. Reorganize your church's leaders, staff, volunteers and structure (in that order).
  8. Evaluate and tweak your plan/strategy.

Be unique—God rarely does the same thing twice (Tweet this).

As for the church, our best days are not behind us; they're right now and ahead of us. So, what's your next step? I'd love to hear it!

The Rev. Clarence E. Stowers Jr. succeeded his father, Dr. Clarence Stowers Sr., as the pastor of the historic Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago in 1999. Mars Hill has experienced phenomenal ministry growth under his visionary pastoral leadership since then. Follow Rev. Stowers' blog, The Urban Pastor or check out Mars Hill's website.

For the original article, visit cestowers.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rev. C.E. Stowers) Vision Wed, 18 Feb 2015 17:00:00 -0500
3 Actions to Take When Ministry Is Defeating You http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21515-3-actions-to-take-when-ministry-is-defeating-you http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21515-3-actions-to-take-when-ministry-is-defeating-you Pastors experience seasons when ministry defeats them. I have been there personally. At times, I still get there.

What This Looks Like

When ministry is defeating you, failure seems to be at your door continually. Perhaps ministry seems like it cannot return to what it once was before this season. Simultaneously, the critics are making themselves known loudly. You struggle daily, trying to move things along positively, but setbacks seem to be your daily challenge. You look around and nothing seems positive at all.

You determine to bring things back and set your gaze on the future positively. Yet questions continue, insecurity abounds, and you are really not confident you have it within you to do what needs to be done. You try, but every decision is like climbing a mountain and every emotion is hyper-sensitive.

People notice you are struggling and try to encourage you. While their intentions seem pure, their words seem so futile. You have stopped believing in yourself and even struggle in believing God can change the situation. This makes their words seem meaningless.

Have you ever been anywhere close to this? If so, what did you do? How do you press forward and get through to the other side?

Take Action

To be honest with you, I have been there. And even a list of actions may seem like I am trivializing the situation you may find yourself in. Please know, I speak from some experience. I have done ministry a long time and if anyone has a decade under their feet, they have experienced challenges similar to what I described above.

What actions can you take to press through to a new day, filled with joy, peace and hope in ministry? Let me suggest these three actions:

1. Take it to the Lord in prayer daily. No, I am not trying to spiritualize the situation, but in reality, your present status is worthy of continual prayer. We cannot ignore the dynamic of God moving in your life, lifting you up from your present feelings, and placing you on the higher ground of faith. Our God is able to restore your faith, readjust your perspective and refresh your spirit.

2. Gain perspective about where you really are right now. When you are under the cloud of defeat, it becomes increasingly difficult to see matters as they really are. Gaining perspective is just not as easy as it was once. So how do you gain perspective?

I remember someone telling me years ago: Just remember, things are never as bad as they appear to be, nor as good as you think they are. This is why you need people in your life that will be honest with you from their perspective. It also helps to have people that are not always in your fan club.

Additionally, consider retreating from the setting for a day or two, attempting to gain perspective by seeing things from a distance rather than trying to gain perspective in the middle of the weeds. I believe at times this is why Moses went to the mountain. Yes, to pray, to talk to God, but also to see things from God's perspective. This is what every leader needs to do periodically.

3. Determine you are moving toward victory and plan accordingly. The problem with this defeat syndrome pastors often experience is that there are times we just settle in and begin to accept it as the norm. A defeated leader leads negatively, and negative leadership leads to nothing.

Change your attitude now, and chart a path for yourself that will move you forward to victory. In reality, the only thing you can change is your response to the situation. Sometimes the situation remains the same.

Here's a little perspective for you: Ministry is full of seasons. Sometimes we have winning seasons and sometimes we feel we are experiencing some losing seasons. Things change. You change. Churches change.

Determine now that you are going to ride this out and move forward with a victorious attitude regardless of the season you are in as a leader. You will have a miserable ministry if you let the circumstances you face determine your level of joy. Refuse to do that.

Rise up, pastor. Go forward. Set your sights on victory. Charge!

Dr. Ronnie Floyd has been a pastor for over 37 years. Since 1986, Pastor Floyd has served as the senior pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas, which has baptized over 17,000 people during his tenure. Cross Church was one of the first churches in America to go multi-site. In June 2014, Pastor Floyd was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has authored over 20 books, including FORWARD: 7 Distinguishing Marks For Future Leaders, releasing in 2015.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ronnie Floyd) Vision Wed, 04 Feb 2015 20:00:00 -0500
8 Ways Local Churches Have Become a Straitjacket for Some Believers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21499-8-ways-local-churches-have-become-a-straitjacket-for-some-believers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21499-8-ways-local-churches-have-become-a-straitjacket-for-some-believers I have served as a senior pastor for 30 years, and I have also worked extensively with political, community and business leaders over the past three decades. As my understanding regarding the kingdom of God and marketplace ministry has evolved, I see church with a new lens and notice the frustration many young people and professionals have regarding their local churches.

Many in these categories feel limited rather than celebrated and released into their callings.

In the context of this article, I use the word "straitjacket" as a metaphor to mean limitation and constriction of leadership potential. I believe if the church does not shift toward a kingdom mindset and move away from an empire-building mindset, we will continue to alienate some of the best and brightest young leaders in our generation. I speak this as a leader who believes the local church is the visible expression of the invisible Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), and the hope of the world.

The church as structured in the New Testament is able to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). I write this article with a deep yearning in my heart for the church to go to the next level so we will not continue to be irrelevant to the surrounding culture and miss great opportunities to disciple world-changers.

The following are ways the local church has become a straitjacket instead of a releaser of kingdom purpose:

1. When church leaders are the only ones viewed as ministers. For the church to disciple nations (Matt. 28:19) and exert cultural influence (Gen. 1:28; Matt. 5:13-16), we must recognize and even commission (not ordain or give out ecclesial titles) those called to high-level marketplace leadership in the secular arena. After all, Jesus rose from the dead so He could fill all things (Eph. 4:10). The only way this can happen is for the church to nurture, celebrate and release members called to the marketplace. If a church makes a conceptual distinction between church leaders and marketplace leaders by only referring to the former as ministers, then we are missing an opportunity to strategically place believers into every sphere of society.

Ephesians 4 teaches that Christ gave the church five-fold ministers to train God's people for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). Based on the context starting in Ephesians 4:10, we need to redefine the work of the ministry to include the filling up of all things on the earth, which means the equipping and sending of saints into every sphere of life, not merely equipping the saints called to full-time church ministry.

2. When business leaders are only valued for their tithes and offerings. Many high-level business leaders I meet are very frustrated because they are either sitting under a pastor that has a lower level of natural leadership in their personality than they do, and/or they are only valued in the church because of the amount of tithes and offerings they give to the congregation. Business leaders in the first category should find an apostolic leader in the body of Christ (even if they are not in their same geographic region) they can receive input from, even if it is not their local church pastor.

They should stay in their local church as long as their family is receiving nurturing and pastoral care. This is a better option, for this would not allow these business leaders to get frustrated and opt out of church altogether (which many unfortunately do). Those only valued for their financial giving will be underutilized in the church; they will feel like they are in a straitjacket instead of a place that enables their leadership gifts to flourish.

3. When the pastor is an empire builder. When a pastor is an empire builder, they only want to utilize marketplace leaders and their finances to build bigger buildings and support their programs. This is all good and fine, but limiting, since the message of the kingdom (Gen. 1:28; Eph. 4:10) commands Christ-followers to fill up everyone else's buildings, not just our own. Empire builders are only committed to people commensurate to the support they receive for their empire.

Kingdom builders wash the feet of marketplace leaders and help equip them to maximize their purpose in their cultural sphere. Pastors committed to releasing Christian leaders called to the secular arena will never have any lack of financial giving toward their own local church programs because of the law of reciprocity: Whatever you sow you will reap.

Marketplace leaders in an empire-building church will usually feel like they are only being used instead of being celebrated and blessed.

4. When the preaching centers on escape rather than engagement. Pastors who focus their preaching mostly on heaven and escaping the earth will greatly limit the vision and capacity of their members called to influence and engage the earth. After all, the Bible is not a book about heaven but the most practical book ever written regarding the stewardship of the earth.

5. When the view of the kingdom is mystical. Many in full-time church ministry have a dualistic view regarding life: that God only values spiritual things and the physical world is not as important. This goes against the fact that Jesus is both Creator of the material universe as well as the Redeemer of our souls (John 1:3-4; John 12-13).

Consequently, pastors with a dualistic view will only focus their preaching and ministry on prayer, healing, and the spiritual disciplines and gifts. Their view of the kingdom is limited to things spiritual. Marketplace leaders find such myopic focus mystical and not practical. (Of course, they see the importance of the spiritual disciplines, gifts and prayer, but integrate it into their function in the secular arena.)

Marketplace leaders are used to mapping out business strategies; they utilize budgets and have practical goals and objectives. Hence, mystical leadership that does not connect to practical living frustrates and limits their participation. In the kingdom of God we are called to be "spiritual" instead of "mystical."

Spirituality does not mean non-engagement with the material world, but the ability to function in every aspect of life while walking in the fruit and power of the Spirit (the Spirit-controlled life as shown in Acts 1:8 and Gal. 5:22-23).

6. When young people are not matured into disciples. When a local church merely has a vision for youth that involves entertaining them with games, concerts and fellowship, they greatly limit their vast potential and pigeonhole them into a straitjacket. Young people need to be challenged, trained and given a sense of purpose—not just entertained. Youth groups that do not disciple and preach a strong word can easily become havens for sex and drugs.

Youth groups should not go for large crowds at the expense of compromising the primary call of the church, which is to make disciples.

7. When leaders are not nurtured and sent out. When a local church only has a vision for itself and not for church multiplication and cultural engagement, high-capacity leaders will feel limited and bored. The only healthy churches are the ones who continually recognize the potential of new members and harness and harvest their potential for the glory of God.

8. When the pastor is a micromanager. Marketplace leaders and young professionals are often critical thinkers who value creative freedom. Pastors who have to be involved with the entire minutia in tasks they assign to their leaders will frustrate and alienate them. Conversely, kingdom-minded pastors would usually lay out the framework for tasks assigned to these leaders and give them the opportunity to improvise and exhibit freedom to operate within the framework.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Vision Wed, 28 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
Balance: The Key to a Healthy Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21486-balance-the-key-to-a-healthy-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/vision/21486-balance-the-key-to-a-healthy-church Ask the acrobat about balance. Walking the tightrope far above the circus ring or bouncing around the "balance beams" without a strict attention to balance, nothing works.

The lever is about balance. Riding a bike demands balance. Standing upright and walking. Weighing out gold on a scale.

A business will want a balance between credits and debits, income and outgo. It will try to find the right balance between research and development, between product and personnel.

Before our plane left the gate, the pilot made an unusual announcement. "Ladies and gentlemen, since we have so many empty seats, it's important that we balance our load. We need 10 of you to get up and move toward the rear of the plane. Take any seat past row No. 15. Thank you very much."  (In nearly 50 years of air travel, I heard that announcement one time.)

Balance in nature is vital to survival of life on the planet. Plant and animal life must be kept in relatively constant proportions, we are told.

"There needs to be one more Beatitude: Blessed are the balanced."  —Warren Wiersbe

The key word for church health is balance. A healthy church is balanced between:

1. The One and the Many 

God so loved the world (John 3:16), the whole bunch of us. Yet, He calls you by name (John 10:3).

Either Charlie Brown or Lucy Van Pelt—I forget which—said, "I love mankind; it's people I can't stand." A healthy church will find how to do both.

An unbalanced church may love missions but neglect its own neighborhood.  It raises big offerings for missionaries but puts no premium on members witnessing to their neighbors or volunteering at the homeless shelter.

A minister friend who survived a series of health crises, told some of us later about a decision he had made. From now on, he would spend more time with individuals. "Before, I did not have time for individuals," he said, "but only for groups of people, for large numbers. I see now what an error that was."

The gospels present Jesus in both ways, spending quality time with individuals such as Nicodemus (John 3), the woman at Jacob's well (John 4), and Mary and Martha (Luke 10), and yet, with appropriate attention to the large crowds.

2. The Word and the Work 

Some Christians prefer to lock themselves in and study the Word while neglecting the field outside the door. They would rather spend hours on their knees praying for the unreached than to invest the same amount of time in ministry across town.

A healthy church knows there is a time to sit and study and a time to stand and worship, and likewise there is a time to leave the church building and take the good news of Jesus into the neighborhoods, trailer parks and housing projects, the offices and the homes.

A preacher friend started a church that meets in homes. He laughed at the name his small group had chosen for themselves: "Doctrinal Studies Baptist Church." Without knowing anything more, we might be concerned they are doing the "Word" but not the "work."

There is a real sense, of course, in which teaching the Word is obeying and doing the Word. But that in itself is not enough. History is littered with sad tales of church people who did religion well but neglected what Jesus called "the weightier issues" of justice, righteousness and mercy (Matt. 23:23).

3. Love and Hate 

What we support and what we oppose will tell volumes about us. There is a time to love and a time to hate. Franky Schaeffer wrote a book titled A Time for Anger, urging God's people to develop some backbone and resist the encroachment of wickedness and complacency.

The so-called Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, is noted for what they oppose. If they have ever espoused anything, I've not heard. (Some have pointed out that they are not a real church with an actual location, worship services, etc. I have no personal knowledge of their setup.)

Other churches may brand themselves as centers of love. They advertise their "open door, loving arms" policy. In an attempt to welcome everyone and show love to all, some have lost all standards of righteousness altogether. They are out of balance.

4. Present and Future 

I've known churches devoted to Bible prophecy and little else. The old line about some who are so heavenly-minded they are no earthly good is not far off. It happens, just as the opposite does. You may hear this line from some who have little thoughts of heaven: "The destination is not important; what counts is the journey." I nominate that as the dumbest statement ever. No one boarding a plane at the local airport would say such a thing. "Our blessed hope" is a constant theme of God's Word.

"Now is the accepted time." "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness." May we find the balance between now and henceforth!

5. Insiders and outsiders. This is the critical balance between the Lord's flock (church members) and the community (unchurched, needy, the lost, etc). In Leviticus 19, the Lord repeatedly tells Israel they are not to have two sets of laws, one for the insiders and one for the foreigner. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Some see the entire work of the church as evangelism. A young man in my church called to ask if I could see to the needs of a couple he had led to Christ a few weeks earlier. He said, "Follow-up is not my gift. I'm a soul-winner." I tried to show him that Scripture does not allow for a distinction between the two. We are sent "to make disciples," which means (among other things) that we stay with the new believers to ground them in the faith. And the best person to do that is the one who led them to Christ.

Those who tend to the evangelism-is-everything end of the spectrum are known to say, "Christ sent us as fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium." That line will provoke a chorus of amens in an evangelism conference, but it's dead wrong. Our Lord told His disciples to "feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17) and to "shepherd the church of God" (Acts 20:28).

I have known churches that baptized hundreds of "converts" a year but because of their failure to disciple them, continued to run small numbers in attendance. They were out of balance.

6. Laughter and Sorrow 

There is "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance" (Eccl. 3:4).

The chorus that says "Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before" is a half-truth. Sometimes following Jesus is really hard and while always right, often uphill, painful, lonely and burdensome (see Matt. 10:16).

It's a wise individual who knows when laughter is out of place. Scripture calls on us to "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15). The Lord's children were not sent as party-poopers who stifle all laughter and shut down all fun or as good-time Charlies who rebuke the tearful and hurting. There is a time for each, and it's a wise disciple who knows what time it is.

7. The High and the Lowly 

Jesus Christ died for the rich and powerful just as He came for the poor and powerless. Some churches discriminate against the wealthy in the same way some rich congregations turn a deaf ear to the cries of the needy.

No one who knows his Bible and loves people wants to turn the moneyed and influential people away from the church. They too are welcome, but should not be given favoritism, a command of Scripture every bit as important as the one to bless the poor and needy (see James 2:1-7).

"You shall do no unrighteousness in a court. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person who is great, but in righteousness you shall judge your neighbor" (Lev. 19:15).

8. The Hometown and the World 

Jesus commanded His disciples to spread the good news "in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). It's a strong church that can keep its fields in balance. Most churches today, it appears, spend 90 percent of their income on themselves and devote an equal amount of energy and attention on meeting the needs of their members. 

Meanwhile, the missionaries often hurt for support and brothers and sisters in depressed economies struggle to survive.

As a young pastor, I was trying to lead our people to make the decision to renovate our aging structure, a project requiring something short of a million dollars.  Someone suggested I call on a certain church member with deep pockets. "Charles will not give to missions," I was told. "But if he can see what his money is going to, he's interested."  I suspect Charles has plenty of company in that.

In reading old minutes of our church business meetings, I was fascinated by an incident in the early 1900s. A minister informed the people of a request from a Texas church for a small offering, $10 I think. The congregation voted to send that amount. Then, said the minutes, "the church's largess was put to a test." Someone said the church needed to take care of its own needs before "sending money off to Texas." After a discussion, they voted to spend several thousand dollars on renovating their fellowship hall.

9. Exegesis and Application 

We want to know what the Word says and what it means. We appreciate a good Bible teacher who can bring in insights from the Greek or Hebrew or from ancient culture. But ultimately, we need to know what it means for us today. Somewhere in the Old Testament we read of God's people standing for hours listening to the reading of Scripture, followed by the priests "giving the sense" of what they had heard.

My wife and I used to team-teach an auditorium Bible class. We sat on stools before two microphones and addressed 80 or 100 people scattered across the worship center. People teased that "Brother Joe can tell you what the Hebrew says and Miss Margaret will tell you what it means on Tuesday."

Without application, the teaching is incomplete. Without someone opening the Word and preaching it, the application is rootless.

Balance. It's such a constant concern.

I have sometimes had a problem with vertigo, a condition of the brain, I suppose, in which something gets out of kilter and throws you off balance. You need help in standing up straight and in walking. We're told that the inner ear is often involved. My E-N-T doctor prescribes a little pill and a couple of days later, I'm back to normal.

We need a pill for some churches. There will always be tension between the two as the church fights to keep its balance.

There will likely not ever be a time when any church has it all down pat and no longer has to stay alert, stay focused and keep working at this. And that's good. This fallen world is no friend to grace. We who follow Jesus Christ have chosen to swim upstream in a downstream world. It will never be easy. "We who are in this body do groan."

When NASA sends a rocketship into space, they do not try to aim it on the launch pad. The first object is simply to get the ship outside Earth's gravitational pull. Then, they fire smaller rockets for mid-course corrections.

The church will always be doing mid-course corrections. If it doesn't, mark it down in big letters that it will get off course and be lost to any usefulness to the Savior.

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 joemckeever.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) Vision Wed, 21 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
The Pastor's Wife: The Most Vulnerable Person in Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/21260-the-pastor-s-wife-the-most-vulnerable-person-in-your-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/21260-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 churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) Women in Leadership Fri, 10 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Karen Evans: An Open Letter to Pastors' Wives http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/20189-an-open-letter-to-pastors-wives http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/20189-an-open-letter-to-pastors-wives F-Pastorswives

Being the wife of a pastor for 40 years has had its share of challenges that thankfully we learned to navigate, especially early in our marriage.

We were 28 years young with two small children when Jimmy accepted the call to lead Trinity, which made for several very difficult years for our marriage and family. I know our struggles are not unique to ministry couples—far from it. So when Jimmy asked me to write for the July-August issue of Ministry Today, I knew I wanted to share some of my own experiences and story in an honest letter to pastors’ wives. (If you’re a pastor reading this, you’ll likely gain some real insight into your wife’s journey.)

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webmaster@strang.com (Karen Evans) Women in Leadership Tue, 09 Jul 2013 13:00:00 -0400
How to Resolve Conflict With Humility http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/20088-how-to-resolve-conflict-with-humility http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/20088-how-to-resolve-conflict-with-humility team-conflictRecently I had the opportunity to lead a breakout session at Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Conference 2012 titled "The Non-Confrontationalist’s Guide to Confrontation."

There are three reasons why you want to lean into conflict, the first two of which I already have spoken:

Now, I will address reason No. 3.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Gina McClain) Women in Leadership Tue, 07 May 2013 16:00:00 -0400
Marylin Hickey's Husband Passes Away at 87 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/19597-marylin-hickey-s-husband-passes-away-at-87 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/19597-marylin-hickey-s-husband-passes-away-at-87 marilyn-wallace-hickeyMarilyn Hickey’s husband, Wallace, passed away on Friday. Known as Pastor Wally, he was born in 1925 and died peaceably confident of better days ahead after 50-plus years of ministry.

Wallace was the founding pastor of Orchard Road Christian Center (ORCC). On fire with a hunger to evangelize in 1958, he soon accepted the pastoral call which is at the heart of his God-given ministry.

Following an initial assignment as visitation pastor in Amarillo, Texas, Wallace and Hickey, returned to Colorado to pioneer Full Gospel Chapel in Denver. Starting with a core of just 25 people in 1960, the congregation grew to more than 2,000 by the mid-1980s.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jennifer Leclaire) Women in Leadership Wed, 24 Oct 2012 13:00:00 -0400
Women of Authority http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/1616-women-of-authority http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/1616-women-of-authority God never intended pastors' wives to cower in their husbands' shadows.
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fake+Juliet_White@charismamedia.com (Juliet White) Women in Leadership Wed, 02 Jan 2002 00:00:00 -0500
Confessions of an Apathetic Pastor’s Wife http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/18489-confessions-of-an-apathetic-pastors-wife http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/women-in-leadership/18489-confessions-of-an-apathetic-pastors-wife What happens when you no longer care about serving God?

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sandi.brown@strang.com (Sandi Brown) Women in Leadership Wed, 10 Jun 2009 21:24:01 -0400
17 Habits of Effective Local Worship Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21508-17-habits-of-effective-local-worship-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21508-17-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 davidsantistevan.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (David Santistevan) Worship Mon, 02 Feb 2015 17:00:00 -0500
Songwriters Won’t Make It Without This http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21506-songwriters-won-t-make-it-without-this http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21506-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 sojournmusic.com 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 churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bobby Gilles) Worship Fri, 30 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
Calling Leaders to an Asaph Generation of Worship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21572-an-asaph-generation-of-worship-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21572-an-asaph-generation-of-worship-leaders 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 asaphgeneration.com. 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.

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webmaster@strang.com (Dwayne Moore) Worship Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400
As a Pastor, Do You Struggle With This? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21477-as-a-pastor-do-you-struggle-with-this http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21477-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 Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership and MinistryCoach.tv, all while staying involved in the local church.

For the original article, visit justinlathrop.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Justin Lathrop ) Worship Fri, 16 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
Some Lies the Enemy Whispers During Worship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21381-some-lies-the-enemy-whispers-during-worship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21381-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.

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) Worship Wed, 03 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
5 Simple Steps to Finishing Worship Songs http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21288-5-simple-steps-to-finishing-worship-songs http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-leadership/worship/21288-5-simple-steps-to-finishing-worship-songs You know what's difficult for me? Finishing songs.

It's agonizing for me to declare a song "done" if there's still a possibility that it could be better. It could always improve. It could always change.

But there comes a time when you have to finish.

There's more at stake in your creative projects than you may realize. Your creativity, your art, your work is what sets inspiration into motion.

Throughout my life I've been inspired by artists, musicians and writers who could have made the decision to stall and never finish. Influence belongs to those who step out and make something happen.

Good intentions don't change the world. Dreams don't make a difference unless they're put on a deadline.

This is the very reason why so many people have loads of song ideas but no actual songs. Maybe you're one of them. I'll be the first to confess.

I use Evernote to capture ideas and, to be honest, I'm not sure I'll ever finish all those ideas. But I'm becoming more intentional about finishing.

5 Tips for Finishing Songs

Maybe you're not a songwriter. Whatever it is you do, these tips will help move your creative project a little further down to the finish line.

1. Set a deadline. A self imposed, private deadline is OK. Even better? Set a date and include others in the process. The pressure of having to deliver something to someone works wonders. Recently, I scheduled a new worship song I was writing for a weekend a few weeks ahead. I didn't think I would finish it but the pressure of the deadline helped me to push the song further, faster, even though I was still working on it right before rehearsal.

2. Study other writers. What are the songs that you love? I want you to make a list of three to five of those songs and write down why you love them. Then take that list and apply them to your own songs. Of course, you're not copying. You're simply applying a framework you like. You're learning a vocabulary you've never used before. It will help your writing to expand into new territories.

I love Matt Redman's songwriting. I study his songs when I'm stuck. Try it. When you're struggling to finish, noticing what others have done may be just what you need.

3. Make it simpler. Not many writers are in danger of songs being too simple. Most of the time, we add filler and fluff that doesn't need to be there. Maybe we're trying to sound profound. Maybe we just naturally describe more than is needed. Before you finish your song, intentionally simplify. Shorten your phrases. Create more space in your lines. Make it easier to enunciate and sing. And remember, simpler doesn't have to mean shallow. Profound truth can be expressed in simple ways. It's better that way.

4. Get feedback. As we were writing for the album Undying Love, I remember there was a song fragment I had shared with the team. In my mind, it wasn't even close to being finished, and I didn't even consider placing it on the album. One of my team members came up to me a couple weeks later and mentioned how he couldn't get that song out of his head. It was his favorite. That feedback gave me the necessary motivation to finish the song, and it has become a favorite on the album. You'll never wish you hadn't gotten feedback on a song, whether good or bad. It always helps to push your writing in new directions.

5. Test it. It's tough to know if your song is headed in the right direction without testing it. As soon as possible, start to sing your song (even if it's a fragment) with your church in low-pressure situations. Sing it in small groups, the closing of service or as part of a medley with a familiar song. See how people respond. See where they disengage. Real time feedback is the best.

What about you? What mindset is getting in the way of you crossing the finish line?

What holds you back from completing creative work? Share your story in the comments section.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (David Santistevan) Worship Mon, 27 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400